What Gives?

By - Dec 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

By Kenya Evans, Brian Jacobson, April Jones & Amy Elliott


One fairly obvious – and fabulously generous – gift that gives is a donation in someone else’s name. These unique organizations won’t leave your recipients snarling wicked holiday wishes under their breath.

a. Ducks! Real, live ducks! $20

Heifer International – heifer.org
Who’d imagine a mule, a cow or some simple farming tips had the power to alleviate poverty, hunger and the degradation of the earth? Heifer provides an incredible opportunity for communities in developing countries; sustainability is instilled through training, the offspring of gift-animals spread the wealth and spread hope, dignity and self-reliance in the neighborhood. A flock of ducks ($20) can almost triple a family’s income in China.

Give a bicycle and more! $46 – $100
World Gifts – worldgifts.cafod.org.uk

World Gifts works with more than 500 partners to help poor countries find long-term solutions. You give a gift, and someone else gets a gift from CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency. Worms for composting plus seeds and tools for sowing runs about $46, a bicyle runs around $100.
Your gift buys a bicycle for a health worker who can more easily travel to remote villages in poor countries to treat or prevent killer diseases. A bicycle also allows health workers to bring comfort and advice to the sick and their families when they need it most. An amazing gift for the cyclist in your life.

Support small business $25
Kiva – kiva.org

Maybe you’re an honorary loan officer for your kids or your unlucky friends, but Kiva gives you the opportunity to lend to entrepreneurs in impoverished communities across the globe, empowering them to “lift themselves out of poverty” and into economic independence. Kiva partners with microfinance institutions to ensure that endeavors are legit. The best part is that you’re helping people who are on their way to financial freedom.


With smaller local farmers struggling, this niche market is a lifesaver. Established and neophyte grocery and specialty shops in Milwaukee have ready-to-give holiday items; some even have online ordering and cross-country shipping.

Beans and Barley gift card $40
Beans and Barley – beansandbarley.com

1901 East North Ave.
An eclectic health food market and a popular café, this East Side institution also has artsy offerings for stocking stuffers. A $40 café gift certificate for two should cover the works: drinks, appetizers, dinner and maybe even a scrumptious dessert.
Giftcards may be purchased in any amount. VITAL does not recomend stuffing stockings with actual appetizers, drinks or desserts.

Outpost Natural Foods ownership $25
Outpost Natural Foods

Wauwatosa, Bay View and Capitol Dr.
in Milwaukee
Milwaukee’s original food co-op now sports three area locations. Buy someone a one-year “ownership” for $25 and they’ll get special discounts, rewards and the monthly Exchange Magazine.
Teach your kids a lesson in responsibility by allowing them to invest in something that will not leave a stain your carpet or wear out the tube on your TV.

b. Oskri dried fruit and snacks $7
Oskri Organics – oskri.com

Based in Ixonia, this purveyor of bulk dried fruits and snack bars also has chocolates, syrups and barley coffee. The deals are incredible: buy a pound of fancy mission figs for $7, a bottle of organic extra-virgin olive oil for $12.99 or jars of spices for $3 each. On orders of $60 or more, shipping is free.

c. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lotion $15
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap – drbronner.com

What started as fabulous and totally natural castile soap – developed by an enigmatic “doctor” –has blossomed into a family-run personal care industry of lotions, balms, snack bars, cleaners and soaps. These fair-trade and socially-conscious items are eco-friendly right down to the recycled PET plastic containers and hempflex wrappers! Check the website for local purveyors.

Riverwest Co-op membership $20
Riverwest Co-op and Café – riverwestcoop.org

733 E. Clarke St.
This quaint shop, run by volunteers, will remind you of the good old days of neighborhood grocers who cared about what went on the shelves and behind the deli. Get some award-winning chili, organic foods one step removed from the ground, or goods from local artists. Memberships start at $20 a year.

You’ve done your part to act globally by thinking locally; now turn your friends and family around. Sensible and earth-friendly doesn’t have to mean boring or preachy – giving something useful makes everyone’s world better.

d. Organic Egyptian cotton pink hippo $16
Mia Putia – miaputia.com

833 E. Center Street
414-263-1710 or
Mothers are the focus here – this Riverwest store provides a great selection of environmentally-aware baby needs. We love the little pink hippo made from organic Egyptian cotton ($16). You can even start a Gift Registry.

Urban Ecology Center membership – $25
Urban Ecology Center

1500 E. Park Place
414-964-8505 or Gift memberships are available for individuals, families and businesses at this highly-regarded center for all things Gaia. Headquartered on the Milwaukee River with a great viewing platform rivaling Lapham’s Peak, and now with a Washington Park location, members are invited to events, allowed to borrow equipment for outings and have the opportunity to be involved in something good.

e. Personal rain barrel $40 or less
kgmb.org or mmsd.com/rainbarrel

Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful and Metro Milwaukee Sewerage District offer these great water savers to help prevent erosion and overflow. For under $40, you get non-chlorinated water to wash cars and grow big plants.

Green housewares and more – $1 and up
Future Green -futuregreen.net

2352 South Kinnickinnic Ave.
This cozy storefront in Bay View kicks Bed, Bath and Beyond’s Butt with tons of items “for pure lifestyles” ranging from linens to bath mats to Miessence body care line. They even have solar PV panels and ’green’ paint!


Many of us hear these words and think “coffee,” but the fair trade movement, founded in large part by the Mennonites, is gaining ground beyond bold-flavored beans. Here are local roasters that sell fair trade bulk coffee and tea, as well as vendors of handicraft, clothing, and housewares for the sake of style, goodness and a healthy economy for all.

Stone Creek Coffee – stonecreekcoffee.com

Alterra Coffee Roasters – alterracoffee.com
Stone Creek Coffee is sincere about social obligation and boasts organic roasts from Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia and Sumatra – all fair trade. Enjoy favorites like Factory Reserve, Bold No. 5 Espresso and Fair Trade Blend. Not in the neighborhood? Alterra Coffee provides fair trade coffees like Breakfast Blend, Dark Sumatra and Guatemala ASOBAGRI. Both local stores have multiple locations; most beans sell for about $10 a pound.

f. Rishi Tea – rishi-tea.com
World-renowned and locally based in Bay View, Rishi sells organic fair trade teas grown in the finest gardens from artisans around the world. Choose from select leaves like Japanese Washi, Sweet Matcha Ginger and Jamaica Rooibos. For $30, buy a green tea sampler or an Artisan Gift Set that includes a tin of tea and a ceramic mug. A sip of goodness goes a long way.

Fair Trade For All – fairtradeforall.net
5205 W. North Ave.

414-873-3832 or
Fair Trade For All educates their customers on the importance of fair trade and offers unique, eco-friendly gifts: jewelry from Mexico, carvings from Kenya, clothing from Peru and Nepal, and musical instruments from Chili and Bali.

g. Four Corners of the World – fairtrademilwaukee.org
5401 W. Vliet Street
At Four Corners of the World, you can find finger puppets, chocolate, table runners, carved animals, scented soaps, fashions from Venus Imports, jewelry and colorful purses with whimsical prints. Both stores are locally owned and operated.


Nothing impresses the out-of-towners more than a gift you can only get in Milwaukee – and nothing is healthier for the local economy. Spending your money in Milwaukee helps it stay in Milwaukee, and meeting local vendors while you’re out shopping makes the holiday frenzy a lot more fun.

h. Fasten Collective – fastencollective.com
2224 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
414-747-9229 or Fashion Ninja
2671 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
414-481-3865 or fashionninja.com
Two little Bay View shops have created huge waves in the local fashion world. Fasten Collective sells the work of over 50 local designers, artists and ‘zinesters; we recommend their many amazing lines of handmade handbags and their one-of-a-kind jewelry. Fashion Ninja is a one-woman show selling clothing on the Fashion Ninja label as well as a handful of other local labels, and everything is made in Milwaukee. Ninja Sensei Areka Ikeler also hosts classes: sign up your favorite scissorista for design school.

i. WMSE 91.7 FM – wmse.org
WMSEats cookbook
If you love our very own independent radio station and want others to love them too, consider purchasing a membership. For a $30 pledge, you get a
copy of WMSEats, a rock-and-roll cookbook featuring community-submitted recipes both meaty and meat-free and a companion CD of food-related tunes
by local musicians! There are lots of local arts and culture organizations you can give to this season (for a more complete list, check out our website), but
this takes the cake for best perk.

j. Brew City Botanicals – bcbotanicals.com
Bath and body products are classic go-to gifts, but for something extra-special, buy all-natural, locally-made lotions and salves. We promise they won’t be
buried at the bottom of the linen closet. Try a handful of bath bombs starting at $1 a piece, a four-ounce jar of rosemary, cedar and shea butter skin lotion (it’s
unisex!) for $8, or a bottle of bay brady aftershave for the hard-to-please men in your life, also for $8. Spend smart, feel good – that’s what it’s all about.
Local purveyors listed on the website or order online.

Woodland Pattern – woodlandpattern.org
720 E. Locust St.
Way more than just a bookstore, this estimable non-profit organization hosts readings, workshops, events, and educational programming for kids all year. Bring home a book from a local author, handmade book art, or a rare small press edition – or, for someone at home, buy a year-long membership (starting at $25) for discounts on purchases, event tickets and class fees.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us