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EDGE Holiday Gift Guide :: Gifts of Conscious

by Jason Salzenstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 20, 2007

Green, fair trade, organic... it seems to be all we hear about today. Everything is eco-this and eco-that; even Barneys is touting itself as "green" with some stupid promotion for "exclusive" $100 canvas bags. Gimme' a friggin break! (They are cute though...)

If you really want to "give green," go down to your local farmer's market, but some fresh produce, and make a salad. Or, look in your basement, closet, or deep under the bed, find some things you haven't used in a few years, dust them off and re-gift!

If you don't want to look like a loser however, you may wish to opt for one of our "green" gifts below.* They're all eco-, earth-, and/or people- friendly and also pretty fabulous. Just make sure you also keep true to the spirit when selecting gift-wrap. An old newspaper and some twine can be very chic, as can pages pulled from high-fashion magazines, or even old shopping bags. Get creative!

*If you live in Seattle or Oregon, you should feel perfectly fine with the above-mentioned re-gifting suggestions; in fact, you'll get TONS of bonus points if you do. And before you Sea-dawgs and Oregonians start sending me hate mail, know that I'm a die-hard Northwesterner, so back off or I'll tie you up with my flannel shirt and beat you with my Birkenstock.

Drink to Mother Earth!

It may sound a bit crazy, but drinking wine can actually be good for the earth. How, you ask? Simple: eco-friendly, "green" vineyards!

The fabulously fashionable and fun-loving Rioja region of Spain has long been known for its traditions, its history, and its excellent wines; now it's also becoming known as an eco-friendly area, with Europe's first bio-climatic winery! El Talud is a bio-climatic wine- the winery uses solar power to produce all its energy and the water used to make it is recycled for use in the neighboring village- and our favorite, the Magister Bibendi Crianza is an organic wine with a vivacious wild berry aroma and fruit-forward flavor that pairs just as well with pastas as it does with red meat. Vibrant Riojas also happen to be the official wine of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and since many of them run under $20, you can afford to be fashionable every night!

From Spain to South Africa...

Heading south, a popular importer of South African wine and spirits- 57 Main Street- has set up two unique philanthropic programs, both designed to give a boost to educational opportunities in South Africa. Through their Adopt-a-School program, 5% of net proceeds of all South African wines and spirits are donated to schools in South Africa. Their Wine for Literacy (I know I always read better after a few glasses!) program is set up so that all crates used by 57 Main Street in importing South African wines and spirits to the US are returned to South Africa filled with children's books. How cool is that!

Basically, when you buy and drink a bottle of wine imported by 57 Main Street, you're giving back with every sip. I can definitely drink to that! South Africa has some great wines too, including an EDGE favorite, the Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc, Grand Cuv?e, which has wonderful hints of citrus, tropical fruit, and a long, lingering finish- and you know how much we like that! It's a fantastic wine, and you can pick up a bottle for less than $20 at

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, soil to soil?

We all want to do something for the earth, right? Well, what if while you were helping out Mother Nature, you were also doing something for yourself- like helping make dinner? What?!? OK, so it's a bit of a stretch- at least in the short term- but after a couple months...

Agromin is a fabulous company in California that happens to be one of the largest green waste recycling companies in the US. What does this mean? Basically they take grass clippings, leaves, wood, etc. from residents' "green" recycling barrels and turn it into soil, completing the "soil to soil" circle. That's all fine and dandy you're thinking, but what does that have to do with me? Well, Agromin makes a fabulous Salsa Kit and Pesto Herb Kit that not only make excellent eco-gifts, but also help to make excellent dinners!

Each kit contains planting pots, seed packets, an herb garden wheel with 16 herbs and their usage, plant labels and a four-quart bag of Agromin PowerMix with ProPower potting soil. The Salsa Kit ($40) comes with a salsa lover's cookbook and various chili pepper seeds, while the Pesto Herb Kit ($45) comes with a pesto herb cookbook and an assortment of basil, mint and cilantro seed packets. (Both prices include shipping.)

Because the soil is rich in plant-based nutrients, all you need to do is spread the seeds and add water. In 45 to 60 days (after a bit of trimming and/or transplanting to larger pots or an outdoor garden) you'll be able to reap the rewards of homegrown vegetables that you can serve to friends at an eco-dinner party. How very Martha of you!

Dinner is served...

Most people don't like to think about it or even acknowledge it, but one of the most significant ways that people- largely Americans- are damaging the planet is by eating meat. The meat industry is responsible for the majority of water and grain used in America, the waste from the animals is as bad as toxic waste from chemical factories, and the oil needed to transport the feed grain to the animals, then transport the animals to slaughter, then transport the meat to stores is horrendous- not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions as a result...

For most people, the challenge with eating vegetarian (or "more vegetarian") is that they think it's going to be difficult to prepare meals, and that they won't enjoy vegetarian food. Well, Catering by Dinner is Served is here to prove that wrong.

Although they specialize in weddings and celebrations, Catering by Dinner is Served also serves up fabulously gourmet and delicious home-style meals any day of the year- that just happen to be vegetarian! Chef Andrea Mason's skills at preparing meals are incredible; from traditional feel-good foods to exotic flavors from abroad, her dishes are flavorful, varied, nutritious, and best of all, good for you and the earth!

There isn't enough room here to describe the incredible food we sampled for our veggie holiday dinner, but needless to say it was gone almost as soon as it arrived! For more info, go to

Stop using plastic bags!!!

Nearly as bad for the earth as the meat industry, the plastic bags that you get from the grocery store, drug store, and take-out restaurants are literally suffocating the planet. In the US alone we use nearly 275 MILION PLASTIC BAGS EVERY DAY- more than 100 BILLION each year! If every American used reusable shopping bags instead of plastic just a third of the time they go to the store, we'd not only save hundreds of landfills from filling up in the next few years, but the country as a whole would save millions of dollars that could be much better spent on any number of other things.

The easiest way to avoid plastic bags and use reusable ones is if they're handy, easy to carry, and cute! Envirosax covers all these bases, and then some. Each bag folds down into a little roll about the size of a cell phone but is large enough to carry the same amount of things that they normally put in one plastic bag. They're made of waterproof lightweight polyester, so they're strong and they won't fade. They're available as singles in more than a dozen colors and designs, but we love the graphic series pouches that feature five coordinating bags in one handy little pouch that's smaller than most makeup bags.

Envirosax makes it super easy to bring your bags with you because not only does the five-bag pouch easily fit in a purse or man-bag, but the stylish designs mean that you look fabulous while saving the earth!

Single bags are about $9, and five-pack pouches run about $38. You can buy the entire line at

Peace in the Middle East

Being so far away from the violence, we often forget that "the Middle East" is not just some countries battling over political ideas, but rather real people like us trying to make a living, spend time with their families, and live their lives. The Amber Chand Collection recognizes this, and is working to help people by allowing them to help themselves. Each product comes from the hands of women in war torn countries, and each has an amazing story. By taking part in the kind of commerce that they've dubbed "purchase with purpose," you help support industry in the communities that the products came from.

The Jerusalem Candle of Hope is a perfect example of this, and represents a powerful and unique joint venture between Israeli and Palestinian women. The beautiful candles are made with olive leaves and flowers pressed into waxes by Israeli women in Nazareth, while across the checkpoints Palestinian women in Bethlehem sew embroidered bags which hold a small tea light offering an illuminating- but powerfully significant- glow. Through this initiative, the women (who are unable to meet each other) can help support their families, express their hope for peace and reconciliation, and make a difference in the world.

Light a candle for peace! $36 at

Small businesses rock!

Sometimes you come upon a product or company that's so great, you really don't want to share it with everyone for fear that if they grow too much they'll sell out, "go corporate," and become the next Wal-Mart. Luckily, we can tell you about Whimsy Press because they've make a vow to not only make their stuff "hip and fun, for as long as we all shall live," but to also love what they do, "honor good design, and disobey rules" as they see fit. The icing on the cake? They also "pinky-swear to cherish all customers and loyal fans until the end of time."

Could they be any cooler?

Cherishing Whimsy Press isn't hard either; the designs on their cards, gift wrap, stickers and other assorted goodies are fresh, creative, whimsical, and just sassy enough for EDGE readers. Of course there are cards to show your love ("You are yummy!"), and cards for the major holidays, but it's the designs on the blank cards and the sassy just-for-fun ones that really get us going.

Not feeling your friend today? They've got the perfect card for that. How about "Build a bridge. Get over it." Too subtle? Try the bright red "SHUT UP" card. For all you wonderful parents out there, Whimsy allows you to express your true feelings with their card that says, "My kids are sucking the lifeforce out of me."

Whimsy's got dozens of designs for any personality and all occasions, including the best holiday card boxes we've seen in years. The cards themselves work in any direction, with no front or back (i.e. they're genuinely versatile!), and the included stickers for accessorizing are a riot: "ho ho holy crap, I can't believe it's Christmas," "I'm dreaming of a open bar," Best wishes for a wonderful holiday of your choosing," and "Wanna play some reindeer games?" Check them out online at

Cover your boys in green!

I've worn Greenyarn socks for a couple years not only because the earth friendly Eco-fabric that they're made of is good for the earth, but because it's good for your feet. So when I found out that Greenyarn is now making briefs in their "green" Eco-fabric, I couldn't wait to get my underwear off... and into a pair of Greenyarn's.

So what makes Greenyarn's Eco-fabric Men's Briefs so great? Well, first of all they're seamless, which is a huge plus because it means no scratchy seams, unraveling threads, or annoying twisting because of the different pieces of fabric. Past that, the Eco-fabric contains nano-particles of bamboo charcoal, which makes them antibacterial and deodorizing, and they don't generate static electricity. They wash like a dream, and the benefits of the charcoal don't diminish with washing, because it's embedded in the fiber, not from added chemicals.

If you're looking for a very personal gift (or perhaps a great way to start a conversation... or more), Greenyarn's Eco-fabric intimates are a great idea. You can find Men's Briefs, and Women's Underwear and Bikini Underwear at eco-conscious stores and online at

A gift of abundance

While all of the things that we've presented in this gift guide are wonderful gifts for the recipient, many are also focused on the world around us. And while that's clearly wonderful, we thought we'd also suggest something that brings the focus inward, as a true and personal gift to the person receiving it.

Paraliminal Pathways is a unique 2-CD set designed and recorded by two hypnotherapists based on the philosophies behind "the secret" and the notion that you can use your imagination and subconscious to help you achieve the things you want in life. Topping that list is abundance. Abundance in love, friendship, health and money!

The problem with most hypnosis CDs is that they often feature a lethargic sounding voice droning on for hours; you're lucky if you can listen to it once without getting bored, let alone on a regular basis. Paraliminal Pathways is different however, because instead of one voice, these CDs feature two hypnotherapists using paraliminal hypnosis and meditation. What does that mean exactly? Well, when you listen to the CDs, each ear of your headphones features a different voice with a different "patter" on the same subject. It sounds strange, but research has shown that this type of positive suggestion and reinforcement works better than listening to one person- whether they're saying the same thing at the same time in both ears, or they've recorded different things in the same voice.

Because the experience of listening to two voices saying two different things is so foreign to our brains, after a minute or so you tune out and the sounds become white noise- on the conscious level. Subconsciously however, your brain picks it up and after listening a few times, you feel better!

If you know someone who's interested in harnessing the power behind "The Secret" and want to help him or her pick up some subconscious suggestions on the law of attraction, Paraliminal Pathways is fantastic. It's a great way to fall asleep at night, and perfect for long plane rides. You can buy it online at and at for $30.

Olives :: surely they’re the fruit of the gods

Organic is nothing new these days, but good organic can still be difficult to find- or very expensive. Luckily, in our search for the best gourmet goodies, the EDGE Food & Drink team happened upon McEvoy Ranch, and their line of certified organic olive oils, olives, body care, and other assorted goodies. Sitting on 550 acres in Northern California, the former dairy farm has been reincarnated as an organic olive tree orchard, and now produces some of the most flavorful and finest estate grown olive oils we've tasted.

Certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), McEvoy Ranch has embraced renewable resources and soil and water conservation not only because it's trendy, but because it's the right thing to do in order to protect the environment. Whether that's the reason for the incredible flavor and aroma of their certified organic extra virgin olive oil or not, one thing is certain: we love it.

We were especially excited about the first olive oil of the 2007 harvest. This Olio Nuovo ($20 for 375ml) is the cr?me de la cr?me of olive oils, and available only for a limited time. The smooth texture, aromatic nose, and intense full-bodied flavor makes it the perfect oil for drizzling over grilled fish and meat, and especially raw vegetables, steamed asparagus or artichoke, or simply to dip bread. For salad dressings, their Traditional Blend EVOO is wonderful, adding a depth of flavor that you won't find in grocery store oils.

For more information and to purchase directly from "the ranch," go to

Find something you love? What if we told you that you could win it for yourself? It's true- check the EDGE Reader Giveaway pages from now through the end of December and enter to win the gifts you see in our guides. We've tested them, but you get to keep them- it's one more way for us to show you our love!

Twitter :: JasonSalz Jason Salzenstein is a writer and editor; design, image, and marketing consultant; and professional shopper. His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications and he has clients around the world. For more information ::