As always, the goal of our gift guide is to encourage a more conscious approach to gift-giving by highlighting products, services and experiences that create value and benefits beyond short-term gratification for the recipient. Here’s this year’s list of some of the many companies, platforms and products that we’d be happy to support anytime.
It’s that time of year again! The season of giving, gratitude, celebration and general merriment (and, depending on where you are in the world, hopefully at least a smidge closer to ‘normal’ than our past two holiday seasons).
As always, the goal of our annual gift guide is to encourage a more conscious approach to gift-giving by highlighting products, services and experiences that create value and benefits beyond short-term gratification for the recipient — and, in the best cases, reduce waste and create other positive impacts for producers, communities and/or the environment.
So, here’s this year’s list of some of the many companies, platforms and products aligned with a more intentional approach to production and consumption, that we’d be happy to support anytime.
More conscientious consumption (in the most literal sense)
Image credit: Vine to Bar
B Corps Nurturing True Local Change and Amplifying Brand Purpose
Hear more from Tom's of Maine and Bonterra Organic Estates on their companies' approaches to driving localized social impact, beginning at the grassroots level — Wednesday, Oct. 18, at at SB'23 San Diego.
Organika vodka — an organic Siberian vodka that has partnered with WWF on a mission to save rare species of animals including Siberian tigers and snow leopards.
California-based Gray Whale Gin is distilled with botanicals foraged along the migratory path of — you guessed it — the California Gray Whale, and is dedicated to preservation of the species and marine ecosystems. With every purchase, Gray Whale Gin supports ocean conservation through a partnership with Oceana; and the company is also working with SeaTrees by Sustainable Surf to protect the whale habitat by planting mangrove forests in Laguna San Ignacio, Baja — the world’s last undeveloped California gray whale breeding lagoon.
Bizzarro Aperitivo is a Carbon Neutral Certified canned cocktail line from sustainable Australian brand Delinquente Wine Co. — known for its small batch, minimal intervention wines and new-to-the-US Bizzarro Aperitivo Spritz & Mischief Brew Tonic canned cocktails.
UK-based Toast Ale — which says it has upcycled nearly 3M slices of surplus bread since its launch in 2016, thanks to partnerships with a number of small UK bakeries and sandwich manufacturers — has recently signed on as a circularity advisor to Heineken.
Another good way to toast is with wine from wineries practicing regenerative viticulture: Check out varietals from Oregon’s Hope Well Wine; and from California, Mendocino’s Bonterra Organic Estates; Healdsburg’s Ridge Vineyards; and Paso Robles’ Robert Hall Winery, to name a few.
And you can’t go wrong with sustainable spirits from distilleries such as Rhum J.M, Sipsmith and Tattersall; Maker’s Mark — the world’s largest B Corp-certified distillery; or Mijenta — the first B Corp-certified tequila.
There’s also plenty of goodness to choose from on the non-alcoholic front:
Image credit: Mocktail Club
Mocktail Club has concocted a line of organic, non-alcoholic cocktails that reflect the influence of its international team of BIPOC women with infusions of herbs and spices such as cardamom, chili peppers and lemongrass — many with added benefits such as prebiotics and antioxidants.
Monin flavored syrups — In 2008, Monin’s intensive quality-control process sparked a unique idea to provide apiaries with its recycled syrup — since then, its Syrup-to-Bees initiative has been a boon for US bee farmers working to keep their bees fed during shortages of nectar-producing flowers. The company says it donated over 140,000 gallons this year alone.
Atomo beanless coffee (10% discount code: BUYUP) — made using upcycled dates, seeds and a blend of other ingredients (including grape, chicory, and tea-derived caffeine), Atomo is roasted and brewed just like conventional coffee. But it’s the most sustainable “coffee” out there — producing 93 percent less carbon emissions and using 94 percent less water to make — offering a much less resource-intensive option for coffee lovers (similar to what WNWN Labs, which we can hopefully add to next year’s gift guide) is doing for chocolate.
Image credit: Capao
WellVine’s Vine to Bar upcycled superfood chocolates, fortified with Chardonnay Marc — an alcohol-free byproduct of wine-making that contains high levels of flavonoids, antioxidants and oligosaccharides, all of which feed and promote healthy bacteria in the gut.
Speaking of upcycled superfoods, CaPao’s Cacaofruit Bites — take the cacaofruit (the naturally sweet and ultra-nutritious pulp that surrounds cacao beans — pretty much the only part of the pod that’s used for chocolate-making), mostly discarded in the cacao-harvesting process; and combine it with nuts, seeds and other fruits to create its snack bites. Another startup, Supplant, is aiming to tackle both the biodiversity and obesity crises by upcycling agricultural side-streams into its signature ingredient, “Sugars from Fiber” — which become delicious, nutrient-rich chocolate bars and help mitigate the impacts of some of the world’s most environmentally destructive crops (20% discount code: BUYUP).
Culinarily considerate cookbooks
Image credit: Kitchen Connection Alliance
Speaking of better eating, cookbooks such as Decolonize Your Diet and the just-released The Cookbook in Support of the United Nations: For People and Planet will help home cooks learn more about the history and impact of certain ingredients and cuisines and take a more mindful approach to meals.
Image credit: Aether Diamonds
For jewelry, forget mined diamonds, mired in social and environmental damage — the next phase of luxury is in lab-grown diamonds (even Pandora has switched); and even better — diamonds made from captured carbon emissions: Check out Aether Diamonds and Skydiamond — carbon-captured gems made with renewable energy and captured rainwater.
For ethically made, luxuriously soft clothing and accessories, check out FTC Cashmere (and see below for their circular offerings). And for fickle (or just financially prudent) fashionistas, gift a subscription to a luxury-fashion rental service such as Fashion to Figure Closet, Rent the Runway, Style Lend or Tulerie.
Environmentally friendly and extended-life electronics
Image credit: House of Marley
- For loved ones just dying for a new laptop or smart device, opt for certified refurbished ones from Back Market. The site is chock-full of refurbished Samsung products; as well as Apple-refurbished phones, MacBooks, tablets, Apple Watches, Air Pods and more (at about half the price of new) that come complete with an AppleCare warranty. The UK’s Circular Computing has just as impressive a selection of certified Carbon Neutral Plus remanufactured HP, Dell and Lenovo laptops. Either way, your gift will be a win-win — delighting the recipient while helping to mitigate e-waste!
- Another way to avoid e-waste — and the rigmarole of upgrading devices — is to go modular: On the phone front, check out Fairphone; for laptops, look to Framework.
- Created in collaboration with the Marley family to carry on Bob Marley’s legacy of love for music and planet, House of Marley audio equipment is built on the principles of superior quality, sustainability and a commitment to charitable causes — such as directing proceeds to support global reforestation through Project Marley. The company's headphones, speakers, turntables and accessories promise high-performance sound made from materials including bamboo, FSC-certified wood; and recycled aluminum, plastic and fabrics.
Image credit: Century Baby
Speaking of rental services, more and more are emerging for kids' stuff — and gift subscriptions make great gifts for busy parents looking for sustainably made clothes for their constantly growing kiddos. Check out GroKinder, Manymoons (formerly Borobabi) or UpChoose, to name a few.
Century Baby — launched in 1961 with the first baby carrier on the market, Century rebranded and relaunched in 2021 with a focus on safer, more affordable and sustainable baby gear including strollers, carriers and cribs.
GoodBuy Gear — a service that helps parents sell their used baby and kid items — has partnered with baby gear giant buybuy BABY to help extend the life of used gear. To encourage families to declutter and start fresh without tossing used gear in the trash, the companies are offering parents a buybuy BABY gift card (for up to $534) for trading in gently used items.
Better baby food from Once Upon a Farm — the company, co-founded by actress Jennifer Garner, is on a mission to drive constant improvement in childhood nutrition with clean-label, pesticide- and preservative-free, organic meals. The company worked for years to ensure its products meet the federal eligibility requirements for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC™) program, to ensure lower-income families can also have access to their organic snacks and meals.
Cozy, circular clothing and accessories
Image credit: FTC Cashmere
UpKnit items from FTC Cashmere — Even with an exact calculation of the required yarn quantities, small amounts remain on the bobbins after the knitting process of a piece. FTC has developed a technique to seamlessly connect the threads of the residual yarns, so they can be used to create unique hats, sweaters and other garments.
Comfy, circular basics from Pangaia’s Re-Color capsule collection — which features the brand’s signature 365 sweatshirts and sweatpants dyed with Recycrom™, a technology that transforms Pangaia textile waste into colored powder dyestuﬀs.
Wildling’s Lotus slippers — the European regenerative shoe brand is open about the fact that its first-ever house shoe is not a circular product … yet. But Lotus is designed for longevity, as well as for its reentry into the product cycle in the future. Designing it with only three main components — wool, thread and sole — makes it possible to separate them by type later – critical for achieving its eventual goal of complete recyclability.
Whatever you shop for, keep an eye out for items that are made to last — for clothes, support the growing number of clothing brands that repair, recycle and resell garments and accessories — such as Amour Vert, Barbour, Eileen Fisher, H&M, Levi Strauss, Madewell, New Balance, The North Face, Patagonia, Rapanui and tonlé to name a few (and for bags and luggage, you can’t go wrong with Timbuk2 and Freitag).
eBay UK’s Imperfects marketplace features clothing, shoes and accessories from over 100 high-street and high-end designers available for up to 60 percent off, due to minor defects. Secondhand apparel marketplaces such as thredUP, Poshmark, Swap Society or Vestiaire Collective are also always a good bet. For curated collections of better apparel, home and other goods — vetted for various sustainability certifications and criteria, including longevity and plastic-freeness — Karma Wallet, Buy Verde, Dzukou and Buy Me Once.
Updating your space
Image credit: Model No
For those looking to give their office or living space a circular/sustainable refresh …
Oakland-based Model No 3D-prints stunning furniture, lighting and accessories from sustainable and waste materials. For its latest, circular collection, it has collaborated with emerging designers from PROWL Studio, fine artist Mike Han, and motion designer Natalie Liu on one-of-a-kind objects made from a salvaged ash tree and sawdust recaptured during milling and fabrication.
85 percent plant-based (from sugarcane), C2C-certified, non-toxic wall coverings/indoor/outdoor Xorel fabrics from sustainable, “forever PVC-free” fabrics brand Carnegie. In addition to containing 85 percent biobased PE content, Outdoor Biobased Xorel is breathable, non-absorbent, fast-drying and weather-proof. It is inherently wear and stain-resistant, colorfast and antibacterial with no added finishes, coatings or chemicals; and can be wiped, hosed, scrubbed and even aggressively cleaned with bleach without degrading in quality.
Also, check out area rugs, hammocks and other home textiles from re:loom — a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in Decatur, Georgia and a program of the Initiative for Affordable Housing — employs and empowers unhoused, refugee and low-income individuals who weave an array of products out of recycled materials. The organization provides paid on-site job training for weavers, who earn a stable salary, 100 percent healthcare coverage, and opportunities to engage in the organization’s operations.
For the readers
Image credit: Min An
Speaking of reading, here are just a few of a growing selection of books that entertain and educate young readers on the importance of the natural world and our place in it.
Available in six languages, The Forest Girls series tells the story of girls from around the world and the trees that they befriend, climb, and plant.
Jaimal Yogis’ Mop Rides series, which tells the story of avid surfer kid Mop — Mop Rides the Waves of Life, which teaches kids about tolerance and mindfulness; and in the newest installment, Mop Rides the Waves of Change — Mop discovers plastic pollution in his beloved ocean and rallies his friends to help fight it. All proceeds go to Sustainable Surf’s SeaTrees initiative, to help protect and restore coastal ecosystems.
For engaging slightly older readers, the middle-grade fantasy adventure The Tiltersmith by Amy Herrick (author of The Time Fetch), sees climate chaos collide with myths and monsters.
For book-buying in general, aim to source new and used books from local stores or sites such as Bookshop.org — which pulls inventory from local bookshops around the US. Or buy from or donate to organizations such as Better World Books — which matches every purchase with a book donation to someone in need and funds literacy initiatives worldwide; or First Book — this year marks its fourth annual holiday drive to donate a million new, high-quality books to children in low-income communities.
Bar-raising beauty and wellness
Image credit: Deon Libra
On the fragrance front, Calvin Klein’s CK Everyone Eau de Parfum is Cradle to Cradle Certified® Gold in all five critical areas of sustainability measured — material health, circularity, clean air & climate protection, water & soil stewardship, and social fairness — the first fragrance on the market to have achieved this distinction. Also check out the fragrances, candles and personal care products from Henry Rose — which are not only C2C Certified safe and nontoxic, but the brand has partnered with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners to give a portion of proceeds to research and advocacy around toxic chemicals in personal care.
On the paying-it-forward front, GLO Science, maker of a range of innovative oral care/whitening products — which touts itself as the only whitening brand that uses gentle heat and light technology with zero sensitivity or pain — also runs the GLO Good Foundation, in partnership with Lenny Kravitz's Let Love Rule Foundation, to provide free dental care to those in need.
Waste-free personal care
- SWAIR Showerless Shampoo isn’t another dry shampoo — it’s an aerosol-free spray that cleans hair without using water. SWAIR says its formula allows users to wash hair at least two times less per week, conserving roughly six gallons of water a week and 312 gallons per year. Unlike dry shampoos, SWAIR Showerless Shampoo cleans hair without adding unwanted residue; and all SWAIR products are vegan and cruelty-, alcohol-, paraben-, gluten-, sulfate-, phthalate- and formaldehyde-free, with no artificial dyes.
- Bite is another startup that has rebooted a tired industry (beginning with oral care) with new product formats that eliminate both product and packaging waste. Its toothpaste bits, mouthwash bits and whitening gel — and now body products, including deodorant and a soap made from carbon-capturing sea kelp — help users stay so fresh and so clean-clean without the waste.
- Grove Collaborative’s Peach (and Peach Kids) is a plastic-free line of head-to-toe body and hair care bars made with clean, safe ingredients.
- The Make My Shave subscription service features a razor with a reusable handle, longer-lasting and recyclable blades (with free recycling), and compostable packaging — plus, the Australia-based startup plants a tree with every purchase.
Wellness for every body
- Deon Libra — a newly launched, Black-owned and -run adaptogenic beauty/wellness/stress care brand — is formulated to support the body’s natural ability to handle stress and activate lasting healthy skin. Its initial product line includes Unbothered — an ingestible, adaptogenic powder, and Big Up — an adaptogenic, full-body oil serum. Together, the products empower folks to feel confident in regulating stress on their terms — and look damn good doing it.
- The team behind new over-the-counter supplement brand Betr Remedies — which includes TV doc Ellen Pompeo — says they founded the company with a mission to put all our sneezes, sniffles, sleepless nights, headaches and toots to good use: 1-in-4 people can't afford medication they need; yet $10B worth of medication is destroyed or sent to landfills each year before getting into the hands of those who need them. So, for every cold, headache, sleep and digestive remedy it sells, Betr Remedies covers the cost of one month of prescription medications for someone in need.
Image credit: Intrepid Travel
But at the end of the day, do any of us really need more stuff? More and more people are gravitating toward gifts of experience — where recipients can have an educational adventure or just get away from it all:
- Consider a gift voucher for any of Intrepid Travel's many sustainable tour offerings — including over 40 low-carbon travel packages and the 22 new 'impact initiatives' the company unveiled this year, aimed at enriching destination communities and travelers alike.
- Help friends and family become citizen scientists on expeditions with organizations such as Polar Latitudes, Taxon Expeditions or Vermilion Sea Institute.
- Or choose a gift box of adventure from Tinggly — from which recipients can choose one travel experience in a destination of their choice. Plus, Tinggly says it offsets carbon emissions and removes 11 lbs of plastic from the planet’s rivers, lakes and oceans for every gift experience purchased.
And for less intrepid loved ones still not quite ready to return to travel, local experiences such as wine tastings; walking tours; scavenger hunts (Let’s Roam offers indoor and outdoor options); or arts, crafts, language, fitness, music and cooking classes — either online or in-person — are just a few gift ideas that can help enrich recipients’ lives without adding more ‘stuff.’ Airbnb, Masterclass and Uncommon Goods all have a great selection of classes to choose from.
Image credit: Hallmark
Once you’ve put extra consideration into buying ethical gifts, it doesn’t make sense to then wrap them in materials that will further clog landfills — most conventional wrapping paper not only isn’t recyclable or biodegradable, the glittery stuff can end up polluting waterways and poisoning marine life. Don’t add to the millions of tons of additional paper waste generated during the holiday season — thankfully, Hallmark has a lovely selection of recyclable gift wrap.
Or get a little creative with alternative materials (newspaper, magazines, maps, inside-out chip bags) and reusable materials such as furoshiki wraps, based on the Japanese tradition of wrapping items in a single cloth — Wrapp’r and Etsy have a ton of beautiful options.
For even more better-gift ideas, check out our previous gift guides:
Happy holidays from the SB team!
Main article image credits, clockwise from top left: Make My Shave; GLO Science; Gray Whale Gin; Wildling; Atomo; Hallmark; Skydiamond; Framework; Pangaia; Leashless Lab; Swair; GoodSam; Mop Rides the Waves of Change.