Sunday, October 26, 2008

Green gifts 2008: The Kindle

Last night, I was making my holiday travel arrangements, when it dawned on me that the holiday shopping season will officially gear up next Saturday—probably at 12:01 when Halloween is officially over. I’ve never been much of a planner when it comes to the holidays, but this year, with the economy in the tanker, I’m trying to get a head start so I don’t get a single massive bill in January.

Which leads me to my next few weeks’ posts—ideas for green gift-givers that don’t come across as preachy or judgmental but can still lead the giftee down a greener path. Honestly, who wants another compact fluorescent bulb, reusable shopping bag or travel mug silently reminding them that they’re not as green as they could be?

My first pick is an expensive but super-cool techie gift that I already bought for myself—the Amazon Kindle. Designed as an e-book reader, this gadget also has a wireless connection that allows you to download not just books but newspapers, magazines and blogs as well. I bought mine for superficial reasons (I love to read the newspaper but hate lugging it around and getting black ink all over myself, my bag and anything else the paper rubs up against). And the Kindle's pretty light; I'd say it weighs the same, if not less than, a paperback. Then, after purchasing it, I read a report that wirelessly downloading a year’s worth of newspapers saves 520 pounds of paper, or about 3 trees every year. And the device has a removable battery, so when it dies, you can replace the battery alone—not the entire thing (ahem, Apple, you could learn a thing or two…)

If you’ve got an obsessive reader on your list who’s leery of ditching the comfort of print for something so cold as electronic ink, you can stress the money savings: If she buys a new book every two weeks at $20 a piece (easy to do if you love hardcovers), she’ll save $250 a year, since Amazon sells all their e-books for $10. And that $50-a-month New York Times subscription is a mere $14.

Plus, the cool factor is unbeatable. Even Oprah’s jumped on board.

Kindles sell for $359 on

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Have a Healthy Mattress for Less $

An affordable green mattress? That seems like a contradiction in terms, when most natural latex, wool or organic cotton mattresses start in the $2,000 range. But it looks like everyone’s favorite furniture bargain basement, Ikea, has gotten into the game.

Their new Sultan Heidal mattress is part of a new collection of greenish mattresses stuffed with a mix of 85% natural and 15% synthetic latex, corn-based synthetic fibers and wool. They use an “eco-cotton” wrap, which according to company reps, is organically grown and treated with a salt-based flame retardant, free of health problems associated with other flame retardants such as boric acid and melamine.
The nice thing about these, particularly in this economic climate, is that they start at $499 for a twin and top out at $999 for kings. For more info, see

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shower Power

Small economies can add up to significant savings, particularly when it comes to energy: turning lights off, plugging electronics into smart power strips, and water-efficient showerheads. I tried the latter after the eco-guilt of my addictively long, hot wintertime showers. Since it’s getting to be that season again, I thought I’d pass along my pick for the best, Delta’s H2O Kinetics 1.6 gallon-per-minute showerhead.

It uses about one-third less water per minute than the federal government requires, but it’s designed so that water droplets are larger and therefore retain more heat. At $56 a showerhead, I was convinced this was just marketing speak that wouldn’t live up to Delta’s promises, but oh, my friends, was I so delightfully wrong. These showerheads are magnificently efficient and even boosted my pitifully weak 4th-floor water pressure. Get one now before winter sets in, and you might not feel so guilty about lingering in the shower on cold, frosty mornings.

There’s not much apartment renters like me can do to green their dwellings, aside from keeping their (landlord’s) refrigerators well maintained and running efficiently, using air conditioners (if you have one) as little as possible in summer, and keeping the heat down as low as possible in the winter (provided you can actually control the temperature of your own apartment). So a showerhead that saves water, as well as the electricity that heats it, just feels good, all around.

H2O Kinetics 1.6 gpm showerheads retail for $56.85; find a store near you at Delta's website.

By Green Shopper