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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Kristin - The Goat said...

There was a time when I thought I was the only person on Earth that was creeped out by the sock monkey. I don't like clowns either, but that's another post.

Thankfully I have never received any of these items as gifts, but I do get the lectures from some people I know.

I love that you gave an alternative - Great post! I'm Stumbling it.

Lisa said...

Good list.

I have given natural cleaning products as a gift but it was a housewarming gift for a friend so she didn't have to buy all of it at once and because she was a bit lost having to buy everything she needed.

Cathy said...

Very funny. Yeah, as much as I try to be green there's no way I'd give someone a sock monkey or light bulbs!

Anonymous said...

Great post as usual Lisa. I've given you an award that you can pick up at

Desiree said...

i agree. the sock monkey octopus is really creepy. i do like socks though...i bought myself a pair of angora/cashmere blend socks and theyre fabulous. i love little indulgences like that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks much for the tip you left on my blog. Funny, my 9-year-old asked for a sock monkey this year (it must be vintage, mom) and I had to laugh at your post. I'm grateful she didn't ask for the 6-legged octupus. That's just crossing the line.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Kirby3131, Cathy, d.funkt- I had no idea that there was others out there that were creeped out by Sock Monkeys. Just knowing that has saved me several years of intense therapy. My health insurance company thanks you.

Lisa Sharp - I never thought of giving natural cleaning supplies as a housewarming gift. That's a great idea! But for holiday time or birthdays not so much (unless the person asks for it of course.)

wildcatsthree - Thank you for the award Chris! I'm honored.

Junk Sophistiicate - your child wants a sock monkey? That's a toughie, especially since she requested a vintage one. At least you can be assured that your love of vintage and expert junking skills are being passed down and appreciated by your next generation. Take heart in that.

Anonymous said...

This one made me laugh out loud. I was considering giving some CFLs for Christmas, but not alone. I was going to do it in a gift set with other green items so it wouldn't be just a light bulb for Christmas. I know I wouldn't want to open a gift that contained nothing but a light bulb. That would

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lisa c. baker said...

Ah...I'm so embarrassed...what does it say about me that I WANT some of these items for Christmas? Wooden toys for my baby are on my wish list that I sent out to family! Does this make me a Greenzilla?!?

Absolutely fabulously great post, by the way.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

lisa - asking for these items is totally different than someone just foisting them upon you. I think you're safe from Greenzillahood. But just to make sure, give your baby a wooden capult for Christmas. Baby'll be able to fling food longer and farther acrossed the dining room table that way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for for your submission to the advice for women from women blog carnival.

Dale Challener Roe said...

You missed the retaliation part of the gift exchange...

If one of these super Greenies gives you one of these garbage gifts, it's perfectly acceptable to give them a basket of totally environmentally bad deodorant and shampoo, snatch that greasy knit cap off their head and insist that they wash if they're staying fot the rest of the gift exchange.

I think I got that from Ms. Manners...

BTW, these were very funny.

Anonymous said...

My best friend has a 3 year old who was given a sock monkey by her grandmother. The kid was so creeped out by it that she wouldn't sleep in her room until the sock monkey was removed. But I think they're kind of cute :)

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Part of the Creative Carnival December 2008

moosh in indy. said...

Good heavens my MIL loves to give lotion.
I live in a humid climate. I DON'T NEED LOTION.

The Greenest Dollar said...

Oh, this article had me giggling out loud. :)

Great post!

Erika Jean said...

omg I HATE sock monkeys too!!

TMK said...

My mother used to threaten to give us lightbulbs for christmas if we weren't good...

I try to make my gifts, as I'm a knitter. The first few years were tough, but I've learned to start early and to make little things, like lacy scarves, mittens, and armwarmers--instead of cardigans!

For a green gift that does NOT suck, Check out --they make charity gift cards that are printed on recycled materials, or you can send them as e-cards.

Gwen said...

Great Post! Thank you from saving me from myself...and my family thanks you too. I must admit that I have green gifted twice--smart power strips. I owe my sister and MIL a big apology and a back up gift.

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