Local alternatives to Amazon abound for safe, convenient holiday shopping

Organizers of the Holiday Reimagined pop-up market at Edina’s Galleria mall had hoped to promote shopping local without drawing too big of a crowd. They required free, timed tickets to enter and provided contactless ways to shop.

But after Gov. Tim Walz announced new COVID-19 restrictions last month, they decided to cancel the in-person event altogether.

“We thought we had the ideal event planned, with safety being the number one thing in mind. Of course, bringing people together is what we love to do, but it’s the wrong thing to do right now,” said organizer Mollie Windmiller, owner and creative director at marketing company LAB MPLS.

Instead of an in-person market, Holiday Reimagined is now a contactless display, where window shoppers can purchase locally made goods like abstract painted ornaments or hand-embroidered sweatshirts by scanning a QR code with their phone. It’s running through December in the windows of the former Gabberts store.

Plenty of Minnesotans have pledged to shop local this upended holiday season to support community makers and small businesses. But with many holiday markets going virtual, keeping it local might be a bit harder this year.

Alternatives to Amazon still abound for those willing to make a little effort. Shoppers can explore Minnesota artisans’ work online in many places — from individual websites and Etsy pages to the shelves of local shops that are available online.

They also can outsource the search entirely by purchasing curated gift boxes, relying on virtual personal shoppers and curbside pickup at local shops or doing it the old-fashioned way: in-store shopping. (Many, but not all local shops are open, but limit the number of shoppers.)

Minneapolis candlemaker Emma Remer, who refills vintage containers with scented wax to make her Burnboss Candles (burnbosscandles.com), decided to offer virtual shopping appointments on her website in place of in-person markets.

“I’ve missed those experiences and connections this year and hope these online appointments can recreate a bit of that magic,” said Remer, who plans to shop locally online and through social media.

“I’ve seen many local, small businesses getting extremely creative with their approaches to holiday shopping this year,” she said. “It’s vital that we show up and support them now so they can be a part of our community for years to come.”

Virtual markets

Most of the holiday markets and pop-ups in the Twin Cities have gone virtual, with pages that link to vendors or display goods. You can shop them without leaving your couch — from the Black Business is Beautiful holiday market (blackbusinessisbeautiful.org/shop) to the online holiday shop created by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (shop.nemaa.org/holiday-shop/).

Some, like St. Paul’s European Christmas Market (stpaulchristmasmarket.org), also offer streaming music and story times with Santa. The American Swedish Institute’s Julmarknad virtual holiday market (asimn.org/virtual-julmarknad) includes free Zoom panels with some of the featured artists on Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the Minneapolis Craft Market (shop.mplscraftmarket.com), a digital marketplace with more than 230 makers, also hosts live shopping events on

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Palm Oil in Beauty Products: Dangers, Harm, and Alternatives

On Nov. 18, the Associated Press published an exposé of the palm oil business, outlining the extreme abuse, exploitation, and sexual assault of women workers on plantations across Indonesia and Malaysia. In it explores palm oil’s pervasive and secretive connection within the beauty industry, which uses it widely in everything from bar soap to shampoo but, for the most, has remained mum on its sourcing practices and supply chains.

“Palm oil can be produced without having to ravage the environment, wildlife, or exploit farmers, but it is such a widely used ingredient that many companies, big and small, sometimes don’t know where their palm oil originated from, or perhaps how much deforestation had to take place for that palm oil to get to them,” said David Petrillo, cosmetic chemist and founder of skin-care brand Perfect Image. “There are organizations that certify palm oil as sustainable around the world, but many people question whether they are doing enough and whether companies are meeting past commitments to protect the environment and the species that live there.”

Until there are better labor protections in place, it’s critical to familiarize yourself with ingredients lists. Figuring out whether you’re about to purchase a product with palm oil — which is used in cosmetics for its moisturizing, texturizing, emollient, and foaming effects, plus its ability to remove oil and dirt from the hair or skin — can prove tricky, but there are a few things to look out for.

You likely won’t read “palm oil” on a beauty product label, meaning “the ingredient can still fly under the radar,” said Petrillo. “This is occurring because, in products, there could be palm oil, but in derivative form. Some of the more common names in cosmetics include Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glyceryl, and Octyl palmitate. There are lists of these other names online for palm oil or its derivatives, but it is a huge list.”

If you do spot this on an ingredients list, the first thing to do is look for a RSPO label or other symbols to indicate that the palm oil used was sourced sustainably. If it’s not there (which is very well might not be), consider looking for other oils in your hair, skin, and makeup products with similar properties. “Liquid oils can be alternatives; these can include grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, babassu oil, or soybean oil,” he said.

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3 Best AirPods Pro Alternatives Under $200


  • Apple’s AirPods Pro are great audio accessories, but they are expensive
  • There are many great alternatives, with some selling for prices well below the $200 mark
  • These include the Mpow X3, Bose Sport Earbuds and Amazon Echo Buds

Apple’s AirPods Pro are great audio accessories for those who are invested in the Cupertino tech giant’s ecosystem. They offer good sound quality, have great active noise canceling and transparency features and are perfect for those who use multiple iDevices such as iPhones, iPads and MacBooks.

That said, the highly-rated AirPods Pro costs a lot. They normally sell for $250 per pair, which means not everyone can afford them. And while some outlets sell them with discounts from time to time, it’s still a fact that they are expensive and beyond the reach of the average person.

Thankfully, Apple is not the only company making great-sounding wireless earbuds. Some AirPods pro alternatives offer great audio quality, provide excellent noise cancellation, or at least noise reduction features, and come in different colors.

Here are some of the best wireless earbuds that sell for less than $200 a pair.

Amazon Echo Buds

Amazon jumped into the wireless earbuds market with the Echo Buds, a cheap pair of in-ear headphones equipped with Alexa. These are currently being sold for $130 via Amazon.

These buds do not offer noise cancellation, but they do feature Bose’s noise reduction technologies. This means users will get to enjoy the same level of quiet and focus on music without having to pay the amount Bose’s headphones normally cost.

Bose Sport Earbuds

Speaking of Bose, the famed audio company also has an affordable but formidable pair of wireless earbuds under $200 – the new Sport Earbuds. This device does not have active noise cancellation, but it offers Bose’s signature audio, which means users will still be able to listen to great-sounding music anyway.

Bose designed the Sport Earbuds to stay in place so that wearers won’t have to worry about them falling off while running or jogging. They are available via Bose’s website for $179.95.

Mpow X3

Those looking for noise cancellation but can’t afford the AirPods Pro or even the Echo Buds can get these earbuds instead, CNet noted. They look like the AirPods Pro (but in black), offer good sound output, have active noise cancellation and retail for only $60 via Amazon.

apple airpods pro apple airpods pro Photo: Aaron Yoo(CC BY-ND 2.0)

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