retail therapy

Black Friday could bring energy efficient gifts, or Zombies

The holiday is upon us, like it or not.

For me, that usually meant getting up at the crack of dawn. I didn't shop. Heck no. I worked either as a business reporter or business editor for more than two decades in Alaska, Washington and, finally, California.

In my business, Black Friday meant covering shoppers. My conversations with them -- imagine ice cold Anchorage -- usually started this way: "What in the heck are you doing out here?"

Their responses? Sickeningly gleeful. I never understood it. But I faithfully covered the practice year after year as it started earlier and earlier.

Now I no longer have to work it. But I'm still not going shopping on that day. However, I do have some tips. For those of you, unlike me, who don't like to give cash, I've got some help from our friends at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is all about Energy Star, its program that certifies products that use less energy. And less energy means less money spent and fewer greenhouse gas emissions created.

Home Entertainment: You can find the Energy Star label on nearly all entertainment products from TVs and Blu-ray disc players to home-theaters-in-a-box. If you are in the market for a digital picture frame, consider one that has earned the Energy Star. It uses 25 percent less energy than non-qualified models.

Office Products: Shoppers can also find the Energy Star label on office products such as computers, LCD monitors, notebooks, multifunction printers and more. A home office fully equipped with Energy Star qualified products can save up to $380 over the lifetime of the products.

Battery Chargers: Products that use Energy Star battery chargers, such as video game controls, digital cameras, shavers, hand vacuums, power tools, and cordless lawn mowers, use 35 percent less energy compared to conventional chargers.

Healthier Homes: From pet care products to dish soaps to supplies for a car, the Design for the Environment (DfE) label shows products that are safer for families and help protect the environment. In 2010, Americans using products with the DfE label cut the use of harmful chemicals by more than 600 million pounds.

The EPA also encourages consumers to purchase LED decorative light strings, which use about 70 percent less electricity than incandescent lights.

Other tips include reusing or recycling old electronics, buying reusable cloth bags when shopping, wrapping gifts in recycled paper bags or recycled wrapping paper and using less water when washing the holiday dishes. "If every American household reduced their water use by 10 gallons on just Thanksgiving Day, it would save more than 1 billion gallons of water," the EPA says.

My personal tip? Stay home. You never know when zombies will prove George Romero right.