Best holiday gifts for the eco-friendly (and all under $40)

Categories: Holidays
Olivia LaVecchia
Clockwise from top left: solar food dryer by Outback WoodWorks, license plate cuff by MakeShift Accessories, beeswax candles by Scent from Nature, canjo by Resist Instrument Works, coasters by Vinyl Afterlife.
On Saturday, Do It Green! Minnesota took over the back hallways of the Midtown Global Market to throw its seventh annual Green Gifts Fair. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than 70 vendors set up shop, all hawking goods that fit, in some way, under the "eco" umbrella.

Some of these embraced extreme green, like worm compost bins. Others, like scrap metal jewelers, were more in the "reuse, recycle" camp. But wherever the crafts were on the spectrum, their collective presence offered an antidote to the midnight-on-Thanksgiving, Black Friday big box madness, and a reminder that November and December don't necessarily have to include heaps of plastic packaging.

We combed the green goods to pick out our top 10, a list of gifts that will work for a range of earth-friendly friends this season. Shopping for a chef? A cyclist? Here are your best bets.

See Also:
- Give the gift of green this holiday season
- Best Gift Shop 2012: Goodthings
- 5 great gifts for foodies

For the coffee-drinker
The Velasquez family handles every part of its coffee's production: Two brothers, a brother-in-law, and father Velasquez manage the coffee farm in Honduras (the Comayagua National Cloud Forest, to be exact), and then the other Velasquez brother, Guillermo, and his wife, Cathy, have the coffee roasted here in Minnesota. Their regular roasts sell for $9 per 12-ounce bag, and they also offer flavors like Amaretto to Dutch Chocolate for $6.50 per 8-ounce bag. The best pick for your coffee-loving loved one, though, might be the gift subscription: $27 for three months, $54 for six months, or $108 for a whole year. Calculate the savings over a daily latte out, and consider yourself a financial Santa. Plus: Free home delivery within Minneapolis and St. Paul. []

For the cyclist
One of the many handy properties of street signs is that they're reflective. And even after the signs have outlived their usefulness as navigational tools, they still have that ability to reflect car lights. Enter Eric and Devin Johnson, the guys behind MakeShift Accessories, who rescue these signs from the scrap-metal pile and turn them into, among other things, wrist cuffs. Give the street sign cuff ($16) or license plate cuff (slightly less reflective, $12) to your favorite cyclists to help keep them stylishly visible on icy streets this winter. []

For the musician (including the five-year-old kind)
In the same vein as a tin-can telephone, but way more genius: The Canjo. You could put this one together at home, but when Matte Resist sells well-made ones for $20, they're hard to, well, resist. Supplies: One can, one piece salvaged wood, a single string and a few small metal pieces for frets. Result: A beautiful little instrument that will charm three-year-old and 30-year-old musicians alike. Resist also sells more substantial banjos, ukeleles, cigar-box guitars, and more. []

For the book worm
Local house Milkweed Editions is a certified green press, meaning it prints its books on mostly recycled paper in a sustainable way. In addition to the rest of the works in its stable, Milkweed publishes titles that directly engage with environmental issues. Three top picks: Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibben ($15), Being Caribou by Kartsen Heuer ($15), and Shopping for Porcupine by Seth Kantner ($19.95). []

For the locavore
Twin Cities Local Food is a newly-launched (in April), year-round online farmers' market. Customers can order from their computers, then pick up the delicious goods -- from seasonal produce and grass-fed meats to grains and oils -- at a nearby location. Husband-and-wife team Josh and Natalie Kelly work with a dozen sustainably-minded farms within 100 miles of the cities, and in addition to the edible stuff, offer e-gift certificates and gift baskets like the Organic Minnesota Breakfast (Sapsucker Farms maple syrup, Peace Coffee, Loosey Goosey pancake mix, $35) and the Pampered Minnesotan (massage oils, lip balms, skin creams, $37). []

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