Green Gear, News, North America
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Union Square Holiday Market in New York: A Surprisingly Ecofriendly Experience

Lamps at holiday marketPhoto by Flickr user feministjulie

New York City’s Union Square is a popular destination for urban explorers, but between the almost daily green market (farmers’ market) and the now incredibly organic, fair-trade, every-other-ecofriendly-adjective-you-can-think-of Union Square Holiday Market, it may just be the greenest place in town.

Visiting Union Square

Even though I’ve lived in New York City for over a year now, I am definitely still a tourist in most neighborhoods. I’ve even talked to several people who’ve lived here for twenty years and still pack their whole family up for an adventure in unexplored neighborhoods as a weekend outing.

When I visited the holiday market for the first time last year, I thought the market was designed exactly for those people–folks who come (like me) to lower manhattan from other neighborhoods to do some shopping and soak up “the city.”

Market overhead viewPhoto by Flickr user workinpana

Union Square, right in the middle of NYU territory–an easy walk from Madison Square, Soho, and even Times Square and Bryant Park if the weather’s nice–is second only to Times Square or the statue of Liberty in terms of the “must-see” NYC places people who come to visit me in the city have to get to.

So you can only imagine my surprise when I found one of New York’s ultimate urban attractions celebrating the holiday season in seemingly exclusively earth-friendly style.

The Green Holiday Market

As we battled our way through the inescapable crowds jam-packed into the barely four-foot-wide aisles of the dense but sprawling market, we saw less of the usual holiday market items than we expected.

Spice and tea displayPhoto by Flickr user nme421

Sure, there were hats, scarves, cookies, and (non-alcoholic) mulled wines (yeah, I’m not sure how they do that either), but these vendors were distinctly outnumbered by a very different type of product: fair-trade, sustainably-sourced gifts from all around the world.

Though we only specifically took note of a few such vendors in the first few aisles we explored, after about ten minutes, we realized that we were in ethically-minded shopping heaven.

Ecofriendly Vendors of the Union Square Holiday Market

While I’m sure there are some stalls that we didn’t see or couldn’t reach, here is a compendium of the best ecofriendly shopping at New York’s Union Square Holiday Market:

  • Cala Designs: fair-trade paper bead necklaces handcrafted by a women’s cooperative in Uganda
  • Marquet Fair Trade: a fair-trade decor, clothing and accessory distributor that forges personal connections with all of their artisans to tell the stories of their products
  • Toby’s Estate: sustainably-sourced coffee directly sourced from farms who value their own workers as much as Toby’s values their farm relationships
  • Dr. Sofskins: body lotion candles and skincare products made with natural, primarily wild-sourced ingredients
  • Nunu Chocolates: chocolates handmade in Brooklyn with cocoa from a sustainable, family-run farm in eastern Columbia
  • Rubyzaar: handmade, natural textiles made using traditional methods and sourced fairly and sustainably from southeast Asia and east Africa
  • Karma Living: handcrafted Indian textiles and home furnishings typically only sold wholesale are made available directly to the public once a year at the Union Square Holiday Market
  • 4 Mula: vegan, cruelty-free, natural bath products and live plant holiday ornaments and wreaths (pictured below)
  • Hazel Village: organic, handmade stuffed animals
  • Inga & Evija 100% Efi Cool Designs: hand-painted bags, wallets, ties, and scarves made from recycled fabric and materials

4mula living ornamentsPhoto provided by 4mula

The market runs through Christmas eve, so if you’re with in train distance of New York, I highly recommend taking your family for a stroll through the square during the holidays.

And if not–it’ll be back with all the familiar faces (and probably even more sustainably-minded vendors) next year!

Filed under: Green Gear, News, North America

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When she was ten, Gabi Logan was commended by her school as an "environmentalist" after spending recess and lunch picking up trash around her school for a week. Now she's a freelance blogger and travel writer who encourages travelers to use sustainable travel methods and connect to local culture along the way. Her work has also appeared in Transitions Abroad, GoMad Nomad, and publications at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You can read more about her at gabilogan.com.

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