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The Green Life: Born-Again Presents: Upcycled Gifts That Do Good

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November 07, 2012

Born-Again Presents: Upcycled Gifts That Do Good

These gifts are all made from something that obviously used to be something else. To boost the good-cheer factor, they're not just upcycled — they also help someone, somewhere, rise above poverty.

Haiti frameHAITI: Display memories in Macy's hand-hewn, tree-of-life-inspired "Heart of Haiti" picture frames. They're made from discarded oil drums, and each piece is signed by the metalworker, who gets half of the wholesale price. $32 to $60.

Thailand birdhouse
THAILAND: Show birds — and trees — some love with this handmade, reclaimed-wood birdhouse from Bambeco. It's made from planks that skilled Thai artisans salvaged from defunct boats and buildings (many downed by the region's 2004 tsunami), so no two are identical. $45.

This long-burning candle, sold by Hipcycle, contains scented soy wax encased in half of a used glass bottle (soda or beer, you choose). It's prepared, poured, and packaged by low-income new mothers in Chicago, many of whom are homeless. A program called Bright Endeavors recruits and trains the women, and the proceeds go toward keeping them afloat and helping them find better jobs. $15.

Upcycled notions case
TURKEY: In the village of Ayvalik, women holding their first paying job sift through thrown-away rice sacks to find ones that can be turned into small notions cases. Each piece, great for storing makeup or spare change, is unique and comes with its maker's signature. Proceeds benefit the group çöp(m)adam (translation: "garbage women"), which combats unemployment by hiring workers to refashion would-be waste into useful things. $16.

Uganda necklaceUGANDA: This five-strand Moyo necklace is sold by BeadforLife, a nonprofit that teaches impoverished Ugandan women how to transform discarded paper into richly colored jewelry. Profits go directly to the craftspeople and to African anti-poverty programs. $30. Paper owl

PHILIPPINES: Whooo wouldn’t love this darling owl — especially once they know that Filipino artisans made it from thrown-away newspapers? The 11-inch-high conversation piece is sold by Wind & Weather, a retailer that plants two trees for every one it uses for its catalogs. $70.

Tent tote
MEXICO: What happens to a tent after it’s taken down for the last time? If it’s lucky, it gets refashioned into something useful. As for the nylon fabric discarded during the manufacturing process, some of it gets shipped to a small, family-owned factory in Mexico, where well-paid workers with benefits sew it into this roomy, lightweight tote, sold by UncommonGoods. $48.

Text by Avital Andrews / photos by Lori Eanes (5) and courtesy UncommonGoods and Wind & Weather

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