Gifts you didn't know were green

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Let’s shop green without being obvious about it, OK? You can, you know. There are many ways to tweak the holiday list this year to skew it toward recycled, socially conscious, energy-conserving goods. Of course, we don’t like to advocate lots of consuming. We definitely don’t buy that theory that it’s our patriotic duty to purchase our way out of the recession.

On the other hand, we are going to exchange gifts this holiday season. With that in mind, here are a few humble suggestions for keeping it green (and affordable), subtly:


Black and Decker CTO6301 convection toaster oven

Black and Decker CTO6301 convection toaster oven

Mom, dad, a kid on her way to college. Lots of people can appreciate the utility and electricity savings of a toaster oven. Did you know that the average 1500 watts used by a toaster/convection oven is less than half, or even more, than that used by a full-size oven? How many times have you heated the entire oven just to warm rolls for dinner? Or to bake a couple ramekins of dessert? Or broil a tuna melt? Or brown a small brushetta?

Turn that big oven off, and use a tool that’s sized-right for the job. That’s the very sound idea behind this “smart” appliance. There are dozens to choose from. The Black & Decker one shown here can be had at Amazon and other stores for around $60. It gets good reviews for durability, space and function.


THe wovel uses see-saw action to shove snow.

THe wovel uses see-saw action to shovel snow.

This goofy looking simple machine just might keep some snow blowers off the road. It’s unique enough to keep the relatives marveling about the weird gift Aunt Sally got Uncle Mel, but it’s got its serious side: It powers through snow without using fossil fuels.  More importantly to most users, it makes the job of shoveling the white stuff, pound per pound, easier. Easier on the back, mainly, because the motion of pushing and then “throwing” the snow engages leg and arm muscles.

We don’t actually have one, and we wonder if it's quite as easy as it looks, but the see-saw action does appear to take a load off the back, a victory over bending, raising and twisting to shovel snow the old-fashioned way. The Wovel has made several YouTube appearances since being named on Time’s Best Inventions List in 2006. Check out this video by a convinced user.

It is expensive for a shovel ($119.95 retail), but it solves a problem, without adding another pollution-spewing machine to the household arsenal.


Recycled Tire Wallet made by artisans in El Salvador

Recycled Tire Wallet made by artisans in El Salvador

Number three on our list is black, but so very green. This completely recycled, vegan friendly wallet is made from discarded tires. But it looks so much like the standard leather version we thought it would qualify as a green gift that doesn’t stand out as different. Each 9 x 3.5 inch wallet has a slot for money and six slots for credit cards, just like you’d expect. A Fair Trade artisan group in El Salvador makes these wallets, helping provide jobs and living wages in their community. You can buy it ($30)  through the GreenHeartShop in Chicago, at their online store.

Green Heart helps promote artisan craft goods, clothing and food from around the world and in the U.S.

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