Condo Blues: 10 Green Gifts That Suck

Monday, December 8, 2008

10 Green Gifts That Suck

There are some great environmentally friendly gifts and some that are not. I suspect that these are the items that a Greenzilla would give. (You know, the zealot who raises the green living bar so high that pretty much every person who honestly tries to do their part still fails in the eyes of the Greenzilla because you haven’t met the Greenzilla’s specific expectations?)

On the other hand, if you’ve decided this holiday season not to give gifts not as a token of love and appreciation but as a way to force your recipients to live the green life by doing everything exactly like you doNO EXCEPTIONS then these sucky enviro-gifts may be for you. (Personally, I’m not into the Greenzilla line of thinking because I think that there’s always more than one way to do something and achieve the same goal, which in this case, is a living a more sustainable life.)

10 Green Gift No Nos

1. Compact florescent light bulbs. Even though they are expensive, they are still light bulbs people! And honestly how do you know if your recipient doesn’t have a package of these in a closet somewhere and are waiting until their current bulbs burn out before they make the switch? Which I might add, is a green practice because they are using what they already have. The Better Green Alternative? Give the person a lamp to go with the CLF bulb.

2. Rechargeable batteries. Giving a battery is just as lame as giving a light bulb, even if it is a more expensive rechargeable battery. The Better Green Alternative? If you’re giving someone a gift that uses batteries, then include a set of rechargeable batteries and a recharger.

3. Some wooden toys. I get that last year’s plastic toy recalls freaked out a lot of parents (me too.) However, I think that some wooden toys can be just as dangerous – look at this handmade wooden baby rattle.

Imagine the concussion baby could give you when they throw this warhammer at your head when they play endless rounds baby’s favorite high chair game of I Throw the Toy and Make Mommy Pick It Up. Also, some otherwise fun little kid wooden toys turn into sucky green gifts when given to much older kids. The Better Green Alternative? Do not look at the wooden toy in question with your responsible grown up eyes but from the perspective of your inner child. And please find something that’s age appropriate. A wooden rattle for an 8 year old would suck, but a wooden trebuchet or catapult would rule. (I wouldn’t mind having one of these either.)

4. Organic fiber underwear. Remember the look on Ralphie’s face when he opened the gift of underwear in the movie A Christmas Story Yeah. Natural fibers or no, the gift of underwear is not a gift any kid wants to get. Period. The Better Green Alternative? Getting a pair of organic fiber undies from your beloved that’s so va-va-voom that you can’t open the gift in front of the kids. Or your parents. Or your grandparents.

5. Carbon credits. This is the gift that says, “I couldn’t come up with anything else to cover my guilt so I’m giving money to a company that normally plants trees whether I give them money or not but I’m doing it in your name.” The Better Green Alternative? How about just giving the person a tree for their yard or plant for their home? Or another type of carbon – cruelty free diamonds.

6. Used and broken items. Vintage items are unique but not so great if they are broken beyond usability. The Better Green Alternative? Do I really need to say out loud? Give something that’s all in one piece and in working order, unless you are passing down a beloved family heirloom.

7. Shake flashlights. Great in concept but poor in execution. It takes about 15 minutes of shaking one of these babies to get only a few seconds of weak light from the flashlight. The Better Green Alternative? Crank generated flashlights. A few twists of the crank and you have strong light – and no more searching around the house for batteries, bonus.

8. Sock monkeys. I don’t care if your Great Aunt Tally made it with her very own hands by candlelight from socks made from organic wool. Sock monkeys creep me out. That puts them on the sucky green gift list.

And don’t even get me started about the freakoutablity of the sock monkey octopus.


The Better Green Alternative? None. Socks are meant to be worn on feet. Not for monkey making.

9. Environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Nothing says, “You have a dirty disgusting house” like the gift of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. The Better Green Alternative? An all expense paid trip to a spa to make up for implying that the recipient’s house is a dirty pit of despair (even if the recipient’s house really is a dirty pit of despair and could use a good clean.)

10. Nothing on purpose followed by a lecture about consumerism. There’s no way to tell whether the giver is being sincere or is just a cheapskate with a clever excuse. And lectures at a time of appreciating family and loved ones is just, well, mean. The Better Green Alternative? If you really feel that strongly about not giving anything to anyone for the holidays (even gifts of time or for services or to events) then excuse yourself from even going to holiday festivities. Please don’t let your negative views spoil the rest of the responsible gift givers holiday fun you big meanie.

What gift do you not want to see under your holiday tree?

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