wrapped present

By doing your shopping at locally owned stores or purchasing from local artisans, you’re helping boost the local economy, support your fellow citizens, and generally spreading good cheer throughout your ‘hood. Not to mention contributing to a smaller carbon footprint by staying away from stuff that has been shipped halfway around the world just to get to your local big-box shelves.

Below, some local-shopping suggestions that should satisfy everyone on your list — along with a special spotlight on local businesses for the giftless in Seattle (where I live). Have more suggestions for Seattle or hints from your own hometown? Leave them in comments.


Foodie favorites

Get a gift certificate from your local natural-foods market or your favorite mom-and-pop restaurant. Maybe the giftee will even invite you along to enjoy in the local-food bounty.

Seattle spotlight: FareStart offers job training to homeless and disadvantaged individuals as well as free meals to those in need. Proceeds from the restaurant on 7th and Virginia support this work; give a gift certificate for weekday lunches or dinner on Thursday nights, when a guest chef works with the students to prepare a three-course meal.


box of Theo chocolates

Seattle spotlight: Theo Chocolate prides itself on being the only organic, fair trade, “bean-to-bar” chocolate factory in the United States. Stuff stockings with a bar or two, or grab a gift box of handmade confections.


Give the gift that keeps on giving with a CSA membership. These “produce subscriptions” deliver fresh (and often organic) fruits, veggies, eggs, milk, and other products on a regular schedule to keep your friends and fam — and local farmers — well fed. Use LocalHarvest to find Community Supported Agriculture programs across the country.

Seattle spotlight: Seattle Urban Farm Company is like a CSA minus the middleman; the farmer duo will help you grow your own goods by designing a garden and “garden strategy,” doing the plantings, providing weekly maintenance, and harvesting a regular supply of fresh produce.


Commute point

How do folks in your area get around town? Support public transit by dropping a book of bus tickets into a stocking or wrapping up a rail pass for a weekend getaway. Autos the only way to go? Contribute to a Zipcar membership.

Seattle spotlight: Washington State Ferries offers multi-ride commuter cards as well as single-ride tickets good for 90 days — perfect for a weekend trip with a ferry-tale ending.


messenger bag

Seattle spotlight: Alchemy Goods turns lead into gold useless stuff into useable stuff, like their trademark messenger bags made from bike inner tubes and old seatbelt straps.


Home is where the art is

Craft the perfect gift by seeking out local artisans at your farmers market, art walk, or holiday fair.

Seattle spotlight: Urban Craft Uprising is an annual DIY indie craft fair featuring over 130 vendors showcasing their wares. This year, it’ll be held Dec. 6-7 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.


Put your arts buff center stage with season tickets to a local theater, membership at an art museum, or hand-picked musical selections from a used CD/record/8-track shop.

Seattle spotlight: Silver Platters has been “fiercely independent” since 1985 and offers a range of local music among its new and used CDs.


Second Ascent store

Thrift stores can be a great place to find gifts — whether you’re looking for kitchen items, retro-chic clothing, or kid-friendly toys. Hit up a niche-y consignment shop or antique store for even more savvy shopping.

Seattle spotlight: Second Ascent in Ballard is a smaller, more ecofriendly REI, offering new and used mountaineering, climbing, skiing, and cycling gear. Ask the knowledgeable staff to help you outfit your most adventurous giftees.


Toying around with ideas for kiddie gifts? Skip the big-box Stores “R” Us and find a local toymaker, comic-book store, or game shop.

Seattle spotlight: The Giving Tree creates handcrafted toys that are sold at their woodshop store and Pike Place Market, or donated to children’s charities. The all-volunteer venture employs formerly and currently homeless individuals, adults and youth with disabilities, senior citizens, and others in the community.


Grist's book

Seattle spotlight: Elliott Bay Book Company has been a Seattle institution since 1973 and a favorite hangout for readers, browsers, and baked-good eaters alike. Double your pleasure by timing your shopping with an author reading or other event. And check the shelves for Grist’s own offering, Wake Up and Smell the Planet, published locally by Mountaineers Books (hint, hint!).


Have more suggestions for local gifting (in Seattle or elsewhere)? Leave them in comments.