Recycled homegoods aren't just for crafters anymore. Sure, they
still have the "crafty gift" market pretty well cornered, but in
today's economy, with the growing popularity of eco-friendly and
fair trade products, consumers have a variety of ethical - and yes,
quirky - goods to choose from for their children, their homes and
"Sustainable goods today can be high style," says Cynthia
Glensgard, owner of Global Handmade Hope.
Repurposing old materials into new goods offers the cutting-edge
Chicago family an array of options-and the power to make a
statement when spending a dollar.
Best of all, you don't have to go far for a selection of these
products with "past lives."
121 N. Marion St.
Additional locations in Evanston and Glen Ellyn
Walk into Ten Thousand Villages in downtown Oak Park, and you
might be greeted by volunteers Elizabeth Bach or Jan Colliton, who
can show you the latest items from one of the 36 nations with
artisan work in the store.
"Two years ago I made a goal for myself: I would volunteer for
individuals, for my community, and for the world," Bach says. "This
is how I volunteer for the world."
The 55 store volunteers and three staff members offer fair trade
merchandise to the western suburbs, much of which is made from
"Part of the philosophy of fair trade is that the artists use
abundant materials - that they do not strip their land of
resources," store manager Clare Leavitt says. As a result, many
items in the store are made from repurposed materials. And because
Ten Thousand Villages is a nationwide organization with a 65-year
history, there is always a lot to choose from.
If your home needs a decorative fix, you can choose from large
mirrors framed with recycled newsprint or old washers, or select
from a series of wall art made from old oil drums.
Those with an activist heart won't want to miss the candle
holders made from shell casings and formed into the shape of peace
doves. Baskets woven from candy wrappers easily store dolls or
blocks, and thumb pianos crafted from discarded tomato and sardine
cans make great gifts for the young and young at heart.
1911 W. Division St.
Take a global perspective and a focus on education and culture
exchange, and add in some designer-worthy fashions and you get
Greenheart, a Wicker Park store that challenges you to "change the
world by shopping."
In 1985, the nonprofit Center for Cultural Interchange formed to
promote cultural understanding, academic development, environmental
consciousness and world peace. It offers international students in
the states and U.S. students abroad opportunities to volunteer with
various environmental and social projects. CCI opened the
Greenheart Shop in 2007.
This store offers a great selection of fair trade goods for
parents of young children, from rattles to blankets to storybooks
about the environment. An adorable pink elephant caught our eye,
stuffed with vetiver root and made with recycled synthetic fibers.
If a can of Coke gets you through your morning playgroup, look for
purses and wallets made of soda tabs-named Best Green Handbag of
2010 at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards at Parsons New
School of Design in New York. And stationery isn't old hat when
it's made from recycled elephant dung-that display is a must for
parents with a sense of humor!
Families looking for eco-friendly fun can check out the
Greenheart Earth Olympics on Saturday, May 12 in Wicker Park.
Events will include a bike tire change race, a trash scavenger
hunt, and a competition to see who can catch an "organic free-range
Chicago chicken." Visit greenheart.us for information.
5357 N. Ashland Ave.
Nadeen Kieren laughs when she answers why she decided to open
her quirky Andersonville shop. She and her architect husband bought
the Victorian building, but had a hard time finding a tenant who
could add something novel to the neighborhood. The area needed more
"walkable retail," and eventually Kieren decided she would "give it
a whirl" herself. GreenSky brings fun, functional and affordable
goods to Chicagoans, while doing something good for regional
"Most of our products are sourced within a 250-mile radius of
Chicago, so you're buying local," Kieren says. "Our suppliers are
people who have a vision for something on its way to the
While the store boasts plenty of housewares that would make any
room brighter, particular consumers will be drawn to the beer and
soda bottles that have been converted to drinking glasses, lawn
décor sculpted out of spoons, or the light switch covers made from
If you're proud of your Midwestern roots, nab the large
state-shaped maps made out of regional license plates. Not to be
missed are the old storybooks that have been converted to journals
and the toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups.
428 W. Touhy Ave.
Glensgard opened her Park Ridge fair trade store in 2009 after a
mission trip to Rwanda. Today her business serves as a wholesaler
to companies around the country, connecting African and South
American artisans to U.S. vendors and customers.
"We want to be a voice for fair trade," Glensgard says. "Our
goal is to show how people can impact others' lives through their
In addition to selling goods, the store also serves as an
educational voice in the community. Those interested in sustainable
living can book the store for private parties for scout troops,
community organizations and more; the store recently hosted a young
teen's birthday party and themed it around all-natural bath and
For new products made from old junk, look to the jewelry
section, where rings are made from tagua nuts and necklaces with
orange peel rosettes sit front and center. In housewares, an
expanse of telephone wire masquerades as a decorative bowl, while
discarded slabs of wood become wall hangings.
And the youngsters in the family can try their hand at checkers
on a handmade cloth-scrap board complete with two sets of
Allison Martin is a freelance writer living in Oak
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