Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eco-Gadgets from Oxfam

Oxfam have been one of the biggest names in charitable works for a number of decades now. Few people will be able to say they haven't at least visited an Oxfam shop at some point or other. Whether it is looking for that essential item to make that fancy dress costume zing, or a cool ethical gift or fairtrade produced card Oxfam is often the first choice.

But did you know Oxfam now have an online store?
That sells Gadgets???

I was very surprised when I discovered this and quite excited that they also intend to increase their range of eco-gadgets in the near future. When visiting the Oxfam Online Store it may not be immediately obvious where the gadgets are hiding. Currently their store is divided into 3 areas -

Oxfam Unwrapped - For the stranger ethical gifts for that hippy aunty such as a Goat (£25) or a Sheep (£29) for that Rugby playing work colleague. If you don't think much of the facilities at your local boozer perhaps clubbing together with a few friend to buy them a Toilet for £50 will give them a hint!

Oxfam Secondhand - Everything from secondhand clothing to Books & Music, household bric-a-brac, boardgames and toys. More or less what you would find in the local Oxfam shop, but online.

Oxfam Ethical Collection - Fair Trade products are one of the cornerstones of modern Oxfam shops, though the online store provides a far wider variety than most local shops. Appearing here are items such as Fairtrade Backgammon sets from Peruvian producers, Handcrafted Ceramic Chess Sets from Indian fair trade producers and fair trade foods from around the globe.
The quality fashion clothing from fair trade producers around the world had me stunned as to how cool they were and how much variety was available. Each of the fair trade products has detail of where it was produced and by whom. This information really helps to connect you to the product as though it was made by someone you know especially for you!
What About The Gadgets! - Sorry, I got slightly distracted with the rest of the store, and I'm sure you will too!

Oxfam EcoGadgets - are unexpectedly hidden in the Home section where you can buy Ceramic Incense Holders, Embroidered Journals and Recycled Wine Glasses.
Well, what about the gadgets? Currently the range is fairly small, though I have been tipped off that the range will be expanding over the next few months. At the moment you will find a few wind-up items such as Torch, Lantern & Radio, a couple of Solar powered chargers, for batteries or phones/mp3 players and a very cool looking nightlight that will only cost 50p to power for the whole year!
Though I do like the night light, what I'm going to be putting on my Christmas list is the Wind-Up DAB-radio. I'd never come across one of these before and was surprised they existed! Hopefully I'll be reviewing it in the new year! Meanwhile I'll list some of the specifications it is advertised as having and I'm sure you will be impressed!

- Powered by internal battery or AC via mains adapter
- Battery charged by winding or AC adapter
- Wide variety of DAB stations
- 5 Memory presets
- Customise your own station order
- Stereo RCA output sockets
- Stereo headphone socket

And finally, the bit that most impressed me was the length of time it is advertised as being able to play for on a single charge - 6 hours of DAB listening, or up to 36 hours of FM!!! Impressed? I certainly was! The bad news comes a little later in a few of the reviews I read, 1 minute of winding is alleged to give 1 hour of FM use, and I guess you are already doing the math here, 3-5minutes of DAB radio due to the power hungry processor and LCD screen, thoughother reviews stated in practice that you didn;t get much more than a minute of DAB.
If you've ever used a wind-up device you'll know even 3minutes winding will seem like an eternity, and if forced to use in those conditions you will be re-tuning for FM and scanning for a replacement station. Though for a portable DAB radio the FreePlay DEVO is a great compact solution, being rechargeable means you can take it out for the day to catch your favorite DAB show in the park or at the bottom of the garden.

The other thing I should point out here is that although Oxfam introduced me to the Free Play DEVO DAB wind-up radio I was surprised by the price difference between various suppliers. Currently (17th Oct '08) the Oxfam price is £79.99 + £3.50 delivery for this, whilst it is available for on Amazon UK for £34.66 with free shipping!

As I can't yet review the product and most of this post has been about the Oxfam Online Store, I'll end this review with a couple of conclusions.

The pages load quickly and have a fresh look to them making for a pleasant browsing experience. The categories could maybe do with some work, though as their are so few 'gadgets' I can understand why they appear to be lumped in under Home. Well, so far so good, the only place they really lost points here was in pricing. OK, they are a charity, they do good work and many people would be happy to pay a little extra to buy something from oxfam knowing the profits will be going to a good cause. But 100% more than other retailers? I do hope they will be looking to keep an eye on others selling similair products and provide more competitive pricing in the future!