Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Ponzi 3: What is the most unsustainable piece of junk you own?

Posted on  

"Ponzi 3: What is the most unsustainable piece of junk you own?"

Share:

google plus icon

zapper.jpg

An unusually unsustainable device that I own (see below).

I’m hoping to expand on the Ponzi scheme discussion in my next Salon piece. So I’m gathering examples of unsustainability at every scale.

In asking what is the most unsustainable piece of crap junk you own, I wasn’t really thinking private jet or Hummer, not that I think any of you own that uber-unsustainable stuff.

Nor was I thinking of an electric dryer, since most people (in this country) own that laborsaving device. But that does get us closer to the key question, though: How many of the 10 billion people on the planet post-2050 will be using large amounts of electricity for things that are easily done without electricity — once we have moved beyond desperation and are actually in the midst of the climate catastrophe.

By junk I was thinking of something closer to a relatively superfluous device that symbolizes the Ponzi scheme we have created. What comes to mind at the moderate cost level is a leaf blower and even a Segway [sorry, Dean Kamen -- your genius is really needed urgently for sustainability, not for electrifying human walking, even if many people find some value in that]. I don’t own either of those, but I do own a treadmill and a 50-inch flat panel TV (but hey it is Energy Star), which are close to what I have in mind in this post.

And I’d also be interested in hearing about any of the truly pointless low-cost stuff you have, like an electric pencil sharpener. Indeed, what really got me thinking about all this yesterday was my use of a gadget (pictured above) whose pointlessness and unsustainability simply staggers the imagination:

The Racket Zapper, available at Amazon.com for a mere $9.99.

From the Manufacturer
The Electric Racket Zapper has no smell, no poison or harmful materials.The net will become hot when activated, so please keep away from skin and children. This is not a toy. Just zap the flying bugs with a simple wave of the Electric Bug Zapper.

Product Description
The Racket Zapper electronic fly swatter eliminates chasing down flying insects or splattering bug parts on your wall. Instead, spot the flying insect and zap it. The bug should die instantly and drop to the floor.

Yes, instead of using an existing newspaper or magazine, which is easily recycled, I own a massive hunk of plastic with two large metal meshes and a battery.

It’s big benefit to humanity is that now I don’t have to actually smash the fly against the wall, which is always tricky to do, as everyone knows. I just have to get the fly against the metal meshes, push the button, and zap it. Of course in the real world that isn’t so easy to and the zap doesn’t always kill the fly but more seems to knock it out so you can then crush it.

But I would like to apologize now to future generations for ever having bought it.

Anyway, you get the idea: What is the most unsustainable piece of junk you own?

Update: Yes, I do a lot of sustainable stuff, too (see Is Climate Progress “low carbon” and does it matter?).

« »

65 Responses to Ponzi 3: What is the most unsustainable piece of junk you own?

  1. paulm says:

    “Nor was I thinking of an electric dryer, since most people (in this country) own that laborsaving device.”

    I forget, how do you dry cloths without a dryer?

    lawnmower.

    Not small and I don’t own one, but escalators and unessential elevators are a couple that would also benefit ones health if they went puff. Ski lifts and snow makers are possible candidate.

  2. how about a wipe warmer. I don’t actually own one but several people recommended them to me when I was expecting. My child does not seem to have suffered from having her tush cleaned with a wipe at room temperature.

  3. ken levenson says:

    3 cordless phones placed around house on own charging stands.

  4. Nancy says:

    Until a few months ago, I used Cottonelle,Charmin and Kleenex. Talk about unsustainable products! Now I only buy recycled paper products, either Marcal Small Steps or Trader Joe’s recycled toilet paper and tissues. (I hope it’s OK to use brand names here). I highly recommend the switch!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/science/earth/26charmin.html

  5. Craig says:

    No appologies necessary to Mr. Kamen. I thought the Seqway was an April Fool’s prank when I saw it–a radical new technology for crossing medium distances at slow-to-moderate speeds? (As long as there aren’t any stairs, that is…) Yeah, thanks a heap. Between my two legs (free) and my bicycle ($200), I think I’ve got that one covered. Talk about hitting the “sour spot” right on the head.

  6. Rob W says:

    My wife and I used to have a houseful of useless Junk, but we moved into a one bedroom apartment and did a massive purge. The items that caused me to shake my head and mutter, “what the hell was I thinking?”, were too numerous to list here.

    The best example I can come up with: Quesadilla maker. Kind of like a big waffle iron, but set up specifically to make Quessadillas. Kitchen appliances that exist for a narrow task (like making Quessadillas) are just stupid. Except for my coffee maker, I really need that thing.

  7. stowell says:

    Beyond the silly gadgets, what about electronic equipment. Not because it isn’t useful, but because it drops dead so quickly. Last spring the high school had a electronic recycling day; we were amazed that we filled our car with old, broken, incompatible and obsolete computers, keyboards, radios, stereo equipment, speakers, phones, printers, monitors and god knows what all. Cars were lined up down the street, all delivering the unsustainable.

  8. Russ says:

    I guess mine would be some kinds of processed foods and food that no doubt travelled horrendous food miles to get here (just this morning I was thinking that as I ate my morning banana here in NJ).

    This post made me think of Wendell Berry’s list on the value of tools, which can be applied to any kind of stuff.

    (Linked from Sharon Astyk’s blog Casaubon’s Book.)

    http://sharonastyk.com/2009/01/08/tools-you-need-tools-you-dont/

    I don’t at all object to people making a compelling case for a tool I don’t want or use, what drives me crazy is the automatic assumption that we need all the tools, we should spend a lot of money on them, and that a good kitchen has everything in it. Now I have plenty of kitchen tools, but I try really hard to go over Wendell Berry’s list of points to determine the value of tools before I buy one. They are

    1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.

    2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.

    3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.

    4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.

    5. If possible, it should use some sort of solar energy, such as that of the body.

    6. If possible it should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.

    7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.

    8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenence and repair.

    9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships. (Berry, _The Art of the Commonplace_ 219)

  9. david freeman says:

    My Mac. Yes, I love it but my prior pc worked just fine. Getting a new computer every few years is very wasteful.

  10. charlie says:

    Americans style tumble dryers are very sustainable if you use them right:

    Tumble dry wet clothes (with no heat) for 10 minutes, then line dry them.

    It removes wrinkles . Far far superior to the European-style machines. You don’t have to iron 50% of your clothes after that. European machines, after line drying, require lots of ironing for even basic stuff (socks, t-shirts, etc).

    I often wonder why you can’t put a UV light in there to help with sterilization.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I have a flat-iron for my hair that I wonder why I even bought it. Why does my hair have to be perrrrrfectly straight? I don´t know.

    I bought it during a trip back to the US to visit my family. When I brought it back to Argentina and used it with an electrical adaptor, it stopped working within 5 mins. Hmmmm. Not the best move.

    In general I´m pretty good at this, but that was just another reminder to really think about what I´m going to purchase before doing so.

  12. ben adair says:

    Since my wife and I have a 5-month-old, we cringe at every giant piece of molded plastic we’ve acquired for him (like the Rainforest Jumperoo, which he loves so much it’s a little disturbing). But, we buy them off craigslist and promise to sell them or freecycle them when we’re done.

    That said, all the disposable electronics come to mind — computers, peripherals, etc. We just had an Apple Express wifi router die and it costs twice as much to repair it as to buy a new one.

    That and the newspaper. The carbon footprint for a printer newspaper delivered to my house is pretty astounding.

  13. GFW says:

    Does anyone remember a few years back the “Billy Bass” and “Rock Lobster” gag gift craze? Y’know, the singing fish/crustacean on a plaque. I was at my in-Laws for Christmas, and at least 2 of these items were given (neither by, nor to us). I seem to recall stating that were I in charge, the manufacture, distribution and sale of such items would be illegal.

    Personally owned? Well, we have 3 computers for 2 people, but aside from that, not a lot of crap. I’m going to defend electric dryers. There are lots of places where in winter, you’re not going to get any drying outside. Heh, some places you reverse that – you don’t get any drying in summer.

    Final thought – does everyone know that there is a huge variation in the efficiency of stove tops? In order of efficiency, Induction > plain electric coil > gas. I unfortunately have gas, but will replace with induction when it makes economic sense to do so.

  14. GFW says:

    Uh, I meant “decreasing order of efficiency”, but I think the greater-than signs should make that obvious.

  15. caerbannog says:

    Hmmmm… how about the really cool Fargo Video Christmas gift pack? (this was back in the days before DVD’s).

    Not so much the video itself, but the spiffy snow-globe featuring a holiday scene complete with an overturned car and a frozen body.

  16. paulm says:

    Not junk but very unsustainable – Kids!

  17. My damn clothes dryer. For one, it’s so inefficient that it requires 2 full hours to produce a better-than-damp pair of jeans. But more to the root of the problem, air and sun can dry things just fine without modern Maytag junk.

    (Or they would theoretically, if it weren’t late winter in Seattle…)

  18. DavidONE says:

    A 42″ plasma TV. Fortunately, I rarely ever turn it on. Unfortunately, when I do it’s to watch Formula 1 (I know, I know).

  19. Zeb says:

    My power boat. For 7 years, I owned a 25-foot offshore fishing boat that averaged less than 2 miles per gallon (less than 1 at full speed). It was too big and heavy to trailer around, so I leased indoor space at a local marina, which used a diesel-driven “marine bull” to launch it and take it out. I once foolishly got it stranded–beached– on an uninhabited island when the tide went out. On several other occasions I had mechanical breakdowns and had to be towed in. The cost per pound of the few fish I caught worked out to about $50.

    Eventually I wised up and swapped it for a smaller trailerable boat, which is still unsustainable. But I’ve used it only twice in the past four months, so maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

  20. BrooksB says:

    Guilty on dryer. Putting up clothesline Real Soon Now. Appreciate the nag.
    Also like tip about 10 minutes tumbling clothes with no heat before clothesline.

    OTOH: I love my motor-less reel mower – quietness makes mowing somewhat meditational.
    And using an iPod with an amazingly hi-fi speaker (rechargeable battery powered iPal) gives me great sound using very few electrons. Rarely run big stereo now.

  21. David B. Benson says:

    I don’t have a telly or a cellphone.

  22. Anne says:

    My credit cards!

  23. Elizabeth says:

    A three-foot long spider sucking gizmo with a clear chamber to view the catch!
    It was a gag, but I tried it and it broke on the first try.

    Another option: the singing fish Billy Bass that took drugstores by storm about 8 years ago. My mom bought 10 and sent them to her friends!

  24. Joe says:

    The singing fish!

  25. Publius says:

    A FLUSH TOILET

    We are shitting and pissing in drinking water, adding massive amounts of chemicals, polluting our environment and groundwater, and increasing our need for petrol-based fertilizers.

    We need to be recycling nutrients back into the soil by collecting and composting our humanure.

  26. Hmpf says:

    The American dependency on electric clothes dryers is one of the more mind-boggling features of American life to this European – and one that seems like a very good thing to aim some sort of official energy-saving campaign at! (Hint! *g*)

    I’ve lived in small to tiny places (usually just one room) without gardens or verandas for thirteen years now, and even under these less than ideal conditions have always managed to dry my clothes without a clothes dryer – even in a cold and wet winter in Birmingham, UK. If you don’t live in a place with truly extraordinary air humidity, drying clothes on a rack inside your flat is absolutely no problem. As I said, I’ve always lived in very small spaces – 190 sq. ft (18 sq. m) at the moment – and even in that little space there’s enough room to put up a rack once or twice a week. (I have to do my laundry fairly often, as I have a really tiny washing machine.)

    I never iron anything, either. If you put the stuff on the line or rack immediately after the washing machine is done, it will usually dry without wrinkles. (Though I have to admit most of my clothes are jeans and t-shirts, so wrinkles aren’t much of a problem in the first place.)

    My most unsustainable gadget? Electric toothbrush, because I have a chronic gum problem I was getting a bit desperate about, and someone with a similar problem told me that an electric toothbrush helped them.

  27. ecostew says:

    For many, the extras e.g.,
    bedrooms & baths
    TVs
    phones
    computers
    lights
    cars & car trips
    larger than needed vehicles
    clothes
    too much food and/or food with a high carbon footprint
    overweight
    thermostat set too high

  28. ecostew says:

    I forgot to mention large green grass yards requiring extra energy, water fertilizers, and pesticides. Try a small vegetable garden.

  29. John Hollenberg says:

    Joe,

    My parents have one of those fly zappers. While it is a lot of fun to use and fairly effective, I would have to agree that it isn’t exactly a necessity :-)

  30. Amoeba says:

    I never understood the Segway. It seemed to be a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. But then the crap of which we speak is all about solutions to problems we never knew we had, so that a few can get rich and deplete the earth’s resources in the process.

    Back to the Segway
    Why should able-bodied people need a motorised vehicle to move from A to B at around walking speed?
    The two obvious an vastly superior alternatives were a) Walking b) Bicycle, both of which would help the person get fitter.

    Of course the Segway would be ideal for obese people who want to travel to and from the refrigerator, without receiving any exercise, so that they can get even more obese and die prematurely of type 2 diabetes, IHD, hypertension & etc. But why anyone would want that completely escapes me.

  31. Tina says:

    I have a blender and two immersion blenders. Why I need three gadgets to do what can be done with one whisk is a mystery to me. More often than not, I simply take out the whisk. Perhaps it is time to free-cycle a few things…

    I do want to put in a quick plug for hang drying clothes though. I live in Northeast Ohio. Our Winters are blustery and our summers are humid. However, when our gas dryer broke, we refused to fix it. We have been hang drying year round for two years. We put up extra clothes lines in the basement for the winter and have outdoor clotheslines for the other three seasons. A little vinegar in the rinse cycle and even our towels are soft.

  32. Leanne says:

    Cheap electricity and gasoline. If we priced those 2 items more appropriately (ie higher) then people would make more cautious decisions on what to buy. If you really have to have a dryer, OK, but realize that you’re paying a lot more than line drying your clothes. Maybe those singing fish really give you a chuckle – great, but only buy one and make it a gag gift that goes around your family for years. We would all be smarter, and smaller, consumers if we had to pay more for all these goods. But cheap energy inputs have allowed us to avoid paying the true cost for our gadgets.

  33. Greg Robie says:

    I have a bunch of light-type stuff I’ve collected from Goodwill to put on the list:

    a lava lamp
    a strobe light
    some sort of bead filled tube with mirrors that displays “lightening” and also responds to sound
    a projector with a rotating disk composed of layers of colored fluid that create a mesmerizing visual display on the ceiling–somewhat like what was done, manually, with overhead projectors at the Fillmore West when I went there as a boy scout (scouts honor)
    and I am still waiting to find one of those static electricity balls (picked one off the side of the road during trash day, but I could not figure out how to repair it)

    I don’t use any of these, except on rare occasions when the photo-stimuli feels like it can help transport my brain a bit relative to stress mitigation, but even then then, never the strobe!

    In this lighting devise arena, one thing I do use, that I expect to still be in use in 2050, if we make it across the street we need to cross, is my growing collection of LED lanterns and flashlights. When up late at night, or when I find myself awake too early–and especially in winter–I carry these things for light rather than use our lighting fixtures. When taking the trash and/or recycling down the drive at night, or checking in on the chickens when I forgot to close them in, I use a head worn unit. I power them with rechargeable batteries that I can cycle through my solar powered battery charger.

    Portable tallow and wax tapper holders, olive oil, whale oil, and kerosene lamps and lanterns have all lit the way for our predecesors. In my homesteading days I used an aladdin kerosene lamp. These LEDs do not throw the light it did, but neither the heat and CO2–and that one wasn’t really portable due to its fragile ash wick.

    Anyway, post-2050, when the current climate modeling says we have to go negative relative to our current CO2e lifestyles (and if the modeling hasn’t been further refined by then to discover we have to be going catestrophically negative right now), it will be things like the following that those alive then will be saying I was stupid about:

    my domestic water heater (that I could be using my 3 gallon pressurized camping water heater to shower with)
    my clothes washer (that I could be using my small manual tumbler clothes washer for, or the antique clothes washing tub for from my family’s farm)
    my dishwasher
    my 1875 sqft home three miles from town (needs to be 5-600 sqft. and clustered)
    and if it was centrally heated, that central heating and/or AC
    my gas powered vehicle (though my draft-precision bicycle might still have a life as an electrified version)
    my clothes dryer (though I will have to try that tumble-on-air approach–I can and do live with wrinkles but . . . )
    my stove (and it does not matter which kind–the menu and how it is prepared, is going to change; solar ovens and insulated food containers are, even now, viable, but for our economy, options)
    my dormant sprouter (could be growing my fresh vegetables year around on my counter and I am not–though my gardening will be seen as a sign of intelligent life)
    my canner and dust covered canning jars (that I bought into store bought preserved food as being pragmatically efficient, what was he thinking?!?)
    my approach to food refrigeration (a hybrid of freezer/ice pond/ice house–to make ice–and ice box is likely what will be concluded we should have been doing)
    my snowblower (though I have been shoveling and woveling the last two winters and kept the blower parked)
    may gas lawnmower (though I think its operations are carbon neutral as I do the mowing just frequently enough to promote carbon sequestering–or so I hope)
    my kids (because yes, the population of the hyper-consumers is the population that is the problem in terms of what our lifestlye, and the economic model that supports it, requires of the rest of the planet’s population in terms of AGW, and the example we’ve set)
    my kid (why in the world did he have a ruminating goat for a pet?!? . . . weak excuse: stress mitigation due to the oxytocin that “tending and befriending” it effects, and I got it, for free, off craigslist)

  34. Goran says:

    My suggestion is to get rid of the electric chair!

  35. Carlin says:

    My electric toothbrush! A recent gift and I hear it works better than the manual kind. But can any non-recyclable piece of plastic with a shelf life of 2 months be considered sustainable? If you really want to be carbon neutral, here’s my advice: hold your breath.

  36. Baerbel W. says:

    Well, lots of the things others have already listed, but I at least try to select stuff which is as energy-efficient as possible (luckily in Germany most “gadgets” come with that type of information).

    What comes to mind with regards to this discussion is Annie Leonard’s video and homepage “The Story of Stuff”:
    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    When I watched this the first time it really got me thinking about all that “stuff” we think we need because somebody instills that need in us.

  37. Paul Hayes says:

    Actually the electric bug zapper is a useful device. Mainly because it kills flying insects midair. A buzzing house fly or mosquito is annoying. The electricity use of the bug zapper is minimal. I’ve had mine for 3 years.

  38. The leaky old house I rent – and therefore have no economic incentive to improve (I don’t pay utilities).

    Kills me to imagine how much good a $200 energy audit and as much insulation and duct tape would do to the heat leakage of this place.

  39. PaulK says:

    Paper shredder. The only good thing about is that it’s broken.

  40. Holly B says:

    Diaper Genie. How ashamed I am that I bought this. An absolutely useless for any other purpose hunk of plastic that you need to keep buying expensive refills for to wrap disposable diapers in MORE scented plastic with (as if the world needs more)–and then after two years the manufacturer changes the model so you can no longer buy the refill cartridges for it, anyway–can’t be passed on to another baby, so ends up in a landfill. And the diapers still stink, so you end up taking them out to the garbage every day anyway. Why not use a garbage can with a clamped on lid that can–hey, here’s a thought–be used for other types of garbage or contents as well? Do they still make these? They should be illegal.

  41. Tim says:

    @ paul m. Ski Lifts? How, DARE you, sir. COMPLETELY non-redundant (I’m a [sustainable] snowboarder).

    Eletcric Toothbrush
    Constant airconditioning
    Having a heater on in Melbourne’s winter whilst wearing shorts and tshirt
    Airconditioning in a car (to a large degree)
    Many newspapers
    Chip (crisp) packaging
    Extra chewing gum packaging
    Most packaging

    The list goes on

    tim

  42. Dan Romm says:

    My electric razor. I could use a manual one or (gasp!) grow back my beard.

  43. Linda S says:

    Good question, Joe! Next you ought to ask what we’ve learned to live without . . .

    As for the wasteful stuff I own — the digital picture frame (although I really do enjoy it!) and tons of useless knick knacks which took more energy and resources to manufacture than their price tags would indicate, the mini-frig for beer and wine, and my clothes dryer — why do I need one in Florida?? My husband has a 21 foot boat that sits in our driveway all but three or four times a year, but I refuse to shoulder his sins — I have enough of my own!

  44. Sarah Spitz says:

    I bought an “organizer purse” by Buxton, and it came with a little gadget — a recording device to help you remember little things, like “buy milk when you go shopping.” It also has a very small flash light (I doubt that it’s LED).

    It uses a battery, it’s made of the cheapest possible plastic, it’s made in China, so it had to be shipped here, it has a memory chip of some kind, and records only 15 seconds of sound — after which, if you need to add something else to remember, it simply erases what you’ve already recorded!

    I think this is one of the all-time stupidest devices on planet earth. And in addition to being impractical, it’s COMPLETELY unsustainable.

  45. David B. Benson says:

    Everything made from metal or with metal components is unsustainable unless we all recycle every bit of it. Which, in the long run, is not possible.

  46. john says:

    OK. a person very close to me (my father) once owned an electric tie rack. Yes, that’s, an electric tie rack.

  47. As a ski junkie, a lovely, but avoidable energy hog item is a chairlift which can be avoided with a pair of climbing skins, although it changes the experience dramatically, both being sweet. I use both.

  48. Nancy says:

    Two more:

    Garbage disposals. I never use them (we compost our food scraps) but lots of people use them daily. What a waste!

    Kids’ sneakers that light up when the kid walks. I can assure you that parents never remove the (toxic) button batteries and recycle them before tossing the shoes in the trash! How many millions of button batteries go into the trash each year?

  49. JoeZ says:

    My house.

  50. A Siegel says:

    Let us go with the simple, omnipresent …

    * Wrapping paper (especially non-recyclable)

    I am trying to remove from life … but better 95+% doesn’t want to give it up.

  51. Eric Roston says:

    All my plutonium.

  52. jorleh says:

    Plenty of clocks with batteries. Never even noticed them.

    Electric doorbells and toothbrushes. Etc.

  53. Texas Chick says:

    I live in Dubai where literally every facet of life requires an influx of massive amounts of energy…all the water for toilets, showers and sinks is made in desalinization plants by burning oil, and we still get 5 gallon jugs of drinking water delivered by car because the hygiene standards in pipes are not trustworthy here.

    All food is flown, shipped or trucked in from elsewhere. Desal water is used in conjunction with soil, brought in from elsewhere to water impossibly green lawns and golf courses.

    Many buildings leave doors open or have vented exterior doors during a 125 degree, 95% humidity summer that lasts 6 months. Literally, car dealerships cannot tell you the fuel efficiency of a vehicle you like to buy.

    My worst piece of crap though? The 50 separate bottles of creams, shampoos, soaps, lotions, etc. that I own. How is it possible that I could need so much product maintenance?

  54. kathy says:

    I have written a book on family preparedness (Just In Case: how to self sufficient when the unexpected happens) and have a new book on kitchen essentials coming out soon. While researching both books, I had to get real about electric and plastic kitchen gadgets. French fry cutters, cheap pasta makers, electric knives, the list goes on. Most kitchen tasks can be done with a good, sharp knife. The rest of the stuff is unsustainable clutter.

  55. Mike Brislen says:

    The comments on clothes dryer reminded me of the years my family and I lived in Djibouti – the hottest city in the world. You could hang your clothes on a line in the sun, and by the time you hung up the last item in your basket, the first item you’d hung up 15 minutes earlier was dry – and it smelled like it had come out of a dryer, and no wrinkles.

    Now, if we don’t control global climate change, many more of us may be able to have this sort of experience.

    I’d add the existence of dollar stores to your list. The cheap prices encourage the over purchase of a seemingly unlimited number of totally useless items.

  56. aafisher says:

    Haven’t used a clothes dryer in years. But:

    All of us wear clothes made of petrochemicals or, for example, cotton t-shirts woven with lycra for stretch–sad to say your acrylic sweater or polyester fleece will be around for a long, long time.

    Who is addressing the clothing issue? How do we recycle these things? They certainly aren’t cradle to cradle. Yet I love and need (I think) my high tech nylon rain pants when cycling, walking, doing habitat restoration work in the forest preserves.

  57. KEW says:

    I am sitting at my kitchen table listening to NPR on a radio/cd/tape deck player. It sits on a counter, which includes:

    A pencil sharpener, a plastic holder of envelopes with envelopes, paper, index cards. A mug with multitudes of pencils/pens. A coin/dollar bill holding container (some sort of Egyptian theme — from my husband’s family). A bowl which holds random stuff, from rubber bands, to erasers, to cards. A Suduko book for moments of down time. A Ziploc bag full of seeds to be planted as the weather warms up. A pile of “bills to pay,” “bills paid and to be filed,” “medical bills to submit to my FSA,” summer camp forms, birthday cards to be recycled from my daughter’s birthday. Finally, an old Rolodex with numbers from my past 30 years.

    This is just the counter: I did not include the drawers and cabinets, and cubby holes. This is one counter out of 10, one cabinet out of 15, in one room out of 15. It does not include the garage, the back shed, the back porch. It does not include the cars. It doesn’t consider my office or my spouse’s office.

    Interestingly, each of the items I listed I cannot consider useless — they are all “needed.” Many are recycled or made from recycled products. Most are at least a decade old. WOW!

  58. Harry says:

    I no longer use an electric razor, can opener or dishwasher.

  59. Phillip Huggan says:

    First instinct was to say coffee mug or cast iron steak-pan. But it’s my federal government.

  60. Probably the set of motivational cassette tapes I bought while drunk one late night. Not only are they 100% petroleum products, the content is 100% pro-consumerist, rape the environment for your benefit while you can. I never listened to them and have decided to regive them through Kashless.org. I look forward to the story.

  61. Leslie Robertson says:

    An electric can opener (a gift from my mother who considers it essential–I’ve never used it) and, the most useless gift I’ve ever received, an automatic tea maker. Like a coffee maker, complete with filter, except the water drips through loose dry tea. Ridiculous thing. I’ve never even taken it out of the box. A tea ball and a pot work just fine.

  62. Jeff B says:

    I own a plastic, mini-bowling set. It has a tiny, marble-sized bowling ball and a full set of tiny, match-sized bowling pins.

    I have long wondered out loud about the Chinese guy who works in a factory making this kind of plastic crap and wonders, “what is wrong with these crazy Americans that they buy this stuff?* Oh well, it means a job for me.” So a friend bought it for me as a gag. I still have it. I used it once – it’s kind of fun, but the ball doesn’t roll straight.

    -sustainablejeff

    * on credit

  63. JT says:

    The most unsustainable things that people own aren’t in their basements or attics, closets or cars. They’re right there in the fridge…

    I’m talking about Meat and Dairy products.

    According to the United Nations, livestock accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of transportation in the world combined! And the University of Chicago reports that in terms of reducing global warming, going vegetarian has greater impact than switching to a hybrid car.

    So we can fret about lightbulbs and can openers, Barbie dolls and Wiffle Balls all we want, but until we change our DIETS and go vegan, or at least vegetarian, we’re just kidding ourselves…

  64. Charlie says:

    Stuff like electric can openers actually use tiny amounts of electricity, because they are really off when they are off. The only thing that makes them unsustainable is that it takes more copper, steel and plastic to make them than to make an excellent manual can opener. So I think it’s misguided to try to point to particular objects other than cars, refrigerators, poorly insulated houses, air conditioners, incandescent lights and dryers, as being particularly unsustainable. Rather, it’s the mindless acquisition of stuff in large quantities that’s a problem, beyond the major energy consumers.

    That and meat and dairy, as JT points out.

  65. Mary Q Contrarie says:

    OK. This is a fun post. But I can’t just give my worst with out bragging about my best. So the best is my laundry drying rack. Saves lots of energy and it has the portability so that I can use it inside and out.

    Now my worst, I am embarassed to say may be our telephones. We are a family of 4 and we have 4 portable rechargable phones that sit on those recharges that constantly draw electricity. Then of course that is not enough we also have 3 cell phones who also have charges plugged in through out the house. Maybe not a BIG blast of energy but a constant trickle that adds to the problem…