Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thneed Nominees, August 2008

Any good greenie knows Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  And any good green parent can probably recite the host of ills that come to town when the Once-ler moves in and starts hacking down Truffula trees to manufacture a multi-purpose thing-a-ma-bobber called the Thneed: no more fruit for the brown Bar-ba-loots; fish driven out of their pond by industrial gunk; birds chased away by the smog.

At story's end, of course, the conclusion is that we don't need Thneeds; we need trees.  And the boy listening to the tale is entrusted with a few truffula seeds in hopes that he'll regrow them.

Still with me?  Here are my Top Five nominees for Thneed Status, starting appropriately, with Thneeds for Babies and Children:
  • The Bath Luve & Buddy:  Available at www.onestepahead.com for a mere $12.95, this handy dandy frog-shaped blanket allows parents to dip it in the warm bath water, then cover baby - all to make bathing a little more pleasant.  Look, I've washed a screaming infant in the dead of winter and know that it's not a fun task.  But it does not take a mighty brain to dip a regular old washcloth in the warm water and accomplish this same act.
  • Potty Training Targets:  These might've escaped my wrath, save that they market themselves as eco-friendly.  I sympathize with parents who want their sons to aim true - cleaning up Freddie's misfires is not my favorite way to spend an afternoon.  But do I really need to spend $12.95 plus shipping for an assortment of animal shapes to place in the potty for my son to pee on?  They may be made up of nothing more than twenty layers of colored tissue paper, but they're manufactured, packaged and shipped.  My aunt accomplished the same goal 20-plus years ago with Cheerios.  Creating an uber-specialized uni-tasker?  Convenient, maybe.  But eco-friendly?  Never.
  • Wipes warmers:  If you're very green, chances are you're not even using disposable wipes.  At the other end of the spectrum are the parents who have made a wipes warmer one of the most popular registry items over at Babies'R'Us.  Beyond the manufacture of the product, there's the electricity required to run this puppy.  Yes, it's minimal.  But is your baby really so sensitive that a cold wipe will scar him for life?  I'm baffled.
  • Shopping cart covers:  A ear-nose-and-throat doctor friend of mine - who spends much of his working day dealing with allergies - ensures me that there's such a thing as too clean.  I suppose that parents of preemies or other vulnerable newborns must be hyper-vigiliant, but what's with the rest of us, putting our hale'n'hearty 18-month olds in the shopping cart only after plunking down one of these jobbies?  Some parents defend them by noting that you can attach toys to the cover.  But I've managed to attach toys to the good ol' fashioned bar of the shopping cart, thanks to those linking rings.  Worst of all?  According to Consumer Reports, there's no evidence that they cut down on getting a cold.  Your best bet?  Wash your hands - and save your $50.
  • Beaba Babycook:  Parents make their own baby food for a host of reasons; saving money is often cited as one.  But blow $139.95 on this "French baby-food maker that has won praise throughout Europe" and you'd better be feeding two sets of triplets if you expect to recoup the investment.  Why on this green and verdant earth would you buy a specific item, when a blender or food processor does the job just as well?  And if you must buy something, why not a mini food-processor that will go on to make pesto and other foods?  It takes less space to store, you'll have it for years and it costs about $35 - a quarter of the price of the Beaba.
We all need stuff, and parenting is one of those moments when we're especially tempted to buy solutions in sweetly-decorated packages.  It's important to remember that not every problem is best solved by a purchase.  Some of these things really are Thneeds - they ain't green, there's no way to make them green - save to simply not make them.

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