Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Useful Things

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays
For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the 10 Thursdays from October 21, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas, in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome. Here is List 4:

10 Useful Things
  1. A RuMe™ (ReUseMe) Bag. Available in a variety of patterns, these 15.5” x 15.5” x 4” bags fabricated of 180 denier polyester, with double-stitched seams, hold up to 50 pounds. The bags are water resistant and machine washable. They weigh next to nothing and fold down to a very compact size, making them perfect for carrying in your luggage or purse. You never know when you might need an extra shopping bag! Designed in Denver, Colorado, RuMe™ products are manufactured in a South Korean government-certified Fair Trade Factory.
  2. An E-Z Reacher® or E-Z Grabber®. Arcoa Industries has been making these rubber cup reaching tools since 1982. E-Z Reacher® is the outdoor model. Experience has shown me that a clean corner discourages would-be litterers, and with one of these babies I can pick up trash like a pro, without any need of disposable gloves. I can even pick up a cigarette butt or a used match. The E-Z Grabber®  is a perfect gift for a senior who needs to retrieve items from hard-to-reach spots without climbing on a step stool. The rubber cups are replaceable. I believe both models are made in the USA. These products can be found at Ace hardware stores, but you can also buy them online.
  3. Yaktrax® is a spikeless and ultralight product that fits over a sturdy shoe to provide greater stability when walking on ice and snow. With every step you take, hundreds of biting edges on the product’s abrasion-resistant coils are in direct contact with the ice beneath your feet. One caveat. The company site speaks of the ease with which Yaktrax® go on and off, but this can be tricky for an older person. At around $20 a pair, you might want to verify that the person for whom you are purchasing them will actually go to the trouble to use them. I would love a pair myself, but I am pretty sure that a couple I bought for gifts last year are sitting in the closet. I purchased them at Sports Authority, but you can also shop for them online
  4. A Reusable Coffee Mug. No explanation necessary. I love one called “I am not a paper cup…” by DCI. It is a double walled, thermal porcelain cup with a silicone lid. It holds up to 10 ounces.
  5. Filtered Water Bottle. Seychelle makes a line of BPA free plastic bottles, equipped with filters, that allow you to drink great-tasting, fresh, clean water wherever you are, whether it comes from the tap or a stream. Over three million of these products have been sold the world over: customers include the USMC and the International Red Cross. You can shop Seychelle products online. For those with access to filtered water, I suggest a high-quality stainless steel Kleen Kanteen for transporting it. 
  6. To-Go-Ware®. The idea for this company evolved in 1997 when a then college student in Michigan found it disturbing that she was served her ice cream “for here” in a throwaway dish with a throwaway spoon. To-Go-Ware® sells a line of portable eating utensils to help you “reduce your fork print” as well as food carriers, bags, and a ceramic cup that looks like the iconic Greek diner paper cup. These products can be found at Whole Foods and REI. You can also shop for them online.  
  7. Rechargeable Battery Charger. Rechargeable batteries are certainly the Green way to go. claims to be “The guide to highly efficient things” and offers up a guide to the “Best Rechargeable Batteries and Chargers of 2010.” Blogger Justin has done a lot of research on this topic: I defer to him on what is the “best.” Although his post is about a year old and there are most likely some new products worth considering, his reviews will get you started. I will say that we were gifted a charger last year and definitely appreciate having it.
  8. Recycled Flip-Flop Door Mat. Any beach lover will appreciate this useful gift. For those in colder climes, it will brighten a Winter’s day. These mats are made of scrap foam rubber from sandal factories in the Philippines, scrap that would otherwise have gone into the landfill. They are available in a variety of sizes from a number of online vendors. I have not seen them in any store.
  9. A Webcam. This will enable you to Skype with willing and enabled persons remote from you. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, webcams nearly so. The Skype site explains it all and even offers several webcams for purchase, one a very cute blue Buddy Cam for $19.95.
  10. Folding Rear Bicycle Grocery Baskets (for someone with a bike) or a Dog Backpack (for someone with a good-sized and agreeable dog) to get produce home from the farmers’ market.
  11. Shapewear. This is a useful gift, but perhaps best to buy only for yourself (or someone you know VERY well). Say you have a favorite holiday outfit that you trot out just once a year — a common enough scenario with casual everyday being the current norm. Say the outfit includes a pair of pants or a “defined” waistline. A good piece of shapewear will allow you to conquer any minor battle of the bulge, keeping that favorite outfit in circulation while avoiding a fashion faux pas. Spanx started it all, but Maidenform purchased at the outlet mall is what I know. Shapewear is not just for men. Guys, check out Sculptees. Contrary to what you may have seen on SNL, there is no such thing as Baby Spanx, at least not yet.
Rume Eco Friendly Set of 3 (Three) Regular Size Reusable Bags Totes-Spring of New York Collection
RuMe Bags
Yaktrax Walker Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice,Black,Small
DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup 10-Ounce Porcelain Travel Cup with Lid
DCI “I am not a paper cup…”

Large Flip-Flop Doormat (Handmade from Recycled Sandals Material)
Recycled Flip Flop Mat
32" EZ Reacher and Grabber (Pick Stick)
EZ Reacher
Dog Backpack Saddle Gear Bag Easy Fit for Dogs New (colors vary)
Dog Backpack


  1. Thanks for all these suggestions! My flip-flop door mats are great; I keep one at the doorway coming in from the garage and one in the doorway coming in from the backyard. They really cut down on dirt coming inside the house. I bought mine at Blue Mt. Outfitters in Blue Mt. Lake, NY in the Adirondacks; they must be in other stores. Also, the EZ Reacher is a tool my elderly mother could not live without. She can pick up anything she's dropped and she says it's the best tool she has.

  2. I have a "not paper" cup that I got at Target. The silicone lid is red, so even stray lipstick doesn't show! Works great, too.