In many ways, the holiday season celebrates the light. The Winter Solstice marks the lengthening of the light as the season passes from autumn into winter. Christmastime reminds us of the guiding light of the Star of Bethlehem. And Hanukkah celebrates the miraculous “renewable energy” of the oil lamps in the Jerusalem Temple that failed to run dry. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than by tapping into the renewable energy of the sun, and sharing solar gifts with everybody on your list?
1. Solar toys -- Find fun toys that will also help the young ones on your holiday list learn about renewable energy. Helios Solar Toys sells solar-powered model racecars ($10+), Dulaney-Solar.com sells solar-powered transforming robots and vehicles ($20-$35), and FatBrainToys.com sells a range of solar-educational items: solar hopping frogs, solar jumping grasshoppers, and solar walking crabs (around $18). If you give non-solar toys or other gifts that require batteries you can always lower that gift’s impact by pairing it with a set of solar-rechargeable batteries (greenbatteries.com).
2. Solar spark lighter -- Does someone on your gift list love to go camping? They’ll never have to throw away another disposable lighter or fire-starter after they unwrap their new solar spark lighter. Sundance Solar (store.sundancesolar.com) sells a foldable parabolic mirror that directs sunlight to a single focal point. It’s great for starting grills and bonfires, and at $12 it’s a great lower-cost gift for hikers and backpackers; plus, it’s made in the USA.
3. Solar bike lights -- For the dedicated bicyclist in your life, visit your local bike shop for solar-powered front and back bike lights that can run from $10 to $30. Looking for something a little more cutting edge? Check out the new pedal-powered bike light from EcoXGear. More expensive at $100, the EcoXGear system (ecoxgear.com/
ecoxpower/) powers your front and back light, and simultaneously can charge a handheld electronic device, such as your GPS.
4. Solar flashlights and lanterns -- When fully charged, HybridLight.com’s solar flashlights and lanterns can provide up to eight hours of bright light before needing to take a new charge. Flashlights range from $25 to $60; lanterns range from $35 to $40.
5. Solar bags -- Help your loved ones keep their gadgets charged while on the go by using the power of the sun. The solar-charger company Eclipse Solar manufactures its “juice bags” in the USA, and offers several different styles, such as camera bag, messenger bag, and backpack. Each bag features a flexible solar panel which can power smartphones, digital cameras, MP3 players, and more on free sunlight, without moving parts, heat, or sound. Bags start at around $175.
6. Solar iPad case -- Wireless NRG has created the KudoCase (kudocase.com), a solar-powered iPad case (in black, gray, red, green, blue, or pink) made from biodegradable corn-based plastic. The panel on the front cover can generate electricity from both indoor and outdoor light sources, and charges a battery that can juice your iPad for about 20 hours longer than the iPad can run on its battery alone. The KudoCase (for iPad original, 2, and 3) costs $200. You can also find solar chargers for your gadgets, like the solar iPhone charger from solargoose.com.
7. Solar-powered music system -- The Eton Corporation (etoncorp.com) has been making solar-powered and crank-powered radios for 25 years, including a line of emergency radio products for the American Red Cross. Eton is now producing MP3- and Bluetooth-compatible sound systems, powered on the sun, under brand names like Rukus and Soulra. Use the sun to play music from your iPod or iPhone, or stream music through your Bluetooth.
8. Solar oven -- A made-in-the-USA solar oven can make your picnic waste-free, fossil-fuel-free, and impact-free. Ranging from $95 for an economical fully solar “hot pot” cooker to a large-capacity $600 solar-electric hybrid cooker (also made in the USA), a Reflections solar oven (solarovens.net) cooks food at about the same rate as a conventional oven, on a sunny day.
9. Go solar at home -- Consider making this the year that your family pools its gift
money to give each other the gift of going solar. A solar hot water heater can cost as little as $500. Full solar photovoltaic systems can be offset by state and federal tax incentives (available at dsireusa.org), and all solar systems will eventually pay for themselves in lower electric bills.
Residents of Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, DC, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York can get $500 off a solar home system from Sungevity by visiting sungevity.org/green-america. The company will also donate $500 to Green America.
And after purchasing a solar system through Real Goods Solar—which does business in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont—you’ll get a $500 Real Goods Solar gift card, and Green America gets a $1,500 donation. Visit
10. Give others the gift of solar energy -- Among the many gift ideas available at Alternative Gifts International (altgifts.org), you can purchase a share of a solar heating panel for a Native American family in South Dakota. Lakota Solar Enterprises produces these innovative solar heating systems that save tribal families 20-30 percent
Find more green, solar, and energy-efficient holiday gifts from the companies in our Green Business Network™ at greenpages.org.