Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Eco-friendly gifts

(Graphic/Lyvian Sieg)

By Luke Anderson |

Christmas lights burning all night, wrapping paper strewn across the floor — the holidays can be a difficult time to remain eco-friendly. More than ever, now is the time to consider ways to reduce our footprint beyond simply recycling.

This week, we are featuring environmentally responsible gifts available around Alexandria. Whether you are shopping for someone who cares a lot about the planet or for your own sustainable self, these gifts are sure to bring a smile to everyone on your list.

With so many green gift options at your fingertips, there is no reason not to take advantage of them. After all, it is the only way to ensure future generations have an abundance of Christmas trees and don’t see Frosty melt away for good.

Be sure to check out next week’s holiday gift guide, which will focus on last minute gifts to buy locally.

Narratio Vitae

All around town, Christmas trees have been decorated and wrapped in lights, but there is another tree that could use some light shed on it — your family tree.

Lisa Maddox, founder and owner of Narratio Vitae, works on a project at her kitchen table. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

Narratio Vitae is a family history business owned by former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Lisa Maddox. Her research goes more in depth than a standard DNA test and can focus on a specific branch or individual within your loved one’s lineage.

“The final product is a private, personalized website that contains narratives of the client’s ancestors’ lives, to include historical context, photos, documents and even audio or video clips of family interviews,” Maddox said.

Unlike a photo album or a book, Narratio Vitae’s websites are 100 percent paperless and can be shared with a relative who lives across town or across the world. A blog feature allows family and friends to post comments and start meaningful family discussions that can be shared with generations to come. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Pricing varies based on the scope of the project. To learn more, visit

Tall Ship Providence

Gift cards for tours and cruises of Providence, the Revolutionary War reproduction ship docked in Old Town, are now available, just in time for the holidays.

Tall Ship Providence. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

“The gift cards are available in $25 denominations from $25 to $200 and can be used for tickets for both tours and cruises, but not merchandise in our gift shop,” Diana West, director of programs and communications for the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, said.

Gift cards can be used online or in-person at foundation’s ticket counter at 1 Cameron St., West said. Right now, tickets are available for tours and cruises scheduled for March 9 or later, according to West. Once the schedule has been posted online for January and February, tickets for those months will be available as well.

Print out the gift cards and stuff them in your family’s stockings or choose the zero-waste option and send them via email.

The ship uses very little power. During tours, the only energy used is the electricity to keep the lights on. During cruises, wind and sail is used to power the ship as much as possible.

For pricing, scheduling and updates, visit

Ten Thousand Villages

People often emphasize good will toward others during the holiday season. Why not buy a gift that will make your loved one happy and give back to a disadvantaged community?

The recycled keyboard at Ten Thousand Villages is the perfect gift for the writer or IT wizard
in your family. (Courtesy Photo)

Every purchase from Ten Thousand Villages at 915 King St. helps fund its business model, which is to give money back to the artisans and communities across the world who create the products in the store, according to the business’ website.

Additionally, products are manufactured with the environment in mind and recycled materials are used whenever possible. Take a woven saddle purse, made of eco-leather. The tanning process avoids using hazardous chemicals and instead uses materials derived from sustainable tea bark extracts and waxes, a process used in ancient India, according to owner Kate McMahon. It is available for $99.99.

Keyboard frames are an interesting recycled gift for a writer or a loved one who works in IT. The store also sells frames made from recycled hard drives. Depending on size, the frames cost between $20.99 and $24.99.

There are also plenty of gifts for your furry friends. On top of treats, your dog might enjoy a new pillow made out of upcycled cotton saris for $89.99. The cat basket is also made from recycled saris and, for $39.99, offers the perfect spot for your feline to curl up beside a warm fireplace.

Mint Condition

Whether you are searching for the perfect holiday dress or the perfect gift, you can find both at Mint Condition. The women’s clothing and consignment shop is located at 103 S. St. Asaph St. – just look for the mint green exterior.

Mint Condition has plenty of items to set under the tree. (Photo/Luke Anderson)

Mint Condition offers items from more than 4,000 consigners, both local and across the country, owner Megan Podolsky said. All of the items are gently used and from various designer brands, from J. Crew to Valentino.

A few items currently for sale include a clutch, wallet and bum bag – a chic, modern-day fanny pack – all by Gucci. There are also jewels from Chanel and a make-up bag by Louis Vuitton.

With so many clothes, shoes and bag options, whoever you are buying for will be overjoyed.

BW Antiques

Some things never go out of style. Many vintage items are well-made, having stood the test of time, and are one of a kind, which make them wonderful eco-friendly gifts.

Customers of BW Antiques can browse hundreds of rings, necklaces and other jewelry. (Photo/Luke Anderson)

The shop, located at 108 N. Fayette St., has three floors full of treasures, such as “museum-worthy” paintings, books, beer steins, silver, porcelain and china. It also has shelves upon shelves of jewelry.

The business is owned by Pierre-Yves and his mother, who came from Austria and has collected antiques for more than 40 years. For 15 years, Alexandria families and antique-lovers have come to BW Antiques to fill their historic homes.

Some other notable customers include the Kennedy Center Opera and Katy Perry, who paid the shop a visit in October to purchase jewelry, Pierre-Yves said.

Prices vary depending on the piece, but if you are shopping for someone who appreciates a gift with some history, look no further than this one-stop shop for all things vintage.

Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative

Tucked away in the garage, your old rusty bike keeps catching your eye. Instead of throwing it away, have it fixed up and re-gift it.

Volunteer David Nadrchal fixes up one of Velocity’s many bicycles in their shop. (Photo/Andrew Stringer)

Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative is a used bike store at 2111 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Del Ray, and it will make you ditch the idea of buying a new bike. For $75, you can get a full tune-up no matter what shape your bike is in, though part replacement could be extra.

If you do not have a bike, Vélocity has a large selection of used and refurbished bikes for purchase. Choose from all different sizes, shapes and brands.

“When we receive bicycle donations, we do our best to restore the bicycles and keep them riding,” Vélocity Board Chair Joe Davison said. “If we cannot, we usually strip off the usable parts for others to purchase from our coop at a low cost.”

All other unusable parts go to recycling.

For more info on Vélocity and their services, visit

Your CBD Store

Have your family and friends toast to good health and a pain-free New Year when you get them the gift of CBD oil.

Many of Your CBD Store’s products are affordable and make great stocking stuffers. (Courtesy Photo)

Find it at Your CBD Store in suite B of 301 S. Washington St. Manager Shells Karle said their products contain the highest quality raw materials from their farms in Colorado and Oregon and follow the strictest regulations on hemp. All of their products are tested before consumption to ensure the utmost safety.

They have many affordable products ranging between $10 and $40, including CBD bath bombs, lip balms, collagen cream, lotions and edibles. Gift baskets are also available, starting at $80.

In December, Your CBD Store is running a special for certain tincture, water soluble, topical and large edible products — buy two and get the third half off. Gift cards are also available.

If you would like to pick up some reading material to learn more about CBD oil, the shop carries copies of Shira Adler’s book, “The ABCs of CBDs.”

Four Directions Wellness

Many New Year resolutions consist of eating better, working out and improving overall health, both mentally and physically. Of course, some of us might need help reaching these goals.

Mara Benner, president and founder of Four Directions Wellness, helps a client get focused during an individual session. (Courtesy Photo)

Four Directions Wellness “helps people intuitively connect with mind, body, emotions and spirit,” president and founder Mara Benner said.

The business is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine and is located at 2001 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Del Ray.

Services include meditation and mindfulness, integrative reflexology, finding your true North sessions, Reiki and nutrition coaching. Clients can explore any or all of these through individual sessions, classes and consulting services. Gift certificates are available.

Classes for next year include Reiki training, nutritional classes, planning with purpose for 2020 and mind-body-spirit classes, Benner said. For those who would like to try out these services before committing, a complimentary Reiki session will be offered Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

(Read more: Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Experience Alexandria