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Sustainable Gifts & Gatherings

For many, the holiday season can be a great time of social and celebratory get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers. Gift-giving is, of course, a time-honored tradition to which many also look forward and is often a gesture of care, love, and bringing joy to others. Unfortunately, much waste and added pollution can also accompany these traditions. However, there is also, then, great opportunity during this time of year to lessen our negative environmental impact by making more sustainability-minded choices. And, as always, lots of little changes by many people can lead to big change.

Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. Source:


We had an absolutely wonderful group of vendors at our Sustainable Gifts & Gatherings event. If you were not able to attend and would like to know some of the things you may still find in our area from these hard-working folks who make the extra effort to create and offer more sustainable products for us, please read on!

  • Alicia Walkes, new co-owner of Dan & Becky's Market, brought beeswax wraps (a nice replacement for plastic wrap) made by Alicia herself, spice gift boxes, seasoning kits, gift cards, gift baskets, local honey and maple syrup, soap and other body care products such as shea butter and magnesium salve. Alicia, daughter of Becky, now runs the natural foods store with her husband, Keno, in Cokato where you can find local and organic produce, meats, dairy, baking needs, coffee beans, health products, and much more. They also have bulk herbs and spices where you can measure custom amounts, perhaps to create your own herb or spice blend for a gift. For more info or to connect: (320) 286-3076

  • Connie Karstens, co-owner of the Lamb Shoppe & Wellness Center, is a respected leader in our area, especially when it comes to plants, healing, and wellness. Connie and her daughter, Clara, were at the event offering handmade herbal teas, tinctures, and salves, herbal educational materials, botanical bath soaks, locally made jewelry, candles, & chocolate, other goods & gifts, gift cards, and information about their Wellness Center & educational upcoming classes. You can find all of these things and more at her store in Hutchinson. For more info or to connect: 320-587-6094 Upcoming Events: November 25th, 2022 Live Music with local string trio 3rd Elephant performing “The Twelve Strings of Christmas” and Black Friday Sale, 20% off store-wide

  • Beth & Rick Deinken of Grandma & Grandpa's Berries n' More are the ones you might often see out in the warmer months working in their huge garden off of Hwy 12 just east of the high school. They came with 30 different kinds of jams and jellies, including 10 new flavors ranging from Apple Pie to Ghost Pepper, something for everyone. In addition to their regular canned goods and pickles, they had some new items to choose from, including garlic mustard, horseradish pickles, and jarred jalapenos. They also had 5 different varieties of squash in many sizes of each, ranging from around 3 pounds all the way up to 20 pounds. For more info or to connect:

  • Karyn Tomlinson, chef and owner of Myriel and winner (with liver ice cream on the menu!) of prestigious national cooking contest, the Grand Cochon, was there offering gift cards for her restaurant in St. Paul. Karyn is getting all sorts of attention and recognition in major publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, which also mentions Dassel, MN, where some of her close family resides. Truly an experience to remember, to dine at Myriel is to have the delight of enjoying some really delicious food that is thoughtfully prepared using many local ingredients produced by farmers and growers in our community. For more info or to connect:

  • Kristy Varner, chef and owner of Gather, was also at the event offering her fresh-baked holiday pies (Apple, Pecan, and Pumpkin, also available as gluten-free) and gift cards to her downtown Buffalo restaurant, which is quite popular. Once you eat there, you will understand why. She offers fresh, delicious meals, also using local ingredients and some which include foraged foods. For more info or to connect:

  • Jena Levandowski, co-owner of Levandowski Pottery in Dassel, brought a large selection of her functional (and beautiful!) stoneware pottery, including a wide variety of pots, serving trays, vases, crocks, storageware, mugs, soap dishes, jewelry, ornaments, home decor, and more. For more info or to connect: Facebook: Levandowski Pottery Upcoming Events: Friday 11/18 - Saturday 11/19/22 Winter Open House at Levandowski Pottery in Dassel, MN

  • Susan Anderson was at the event offering her locally produced raw honey. For more info or to connect: Text/Call 952-250-3109

  • Sarah Lindblom, owner of Solar Fresh Produce in Buffalo MN, where she farms and runs a farm store in the warmer months offered different herb blends (for culinary use and tea), garlic, hydrosols, and botanical skincare products. Sarah also gave a great presentation on soil health back in April for us, which will be available on the DCSL website this winter. For more info or to connect:

  • Jamie Nordling, owner of Country Acres Mama in Buffalo, is a talented sewer who somehow finds time while raising her family of 5 boys to make all sorts of useful reusable items, such as grocery bag holders, headrest garbage bags, hot/cold packs, scrunchies, bowl cozies, and more. For more info or to connect:

Upcoming Events: You can find Jamie and/or her products at two different shows this Saturday, Nov 19, 2022. One is the HLWW Community Education Creative Arts and Craft Fair in Howard Lake, and the other is the STMA Women of Today Craft Show in Albertville.

  • Hannah Mahlstedt, creator of the new Hannah Joy Naturally Clean line of natural cleaning products was at the event offering laundry soap, bar soaps, lip balms, a gift caddy set, and more. For more info or to connect: Instagram: Hannah Joy Naturally Clean Phone: 320-583-4338

  • Pastor Tim Wheatley of Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church was there to share about ELCA Good Gifts, an organization that provides gifts such as hygiene kits, environmentally-friendly cookstoves, livestock, a computer for a community center, food, or schooling for children, for example, to help communities in need. For more information:

Some Other Sustainable Gift Ideas to Consider

  • Glass or stainless steel storage ware. Containers to use for take-out

  • Travel utensil kit with or without a reusable straw

  • Container for getting raw milk (1 gallon stainless steel jug or 1/2 gallon glass mason jars, for example)

  • Cuts of meat from a portion of local beef, pork, lamb, etc.

  • Grass-fed ground beef from David & Mariana Nyquist Grass-Fed Dairy

  • Reusable bags - for shopping or produce

  • Mason jar mixes - dry soup mixes and other dehydrated meals

  • Reusable cloth towels and napkins for everyday use

  • Wool products - hand-spun yarn, dryer balls, sweaters, mittens, scarves, slippers, pet beds - many of these items can be found at Simply Quimby in Dassel, created by Wendy Lankki of Plum Crazee Wool Creations.

  • Make a donation in someone’s name

  • Gift Cards for a local restaurant

  • Gift Cards for a grocery store supporting or employing sustainable practices, such as Dan & Becky’s Market, The Lamb Shoppe & Wellness Center

  • Experiential gifts - classes, performances (check out Dassel-Cokato Arts Association), massage, a local get-away like the cabins at Bertram Chain of Lakes in Wright County

  • Other high-quality reusables and biodegradable items - check out Tare Market, a zero waste store (2 locations in Minneapolis)

  • Gift cards for photography - Local photographers, Shayla Heller Photography and Jaydn Utecht Photos

Sustainable Ideas for Gatherings

  • Cloth napkins and table cloths

  • Talk with friends and family about sharing items dishes, utensils, table cloths, maybe even games and decor

  • Confetti made from leaves - little ones who like using a hole puncher can make

  • Instead of bottles of water, use reusable cups - guests can use a washable crayon to mark their cup. The thrift store is a great place to find cups, dishes, utensils, etc.! Check out Save & Share Thrift Shop in Cokato or Again & Again Thrift Store in Dassel.

  • Purchase locally produced food - Dan & Becky’s Market, David & Mariana Nyquist Grass-Fed Dairy (also eggs and beef), The Lamb Shoppe & Wellness Center, our area growers and producers, Mary Pekkala of MyKitchen Bakery whose baked goods are available at Weathered Birch in Dassel.

  • Gifts - use reusable gift bags, or wrap with fabric, old maps, or plain brown paper (kids can decorate). Most wrapping paper is not recyclable due to the shiny coatings, foils, and colors.

  • For Christmas, if you don’t already have an artificial Christmas tree (made of PVC, not recyclable, manufactured and shipped from overseas, typically sprayed with fire-retardants), opt for a live, pesticide-free, locally grown tree. Then mulch, compost, cut into firewood, use for crafts, feed to livestock (as long as pesticide and paint free). There are two Christmas tree farms in Cokato, Heggie’s Trees and Red Roof Tree Farm. Another even more environmentally friendly option would be to buy a potted tree to use for the holiday and to be planted in the spring. Happy (and sustainable) Holidays! Dassel-Cokato Sustainable Living


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