V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
No tacky ties please

In his trademark deadpan expression, Bill Cosby, or rather Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show, walks around the house wearing a garish ensemble of ties, belts and hats that light up.

It's an old, dated '80s sitcom, yes, but perhaps one of the best examples to speak of the timeless affliction that strikes dads everywhere on Father's Day -- the tacky, leftover present that does everything but the Hokey Pokey.

And so, since Green Planet devoted a full page to environmentally friendly ladies' toiletries on Mother's Day, we are giving fathers their due turn today.

I'm talking gadgets, gizmos and golf.

One company out of Indiana for example, sells eco-friendly golf balls that are water-soluble within 96 hours and non-toxic.

The balls are made of polyvinyl alcohol, which is the same polymer used to make school glue and is biodegradable -- a lesser burden than plastic, which is made of petroleum, a fossil fuel, said Todd Baker, president of Eco Golf Balls.

Plastic golf balls which sit at the bottom of the ocean are also hazardous for sea animals, he added.

"They can be mistaken for turtle eggs. Dolphins will eat them, the balls lodge up, passes through their system and can kill them," Baker said.

The biodegradable golf ball became his core business after a cruise line asked Baker to create a green golf ball for their onboard putters.

His biggest clients are the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, which holds 3,000-strong barbecues with some putting off their aircraft carriers. They go through about 10,000 golf balls in a day, Baker said, all of which meltinto the ocean.

Baker also has Canadian clients in Whistler, B.C., where Blackcomb Helicopters, an adventure travel company, flies golfers atop a 12,000-year-old glacier on Mt. Currie. Golfers are given five Eco Golf Balls to hit into the wild before they're flown to an 18-hole golf course.

"When we started the glacier heligolf, (biodegradable balls) was one of our top priorities," said Blackcomb Helicopters' Emma Haggart.

Be warned, however, that because the material is softer than plastic balls, the Eco Golf Ball only goes half the distance with a driver. It performs normally with a wedge and 8 or 9 iron.

For non-putting dads, another green-minded gift is a portable solar charger that will power iPods, cellphones, digital cameras and handheld gaming devices.

The Red Cross used the Solio in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and has since included the unit in their emergency communication response kits. The hybrid charger is a sleek, cellphone-sized design that fans out into three panels and can also be plugged into a wall socket. One hour of sun provides enough juice to play an iPod for about an hour or provide up to 25 minutes of additional talk time on most cellphones.

Though the Solio is ideal for hiking, camping and outdoor trips, Beryl Williams, owner of Vancouver gift store Boys to Men, said it's become one of her prime energy sources.

"I use it for everyday."

For more information, visit www.ecogolfballs.com, www.solio.com, or www.boystomengifts.com. Eco Golf Balls are $10 US a dozen and the Solio sells for about $120 Cdn. (see links)

-- 2007

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