Saturday, September 22nd was the grand opening of the brand-new store opened by my friend Maureen (AKA Mo's), The Treehouse. Located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley (2935 College Avenue, just above Ashby), The Treehouse is a "green gifts" store, which means they sell gifts that are handmade, recycled, and organic. That description doesn't do justice to how interesting the store is. The products are cool enough that I'd shop there even if it wasn't such a socially-conscious store; it's the retail equivalent of discovering chocolate cake that has the nutritional properties of broccoli.
The store's concept is very socially-, community-, and environmentally-responsible. They donate 1% of their profits to en enviromental fund, they offset their carbon emissions through Carbonfund.org, and they offer promotions to customers who reuse their bags and boxes. Even the plates, napkins, and utensils used at the opening gala were all compostable. They also support the arts, with plans in the works to host trunk shows for local artists in upcoming months. Where the store really stands out is how they combine good taste in art with good social values. Here's a few examples:
They sell multi-colored crayons in various shapes - bears, dinosaurs, assorted animals - that are made from old broken crayons melted together. This is a brilliant idea. If I'd have had multi-colored dinosaur crayons when I was in my formative coloring years, I may have actually developed some artistic ability. In addition, the product is made by developmentally disabled adults.
There are coasters made out of old LPs, trimmed to frame the labels, sold in packs of five for $12. My favorite set had a Kenny Loggins EP featuring a few of his Yacht Rock classics, "I'm Alright" and his solo version of "What a Fool Believes". My only complaint about the set was that the Jesus Christ Superstar coaster didn't have "What's the Buzz" on it, which might actually be a positive in that it would keep me from asking friends to "tell me what's-a-happening" while we enjoyed cold beverages together. The vinyl record bowls also look amazing.
There is a section devoted to products made out of recycled bike parts (via Resource Revival). I particularly liked the bottle openers. You can buy kits to make your own chewing gum, stationary made from recycled paper using soy-based printing, and organically-grown soybean candles (I bought one of those). If you are buying for someone else, they also have environmentally-friendly gift wrapping.
A lot of the products were not necessarily aimed at me, but I loved them just the same. A company called littleoddforest has a bunch of excellent bags that made me temporarily wish I had more women in my life to buy purses for. There's a tote bag fashioned from a page of the Sunday comics, which lets you look cool while also chuckling at the intergenerational strife in Zits. One of my companions bought a snazzy red bag made from recycled leather jackets, so as to look like a rock musician, while caring about the earth like a folk musician:
My favorite item was the "nuts-and-bolts" bowl, which is a serving bowl made out of interlocked nuts and bolts. I wish I could find a photo, but it looks like something you find in a Jeunet-and-Caro movie. The only thing that kept me from buying it was being unsure how it would fit in with our house's kitchen, which already has a few serving bowls already, but I may not be able to hold back on my next trip to Elmwood.
To summarize, I love this store, and I think many of my readers would as well, particularly those that enjoy products featuring cute animals on them and "green" gifts for babies (you know who you are). It's open every day - why not go tomorrow?
The Treehouse Green Gifts
2935 College Ave
(between Ashby Ave & Russell St)
Berkeley, CA 94705