Mother’s Day Gifts to Treat Mom (and Mother Earth)
With Mother’s Day fast approaching, why not consider an environmentally friendly gift to show you care about her and the world she lives in, too? There are lots of reasonably priced options that will save her money on energy bills, fight pollution, and can be obtained even if your location is under a stay-at-home order.
Here are some suggestions for treating Mom and Mother Earth at the same time:
Bulbs and Bulbs
Flowers and plants are often synonymous with Mother’s Day. If your favorite nursery is closed, you can purchase flowers and plants online, at the grocery store, and sometimes even the pharmacy. Plants naturally absorb and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and warms the planet, which means outdoor plants and trees can help fight climate pollution while beautifying the landscape. They can brighten things indoors as well.
If you’re browsing online for bulbs for her flower garden, consider also ordering a different kind of bulb: an LED (also available at your grocery store and pharmacy). LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs and can save $50 to $150 in electricity costs. If you plan to buy her a book, a nice addition would be swapping her reading lamp bulb for an LED. They deliver the same amount of light but last 10 to 25 times longer.
Revamp Her Appliances
Some mothers love new appliances, but before you hit, “Add to Cart,” check whether there is an ENERGY STAR® option, signifying it uses less energy than other models. For example, an ENERGY STAR® air purifier is almost 60 percent more energy efficient, offering up to $490 in energy savings over its lifetime. Replacing outdated appliances with more efficient versions will give her financial and energy savings.
Did you know that some electric clothes dryers can use as much energy as a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer combined? If a new, more efficient heat pump dryer is out of your price range, a wool or rubber dryer ball helps separate clothes to allow more airflow, reducing drying time. The balls come in fun shapes and colors, too.
Keep Her Cozy or Cool
Homes often have gaps or cracks that allow heat or air conditioning to slip out. If you add up all the gaps around windows and doors in an average U.S. house, you’d have the equivalent of a 3-foot by 3-foot hole. Doing some caulking and/or weather-stripping for Mom will help stop heat or air conditioning (and energy dollars) from escaping.
Meanwhile, almost half of the average household’s annual energy bill goes to heating and cooling. If Mom complains about being cold at home, consider slippers, thick socks, a robe, blanket, and/or a shawl so she won’t need to crank up the heat (and use more energy) to stay comfortable.
A programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the heating and cooling—or let her control it remotely from her smartphone—so her home is at the preferred temperature year-round, saving about $180 every year in energy costs. If she lives in a warm climate, flip the switch on her ceiling fans so the blades run counterclockwise and create a breeze by pushing cooler air down in a column. This can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler and a fan uses 90 percent less energy than an air conditioner. Also, clean or replace the filter in her central a/c system as a dirty filter can slow airflow, forcing the system to use more energy to do the same amount of work.
Offer to Offset
Once we get back to traveling, give your mom’s next trip a green spin by offering to offset the carbon pollution it creates. Carbon offsets are “credits” a traveler can purchase from projects that are designed to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, such as planting trees. To know how much to offset, use an online calculator to estimate the emissions that will be created from miles travelled by plane, train, bus, or car. For example, a one-way flight between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco (2,500 miles) would cost around $10 to $20 to offset. If the transportation provider doesn’t offer the opportunity to purchase offsets, use a website like Green-e or Gold Standard to find a reputable emissions reduction project.
Treat Her with Tech
One of my favorite things growing up was to watch TV shows with my mother. If it’s the same for you, a smart TV or streaming device is a great energy efficient gift. Streaming through an app on a smart TV or through an Apple TV, Roku, or Google Chromecast uses up to 30 times less power than watching television through a gaming console.
A smart power strip helps slash energy waste from plugged-in electronics and other devices still using energy when turned off or in sleep mode. The average U.S. household spends $165 a year on such wasted “vampire” energy. Eliminating it gives her money to spend elsewhere.
Suds and Savings
For gifts of body wash and shower scrubs, you could include a high-efficiency showerhead. They can save more than 2,000 gallons of water per year, most of which is hot water, lowering water and energy bills. Look for a showerhead that is "pressure compensating" to ensure that Mom has plenty of shampoo-rinsing power, whatever the water pressure in her home.
If gifting hand soaps, throw in faucet aerators. These small devices screw onto the end of faucets and can reduce the flow to 1.5 gallons per minute or less (down from 2.2 gallons per minute), still plenty to clean and rinse hands. Less hot water means less energy used to heat it (reducing the need to burn polluting fossil fuels to generate it). Mom will save energy and money with every hand wash.
Indulge the Foodie
If your mother loves to cook and has a gas stove, she might like to try an electric portable induction cooktop burner. Induction cooktops run on electricity and use magnetic waves to heat pots directly, making them far more efficient because the food receives 85 percent of the heat generated, as opposed to only 30 to 35 percent for gas. They are also faster, more controllable, easier to clean, and safer (the stove surface doesn’t get hot so less risk of her getting burned). This would save energy and avoid indoor air pollution from cooking with gas. Induction cooktops require magnetic cookware, so make sure her current cookware is magnetic (does it attract a refrigerator magnet?). If not, order a compatible pot or pan at the same time.
If none of these suggestions catch your eye, consider donating to an environmental organization in her name. That’s another wonderful way to show you care about the world she lives in—and her—this Mother’s Day.