Top Green Picks From the New York International Gift Fair (Photos)


Mango wood: the new bamboo? Fast-growing sustainable hardwood used for bowls to tables.

Mentos wrapper bowls, mango wood tables, upcycled hydrogardens, Haitian textiles, and 2,800 other exhibitors' products are on display at the International Gift Fair this weekend at New York City's Javits Center. Packed with stuff from housewares to furnishings, décor to jewelry, there are plenty of green housewares and gifts in the mix.

We may think twice before consuming more of anything, but we don't have to think hard before selecting a sustainable choice. With a spotlight on green goods at the show, among the hundreds of vendors hawking eco-friendly products, six in a curated exhibit were recognized as the greenest of them all. For the fourth year, the Winter Gift Fair, which attracts 35,000 attendees and exhibitors from 85 countries, has been promoting green design through the convention's SustainAbility: Design for a Better World project. The showcase of environmentally-friendly gift and home products features an exhibit of global goods using green production processes.


Upcycled grow bottles from Potting Shed Creations.

The criteria determined for these green gifts and housewares requires items to be recycled or made with sustainable materials, produced with renewable or alternative sources of energy, compliance with "zero tolerance" for VOC and lead (food and children products), aniline dyes, formaldehyde, chlorine treated textiles, and PVC without disposal recommendations. (What about everything else at the show?) Aid Through Trade's tree-free Lokta Paper Necklace, made in Nepal with natural home-made vegetable dyes and milk-based sealant is one of many examples.

Yoga bags, wine goblets, organic teas, journals, jewelry, and spoons were selected for the highest level of sustainability in the Design for a Better World display -- from production processes and socially responsible business practices and the above mentioned criteria, here are the winter show's top choices:


Willow Goblets and Tumbler Collection
Reclaimed post-consumer Napa Valley wine bottles designed by Severine Zaslavski re-purpose the bottom into tumblers and the top for goblets, with a fraction of the energy of melting recycled glass. The Green Glass Company donates a percentage of profits to The World Wildlife Fund and other environmental nonprofits.

"Old School" Journals and Gift Bags
Handmade by an artisan cooperative in Jaipur, India from old notebooks, dipped in tea dye, designed by Ruchi Agrawal and manufactured by Handmade Expressions from Austin, Texas. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, the company works with more than 30 artisan groups and 5,000 artisans on projects that assist in education, health care, water, and energy resources for those communities.


Flame-Blackened Ladle
A super-efficient layout minimizes waste with these ladles and spoons made of FSC-certified cherry wood and naturally flame-blackened to avoid toxic stains and finishes. Jonathan's Spoons also uses the scraps as a heat source for the shop and sawdust is turned into compost for local farms.

Yoga Bags
Hand-crafted yoga mat bags are created by the Cocoki women's cooperative in Rwanda, from locally-sourced Dutch wax cloth. Emphasizing entrepreneurship and independence, Indego Africa pays a fair wage, provides training and returns 100% of profits for programs in entrepreneurship, management, literacy, computers and microfinance.


Sobral Jewelry
Made with lightweight resin sourced from vegetable-based alcohol, each piece of jewelry from this Kandinsky Collection is handcrafted in Carlos Sobral's workshop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with vegetable-based dyes. Other environmentally conscious practices include recycling water from the cooling and polishing processes, and recycling scraps. Employees receive meals, medical care, a retirement plan and can work from home.


100% Organic Teatulia Teas
The tea leaves are packed in compostable/biodegradable corn-silk teabags in canisters from post-consumer materials. Teatulia's Bangladesh cooperative tea is 100% USDA and SGS Certified Organic and uses the Fukuoka Farming Method, a closed-loop ecosystem that restores species and relies on rainfall irrigation. Displays use reclaimed Rocky Mountain Beetle-Kill Pine.

Designer Makers

The "Handmade" section of the massive Gift Fair gets its own space this year for items representing two types of designs that emphasize artisan craftsmanship and originality, from ceramics and textiles to jewelry and apparel. "Designer Maker" collections include handcrafted merchandise in limited-production and "Global Design" presents imported items with a focus on good design, traditional crafts and community building through artisan workshops. Some may think of handmade goods are a hobby but for the artisan, it's the basis of their livelihood.

In addition, on February 3, a partnership with GREENRetailer magazine presents the Eco Choice Awards to recognize the most innovative and environmentally responsible products in a partnership for all the goods at the bi-annual Gift Fair.

More on Green Design
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Tags: Accessories | Crafts | Decorating | Designers

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