Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

As we approach the clubhouse turn of the holiday buying period, last minute gifts can be extremely helpful for procrastinating shoppers. This edition of Energy Newsflash is our Holiday Issue in which we pull together some gift ideas that are not only energy efficient, but are also sustainable. Fortunately, most of these gifts can be purchased on line, so they can be bought last-minute.

Chicago’s Bike Sharing Program (

From DIVVY’s website:

DIVVY GETS YOU AROUND CHICAGO IN A JIFFY Divvy is a new bike sharing system featuring thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations from Andersonville to Hyde Park, available 24/7, 365 days a year. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, station map, and a docking system that releases bikes using a member key or ride code. You must be 16 years or older to ride Divvy.

Bikes can be rented by the day, or for those more committed, an annual membership can be purchased giving riders unlimited 30-minute access to bikes. Members are also allowed to rent bikes by the hour for modest additional charges. Rented bikes can be returned to any station throughout the system which makes one-way trips most convenient. There are 4,000 bikes and hundreds of bike stations throughout the city with expansion to Evanston and Oak Park planned for the coming year. DIVVY’s website is most helpful, as is the smart phone app, especially when it comes to finding a station’s location and system availability of bikes when you are out and about.

While DIVVY is a new hot, new program that has received very positive publicity, there are some drawbacks with the bike share program. For example, the baskets are extremely small and as such, aren’t very useful if you are making a run to the grocery store. In order to avoid disappointment, before you venture off for your first ride experience with DIVVY, you should check out the comments on Yelp ( HYPERLINK “”

DIVVY’s annual membership fee is $75. However, (at the time of writing) there is a $65 Groupon for a one-year “Gear” membership that includes not only the regular membership, but also extra rental hours (beyond your unlimited 30-minute trips) and a DIVVY beanie. Total value is stated to be $125.

Uji Shower

According to the US Department of Energy, the heating of domestic hot water accounts for 18% of all residential energy use. And of that 18%, over half of the hot water is used for showering. Utilities have been promoting the use of low-flow showerheads for years. While low-flow showerheads decrease the flow of water, they don’t tell your teenager it’s time to get out of the shower. The Uji Shower provides a not so subtle hint that it is time to finish up in there. Developed by engineers at Tufts University, at the beginning of a shower, the Uji is lighted green. As showers approach seven minutes in duration, Uji turns red.

Controlled tests in higher education have shown that Uji reduces shower times by 12%, providing a six-month simple payback time. For more information, please visit

Feit Electric LED’s from Costco

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a strong advocate of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – and that I prefer them over LEDs. With comparable lighting quality and efficacy (i.e., lumens per watt), the much lower cost of CFLs trumps any advantage LEDs could have in instant-on and dimmable capabilities for over 80% of the sockets in which screw-in bulbs are used. However, times change and with LEDs coming down in price and quality improving, LEDs have an expanding role in energy-efficient lighting. Recently I tried some LEDs in a chandelier in my dining room. I split the sockets equally between dimmable CFLs and LEDs. There was no contest in with regard to their ability to dim – LEDs won hands down – better turndown and less flicker. With the cost of LEDs coming down, coupled with the longer life, they were much cheaper than the dimmable CFLs, also. The LEDs tested were 40-Watt Conserve-Energy LEDs (manufactured by Feit Electric) – three bulbs for $18 at Costco. While this may not seem like a cool holiday gift, the recipient will not only enjoy the energy, but will be thankful that they don’t have to replace a light bulb for the next 20 years.

Happy Holidays
Energy Choices!

Energy NewsFlash — 2013 Holiday Issue