For many people, the thought of shopping at a crowded shopping mall or big-box store fills them with dread. In addition, many Bay Area shoppers are concerned about the state of our local landfills in this age of consumer excess.
In response, many independent Berkeley area merchants encourage people to shop for recycled gifts. Berkeley stores offer an eclectic mix of “gently used” clothing, furniture, architectural fixtures, books and music.
“For music, I head to Telegraph Avenue because the selection is unparalleled,” said Reid Edwards, head of public affairs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. With stores like Amoeba Music, Rasputin Music and Funky Riddms Records carrying the largest selection of used CDs, LPs, and tapes anywhere in the country, there really is something for everyone …whether your preference is classical, hip hop, reggae, funk or punk.
Telegraph Avenue also has the Bay Area’s highest concentration of shops selling fashionable used and vintage clothing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 16 percent of all usable clothing is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, a compelling reason to shop for gifts at secondhand clothing stores.
Stores like Buffalo Exchange, Mars Mercantile, Time Zone Vintage, and Happy Beats offer shoppers a treasure hunt for one-of-a-kind clothes, shoes, and accessories. Each store has an expert team of clothing buyers to guarantee a stylish selection. It’s economical and each item has its own unique character, not unlike the people you are shopping for.
Telegraph Avenue has a long history as a hub of independent book stores. Moe’s Books, for example, is a four-story Berkeley landmark offering hundreds of used and out-of-print books. “We add to our inventory of used books daily, covering every imaginable subject,” noted owner Doris Moskowitz.
Shoppers who can’t find the perfect book at one store have several options, including Shakespeare & Co. Books, University Press Books, the Cartesian Bookstore and Book Zoo. Each carries an extensive selection of used books in subjects from natural history to philosophy, religion, and art.
The Wooden Duck in West Berkeley makes furniture and accessories out of recycled wood. Co-owner Eric Gellerman says that dining room tables made out of recycled wood from the bleachers at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium, former home of the San Francisco 49ers, are popular holiday items.
“One woman told me she couldn’t imagine a better Chrsitmas gift for her husband, an avid Niners fan, than a piece of the stadium where they used to play,” said Gellerman.
The wood bleachers at Kezar Stadium were installed in 1922 and torn out in 1989 when the entire place was demolished after being irreparably damaged during the Loma Prieta Earthquake. “You can’t find better wood than the thick vertical grain Douglas Fir lumber that was used to build those bleachers. After we are done planing and staining it, you really appreciate the wood’s beauty and strength,” added Gellerman.
The Wooden Duck also sells smaller “green” items made out of crushed coconuts and recycled wood from Indonesia. These include small bowls, trivets, and boxes. Gellerman remarked that gift certificate sales are up 500 percent this year over last since many people want to buy recycled Christmas gifts but want to make sure that the recipient gets something useful that doesn’t get “re-gifted.”
Since 1976, Steve Drobinsky, the owner of Ohmega Salvage, has built his business while adhering to the value of recycling. His San Pablo Avenue store is a leading supplier of restoration materials to architects, contractors, and homeowners, and its goal is to save architectural materials that are still useful to others and essential to authentic restoration projects.
“During the holidays, many of our customers realize that recycled gifts are environmentally sound and unique. Recently, a woman came into our store and purchased 20 pounds of assorted hardware that she needed to make gift boxes for the holidays,” said Drobinsky.
With so many recycled gift choices, it is easy to reclaim the holiday spirit while saving money and preserving natural resources. You will feel better about contributing nothing to the local landfill, while Uncle Bob will be spared another tie and Aunt Edna will be grateful for a Christmas without another pair of fuzzy slippers.