This holiday season, instead of shelling out your hard-earned cash on triple plastic-wrapped plastic toys and Styrofoam-immersed electronics manufactured in Chinese sweat shops, why not give green? No, not money, but rather sustainable, fair-trade, and ecologically sound gifts that everyone can enjoy- including the workers who made those gifts.
Around Madison, Wisconsin, there are a number of stores that strive to offer unique and green gifts. Here is a sampling of a few such merchants:
Fair Indigo (Hilldale Mall, 570 North Midvale Boulevard, (608)661-7662, www.fairindigo.com)
Almost every item in this store comes with a story, whether it’s the Joobles clothing line for infants, made from organic cotton and eco-friendly dyes by a family in Lima, Peru, or the freshwater pearl bracelet made by women living in the slums of New Delhi, who are employed by a non-profit jewelry company that donates its earnings to an educational trust for these women’s children. There is even recycled fleece, made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic soda bottles.
Anthology (218 State Street, (608)204-2644, www.anthology.typepad.com)
Anthology carries the works of many local artists, including three who work exclusively with recycled materials. For example, Emily Kircher, who also goes by the name of the Recycling Artist, makes mosaic style picture frames reclaimed from thrift stores. There are also wallets made from laminated newspaper, blank journals made from old books, and necklaces made from old bottle caps.
Whole Foods Market (3313 University Avenue, (608)233-9566, www.wholefoodsmarket.com)
Believe it or not, this store has more than just organic toothpaste and a killer salad bar. It also has a wide assortment of items that you can purchase for Christmas, Chanukah, or what-have-you. For starters, there are baskets sold by a non-profit Third World-based organization, called the Blessing Blanket Project, that pays its workers living wages. This same organization then hires disabled Americans to put the item tags on the finished products. Another organization, called the Whole Planet Foundation, offers grants to institutions in Latin America, Africa, and Asia when they offer loans to the self-employed poor. For a completely altruistic gift, you can make a donation to this Foundation on behalf of your gift recipient.
Little Luxuries (214 State Street, (608)255-7372, www.danebuylocal.com/member/51)
Located in an old storefront along State Street, this store carries many locally-made as well as fair trade items. The store is also a member of Dane Buy Local. One can find all manner of baubles here, like bracelets made from old buttons, hair accessories, and earrings. There are also eccentric items like a line of books called Porn for Women, which feature scantily-clad and very buff men doing housework. For those of you with extra cash to burn, there is the hand-knit Alpaca scarf, made by fair-trade artisans, for $72 (with a portion of the profits going towards community charities).
Community Pharmacy (341 State Street (608)251-3242, www.communitypharmacy.coop)
Didn’t think a pharmacy had gifts for the upcoming holidays? Think again. The Community Pharmacy offers such spa luxuries as Four Elements, made by a local Wisconsin woman who grows her own herbs and makes her own bath salts and moisturizers. There are also products offered by Juniper Ridge, a company that harvests wild plants ethically (also called wild crafting) to make soaps and teas.
So, if you are ready to go green this holiday season, Madison has a wide range of businesses that offer sustainable gifts. Do some shopping and feel good about the stuff that you buy for a change!