Gift shop welcomes green contest entries

Re Gifts is offering a cash prize for the most novel “upcycled” submission.

Allison Wickler

An eco-friendly gift store in south Minneapolis is searching for community members with a little creativity and a knack for recycling.

Re Gifts, which opened in September at 1832 E. 42nd St., is sponsoring a contest encouraging area artists and recyclers to create unique and environmentally friendly items from recycled materials.

Re Gifts owners Ryan and Tina North will accept entries from March 1 to March 31 for the “upcycling” contest, which refers to using discarded materials and turning them into something new and usable.

Tina North said she saw a crafters’ group hold a similar contest, and is excited to see creative submissions.

“For us, it’s great,” she said, “because we get to see and meet new artists.”

For many businesses, recyclable is becoming important.

When people hear the word “re-gifting,” they might think of something old or junky, Tina North said, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

Ryan North said all the items, which include accessories, bath products, cards, home decor and many one-of-a-kind pieces, are made from reused or recycled materials – even the price tags are made from recycled cardboard, and they purchased the display secondhand.

He said starting the store was an opportunity to create social change. Before Re Gifts, he said no specifically eco-friendly stores existed in Minneapolis, though many are starting to sprout.

Karen Hanson, owner of Minneapolis gift store Avalon, said while she sells jewelry and paper products made from recycled materials, she doesn’t buy only recycled items because her products are so eclectic.

“I think I would have to change the whole format of my store,” she said.

Tina North said about 60 percent of the store’s items are made locally, with many original pieces by local artists, including purses made from license plates, mosaic-framed mirrors and shovels decorated with plasma-cut designs.

Of course, not everyone is interested in the green lifestyle.

Aerospace engineering junior Mat Remillard said he usually isn’t too concerned with buying eco-friendly products.

“Price usually comes first,” he said, “and recycled things aren’t really cheaper.”

However, he said recycled items have a greater artistic value.

Psychology junior Kelly Gerleve said she had never heard of an entirely eco-friendly store.

“It’s one thing to think about,” she said, “but it’s not part of my daily life.”

Ryan North said he hopes the store encourages people to try some aspect of green living.

“There are different shades of green,” he said. “Doing one small thing can make a change.”

Customers will judge the entries, which will be displayed in the store from April 1 to April 21. First prize is a $100 Re Gifts gift certificate and a Twin Cities Green Guide starter kit.