Technology

Dreaming of a Green (Tech) Christmas


When Santa gets my list of cool, environmentally friendly gizmos, he's going to have his work cut out for him

All year long I've looked at business products and strategies that expand the use of renewable energy, make more water available around the world, improve buildings with new designs and materials, recycle almost everything, and increase energy efficiency.

Now that green is part of my work life, I've created a green technology Christmas list in hopes of Santa bringing me some of this year's most popular green products. There's one caveat: Most of the gifts on my wish list are so hot that there's little chance of them making it to my house by the 25th. On the other hand, imagine my childish glee as I celebrate one of those great seasonal traditions—unwrapping really cool toys I don't really need.

Stuffing a compact fluorescent light bulb into little Johnny's stocking is about the 21st century green equivalent of giving him a lump of coal. As such, let's save the bulbs for our New Year's resolutions and go all out for this year's green Christmas. With that said, here's my wish list for Christmas 2006.

Box Seat Tickets to the Indianapolis 500

While NASCAR is still powering its cars with leaded gasoline, the Indy Racing League's premier event this upcoming May will be fueled by 100% ethanol. Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline and is less polluting, even reducing emissions of carbon monoxide and particulate matter. But that's probably not what I'll be thinking about as I sit in Dave Letterman and Bobby Rahal's box seats and then take the kids down to the pit to hear the roar.

A Ride on the Earthrace Boat

Pete Bethune and his Earthrace boat are currently touring U.S. coastal cities before his bid this March to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe. The Earthrace boat zips along at 45 knots and runs entirely on biodiesel. It might smell like french fries, but at that clip, who cares? It also uses low-emission engines, non-toxic antifoul paint, and an efficient hull design. Though I boarded the boat in Boston this fall, harbor officials prevented us from taking a spin without a ferry permit.

Tesla Roadster

Once I get my land legs back, my appetite for speed won't be diminished. That means it's a perfect time to take delivery of the electric-powered Tesla Roadster. Santa's going to have to work extra hard because 2007 production is sold out, but I can wait until the snow melts. The sleek sportster zips from zero to 60 in under four seconds and reaches top speeds over 130 miles per hour with a 250 mile range. There's even enough room in the trunk for my golf clubs.

Powerhouse PowerPod

Instead of recharging my Tesla from the grid, I'll use the solar-generated electricity from my eco-effective vacation home. PowerPods are small, pre-built structures that arrive by truck and can be set up in a day. They are constructed from sustainably sourced materials, are designed to be energy-efficient, and can operate independently from the electrical grid.

Seahorse Power's Big Belly

Unfortunately, I won't be able to spend all of my time at my PowerPod vacation home. To help reduce the number of times the garbage trucks come to the house, I'll need a Big Belly. The Big Belly is a solar-powered trash compactor that can even be equipped with a raccoon-proof door, depending upon where I locate my vacation pod. Usually you'll find the Big Belly in urban settings helping to reduce the number of times trash needs to be collected—up to eight fewer pick-ups.

Reware Juice Bag

In order to keep all of my other toys charged, I want a Reware Juice Bag. Juice Bags are backpacks made from reclaimed soda bottles and outfitted with solar panels. The solar panels generate electricity as soon as sun hits the bag. The product comes with a built-in car lighter adapter so that it can charge a cell phone, iPod, or any other accessory. I didn't think it would be too difficult to get a Juice Bag until I spoke with the company's founder Henry Gentenaar. The bags are selling so fast he doesn't even have one.

Bottle of Organic Merlot

During a recent conversation with Fat Spaniel CEO Chris Beekhuis, I lamented how many of the products on my wish list are hard to get. Originally, I thought I might need his Web software to track all the energy I would be sending back into the grid, but now I'm not sure what will be under the tree. As consolation, he offered me a bottle of his company's handcrafted organic Merlot, a product he makes with his employees as a team-building activity. Now it seems the Grinch won't be the only thing green this Christmas.

Clearly, my friends and family will have a tough time shopping for me this holiday season. In the holiday spirit, here's a gift we can give to each other: If everyone in the U.S. replaced their Christmas light strings with light-emitting diode (LED) lights, we would save enough energy to power 200,000 homes a year. That's a lot of energy! And while you're out buying some of those—I'll be out front waiting for the Tesla to arrive. That will make for a very merry Christmas.

John Davies is vice-president of AMR Research's green technology service. He advises large businesses on their green technology investments and strategies.

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