Product, Service & Design Innovation
More Gifts That Keep on Giving:
Sustainable Brands' 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Sustainable products geeks rejoice, for 'tis once again the season of giving! And what better way to celebrate and participate than with gifts whose buying and giving creates more cheer, health, beauty and financial stability while eliminating waste, pollution and carbon emissions around the world? Here are just a few of our favorite discoveries this year of products we'd be proud to give.

Waste Not

You know we’re big fans of upcycling, here at SB! Here are just a few of the waste-turned-products we loved this year:

Better fashion

Our news feed continued to burst at the seams this year with news of initiatives working to increase the sustainability of the fashion and textile industries. Here are some of our favorites:

Better toys

While we’re big believers in the importance of playtime (for both kids and adults), we love games that get kids away from screens and using their brains:

  • Primo Toys’ Cubetto is an adorable wooden robot that teaches kids ages 3 and up the principles of coding, before many of them are even old enough to read; kids can send Cubetto on a jouney by creating a program using colored blocks, which Cubetto then executes – a fun, easy, engaging way to learn a valuable skill.

Buy one, give one

While not all one-to-one business models are created equal, we love the ethos behind these:

  • One World Play Project Speaking of the power of playtime, winner of the 2011 SB Innovation Open, the One World Play Project (formerly One World Futbol) created a virtually indestructible, non-inflated soccer ball, which far outlasts conventional balls and stands up to harsh conditions, allowing kids around the world to continue engaging in the transformative power of play; For every ball purchased, the company donates a second ball to organizations working with youth in disadvantaged communities around the world. Now, One World also produces a line of virtually indestructible, non-toxic dog toys that can stand up to the most “aggressive chewers” — and donates a portion of the proceeds to charities that pair dogs with people for therapeutic purposes and strengthen those relationships through play.
  • Better World Books founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. Through sales of new and used books through its online store and its retail store in Goshen, Indiana, Better World matches every Web purchase with a book donation to someone in need; and funds literacy initiatives worldwide through its three literacy partners — Books for Africa, Room to Read, and the National Center for Families Learning.
  • Planetarians this startup was founded by a food developer named Aleh Manchuliantsau, who found a way to utilize waste from the food manufacturing process (a byproduct called oil cake — the dry matter left after oil extraction from crops such as sunflower seeds, cotton seeds, canola, etc — which is higher in protein than beef, but is essentially insoluble fiber that cannot be chewed or digested) by breaking down the fiber through “steam explosion.” The result is a line of low-cost, 100 percent plant-based, high-protein and -fiber snacks – that actually taste good – aimed at fighting childhood obesity. The company’s goal for 2018 is to make its products available in schools, retail and online; by 2019, to find ingredients with useful nutrients in other food industry byproducts and create more snacks; and by 2025, license its steam explosion technology to other manufacturers for maximum impact. In the meantime, though the snacks are not yet widely available, for every pre-order Planetarians will match 75 percent and donate its snacks to kids in underserved communities.
  • Soapbox Soaps this startup created a line of soaps, shampoos and personal care products from vegan and nontoxic ingredients; it extends its impacts to the developing world through partnerships with organizations such as Eco-Soap Bank, which donates soap and provides hand-washing training for communities in Cambodia; and The Carter Center and UCSF’s F.I. Proctor Foundation, which are researching how water sanitation and hygiene education will help reduce trachoma - the world’s leading infectious eye disease that can lead to blindness, most commonly in children under 10, and is impacting lives in more than 50 countries.

True beauty

Speaking of personal care products that also take care of others …

  • After spending years learning about the shortcomings of conventional hair and skin care products in the modeling and acting worlds, Josie Maran discovered the wonders of Moroccan Argan oil, and set about sharing its benefits with women around the world. She built what is now her cosmetics empire around Argan Oil, grown and harvested responsibly by Moroccan women, while partnering with “earth-loving, women-empowering organizations to help share the #ArganLove.”
  • Not to be outdone by the little guys, CPG giant Unilever developed two new ethical beauty brands in the last year, both launched in the last month – ApotheCARE Essentials, released in November; and Love Beauty and Planet, released earlier this week. Both brands aim to make personal care products made from simple, sustainably sourced ingredients available to a wider audience.
  • Also tuning into the desires of the ever-growing contingent of conscientious consumers seeking better products is L’Oréal, whose reformulated Biolage R.A.W. Nourish Shampoo and Conditioner are now Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver – 99 percent biodegradable and free of sulfates, silicones and parabens, and packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic bottles.

Purpose beyond profit

  • LiveBeyond – a faith-based nonprofit working to improve conditions in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti. Each year, LiveBeyond determines the greatest needs among the people it serves and invites Americans whose needs are met to gift something desperately needed on behalf of their loved ones. This year's Christmas catalog features a unique set of gifts – including everything from school supplies and maternal healthcare to chickens and hygiene kits – that will provide great benefits to those in need in Haiti.
  • A party game that promotes more mindful interactions – The makers of Vertellis say their mission is to bring people together at a time when we are inundated by distractions from technology, social media, fake news and ambition. The team hopes to make a positive impact in the world by facilitating beautiful conversations and stimulating time offline – now, that’s a worthy cause if we ever heard one.

Let us know your favorite gifts that keep on giving! Happy holidays from the SB team!

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