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Get Me the
Good One

The radically ecological, perversely philosophical, ultimately economical guide to holiday gift giving

By Traci Hukill

DON'T get us wrong—we love the holidays just as much as the next person. We know the names of the three wise men and all eight reindeer, and we can sing most of "Good King Wenceslas," which a lot of people have never heard of. We love to light the menorah and spin the dreidel. Also, we are fans of the Rankin/Bass Claymation specials, so please do not bother us with invitations to do less important things on the nights those programs are airing. Because we do love the holidays. But we've had it up to here—by which we mean way up there—with holiday waste. Not just the wrapping paper, which is bad enough. No, this is a problem with the holiday gifts themselves, purchased hastily in the weeks leading up to a white-knuckle drive to get something, anything, for the giftee.

This can end in the unfortunate triumph of quantity over quality: we buy multiple second-rate items instead of one good one. And in the nature of second-rate items, these gifts soon break or wear out or just don't get used at all because they're of inferior quality to begin with. Within a couple of years, off to the landfill they go to make room for replacements that are just as cheap, just as shoddy, just as surely headed for the trash heap on the same short schedule.

Let's dump that racket now! Here's an idea: buy the good one from the get-go. It costs more up-front, but in the long run it saves money, saves the giftee the hassle of replacing the item later and is better for the planet. Instead of the $10 headlamp that might last one camping season (but probably won't), spring for the hardy Petzl. Skip the flimsy hand mixer and get the aspiring cook a sturdy standing model, something that would break your foot if it fell off the counter (not that such a thing could ever happen, since it weighs too much).

This doesn't mean go broke buying designer brands for their own sake. But it might mean teaming up with other family members in order to afford the groovy item in question, or delaying instant gratification (cups at Christmas! saucers on your birthday!) in favor of a more durable gift in the end.

It's a mild-mannered, sociable revolution, and in these pages we're jump-starting it with a list of quality items that will stand the test of time.

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