A Guide To Eco-Friendly Holiday Gifts

Sunbeam Candles at Sustainable NYCLaura Kuhn Looking for some last-minute gifts that are environmentally friendly? An option might be Sunbeam Candles, which are made from vegetables and beeswax in solar-powered factories.

The holidays mean presents but if the lack of green gift options has you seeing red, here are some last-minute sustainable solutions from East Village stores.

Sustainable NYC (139 Avenue A at Ninth Street), opened three years ago when owner Dominique Camacho, was renovating her apartment. “I’d been in retail almost 17 years,” she said, “and I got bored. I got really into re-using things in my apartment.” She took an energy and environmental design course and opened her store. Sunbeam Candles ($7.50-$17.50) are all made from vegetables and beeswax in solar-powered factories. “They’re also really good about packaging,” said Ms. Camacho of the company’s box-return program.

For a party gift, bring a bottle of wine and a Bitters and Co. Reclaimed Cork Stopper ($6.25). The company also makes sustainably-harvested Cork Coasters ($12.50). The store is also filled with decorations from compostable Oots Seed Ornaments ($3.50 each) that can be planted after the holidays to Laser-cut Ceramic Butterflies ($44.95) made from vintage china.

Pop into Teich (84 East Seventh Street Near First Avenue) and pick up a set of Vintage Stockings ($35) to hang over the fireplace. Owner and designer Allison Teich, 34, finds the fabrics herself and sends them to woman in midtown to have them sewn. “I found someone who actually knows what she’s doing,” she said. The store also sells products from other local designers’ collections. Stuff the stockings with a Skinny Skinny Soap ($8) hand-milled in Brooklyn and packaged in recycled magazines.

The Andean Collection, based in Ecuador, uses local seeds and nuts for its jewelry and practices fair-trade labor by hiring local village women to make them. The turquoise Tagua Bracelet ($24) comes from a shaped palm tree nut. For the girl with too many clothes, Schoozer Loser’s Vintage Quarter-holder Necklaces ($38) are found in local flea markets and hold up to $2 in quarters — great when she needs to wash them! The Brooklyn company also makes silkscreen viscose scarves using eco-friendly dyes.

Andean Collection, Teich
Recycled Sterling Spike Earrings, Linhardt
Vintage Ornaments at The Upper RustLaura Kuhn From top: jewelry made from seeds and nuts at Teich, recycled sterling spike earrings at Linhardt Design, and vintage tree ornaments at The Upper Rust are some of the eco-friendly gifts that are available at local stores.

Linhardt Design (156 First Avenue at Ninth Street) is a little store full of big-time gifts. If you’re planning to propose, owner Lisa Linhardt, 33, makes custom, recycled metal engagement rings.

For all her jewelry, she traces both the metal and the stone’s source — some come from recycled-metal refineries, but she said, “A lot of people bring in mismatched metals or old pieces from their jewelry boxes and I re-melt it.”

The store also sells items from Linhardt’s own Signature collection. “They’re very modern,” said Lindhardt employee Mengly Hernandez, “but they’re also made with these organic shapes.” The Signature Loop, a finger-hole-punched band of metal, comes in recycled Sterling ($390) and Vermeil ($580), a silver thickly coated in 18-karat gold. The Bullet Ring ($680) is a sterling silver two-finger version.

As the name suggests, the Small Vermeil Pebble Ring ($520) is shaped like a stone from the beach. The line also contains Recycled Polished Sterling Spike Earrings ($480). The store also sells some home items like Table Runners ($240), hand-made on looms by HIV-positive women in Ongata Rongai, a village outside Nairobi, and Natural Oils by Mengly ($40), Ms. Hernandez’s mix of Coconut, Vetiver, Geranium and Lavender scents.

If you’re looking for vintage decorations stop by The Upper Rust (445 East Ninth Street at Avenue A). Owner Kevin Bockrath doesn’t sell many tree-toppers — “They’re so fragile they break into a million pieces,” he said — but you can find Vintage Ornaments from as far back as the 1800’s for $6 each.

Try AuH20 for an inexpensive gift for a friend. Owner and designer Kate Goldwater, 25, cuts and resews vintage materials into Sweatshirts, shirts and blouses ($20-28). The store sells vintage jewelry like Oak Earrings ($20). Found at estate sales and flea markets, the pieces are priced not to empty your wallet—unless you buy a pair for all of your friends.