We could all strive to be more environmentally- and socially-conscious. And for some people, this concern trumps all others. If there's someone you know who would especially appreciate a tech gift that "gives back" in some way, have a look at these options.
Philips Hue Lights
Any smart lighting system has its benefits for the environment. How? Aside from using more energy-efficient LED bulbs, the smart functionality lets you set them on timers, or have them intelligently turn on and off based on "scenes" you set to automate. If you left the house and forgot to turn the lights off, you don't have to worry about using all of that unnecessary electricity until you return home. Just turn them off remotely from your home, saving on energy, not to mention electricity bills. Pricing varies.
Click and Grow Smart Indoor Garden
It might seem like an indoor garden where you can grow your own fruits, vegetables, or herbs is completely opposite to being socially-conscious. But it's never a bad idea to eat food we grow ourselves. And for those who live in urban settings, or just don't have the time or knowledge to have an outdoor garden, this could be a good compromise. (Let's not forget that our lovely four seasons in Canada, and often unpredictable weather patterns, make it tough to grow certain things outdoors at certain times of the year as well.) With this neat device, you can effortlessly grow plants indoors. Built-in sensors and Smart Soil determine when it needs watering, monitors the need for light and nutrients, and takes care of the work for you. Busy city-dwellers who want to start eating more fruits and vegetables, and growing their own, are the perfect candidates for this device. There are a number of variations, starting from about $80, including ones that come with capsules to start growing things like basil, lettuce, or mini tomatoes.
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Tile Bluetooth trackers have always been great products. But once one died, you'd have to dispose of it, and it could end up in landfills if not done correctly. The new Tile trackers use replaceable coin-cell batteries that extends their life, thus helping the environment. Clip one to a valuable item, like a set of keys, backpack, or camera strap, or slide it into your wallet, then use the app to locate the item when it is still within Bluetooth range. When out of Bluetooth range, you can still track its location thanks to the worldwide network of Tile users. They work in reverse as well: double press the button to have it "ring" your phone if you can't find the device. The Tile Pro is $40 and has a range of up to 300 feet, and the Mate ($30) can go up to 150 feet. A two-pack that includes both black and white versions of the Pro will sell for $70; as well as $110 for a four-pack, and $70 for a Mate/Slim combo four-pack.
iFixit Mobile Device Repair Kit
Rather than throw an old cell phone or other mobile device into a drawer or worse, the garbage, or pay a repair company to fix it, buy one of these kits and learn to fix it yourself. Not only will this help extend the life of a device, but it can also save you money, especially if you use a kit to repair more than one phone. And you can learn something valuable about how your electronic products work, and empower yourself. Follow along with handy online repair guides, as well as walkthrough videos. Kits range in price, depending on the type and device. A Pro Tech Toolkit for iPhones, for example, is about $80; while a replacement screen with tools for an iPhone 6 will set you back $84.
House of Marley Get Together BT Bluetooth Speaker
Any product from House of Marley is perfect for the environmentally-conscious person, thanks to their use of recycled and sustainable materials, including REWIND fabric, natural bamboo, and/or cork. Plus, a portion of the proceeds of every purchase goes towards the Project Market One Tree Planted global reforestry initiative. Supporting reforestry has a number of benefits, including providing us with clean air, helping with water filtration, bio-diversity, climate regulation, social impact, and our overall health and wellness. This particular wireless Bluetooth portable speaker is a great addition to the home, running on a built-in rechargeable battery for up to eight hours, and with a 3.5mm input so you can connect devices via a wire as well. The cover is made of the exclusive Rewind fabric with natural bamboo front and back panels. $250
Goal Zero Switch 10 Core Solar Kit
Aside from being convenient for the outdoorsy person who loves to set out on outdoor adventures or go camping, this kit can be a great way to save a bit of energy at home. Charge it up from the sun, then use it to power everything from your phone, to POV camera, and other USB-powered gear. The pack comes with a phone charger with a 2,600 mAh battery and 1.5A USB output, flashlight, and mini fan. Position the back on the outside of your backpack when on the go to keep it continuously powered up. It's not going to replace your need for standard electricity at home, but for some, every little bit counts. US$100
Casio G-Shock G-Steel GST100XA-1A Watch
If you're looking for a "smart" watch that doesn't require as much recharging as others, this one for men uses Bluetooth low energy to pair with smartphones and the app, and can be solar-powered. With a carbon bezel, sapphire crystal, and two-tone layered band, it doesn't contain a ton of "smart" features, like smartphone notifications or fitness tracking. But for someone who just wants a higher-tech watch, it's a good option that is water-resistant up to 200 metres, features dual dial world time, a daily alarm, stopwatch and countdown timer, 12/24-hour format, battery level indicator, and a new layered guard structure. $800
Me to We Rafiki
OK, so this isn't a tech product, per se. But it's a cute stocking stuffer that will also help you "give back," and help the recipient feel good about wearing it. These Rafiki friend chains can be worn as stylish bracelets, anklets, necklaces, headbands, or any which way you like. With the purchase of each one of these handmade fashion accessories (about $10 ea.), the Me to We foundation works to provide children in need with clean water, health care, financial tools, school supplies, and healthy meals. Each chain comes with a particular "theme" that relates to where its donation will go, like Health chains made with red beads, and Water with blue. That's something we can all get behind.
Epson EcoTank Printer
What makes these handy printers environmentally-friendly is that rather than use ink cartridges that need to be constantly replaced, thus adding things like empty cartridges and packaging to landfills, they use ink reservoirs that can be refilled and, most impressively, last for up to two years. Each printer comes with a two-year's supply of ink. While they're a higher upfront cost, you save in the long run, both in time and money. Plus, you're helping the environment. (Just don't forget to recycle those printed papers once you no longer need them, and only print when absolutely necessary!) There are several models in the line, starting with the Expression ET-2750 for $380, up to the business-friendly Expression Premium ET-7750 for $800.
Similarly to smart lights, this smart thermostat learns your habits and communicates with other devices to determine when you're home and when you're not, and when heating or air conditioning should kick in. Over time, it gets smarter. Which means it adjusts itself for your maximum comfort, and to maximize energy savings. The third-gen model is about $250, but there's lots of savings to be had over the holidays from various retailers.
Sonos Beastie Boys Limited Edition Play:5 Speaker
What socially-conscious persons will especially love about this limited edition speaker, in addition to the funky finish, is that all proceeds will go towards Peace Sisters and Little Kids Rock in the name of the Adam Yauch Foundation, along with a sizeable product donation. San Francisco-based artist Barry McGee designed the graphic elements of the speaker, which includes a new, linear word mark for the band and bold graphic in red, which have been added to the grill of a monochromatic white Sonos Play:5. US$499
(PRODUCT)RED iPhone XR
As with many other products Apple has released to date that come finished in bold red, this colour of the new iPhone XR has a socially-conscious message behind it. With every purchase, Apple contributes directly to the Global Fund to fight AIDs. The phone, the lower-end model in the new Apple line-up, boasts a ton of hot features, including a 6.1" Liquid Retina LCD screen, Face ID, A12 Bionic chip, Portrait Mode, 12MP wide-angle rear camera, and more. It starts at $1,029 outright.
Vizio (PRODUCT)RED Edition Smart TV
You'll have to travel south of the border to grab one of these, as they aren't available in Canada. But if you're looking to make a big, bold statement about your support for the fight against AIDs, Vizio's limited edition (PRODUCT)RED TVs might be the most literal way to do that. Available in a 55" size, the TV comes with a bright red bezel, and offers all of the features you'd expect on screen, including 4K picture quality with HDR, support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG, and Vizio's SmartCast OS for navigating streaming services and apps. Plus, there's support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control it by voice. With each purchase, a minimum of 10% of the purchase price will go to fight AIDs. Vizio says it is committing to providing over 375,000 days of life-saving HIV medication.
Want more gift ideas? Check out our other themed gift guides.