Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thinking electronic gift for dad? Think green!

Dads tend to love electronic gadgets and on Father's Day, who doesn't want to give dad what he craves? The challenge is fulfilling dad's wishes while staying aware of the environmental issues raised in the making, using and disposal of electronics.

The best gadget would use solar or human power, be made locally of recycled materials, come in no or minimal packaging (which is compostable), contain no harmful materials and would be fully recyclable when dad is done with it.

Dream on!

We have yet to reach electronics nirvana. But there are options that meet at least some eco-expectations. Choosing one of these is certainly better than ignoring the issue.

If given the choice between two items that perform in the way your dad wants, see if one of them is better on the green front.

Look for:
Products powered by the sun, gravity, human power or at the least, rechargeable batteries. Solar chargers are widely available as are items like cool, hand cranked flashlights and radios.

Products that are comparatively energy efficent. Computers, TVs and printers are some of the products that companies are working to make better in this department. Check out Energy Star labels where available.

Products made with fewer hazardous materials. All electronics contain hazardous materials (PCs, for example may contain lead, cadmium, mercury and flame retardants in plastic casings). This is why they should never be thrown in the trash. Look for electronics that meet European standards which, while not perfect are better.

Products containing recycled content. Moblie phones and computers are just two of the items available that use some percentage of recycled materials.

Another great idea is to upgrade what dad already has instead of buying a new unit. Adding a larger internal hard drive to his computer, paying for a professional "tune up" so the computer will run faster or purchasing extra memory for a camera are all eco-friendlier alternatives to buying new. And of course, buying the item used, but usable is another green option.

How about gifting dad with a surge protector that turns off power to idle devices eliminating electricity usage and saving money?

As a bonus gift for dad, whether buying electronics or not, offer to recycle any he's ready to get rid of. Electronics make up 70 percent of all hazardous waste and very little of what could be recycled actually is.

So collect dad's outdated gadgets, head to Earth 911 and find out how to recycle them close to home.

Enjoy a happy, green Father's Day!

~Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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