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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.
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From Secondhand To One-Of-A-Kind

Kate GoldwaterRhea Mahbubani Kate Goldwater specializes in using discarded or secondhand items to craft new fashions.

In a neighborhood that is chock-full of chic boutiques, Kate Goldwater is doing her best to stand out. Ms. Goldwater, 26, a self-proclaimed “social justice crusader” designs an environmentally-friendly clothing line for AuH2O, her East Village boutique. All her designs are made from recycled items. Ms. Goldwater gets discarded or secondhand clothing wherever she can ̶ including the Salvation Army, Goodwill, clothing swaps – and transforms them into one-of-a-kind pieces.

Ms. Goldwater has been running AuH2O (the chemical symbols for Gold and Water) since October 2006, but last month she took on three business partners; Rachael Rush and Alexandra Sinderbrand, who sell vintage and thrift store clothing, and Rose Kennedy, a jewelry designer who creates trinkets from salvaged items. Now all four women sell their gently-used finds and original designs in the boutique and split the monthly rent.

In the past Ms. Goldwater received attention for creating unconventional clothing, including a tie made from credit cards and a dress made from MetroCards, which earned her a cease-and-desist email from an MTA lawyer. However she has recently turned her attention to more wearable clothing saying, “I want to make recycled clothes that people wear for a long time. People thought of the unusual designs as novelty items that they wore once. That isn’t so eco-friendly.” She also produces tailor-made items for customers by updating clothing that they no longer wear.

Ms. Goldwater spoke with The Local about three of her recent sartorial transformations:

Custom-Made Tuxedo Tie Vest, $180

Before: A pile of men's tiesKate Goldwater Before: A pile of men’s ties.
Safia Karasick Southey, 12, in the vest she plans to wear for her upcoming Bat MitzvahKate Goldwater After: Safia Karasick Southey, 12, in the vest she plans to wear for her Bat Mitzvah.

“I made this for a 12-year-old girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Her mom gave me the ties that they liked and I decided what order they would look best in. The toughest part was that the girl’s waist is only 24 inches and my mannequin has a 28-inch waist, so I had to eyeball it.”

“It took me six hours to make and I charge $30 an hour for custom-made pieces. I wouldn’t make this for the store because I prefer that everything in AuH2O is under $100. I want my clothing to be affordable for artists and students. I did make similar tie skirts that I sold in the store for $55 each. They were faster to make so I was able to set a lower price.”
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