Gift-giving - Help the local economy

Free Press picks

In some family and friendship relationships, or even at your workplace, you just can't get out of the typical gift exchange. If you don't like participating in mainstream consumerism during the holiday season, The Free Press has some suggestions for alternatives to gift-giving and how to buy gifts that make you feel good.
  Instead of camping out at the mall or Walmart, or using your credit card online, you can patronize small independent businesses for your gift buying. In order to save the planet, we need to re-localize, to stimulate the local economy and circulate our surplus labor value.

Independent record stores abound in Columbus, always fun to search through, you never know what you’ll find. Nothing’s more fun than recycling vinyl – look how big the pictures are! See how you can read the cover liners! Plus, the people who work in these places all should be professors of pop culture. They can often tell you the history of the album, the groups that came before, the numerous fractures and splits, and the overall significance of the album to the specific historical epoch. Trust us, just ask them. For vinyl, CDs, and other music novelties try these:


Magnolia Thunderpussy, 1155 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 421-1512

Used Kids, 1980 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 421-9455

Lost Weekend, 2960 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202, (614) 268-8423

Johnny Go's House of Music, 1900 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 291-6133

Independent bookstores are struggling in an era dominated by six or so for-profit media conglomerates, who can make the likes of the jingoistic propagandist Sean Hannity a “best-selling author. Grasp and deconstruct the factually-based alternative narrative. Instead of pretending that Rush Limbaugh’s latest book is equal to Sartre or Kamus, go and find the next Kamus or that which lies beyond French post-war existentialism in the brave new world of Solartopia. Make sure you set aside the necessary time, we’re talking hours, if not days. Even in the smaller shops, the debate and ideas that go on among customers and workers is worth your time. Where to start:

Ujaama Bookstore, 1493 E. Livingston, Columbus OH, (614) 258-4633

Specializing in books on black liberation and African history.

The Book Loft, 631 S 3rd St, Columbus, OH 43206, (614) 464-1774

32 rooms of books in German Village.

Village Bookshop, 2424 W Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43235, (614) 889-2674

A church full of books.

The Book Suite, 887 E Long St, Columbus, OH 43203, (614) 252-4552

The place to go for books, debate, and to get involved in activism.

Alternative gift shops

If you’re looking for a diversity of artisans and fair trade articles, Columbus has them. Here are our recommendations for the following categories:

Buy art

Global Gallery, 3535 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214, (614) 262-5535

Their website emphasizes their fair trade alpaca products – cashmere-like gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, etc. You can feel good because you’ll be supporting a fair/living wage for rural knitters, who are women who work at their own pace at home or together in their community. No sweatshop labor here.

pm gallery, 1190 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 299-0860

An institution in the Short North, pm gallery features works by local artists, and art you can use, such as notecards, jewelry, neckties, night lights, ornaments, pens and pottery. Oh, and lots of Paul Volker.

Black Art Plus, 43 Parsons Ave, Columbus, OH 43215, (614) 469-9980

Their stated mission is to expose the public to the enhanced world of Black art, such as original and limited edition posters, batiks, papyrus and other art forms.

Buy Ohio

Celebrate Local, 3952 Townsfair Way, Easton, Columbus, OH 43219, (614) 471-6446

A “champion of small, local businesses,” home to more than 300 Ohio artisans, consults independent vendors, and is committed to a thriving local economy. There’s food, clothes, household goods, ornaments, soap, candles, jewelry and much more.

Buy green

Of course you want to buy green, for the home and garden.

Rain Brothers, 1137 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43222, (614) 725-4363

Help your friends and family manage stormwater. Rain water is much more healthy for plants and people, too. They will consult, build or install a rain barrel or DIY rain barrel kits.

Ty’s Furniture, 106 E Moler St, Columbus, OH 43207, (614)929-5255 (photo)

A must for the chemically-sensitive. Handmade wood furniture pieces sporting stains you could actually drink – they are so organic. You can buy a Savvy Rest mattress from an employee-owned company inspired by the goal to move away from toxic-ridden non-recyclable mattresses.  

Buy healthy

Boline Apothecary, 4764 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214, (614) 517-0466

A herb store that buys from local homesteaders and farmers which makes them fresh, more potent and less reliant on fossil fuels. Herbs for remedies, body care, babies, nutrition.

Yoga on High, 1081 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 291-4444. Send your loved one a gift certificate for yoga classes. Pick your own price, there's something for everyone from beginner to aerial yoga in "soft fabric hammocks." There's also a gift store with books and yoga supplies.  

Buy cooperatively

Going co-op is the reason for the season. Co-ops are owned by you, the community, the membership. Don’t be suckered away by the likes of Lucky’s or Hill’s – neither will even allow this newspaper to be displayed in their corporate-run chain.

Clintonville Community Market, 200 Crestview Rd, Columbus, OH 43202, (614) 261-3663  

Buy treats that are natural, organic and local or books, teas, lotions and hemp clothing.

Bexley Natural Market, 508 N Cassady Ave, Columbus, OH 43209, (614) 252-3951

Everything from gluten-free pies, organic wine, fair trade greeting cards and children’s books.

Near East Side Cooperative Market, 1117 Oak St, Columbus, OH 43205, (614) 252-7799

Help end the food desert on the near east side and join the neighborhood co-op. The co-op provides healthy food options, vegan and vegetarian foods, produce and household products. They share space with a meat market that sells a wide variety of organic grass-fed turkey and chicken products.

Buy geek

Big Fun, 672 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215, (614) 228-8697

Toys for all ages. Vintage novelties, collectibles, cool stuff.

Laughing Ogre, 4258 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214, (614) 267-6473

Comics. Books. And more comic books.

Star Base Columbus, 5541 Westerville Rd, Westerville, Ohio, (614) 895-7827.

All things Star Trek. Help your friends live long and prosper.

Buy culture

Drexel Theater, 2254 E Main St, Columbus, OH 43209, (614) 231-1050

Give a gift certificate to the Drexel Theater, now a non-profit organization. All movie theaters are having difficulty competing with Netflix and such, but most of us still appreciate the big screen experience. The Drexel has hung on, still offering independent films, documentaries and first-run movies all year round. Gift certificates can be used for admission or concessions.

Columbus Civic Theater, 3837 Indianola Ave., Columbus, OH 43214, (614) 447-7529

Your basic, down-home community theater. Buy a season pass for the theater lover. Nine plays for $99.99.

Shadowbox Theater, 503 S Front St #260, Columbus, OH 43215, (614) 416-7625

Shadowbox is a non-profit 501C3 performance troupe where the performers are also the waiters in the dinner theater. Unique, entertaining. Gift cards can be used for event tickets, food or boutique items.

Buy sweets

Pattycake Bakery, 3009 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202, (614) 784-2253

Vegan, 100 percent natural, and organic plus minimally-refined sugars, zero cholesterol, no hydrogenated oil and sweet decadence.

Portia's, 4428 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH 43214, (614) 928-3252

We had to promote our favorite local vegan dessert – Portia’s Cheezecake. As the menu states, raw nut-and-date crust with luscious blends of fruit (or raw cacao), cashews, lemon, coconut oil, agave, maple syrup or date-and-stevia and vanilla. Love the Berry-Berry Mango. Free Press staff would love this as a gift. Hint, hint.

L’appat Patisserie & Café, 1159 Oak St, Columbus, OH 43205, (614) 252-6822

A shocking array of original French-inspired pastries and desserts. Yes, and the chef will go into exquisite detail on the spices from Africa and the flavors blended from European recipes.

Buy recycled

Out of the Closet, 1230 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 291-2680. A gently-used clothing store that gives 95 percent of all sales to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Third Hand Bicycle Co-op, 979 East Fifth Ave, Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 299-2984

Buy a donated bike as-is or one tuned up by a volunteer mechanic. Buy spare parts to make your own bike. Take a class and learn how. Buy a membership and support a grassroots group dedicated to economically responsible transportation.

Buy online

Hemptations – Planet Everywear

Hemp health and body care, pet products, headware and hemp paper products. There’s an online store and two storefronts in Ohio – Sharonville and O’Bryonville (near Cincinnati).

Ten Ways to Change the World

Guide to socially-conscious gifts.

Heifer International

Help end hunger and poverty around the world by buying a cow, sheep, bees, pigs or other animals to help third world villages.

Baskets by Bonnie

Local independent entrepreneur Bonnie Segel makes baskets to send to your loved one. Prices range from $5 on up. Wine and cheeses, coffee and teas, all Ohio item baskets, bath products, and snacks. They ship UPS, Fedex and courier locally.

Why buy things?

Gift alternatives

For the anti-consumer, there are few ways to give in to the holiday gift-giving peer pressure and make a meaningful difference:

Give a donation in your friend’s name. Donate to their favorite charity and send them the tax deduction letter.

Make a gift. Knit a scarf, fire up the kiln and make a bowl, quilt a hippie bag, grow a plant for someone. If you don’t have a Martha Stewart bone in your body, you might want to skip this one.

Use your skills. Some possibilities are to cook something special, fix someone’s computer, promise to babysit or to do their taxes. Teach them something they don’t know, like how to reboot a computer.  

Take your friend or family member out to dinner, to a show, a hockey game or out on a trip. Experiences are a gift.

Re-gift. I won’t tell if you don’t.

Just give

Look for charities that help needy families. Spend your money on people who really need something. Every year the Shamrock Club has a list of items needed by local families. Buy the gifts, drop them off at the Club. It’s anonymous and the real meaning of season.

Help animals. Local shelters need money to get the animals spayed, neutered, or otherwise medically assisted. Giving a dog or cat their health will increase their likelihood of being adopted. A win-win for all

Have yourself a greener holiday

As far as holidays go, Thanksgiving and the Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/Christmas season lend themselves to lots of decorations, paper and the subsequent waste. Here’s some tips from Simply Living on how to celebrate more naturally, save energy, save money and try for a “zero waste” season this year.

Save energy and drape low-watt LED lights on your porch and tree, you can get them in all colors and sizes.

Though it may seem anti-environmental, use a real tree rather than an artificial plastic one. Fake trees are non-biodegradable and may leak toxins into the soil. The Clintonville Community Market gets live trees for the holidays from a local eco-friendly farm.

Make your own tree. Use a large potted plant. Build one from wood and use it every year.

Decorate the tree with strings of popcorn like the old days. Make homemade ornaments like gingerbread men. Don’t use candles on the tree like your grandmother did, though. Not safe.

Use trimmings from your real live tree for natural décor in your home.

Avoid paper plates, cups, napkins and plastic dinnerware – get out the real dishes and cloth napkins for a less wasteful holiday party.

Re-use wrapping paper, ribbons and gift bags. Use the comic pages from the newspaper or old maps, they are bright and colorful. Use environmentally-friendly wrapping paper, made on recycled or hemp paper. Don’t buy the shiny or metallic paper, as it is not recyclable. Better yet, use a gift bag made of fabric and re-use every holiday.

Make your own holiday cards. Use your own photos, children’s drawings, pieces of last year’s cards. Hand them out if you want to save on stamps.

Re-use packing materials from other packages such as bubble wrap, foam peanuts, and paper.

Don’t give gifts that need batteries if you can help it. They are toxic to the environment.  

After the holiday:

Put your tree outside with treats for the birds.

Donate your used holiday cards. Mail donations to:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program

100 St. Jude’s Street

Boulder City, NV 89005