Green digest: Eco-friendly gifts aplenty at the Green Gifts Fair

Hundreds of shoppers attended the annual Green Gifts Fair in November at the Midtown Global Market, where more than 80 vendors sold eco-friendly wares.

Vendors ranged from more established businesses such as the Wedge Community Co-op and Patagonia to individuals selling products such as belts made from recycled bike parts. Visitors also had the opportunity to drop off old holiday lights for recycling, create eco-friendly gift wrap and more.

Here were four of the more unique products at the fair, along with the backstories of their vendors.

Leather bags and accessories from Couch Skinner

Cost: $10 & up

Where you can find them:

Pat Johnson grew up in a northern Minnesota household where you “recycled and reused everything.”

For the past few years, she’s incorporated that attitude into her latest career venture: Making leather bags and accessories out of old couches.

Johnson, a Minneapolis resident, travels to about a dozen art shows a year, selling her Couch Skinner bags and accessories. She sells clutches, wristlets, larger bags and more and is planning on starting a website in 2017.

“There’s resources everywhere if we just look alternatively,” Johnson said, noting that a lot of old couches have good leather on them.

Johnson’s idea for the business started about five years ago, when her daughter asked her to make a wristlet out of leather. She used leather from an old couch to make about two dozen wristlets, which she sold quickly at an art show.

Johnson said she finds her couches on Craigslist or from people she knows, adding that she gets about 30 bags out of a given couch. She said she tries to maximize the leather she gets off each couch, using the bigger pieces for her bigger bags.

“Like at a butcher shop where they tell you the cuts of meat,” she said. “… I can do that with a couch.”

Johnson sells most of her products for between $30 and $45, but she has offerings anywhere between $10 and $100. She said that in the past she has shipped items to people who found her at shows.

Coasters, notepads and magnets from Vinyl Afterlife

Cost: $3–$15

Where you can find them:,

Paul Burnham started making products out of used vinyl records about eight years ago, originally making a coaster for his brother.

That led to the creation of his business, Vinyl Afterlife, for which Burnham uses old vinyl records to create magnets, sketchpads and more.

Burnham sells his products at about six shows a year as well as at Hymie’s Vintage Records on East Lake Street and Time Bomb Vintage on Minnehaha Avenue. The Farmington resident said he began thinking about repurposing products when he worked at Junket: Tossed & Found, adding that thousands of scratched, warped and broken records get trashed each year.

“It saves that cool, nostalgic art,” he said of his business. “It keeps them out of (the landfill) and brings people some joy and use out of it.”

Burnham said each of his products is completely unique. He said his favorite item is made from a Led Zeppelin album that has a spinning wheel on the cover.

Bags from Suzy Bags

Cost: $9–$75

Where you can find them: Email

Northeast resident Suzy Janse-Vreeling makes her bags out of discontinued upholstery samples, selling them at a few craft fairs and at an annual sale at her house.

“They used to throw them away, and we reuse them,” she said of the samples.

Bags come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Artwork from Raju’s Arts

Cost: $40–$100 for smaller pieces, $200–$800 for larger pieces

Where you can find them:,

Artist Raju Lamichhane uses old newspapers and other materials typically thrown out, such as junk mail, plant and tree leaves and more, to create his artworks. The native of Nepal doesn’t use any additional ink or colors in his works and sells them in art shows around the Twin Cities.

Lamichhane posts his art-show schedule on his Facebook page and website. He says his bird pictures are popular, as well as commissioned works of customers’ dogs and cats.