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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Bid Adieu to This Dumpster Fire of a Year! The 2020 SB Holiday Gift Guide

No offense, 2020 — but it is high time we put you to bed and look toward the future. After the year we’ve had, we all deserve a little pampering — and so do the makers of these thoughtful, ethically made products …

Usually, the best way to give sustainably is to not buy anything new — but this year, there are a lot of people and businesses that could use our support.

Freshen up!

After the year we’ve had, we all deserve a little pampering (and so do the makers of these ethically and sustainably made products!). So, if you’re starting to think about getting back out there [Ed note: Pretend it’s a month from now and the US isn’t blowing up with COVID as we speak], after all of these months away from the salon, here are a few items to help get your personal grooming game back on track:

  • Luxie Beauty’s cruelty-free, hypoallergenic synthetic makeup brushes
  • Michelle Pfeiffer’s Cradle to Cradle Certified fragrance brand, Henry Rose, has added sustainably scented body creams, home fragrances (candles and diffusers), and hand sanitizer
  • Packaging-free personal care products from Lush; or from Grove Collaborative’s new personal care brand, Peach
  • As tough as things have been this year, they could always be tougher — every purchase of one of The Right to Shower's organic bar soaps or body washes helps build mobile showers for those living on the streets.

When you’re ready to ditch the pajamas (or at least put on clean clothes) …

Image credit: Houdini Sportswear

Go beyond digging out a clean top for your next Zoom meeting — here are some better-made items to help you feel more presentable, above and below:


Below: Kent‘s 100 percent pima cotton undies are also 100 percent organic, non-toxic, plastic-free and biodegradable. And Buxxomly’s Liftwear™ Lingerie is made from super-soft, recycled Italian Q-Nova fabric in a renewable energy-powered process that aims to reduce CO~2~ emissions and water consumption.

For the home/work space that needs a refresh

Image credit: Noho

Plant life

For all of those who’ve embraced home cooking this year: The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook shows chefs how to incorporate produce from nose to tail, helping to stretch those potentially precious food budgets further. We also love Quick Pickle Kit, which takes the time and guesswork out of pickling; and the startup collaborates with California nonprofits to provide jobs for developmentally disabled adults.

For the new and veteran home gardeners in your life, help them grow their own herbs, flowers and veggies with Back to the Roots’ ready-to-grow kits and organic seed packets. More ambitious gardeners might enjoy a plant-propagation subscription from Isha Plants — an online nursery that offers a monthly kit featuring unique, carefully curated plant cuttings; with step-by-step planting instructions, an online community and accompanying workshops on how to care for your plants.

Clean up after all that cooking, planting and redecorating with zero-waste hand and home cleaners from Gelo (plant-based), Blueland (Cradle to Cradle Certified); and veles — the first all-purpose household cleaner composed almost entirely of recovered water and common organic compounds derived from food waste.

For our most supportive family members

Image credit: House Dogge

For many of us, our beloved, furry friends help make lockdown a little less lonely. Now, because you and your cat could probably use a little time apart, a Cat Cave — made from ethically sourced wool by female artisans in Nepal — might be in order. And for our less persnickety four-legged friends, we love the hoodies, t-shirts, toys and leashes made with love and sustainable materials from LA-based House Dogge.

Get out of the house, finally!

As soon as it’s safe, take a trip! Intrepid Travel — the first certified carbon-neutral tour operator is now the first tour operator with SBTi-approved 2035 emissions-reduction targets. Beyond its existing, international tours; Intrepid will be expanding its new range of closer-to-home trips to over 100 itineraries in 2021, providing tour options that will require fewer flights for domestic travelers in the US.

In the meantime, get the kids out and re-engaging with nature and a vibrant, online community of nature-lovers with the Mammalz app.

Speaking of the kiddos …

Image credit: Blimey Box


If they need new duds, check out Borobabi — the company’s circular “borrow” model allows parents to select and keep new or pre-loved, organic and ethically produced garments until children outgrow them, or they’re out of season. Borobabi then cleans and re-rents or recycles all items — helping to put a dent in the over two billion pounds of children’s clothing going into landfill each year.


For many parents, keeping little ones engaged and learning at home has been one of this year’s biggest challenges. To keep their miniature wheels turning, check out these …


  • Help kids learn and appreciate more about nature with The Mighty River — which celebrates the interconnectivity of humans and the biodiversity that we depend on.
  • Books such as The Book of Cultures and Anti-Racist Baby (good for adults, as well) will open young eyes to the diversity in the world.
  • In addition to or instead of buying books, donate to nonprofits such as First Book — which is working to give 1 million families in need the gift of books this holiday season.


  • Add learning to playtime with Shore Buddies — toys made from recycled plastic bottles;
  • “Draw a new future for the planet” with Carbon Crayons, made from captured carbon;
  • And Blimey Box is a new escape game kit perfect for kiddos (aged 5-9) who have been trapped at home! Children solve math and reading puzzles, find secret codes, and unlock a surprise or reward (i.e. watch a favorite TV show). Each task builds on previous skills, so your child's knowledge grows with each new game.


  • Donate a gently used (or a new, sustainable) laptop to students in need in your area — organizations such as Computers with Causes take individual donations throughout the US; and here are some resources for business donations.

While the kids are busy, imbibe sustainably

Image credit: Misadventure Vodka

There are a host of environmentally friendly, waste- and resource-saving spirits to help celebrate the season (or, hell — the whole year)! Here are some of our recent and returning discoveries:

Imbibe sustainably and retain your composure

  • Seedlip’s sustainably produced, non-alcoholic spirits not only make flavorful, sophisticated mocktails; the company’s new Mycelium Gift Set (available in the UK) comes in fully biodegradable, compostable and recyclable mycelium packaging. And, with every purchase of the best-selling Trio Bundle, Seedlip USA is adding a $10 donation to the consumer’s charity of choice (choice of three) at checkout.
  • Charlotte’s Web is offering a range of gift sets for the holidays that offer “inner peace in a box” — choose curated caches of CBD goodies for Calm, Sleep, Recovery, Couples and more.

Upcycled gifts

Here are a few ways to help mitigate all the extra plastic, food and other waste we made this year (and see any of our previous gift guides [below] for plenty more upcycled gift ideas!):

  • Nosh to your heart’s content with these goodies that help eliminate food waste:

    • TBJ Gourmet turns bacon ends and pieces, often discarded during processing, into a scrumptious line of bacon jams
    • Regrained turns spent brewery grains into high-fiber and -protein bars and puffed snacks
    • Outcast Foods makes plant-based nutritional supplements from surplus and imperfect produce.
  • European apparel brand UKAI’s new line of ocean plastic socks help support the Plastic Bank’s work to build ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities around the world.

Always-good gift ideas

Image credit: Eighth Generation

For gifters with a cause, here are a few that help those in need, empower communities of color, and/or help fight climate change …

  • Reusable water bottles from Fill It Forward and Cupanion help curb single-use plastic waste while helping to provide clean drinking water to those in need around the world.
  • Ten Thousand Villages partners with over 20,000 artisans across the globe to provide them with safe and equitable working conditions and fair wages.
  • Tentree, a marketplace for sustainable outdoor apparel, partners with charitable organizations across the world to plant trees and rehabilitate natural ecosystems.
  • Buy from small businesses in your own community!
  • Support BIPOC-owned businesses! Perusing marketplaces including Buy from a Black Woman, Buy Native and GOODEE is a good place to start.

Other tips for gifting

  • Whatever you shop for, make sure the items are made to last — for clothes, shop secondhand marketplaces such as thredUP; or support clothing brands that repair and resell garments — such as Barbour, Eileen Fisher, Levi Strauss and The North Face, to name a few; or peruse the curated collection of apparel and home goods at Buy Me Once, already vetted for longevity.
  • Gift a membership to Thrive Market – the largest B Corp-certified retailer, with products that are certified regenerative, fair-trade, non-GMO and biodynamic; often at lower prices than that other online retail giant.
  • Make your own gifts! That personal touch will be cherished, this year more than ever before.

For even more ideas, check out the newly launched site, Good Carbon Gifts; and see some of our previous gift guides …

The SB team wishes you all a happy, healthy holiday and new year!

Main article image credits — L-R from top left: Rosaluna Mezcal, House Dogge, No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook, Carbon Crayons, Charlotte's Web, Sheep Inc, Third Mind, Henry Rose, Model No, UKAI, Anti-Racist Baby, Kent