22 gifts under $25: Shopping locally owned and American made

The holiday season often feels like shopping season. Not only is there pressure to buy gifts for those close to you, there may be obligations (office secret santa anybody?) that mean you have to buy a gift for someone you don’t know very well. Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two by now about ethical shopping.

Secondhand shopping is the first zero waste choice when you have to buy anything, and buying secondhand is an option for gifting; nobody thinks it odd to give an antique, and likewise a secondhand cashmere sweater is just as soft and just as warm as a new sweater. Some people simply aren’t there yet when it comes to buying or gifting secondhand; maybe you aren’t totally at ease buying preloved items for yourself and therefore don’t feel good about gifting them. Maybe (just maybe) you think secondhand might be a little icky, or have some weird feelings about your own finances and the impression others may have if you shop secondhand (we’ll work on that another day).

There are plenty of reasons to buy American made, secondhand or support small business instead of big retailers. The advantage to choosing secondhand or American made is that it requires less research. Buying secondhand means your money doesn’t go to the company that produced an item with exploitative labor or exploitative resource use. Buying American made at least offers workers the protection of a minimum wage, and the most successful American manufacturers are usually unionized, offering workers a bargaining platform.

The recommendations from this list are sorted into the four categories outlined in The four kinds of zero waste gifts , which are experience gifts, consumables, necessities, and the useful & the beautiful. Whether you want to support American made, small business, or you’re not interested in doing much research, check out the following gifts from local businesses and/or made in the USA:

Experience gifts

Clemens center tickets

A night out at the theatre, a concert, or the ballet is always special. This holiday season at the Clemens Center you can see the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes or the Rafael Grigorian Ballet Theatre performing The Nutcracker, among other things. I’m certainly hoping for tickets myself.


service at namaste

One of my favorite gifts from last Christmas? A voucher for a facial at Namaste Spa in Horseheads. One of the best parts of experience gifts is that they’re often experiences we might not treat ourselves to. Recently, I went in for a pedicure here (polish-free, of course). While prices vary, for $25 one of your loved ones could get a manicure.


Palace theatre

Palace Theatre on Market Street in Corning is the first choice when you want to see a new movie. You can purchase Movie Money, which can be used towards admission or snacks. An experience gift such as this works well for all ages.

Prices vary.



Crystal cities olive oil

Crystal Cities Olive Oil has multiple locations in upstate New York. They offer oils and vinegars in various quantities. The favorite in my house is the aged raspberry balsamic. For a cook in your life, or perhaps someone who just easts a lot of salads, you can support small business and find a specialty gift in one of their oils or vinegars.


Yankee candle

We all love a good candle; candles an even well suited for people you do and you don’t know that well. While Yankee Candle isn’t local, they do make the candles in the USA.

Prices vary.

Annmarri Soy candles

Annmarri candles are locally made in the finger lakes region and they smell absolutely delicious. Buying the candles not only supports a local maker (and makes your house smell great), but can support local businesses such as The Witch’s Stitches and The Windmill where they are also sold.



Locally made soap 

A great local soap these days can be found at Valley Creations, located at Pine Valley Farms. The soaps come in a variety of scents and lather nicely. The catch? The brand doesn’t actually seem to have a name. Just be careful, they’re not suitable for vegans.


You’re probably not surprised to hear that Lush is not made locally to my area, however, Lush products are cruelty-free, North-American made, and luxurious (did I really just use that word?). North American made, and by that I mean Canada. Perhaps some support to our neighbors to the north wouldn’t be so bad, since the products still travel far less than those made overseas.

Prices vary.

Market Street Coffee and Tea products

Market Street Coffee and Tea has a large variety of coffees roasted right in house. If you don’t love coffee yourself, you probably know someone who does, so consider picking up a pound or two of their specialty coffee or tea as a gift. At home, I’m currently drinking their Indian Monsoon Malabar AA, but if you’re a fan of flavored coffee, the raspberry is as fruity as you could hope for. Bonus: for anyone reducing their waste, bring your own container!

$13.99-$16.99/lb (coffee)


The finger lakes region has a lot to offer, but wine is one of the best things from around here. A bottle of wine makes a lovely host gift and a nice gift any time. Better than simply purchasing a local wine is purchasing a local wine from a locally owned business, so consider stopping by GCP Discount Liquors and Wines in Horseheads or Bottles and Corks in Corning. 

Prices vary.

Corning Wax Works

Another locally made candle brand, Corning Wax Works makes scented jar candles in a variety of scents, although my favorite has to be White Citrus Basil. The candles can be found regularly at The Cottage Gift Shop in Elmira and at booths of local vendor fairs.



Beekman 1802

If you’re looking for something comparable with the (notorious) Bath & Body Works gift basket and the products within, Beekman 1802 makes a variety of lotions, soaps, etc. in the USA. All of their solid soaps seem totally packaged in paper. Locally, you can find Beekman 1802 at Yesterdays in Horseheads.

Products available under $25; prices vary.


Bee’s Wraps

Adorable, practical, and ethically made. Whether they’re interested in reducing their waste or saving some money, Bee’s Wrap, a reusable alternative to plastic wrap,, is a good fit. Not only does the product reduce unnecessary use of plastic, Bee’s Wrap products are made in Vermont. A perfect gift for a new zero waster or anybody else.



Twinkie tush

Twinkie Tush is a locally owned company making diapers and children’s clothing in Ithaca, New York. Their adorable clothes start at $14 for the only ethically made pair of kid’s undies I’ve ever seen. They feature a variety of adorable prints on their shirts, dresses, and diapers, as well as the softest blankets I’ve ever felt.


Silk oak

Silk Oak sells handprinted eco-friendly clothing made in Ithaca, New York. While I haven’t had the chance to try any of their products, they have everything from onesies to women’s dresses with handprinted images like flowers, animals, vegetables and more.



Billy Jacobs prints

Billy Jacobs prints are picturesque images of country scenes like churches, barns, and farm houses that remind me a lot of the idyllic scenes you might drive by in this corner of the world. The prints are made in America and locally available at The Cottage Gift Shop, a sweet, locally owned store tucked away between Elmira and Big Flats, which also sells a variety of primitive style home items.


Alex and Ani

Anybody else remember the Alex and Ani craze from a few years back? I never hopped on the train, but I see why so many people did. They do more than bracelets, and the jewelry has been made in Rhode Island since 2004. Supporting the brand supports American made and they can even be found at Connor’s Mercantile in Corning and Yesterdays in Horseheads , which supports local business as well.



Earth and Autumn Pottery

Earth and Autumn Pottery makes such beautiful things you’ll consider remodeling your kitchen just for open shelves to display it all. Maybe that’s just me, but I can attest to the beauty and quality of these products. Another much-loved gift of mine was a noodle bowl, hand-made by Earth and Autumn Pottery. They can be purchased at the Windmill in Penn Yan and in Watkins Glen.

Prices vary.

American apparel

American Apparel isn’t locally made, but it is American made and sweatshop free. For basics like tees or for the teen in your life, American Apparel probably has something. Since it is clothing, prices vary, but chances are that your young trend setter knows the brand and would be happy to pick something out.

Prices vary.

BFF subscription box

Image from www.glamourandglow.com

Image from www.glamourandglow.com

Girl scouts usually ends by the teen years, but encouraging young women in leadership, critical thought and community action should not. Card Carrying in on Market Street in Corning, New York has a variety of books for girls and adults alike focusing on social topics. One interesting gift to consider is the BFF subscription box, $19.95. The box includes a book, a patch or pin, and information about taking action for an issue that matters. Either way, check them out and support local business!


Christine Elizabeth Jewelry

Glamour and Glow was always known to me for their beautiful clothes, but as a (somewhat lazy) zero waster, I don’t want to fall in love with a piece, do research, and find out it’s not ethically made. What I love from this store is the handmade jewelry from the owner of the store, which is on Market Street in Corning. A few years back I purchased a beautiful, minimal necklace for my best friend as a gift. The local, handmade jewelry starts at $20 and has a double punch of supporting local makers and business.


Vintage and antique goods

Antique and secondhand goods are always a zero waste win, but rather than compile you a list of local antique stores, I’ll recommend one shop in particular. Daisy May Mercantile surprised me when I went in because I didn’t know it was an antique store. From vintage lighters, to garters and hose, beautiful furniture pieces, and other charming goods, I imagine you could find something for just about anyone here. Not only is there a lovely array of vintage and antiques as you would expect, there are also local goods like signs from old area businesses and an antique fur with an Elmira label. Since prices vary and every item is unique, it’s hard to put an exact number and recommendation, but I will say this: you’re sure to take home a treasure with $25.

Prices vary.

Happy gifting! Remember that while a gift can be a lovely treat for someone you care about, presence is a present in itself. Gift less, gift better, and shop local.