Green gift ideas, fyi

December 7, 2016
A bamboo bikeTop 4 Reasons for Bamboo

1. Exceptional Properties – Strong as steel, light as aluminum, stiff like carbon yet more reliable, and naturally dampens vibrations…more

2. Eco Friendly – No pesticides, no herbicides, no fertilizers. Ultra-fast growing and never killed (unlike trees) when harvested…more

3. Socially Responsible – Low barriers to entry make this the perfect cash crop for emerging economies and small family farms…more

4. Uniquely Beautiful – Yes it is. Extremely. The deep wood grains produce an iridescent effect. Like snowflakes, no two bikes are alike…more

  • Bamboo is a fast growing plant that grows locally in many developing countries/regions
  • Bamboo is as strong if not stronger than steel (Newsweek,Mechanical properties of bamboo)
  • Africa currently imports 30 million bikes a year and there are no bike manufactures on the continent (OECD insights)
  • Bikes are a primary mode of transportation for many on the continent due to the cost of cars and lack of infrastructure
  • Transportation is a major hurdle in getting people to access available healthcare and education
  • Bikes can serve as tools to empower people to better their own situation

Photo: Spiegel (Bamboo utility bike in Africa)

Bamboo bikes really did go big in Ghana

ghana bamboo bikes photo

Video screen capture AJ+

Remember those bamboo bikes that April said were about to hit the big time in Ghana back in 2011? It looks like those plans have been moving ahead smoothly.

At least, that’s what we can surmise from this awesome video from AJ+ about the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, in which founder Bernice Dapaah walks us through why bamboo has been such an ideal manufacturing material for her bikes. Not only is the frame material locally grown, but it’s strong, completely recyclable and cheap to produce. (If you’re not sure why bikes are so important to Africa, take a look at this post about the work of World Bicycle Relief.)

The company has already trained 35 young people, including some with disabilities, and is donating many bikes to local community members to ensure that kids can get to school.

Check out this inspiring example of bioregional sustainability below, and take a look at Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative to learn more..

Boo Bicycles
Calfee Design
Organic Bikes Say, Re-Think Your Ride, Consider a Bamboo Bicycle
Bamboo and Electric Bikes Win ISPO Brandnew Awards 2010
Bamboo In A Bicycle Built For Two
Open Source Bamboo Bike Trailer
Bamboo Bike by Calfee Design
BYOB: Build Your Own Bambike
Biomega Biolove Bamboo bike (a B fest)!
Bamboo Mountain Bikes are Growing on Calfee Design
Make Your Own Bamboo Bike in One-Weeken

World Bicycle Relief (WBR) was founded in 2005 by F.K. Day and Leah Missbach Day in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. As a founder of SRAM and leader in product development, F.K.’s role offered a unique opportunity to problem-solve with other cycling industry leaders. A solid backing from SRAM Corporation and an outpouring of support from industry leaders helped to launch WBR and provide bicycles to those in need. Partnering with aid organizations in Sri Lanka, WBR distributed more than 24,000 bicycles to displaced survivors, providing access to education, healthcare and livelihoods while reconnecting entire communities.

Following the positive impact that bicycles provided as relief in Sri Lanka, we were invited to partner with a large-scale health program in Zambia. The USAID-funded program, RAPIDS, trained and equipped community healthcare workers to help combat the AIDS epidemic. In 2006, we provided more than 23,000 bicycles through this program to support volunteers who would walk long distances to provide home-based care.

WBR has since built programs to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles for students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs across Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. While the bicycles themselves help individuals conquer distance and increase their carrying capacity, WBR has also created new economic opportunities by training field mechanics and employing bike assemblers to support our local programs.

Walking is the primary mode of transportation for many people in the developing world. Everyday tasks can quickly become a struggle against time and fatigue. Going to school, visiting the health clinic, and delivering goods to market are more challenging because of the barrier of distance.



World Bicycle Relief (WBR) builds and distributes specially-designed, locally assembled, rugged bicycles. With the experience and expertise gained over the last 10 years designing and delivering more than 300,000 Buffalo Bicycles, WBR has developed an efficient, innovative and scalable model to successfully address the great need for reliable, affordable transportation in rural areas of developing countries.

CleanTechnica also provided their shot at 10 top cleantech Christmas gifts (or Hanukkah gifts, Kwanzaa gifts, winter-is-long-and-cold gifts, etc.).

1. Used (or New) Electric Car

White Nissan LEAF

Prices are so ridiculously low on used electric cars that I think they now offer the best value for the money of any type of car on the market. You can legitimately get an electric car for the price of a TV (granted, an expensive TV). Your (or your gift recipient’s) personal preferences and needs (including your budget) are quite important to the specific electric car you’d buy, but here are some figures for popular models (US options):

Nissan LEAF
low price = $6,199 (2013 LEAF)
378 options for $10,000 or less

Chevy Volt
low price = $9,500 (2012 Volt)
261 options for $15,000 or less

BMW i3
low price = $18,400 (2014 i3)
30 options for $23,000 or less
55 options for $25,000 or less

Tesla Model S
low price = $48,000 (2013 Model S x 2)
10 options for $50,000 or less
152 options for $60,000 or less

2. Electric Folding Bike


An electric folding bike is a great “last mile” vehicle. It can conveniently get you to/from just about any subway, tram/streetcar, light rail, commuter rail, or bus station. It can fold up to go in transit or to sit at work with you. It gives you exercise but also lets you relax if you’re burnt out or just don’t feel like climbing a hill with your thighs.

Of course, an electric bike can also easily cover a full commute or trip to the store most of the time, so you can entirely skip mixing it with other modes.

An electric bike is also quite an affordable option for regular transportation. I’ll let some experienced riders chime in with their preferred models, but the idea came to mind because a CleanTechnica shareholder — founder of GridHub and The Beam — just bought this electric folding bike for a mere $400. (It’s available in the US for $600.)

This category of e-bikes will probably get much more popular in 2017, and you can expect to see better quality at good prices. In China, these e-bikes are already incredibly popular.

(Naturally, you can also skip the folding bit and get a non-folding electric bike if you prefer.)

3. Normal Bicycle

copenhagen-3Photo by elsamu (some rights reserved)

Speaking of bikes, the old-school, human-powered ones are still swell in my book. If you don’t feel any need for an electric boost, maybe just treat yourself (or a loved one) to a new fully muscle-powered bike. The bicycle is one of the simplest yet most useful and efficient tools on the planet.

Luckily, it seems like bikes are one of the most iconic Christmas gifts out there — as they should be.

Don’t ignore the obvious.

4. Rooftop Solar Panels

rooftop solar installer

Here’s another obvious one, but it’s such a prime focus for CleanTechnica that it’s hard to imagine that 100% of you (with the capability) haven’t gone solar already. If you haven’t, just get on it!

With tens of thousands of dollars (in net savings) on the table for millions of people, rooftop solar just seems like a no-brainer. It may not be as fun as driving a Tesla Model S P100D, but it sure makes a lot more financial sense. 🙂

As always, I encourage you to compare solar prices from as many installers as possible.

5. Tesla Powerwall


If you’ve already got solar panels, you sometimes overgenerate electricity, and you live in a good location for this product, a home energy storage system can be a logical next step.

There are a lot of home energy storage systems on the market, but nothing seems to compare cost-wise to the Tesla Powerwall. The initial Tesla Powerwall already seemed to be the best option on the market at launch, and Tesla Powerwall 2 is approximately twice as good!

That said, I still encourage you to examine the other options and cross shop.

6. LEDs!

led-lightsImage via DOE

All of your rooms should have LEDs by now. If they don’t, go treat yourself. 🙂 Here’s a self-auditing tool for upgrading to LEDs in your house so you can learn what you need and get an order bid sent directly to you.

Have an environmentally minded friend or family member who still has incandescents, provide them with an upgrade or two.

I was surprised to learn from Scott recently that even in Hawaii people still often have >20 incandescent bulbs in use around their house! There’s still a lot of room for improvement in the segment that accounts for ~11% of US home electricity consumption.

7. Energy-Efficient Appliance

energy-star-appliancesImage via

If you have an old enough, inefficient enough appliance running, it may well make more environmental and financial sense to send it away and get a new, high-efficiency product.

You can check out tips and specific information related to kitchen applianceshome office/electronics, and laundry appliances via the US Department of Energy. Of course, search for ENERGY STAR labels (more detailed information is here), and be sure you know how to use/read the EnergyGuide label.

If you’re not in the US, note that the UK, the EU, and others have their own rating systems and shopping guides.

8. Smart Thermostat


Your thermostat is a central tool in the efficient management of your home’s heating and cooling — which, on average, account for 22% of home energy usage. Naturally, a smart thermostat can be a fun and highly effective means of strongly cutting that energy use.

There are various smart thermostats on the market these days. We haven’t thoroughly reviewed all of them, so can’t make a strong recommendation on specific options, but a 2015 Navigant Research study ranked the companies behind smart thermostats as follows:


9. Electric Scooter or Motorcycle!

Prefer a vehicle somewhere in between a car and a bicycle? Until the Girfalco Azkarra or Model Sondors is on the market, I think that means an electric scooter or motorcycle. An expert on the motorcycle and scooter genre,  of sister site Gas2 has been publishing lists of the best fuel efficient motorcycles you can buy for a few years (since 2013). Have a look, especially at the 2016 list!



Of course, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than electric, and the new electric motorcycles from Zero look amazing, so I think one of them should be option #1 if you are interested in a motorcycle.

Prices range from $8,500 to $16,000 (MSRP). Zero also notes that the federal tax credit for zero-emission motorcycles ends on December 31, offering up to $2,500 in savings. Better jump on an electric motorcycle quickly if you want to take advantage of that!


I’ve ridden a handful of fun electric scooters, but think I’d have to recommend the GenZe 2.0 in this segment — if you have $3000 to spare. (You have probably noticed GenZe electric scooters in San Francisco if you’ve been in the city recently.)

Note that you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive an electric scooter like the GenZe on US roads.

10. The Beam!


Our friends over at The Beam have been putting together a wonderful new cleantech magazine that features interviews with top cleantech leaders from big business, startups, government, nonprofits, and academia. I highly recommend it.

You can get two copies of The Beam for €20. The team notes that, “for every subscriber, we send The Beam to a cafe and reach around 100 people in each of them.”

Or you can just grab one copy for €10.