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Urbanists can be hard to buy for – there’s only so many times you can gift someone a minimalist map of their city or train-shaped earrings that you found on Etsy.
To make the task a bit easier, I asked our team and readers to suggest some promising gift options for urbanists, planners, public transit lovers and civic-minded folks who cares about building equitable cities. We’ve selected some great options for anyone on your list, so you can support small, worker-owned or minority-owned urban businesses as you cross off names.
In this gift guide, you’ll find food, apparel, bike accessories, art, curated gift boxes and more. By the way, this post doesn’t include any sponsorship or affiliate links of any sort. These are literally just some things our team thinks you and your city-loving friends would enjoy.
$70: Last year, our senior economic justice corresponder Oscar Perry Abello wrote about Taharka Brothers, a majority-Black-owned ice creamery that’s part of an uptick in cooperative businesses in Baltimore. “Being a worker cooperative means so many opportunities you don’t hear about in traditional businesses,” Vinny Green, one of Taharka’s first worker-owners, told Next City.
If your giftee is in one of the delivery zones surrounding the city, you can get eight pints delivered to their home for no charge (like I did for my brother’s recent wedding, to great success). But just this month, Taharka announced that its ice cream is available for nationwide shipping. Roasted strawberry, honey graham, caramel crunch…worker-owned ice cream just tastes sweeter. If you decide to order an extra case for your own freezer, we won’t tell anyone.
Through Blue Q’s partnership with the nonprofit human service agency Berkshire County Arc, the company hires employees with disabilities who work on putting finishing touches on packaging. And 1% of the profit from its socks supports the work of Doctors Without Borders.
£10: Made in Britain, the Trigger Bell markets itself as the “safest” bike bell. With the Trigger Bell, you don’t need to make the dangerous choice between braking and ringing your bell to alert pedestrians of your approach.
Small and affordable, you can ding the brass bell without lifting your hands as you operate the brakes and gears. It works regardless of whether you’ve got flat or drop handlebars, and regardless of how you’ve set your brakes and gear-shifters.
If you’ve been ordering your bike bells on Amazon and replacing them annually as they inevitably fail, you may be interested to know that the bell comes with a whopping five-year warranty.
$26: You may know Jessie Singer as the co-creator of the first ghost bike memorializing cyclist deaths, or as the journalist who frequently covers traffic fatalities and other areas of injury-related death. In February, Simon & Schuster published her book “There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster – Who Profits and Who Pays the Price,” which takes a deep dive into the history of the term accident.
“This book literally changed the way I view life, not only in urbanism, but in everything,” says Tyler Newcomb, an EMT and Jersey City safe streets advocate, who recommended the book for Next City readers. “It discusses the very real and rarely discussed epidemic of blame over solutions.”
Other 2022 books to check out:
“Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It,” by urban planner Nolan Gray. Check out an excerpt.
“Hyperlocal: Place Governance in a Fragmented World,” edited by placemaking experts Jennifer S. Vey and Nate Storring. Check out an excerpt.
“The Intimate City: Walking New York,” by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman
“I Believe I’ll Run On,” by artist Joshua Rashaad McFadden
“Mini-Forest Revolution,” by environmental writer Hannah Lewis
“Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City,” by architect Jorge Almazán and urban studies scholar Joe McReynolds
Trying to find an alternative to Amazon? By purchasing through the climate-neutral B-Corp Bookshop.org, you can support an independent bookstore of your choice, or contribute to its profit sharing pool that supports a network of indie booksellers.
Can’t decide on a bookstore to support? Try Uncle Bobbie’s in Philly, La Librería Cooperativa in Minneapolis, Full Circle Book Co-op in Sioux Falls, or the Baltimore worker-owned coop Red Emma’s (learn about Red Emma’s model here). And if you can’t decide on the right book, or if you’ve left your gift-buying to the last second, Bookshop.org sells digital gift cards.
$200+: If your giftee loves the intimacy and walkability of a well-designed alley, bring the magic into their living room with a booknook.
For the uninitiated, a booknook is a small, detailed diorama that you sandwich in between your books, making it look like there’s a tiny ethereal world hidden within your bookshelf. Choose between a pre-assembled booknook featuring a Japanese, Italian or American-themed alley. Or, for a much more affordable gift option, let your giftee assemble their own booknook with a DIY kit ($40), estimated to take four to six hours.
$150: Cleverhood’s rainwear is a game changer for bike commuters. Full seam sealing, YKK zippers, plenty of pockets, a longer back to keep your seat dry – everything you can ask for in a rain jacket.
Though the brand is known for high-quality rain ponchos designed for the biker, this limited edition collaboration anorak also supports the rapidly growing urbanist podcast The War on Cars.
If your giftee is a fan of the podcast, consider gifting them a year-long Patreon membership to gain access to bonus War on Cars episodes and get a discount for podcast merch while you’re at it. I’m a fan of the “Cars Ruin Cities” T-shirt.
$10: This fall, urbanist and game designer Konstantinos Dimopolous teamed up with architect-turned-game designer Martin Nerurkar to launch the pen-and-paper city-building game Ex Novo.
“Meet with your friends, and collaboratively draw the map of your city as you explore the history of its founding, and the forces, factions, and events that shape its development,” the creators describe. The downloadable city-generator tool can be used solo, or with up to three more players. Find it on itch.io or DriveThruRPG.
This fall, The Washington Post compiled a tantalizing list of scenic long-term train routes to enjoy the glorious fall foliage across North America. “They sell out long, long, long in advance,” one travel adviser told the Post. “If people are thinking about it for fall, think about it for fall of next year.” Snag your favorite railfan one of these coveted fall train trips before they sell out! And check the comments on the Post article for more recommendations for scenic train routes.
$27-115: From their “Rise and Resist” box of breakfast goodies to their “Some Like It Hot” box, Portland-based company Indigenize is working to connect buyers with verified tribal and Native-owned businesses.
It’s part of an effort to redistribute wealth back to tribal nations and people, as husband-wife co-founders James Parker and Se-ah-dom Edmo explain. (You may know Edmo as the executive director of social change funder Seeding Justice.) “The social, political and economic system that we have has been designed perfectly to get the results that it’s getting…A system that placed us at the top of disease and death statistics and the bottom of income, homeownership and wealth measures,” the couple explain on their website. “And, we began to dream about how to use our expertise to build a business movement that respects and upholds Tribal Sovereignty.”
The shop is one of several member brands based out of Philadelphia’s NextFab makerspace. Also check out the naturally dyed textiles and apparel ($23+) created by NextFab maker Modest Transitions. The Black-owned business, also home to the Little Free Seed and Dyers Library, established its own brick-and-mortar space in the city this year.
$39: “The last brown person involved in your coffee is usually the farmer who cultivated the beans,” food entrepreneur and artist Keba Konte tells Berkeleyside. With his company Red Bay Coffee Roasters, based in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, Konte is working to bring Black and Brown people into the supply chain, from roasting to marketing.
The Black-owned company hires and trains formerly incarcerated individuals, teaches its roasting techniques to minority-owned companies, highlights chefs of color through pop-up events, and is working to expand its profit-sharing model. The ultimate aim is to serve as a “vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability.”
$120: This signed, limited edition Giclee print was New York City artist-writer-activist Molly Crabapple’s lead illustration for “How The Taxi Workers Won,” her award-winning feature story in The Nation.
“Through relentless work, shrewd organizing, and ferocious solidarity, cabbies had moved the city” to take action amid a debt crisis devastating the city’s mostly-immigrant cabbie population, Crabapple reported. 10% of the proceeds from each sale supports the Taxi Workers Alliance. You might also like Crabapple’s prints “New York Will Live,” “Chelsea Hotel,” or “General Strike.”
$44+: If you’re looking for a gift for someone who can’t be bothered to decorate their walls since they move to another apartment every year, consider gifting them an easy-to-hang, easy-to-remove art print.
A few companies, the most prominent of which is Displate, sell art printed on metal sheets, which you can mount to your wall magnetically. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it may be a handy solution for people who shuffle from apartment to apartment: Attach the sticker to the wall, mount the magnet on top, stick the metal poster onto the magnet. The magnet and sticker can later be removed without damaging the wall. Check out their collection of map prints and New York subway prints.
$45: In August, Ilana Preuss wrote for Next City about Atlanta’s emerging incubators for Black-owned businesses in Atlanta, part of an effort to revitalize the city’s downtown with equity in mind. One of the local businesses featured in Atlanta’s new Beltline MarketPlace is apparel company Grady Baby, which offers a selection of Atlanta-themed tops. This one is right up our alley.
PinkPothos, another of the Black-owned local businesses in the new Beltline Marketplace, sells low-maintenance house plants ($7+), from philodendron to the unkillable snake plant.
$40: If you’re looking for a gift for a snacker, this three-jar set from Pariva is your winner. These deliciously spiced, spreadable yogurt balls are the brainchild of Manjarrie Saha, a member of Boston’s CommonWealth Kitchen – a pioneering model that combines a food business incubator, shared commercial kitchen space and co-packing facility.
In March, we looked at how the Commonwealth Kitchen has “cooked up a successful model of community economic development by incubating businesses in a predominantly Black neighborhood,” as Oscar wrote.
You may also be interested in products from other Commonwealth Kitchen members, including this trio of Jamaican-inspired hot sauces ($30) from Hillside Harvest, a set of fresh cocktail blends ($40+) from Simple Sips, or a sampler of Sueños Chocolates’ artisanal chocolates ($11+) handmade from Ecuador’s Nueva Esperanza Organic Growers Cooperative.
$5+/month: Yes, we’re definitely biased. But we believe that nonprofit news is the future of journalism, in an age when our industry is being chewed up and spit out by venture capital and corporate media.
If you or your organization can swing it, we’d be delighted to have you join us as sustaining or institutional members. Next City’s work as a nonprofit news organization is critical: By spreading real stories and workable ideas from one city to the next, we connect people, places and solutions that move our society toward justice and equity. We’ve also got our own Next City-branded merch – check it out.
We believe local news in particular is the beating heart of our communities, of American media, of democracy. You can’t go wrong by gifting someone a one-year subscription to a nonprofit news organization that covers their local community, whether it’s Minnesota’s Sahan Journal, Block Club Chicago, Capital B Atlanta or Baltimore Beat (which also put out its own stellar local gift guide).
$12: The Nib is an independent journalism outlet, created by Pulitzer Prize finalist Matt Bors, publishing smart, interesting comics on the daily.
Their latest magazine edition, the Cities issue, features 112 pages of comics from 30 cartoonists offering “an international look at cities — how they shape our social lives, sex lives, work, protests, and more.” The Nib’s shop also sells comic artist Sam Wallman’s recent book “Our Members Be Unlimited” ($25), which “ushers us into the hidden aisles of 21st-century labor conditions, and shows us recent labor movements and union triumphs,” and Andy Warner and Sofie Louise Dam’s 2019 nonfiction graphic novel “This Land is My Land: A Graphic History of Big Dreams, Micronations, and Other Self-Made States” ($20).
$4: For the horror fan in your life, the Eisner Award-nominated and much-celebrated series “Killadelphia” just dropped a brand new issue. Killadelphia #25 introduces a new story arc, and is described as “a perfect jumping on point for new readers!” As Comics Beat writes, in Black writer and series creator Rodney Barnes’ latest issue he has “crafted a tale that looks at vampirism as a unique consequence of the country’s history with slavery and discriminatory urban development,” managing to “capture the city of Philadelphia’s culture along with the classic horror vibes vampire stories are known for.”
Aysha Khan is the managing editor at Next City.
20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine