gifts

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas Decor

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

With Hanukkah and Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holidays are here, and for people across the country, the hunt for the perfect gift is on. For many, electronics are high on their list, with everything from the latest in TVs to tablets dominating their trips to the mall. Before you head out for Black Friday, be sure to check out ENERGY STAR’s Top Gift Picks for 2013. Looking for the trusted blue label on these products can help you save energy, save money and protect the environment from climate change—all while giving you the latest in innovation and technology.

ENERGY STAR’s Top Gift Picks for 2013

tv

Televisions: TVs are at the top of many holiday wish lists, and this year there are more reasons than ever to look for ENERGY STAR. Televisions that have earned the ENERGY STAR are on average more than 25% more energy efficient than conventional models, and come with all of the latest technology that you are looking for this holiday season. The label can be found on TVs of every size, with features like 3D, streaming capability, internet connectivity and both OLED and LED technology.

audio

Audio: Is your loved one asking for a soundbar or new speakers this year? According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), home audio sales are expected to grow at double-digit percentage rates this year. Make sure that you help your loved one save energy, save money and protect the environment by looking for audio equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR. AV equipment that meets ENERGY STAR qualifications is up to 60% more efficient than conventional models.

Game Consoles: Gaming systems are always big sellers during the holidays. The best thing about this year’s models is their ability to go to sleep — just like your computer — entering a low power sleep mode when not in use for game play or streaming videos. This is an improvement that will reduce your energy use without reducing the excitement of video game play, and help your family save money long after the holidays are over.

Blu-Ray Players: According to the CEA, this year is expected to be the first in which Blu-Rays outsell DVD players. If this gift is on your list, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR. Certified Blu-Ray players are on average 45% more efficient than conventional models.

Computers: Does someone on your list want a new computer for the holidays? Look for the ENERGY STAR and help your loved one save energy and the environment every time they log on. An ENERGY STAR certified computer will use between 30-65 percent less energy than a standard model on average. Enable your computer’s power management feature and save up to $90 a year!

battery charger

ENERGY STAR Battery Chargers: You can also save energy on battery-powered tools and appliances. Products ranging from cordless drills to electric lawnmowers and shavers come with chargers that carry the ENERGY STAR. On average, ENERGY STAR certified battery chargers use about 30% less energy than conventional models.

LEDs

LED Light Bulbs: A perfect stocking stuffer, ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs deliver leading energy efficiency and can have a lifespan of over 20 years. A single light bulb that has earned the ENERGY STAR can save $95 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

Saving energy with ENERGY STAR certified home entertainment products helps protect the climate. If each TV, DVD player, and home theatre system purchased in the U.S. this year earned the ENERGY STAR, we would prevent more than 2.2 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year, equal to the emissions from more than 200,000 cars.

Get the latest in consumer electronics trends in the brand new podcast “Plugged in with ENERGY STAR.” Let experts from ENERGY STAR, the Consumer Electronics Association and more show you how easy it is to make energy efficient buying decisions this year. Check it out here.

light strings

Last, but not least, don’t forget to look for ENERGY STAR certified decorative light strings this holiday season. They use 65% less energy than conventional models and can last up to 10 times longer.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. Her favorite holiday activities include Christmas shopping, tree trimming and tryptophan-induced dinners. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Wrapping Presents – With the Environment in Mind

By Amy Miller

I must apologize to my nieces and nephews. Although I give them their share of holiday gifts, they suffer the wrapping – used paper decorated with old pieces of tape and sometimes a tag with someone else’s name on it.

Sure, a gift is a gift. And the alternative – gifts wrapped in newsprint – is worse. Little hands get covered in black by the time they get to the truck or baby doll.

We got into the whole wrapping paper thing during Christmas 1917. Apparently, stores had run out of white tissue sheets, the preferred wrapping of the day. Stores began using the pretty lining paper made for envelopes. The public liked the alternative and wrapping paper became part of our holiday gift tradition.

According to Earth911.com, about half of the 85 million tons of paper our country uses each year goes for packaging, wrapping and decorating goods. Wrapping paper and shopping bags alone make up 4 million tons of this, they say. And some estimates put the amount of trash generated around holidays at 25 million tons more waste than is typically created during a 10-week period. Whatever the numbers, we know we use a heck of a lot of paper over the holidays.

Sure we can try to recycle, but much wrapping paper is not recyclable. The dye or lamination, the glittery metallic or plastic additives and the tape all present problems.

So my own feeble effort to fight this involves trying to carefully unwrap the gifts I get so the paper can be reused. I even try to get my son to unwrap his car-sized presents in a way that doesn’t decimate the paper.

But using last year’s wrapping paper for this year’s present – or buying recycled paper – means someone had to manufacture, transport and buy the paper in the first place. So ideally, we will find other ways to cover our packages.

One woman in my Maine town began a company making beautiful fabric bags. The bags pass from person to person telling stories of the gifts along the way in a booklet that comes with the bag.

Children’s old artwork makes for great wrapping. Parents can save masterpieces but use some of the art we could not and would not want to save. Colorful magazine pages make unique wrapping and won’t leave newsprint on your hands. Finally, a collage makes the wrapping personal.

Perhaps by 2017, we can celebrate a century of wrapping paper and move on to a more eco-alternative.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Best Gifts

For all of you out there who didn’t attend the Black Friday shopping sprees or surf the web for Cyber Monday deals, there is still hope. There are plenty of homemade gifts just waiting to be created. When I was a little kid, my parents always told me that a homemade gift is always appreciated more than one bought from the store. Not that I could have driven to the store anyway. Nevertheless, thankfully, I had plenty of art classes and industrial art classes from which I could produce enough gifts for the whole family. Am I old enough to say that ‘those were the days’? My parents still have all of my gifts scattered throughout the house. A plastic bowl I formed and melted, a metal paper weight that I forged and cleaned, ceramic bowls, plastic picture frames, and more. These are the gifts that stay around. Another gift that isn’t really tangible but extremely easy to construct are the coupon books I used to give my parents. These would be things that I would do around the house or yard, such as vacuuming, pulling weeds, dusting, and the dreadful picking up sticks. I admittedly despised picking up sticks, but in light of the holiday season, I truly gave my all. As the years went by and I finally got my driver’s license, the gifts gradually decreased from homemade to almost all store-bought. However, now when money can be tight, I think it’s important to note that coupon books can still be given and greatly appreciated. Ever heard the saying “time is money and money is time”? Giving your time to help can be easy on your wallet and can be beneficial to you and your family’s health as well. Here are some ideas for your own coupon book and ‘green’ gift ideas:

  • Give the gift of recycling. In cities where recycling isn’t free, offer to get them started and pay for a couple of months.
  • Make coupons for washing floors and window sills to protect kids from dust
  • Offer to make a delicious meal for your family and rinse fruits and vegetables under running water before eating
  • Create coupons for cleaning bikes and tennis shoes for when the weather gets warm to take walks
  • Compose a coupon to vacuum and dust your house to prevent triggers to asthma attacks and allergies

There are many other things that can be added to your coupon book to help your family stay green and healthy this season. Just click here. And remember that you don’t always have to spend a lot to give a lot.

About the Author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.