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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Gifts That Keep on Giving:
SB’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

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.

It’s that time of year again — the holiday season. While for many, this time will be far from peaceful; for the fortunate rest of us, it represents a time to decompress and be thankful for our blessings and continued resilience — and to doing our part to support the wellbeing and resilience of others.

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 opportunity or 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.

How and where to buy

Image credit: Buy Me Once

We know the convenience of one-stop shopping is undeniable, but more thoughtful purchasing habits benefit local communities; so first, do what you can to shop locally. Once you’ve exhausted those options, check out purpose-driven online platforms such as Buy Native, Goodee, Made Trade (get 60% off sale items, plus 15% off your entire order with code GREENHOLIDAY) and The Verticale — which supports BIPOC- and women-owned businesses; Fair Trade-certified labor practices; circular, inclusive, waste-saving, vegan and other categories of ethically made apparel, personal care and home goods.

If big-box stores are more accessible for you, Target is an almost one-stop shop that is taking impressive measures to rein in its carbon footprint, and support Black-owned businesses and sustainable and waste-reducing products; IKEA has tons of lovely housewares and gift ideas, many of them recycled or otherwise sustainably made; and Etsy and Uncommon Goods feature millions of unique, often-handmade products. And when all else fails, Amazon is also working to promote 'Climate Pledge Friendly' products and eliminate its shipping footprint.

Whatever you shop for, make sure the items are made to last: For clothes, support the growing number of apparel brands that repair, recycle and resell garments and accessories — think Levi Strauss, The North Face and Timberland, to name but a few; and for bags and luggage, you can’t go wrong with Timbuk2. You can find great brands on secondhand apparel marketplaces including thredUP, Poshmark or Vestiaire Collective for a smidgen of the price; or peruse the curated collection of apparel and home goods at Buy Me Once, already vetted for longevity.

Personal care that cares for many

Image credit: Good Light

  • Dignity Coconuts is on a mission is to end abject poverty for smallholder Filipino farmers through a community-centric model for producing coconuts — ensuring both a sustainable supply of coconut for their products and better livelihoods for farmers and workers. The company’s coconut oil-based cooking and personal-care products support this mission.

  • Vida Bars are sustainable, clean, zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars with no plastic packaging — made specifically for curly hair. Founder Ana Núñez wants to encourage curly-haired beauties everywhere to embrace and celebrate their natural hair.

  • Disposable eye masks can create a lot of unnecessary waste, but Dieux Skin’s reusable Forever Eye Masks allow you to treat yourself daily without accumulating waste — and they’re compatible with pretty much any serum. After use, just wash them off and reuse when ready.

  • Clean, gender-inclusive, vegan and cruelty-free, beauty brand Good Light donates 1 percent of profits to True Colors United — an organization that implements innovative solutions to youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of LGBTQIA+ community.

  • Shea Yeleen’s handcrafted shea butter products nourish more than just your skin — each purchase directly contributes to the financial empowerment of women and the education of over 250 children in Ghana. Currently, the business model is supporting the education of 268+ children. Founder Rahama Wright built her supply chain around women-owned shea collectives in Ghana and pays five times the local minimum wage. The Yeleen Beauty Makerspace — the first commercial, shared makerspace designed to support women and founders of color in the beauty industry – opens in Washington, DC later this year.

  • Canada-based conscious lifestyle brand Sitti is committed to the self-reliance of refugee and displaced communities through skill-development training and long-term employment opportunities — its line of olive-oil-based bath and body products and growing line of kitchen accessories are made by Palestinian refugees at the Jerash Camp in Jordan.

  • Skincare brand Sundree donates 3 percent of all sales to the Mental Health Coalition — which supports organizations including Trevor Project, The JED Foundation and The Loveland Foundation.

  • Thistle Farms is a Nashville-based social enterprise on a mission to offer healing and hope for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction by ensuring access to safe housing, financial independence and a lifelong community of support. Proceeds from the sale of their candles, essential oils, accessories and all types of gifts provide jobs for survivors and help further the organization’s mission.

Clothing & accessories that serve more than style

Image credit: Pangaia

These garments and accessories do one better by eliminating waste, boosting wellbeing and creating opportunities:

  • Smartwool’s Second Cut™ Hike Sock is made in the US from a 50-50 blend of consumers’ old socks and responsibly sourced Merino wool.

  • Hot sleepers, rejoice! Swiss-Swedish brand Dagsmejan’s “technical sleepwear” is scientifically proven to produce high-quality sleep — thanks to its sustainably made, trademarked fabrics that feature ultra-soft natural fibers such as Tencel, Merino, and eucalyptus; strategically placed vents in the fabrics that regulate body temperature; antibacterial properties that cut down on washes needed; and seamless, tag-less design.

  • Life Cocoon’s aromatherapeutic Bliss Hoodie is the first CBD & eucalyptus oil-infused, heavyweight cotton hoodie designed to make you feel as if you are relaxing in a spa despite whatever chaos may be surrounding you. Available for pre-order.

  • Upcycled activewear — LA-based Reformer makes seamless, luxury workout wear from recycled yarns at its own LA factory; while Italy’s Nuttch turns industrial nylon scraps into luxurious activewear and underwear, and is transparent about its entire process and impacts.

  • For World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) this year, materials-science company Pangaia partnered with meditation app Headspace on a collection of comfy tees and sweats that offer reminders of mindfulness and positivity, and come with a 1-month subscription to the app w/every purchase.

  • Sustainable outdoor apparel brand Voited designs each item to be used in multiple ways, so you can have less stuff — from 4-in-1 blankets to the new Slumber Jacket that converts to a sleeping bag to pet blankets with an integrated bowl (Get 20% off site-wide with code: SEASON20).

  • Detroit-based Rebel Nell is on a mission to “liberate art from rubble and women from the confines.” The nonprofit creates distinctive jewelry and accessories made from repurposed graffiti and materials; and provides employment, equitable opportunity, and wraparound support for women with barriers to employment.

  • Kind Cotton is on a mission to put 1M inclusive books into the hands of kids. Each ethically produced tee, sweatshirt, bag and more spreads a message of positivity and inclusion, and provides a book to a child.

Extra nourishment

Image credit: Rasa

  • Want more from your beverages? “Superfunctional,” adaptogen-packed, fair trade or direct trade herbal coffee alternatives and drink blends from Rasa provide sustained, nourishing energy and better sleep, among other benefits; Peak Cocktails’ fizzy, fruity concoctions are packed with adaptogens, nootropics and superfoods that recharge mind and body after a busy day or tough workout; and RDCL’s rich, creamy and nutritious Super Cocoa is loaded with 2 types of cacao — plus organic veggies, fruits, ancient grains & seeds, and 6 grams of organic pea protein per serving. And we can drink even more responsibly with Distillery 98’s Half Shell Vodka — made in Florida from locally sourced corn, the company works with farmers to raise oyster beds in their natural habitats along the Panhandle’s fragile marine ecosystems; and it’s the first spirit in the US to come in a 94 percent recyclable paperboard bottle.

  • For yummy treats that boost more than your blood-sugar levels, check out Ugly Co’s upcycled fruit snacks — which give imperfect fruit new life; GoodSam Foodschocolate, nuts and coffee are supporting direct-trade relationships with indigenous farmers and scaling regenerative agriculture in Colombia; and Greyston Bakery’s mouth-watering line of brownies are made by dedicated New York bakers who have overcome barriers to employment (Use code SHIP4FREE through 12/31).

  • And the conscientious bakers in your life might enjoy more climate-conscious baking mixes including King Arthur Baking Co’s Regeneratively Grown Climate Blend flour and Doughp Brownie Beast, powered by ReGrained’s upcycled, highly nutritious SuperGrain+ spent grain blend.

Kids’ stuff

Image credit: Gel Blaster

  • Twin sisters Lindsay and Alexandra Lorusso have parlayed their years of experience at Canadian waste-management provider Wasteco into new circular kids’ clothing brand Nudnik — which upcycles pre-consumer organic cotton textile waste into premium, genderless kidswear (Get 20% off all upcycled clothing with code: HOLIDAYS).

  • Brooklyn-based sustainable children’s lifestyle brand Oeuf is another family-run studio that designs ethically produced apparel and homegoods that are made to be loved hard and handed down.

  • The “first climate-conscious game marketplace,” PlanetPlay was created to help the gaming industry and its 3.1B-strong playing community easily and accessibly contribute to climate action. The digital platform allows everyone around the world to contribute to climate action through in-game purchases and gameplay with affiliated game studios.

  • German toymaker Schleich, which already makes long-lasting nature figurines and play worlds, is working to make all its toys and packaging recyclable by the end of 2027.

  • Bella Luna Toys is a marketplace for sustainably made toys and games that support the Waldorf approach to developmentally appropriate, experiential and academically rigorous education. Along with a wide range of toys, Bella Luna offers games that open young minds to sustainability themes — such as Planet, where players become ‘super beings’ who compete to create worlds filled with ideal conditions for wildlife to flourish.

  • Family-owned and -operated Luke’s Toy Factory makes sustainable toys with interchangeable parts – think, a 3D puzzle that becomes a truck — great for helping little ones hone their problem-solving, fine motor, and creative play skills. Plus, it’s replaced 30 percent of the plastic in its toys with organic materials including Maple sawdust, walnut shells, flax fibers and more.

  • Another family-run company, Gel Blaster is focused on getting teens, adults and families back in touch with play in order to live more active and connected lives. Its rechargeable blasters fire non-toxic, biodegradable “gellets” that disintegrate on contact (think paint ball with no stain, no mess, and no cleanup); and a portion of every sale goes to removing ocean-bound plastic & planting trees around the world.

Other cool stuff

Image credit: Jones Snowboards

Well, dang — everything in this category makes us want to make like REI and #OptOutside!

  • Philippines-based Fortuna Cools is on a mission to replace plastic foam with natural fibers. First step: the Nutshell Cooler, insulated with coconut husks — “the original cooler” that evolved to protect fresh coconut meat from the hot, tropical sun and is largely burned as a waste product of the coconut oil industry.

  • National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife (GFW) initiative is on a mission to enlist home gardeners across the US in helping to reverse biodiversity loss by purposefully planting native, pollinator-friendly plant varieties. Their curated collections of native, pollinator-attracting plants are available to help save butterflies, bees, birds and more in 38 Midwest and Eastern states, with free shipping; in the meantime, Western gardeners can curate pollinator-friendly plant collections of their own with GFW’s native plant finder.

  • Laguna Beach Textile Co’s versatile, colorful, indoor/outdoor 100 percent recycled-yarn blankets are handwoven by a small family of artisans in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

  • Yellow Leaf Hammocks not only makes the world’s most comfortable hammocks — the company is working to help its weavers in Thailand break the cycle of poverty through training and sustainable job creation.

  • Personal audio equipment brand Skullcandy — “born on a chairlift in the mountains of Park City, Utah” — is “on a mission to help others who believe music heals and want to make the outdoors a better place.” Through its RePlay program, the company upcycles headphones and earbuds returned by retailers and customers into refurbished products — such as its Jib True 2 Wireless Earbuds — and recycles those that can’t be upcycled; and partners with local nonprofits working to address mental health, climate change and entrepreneurship.

  • Speaking of chairlifts, another cool company inspired to help preserve the slopes and the climate by cutting waste is Jones Snowboards — whose Re-Up Tech is now upcycling old snowboards into new. Check out the newly redesigned Hovercraft 2.0 Snowboard.

Properly pampered pets

Image credit: Molly Mutt

We should use the same criteria for buying for our pets as for each other! Here are just a few companies with thoughtful approaches to their products and business:

  • Finley’s Barkery makes pet treats from simple, whole ingredients. Their goal is to create paid employment opportunities for people with disabilities while dedicating 50 percent of net profits to initiatives providing employment training, accessibility, health & wellness and advocacy platforms for people with disabilities.

  • Dog for Dog also makes wholesome foods and treats, including its famous “Dogsbutter”; every purchase donates meals to shelter dogs in need.

  • Hoadin (Help Out a Dog in Need) founder Nancy Dietlin is dedicated to producing dog gear made from eco- and animal-friendly materials and fulfilling a mission to support our planet and dog rescue/adoption. With every purchase, Hoadin donates to a nonprofit partner supporting dogs in need.

  • Upcycled dog treats from Calvin’s Craft and dog and cat treats from Shameless Pets give pets nutrition that would otherwise go to landfill; while Chippin’s food and treats are made from just-as-nutritious but less resource-intensive protein sources including carp and cricket protein.

  • Molly Mutt’s Stuff-It-Yourself dog and cat duvet covers allow you to stuff your pet bed with old clothes, towels, linens or other materials you have lying around vs the nylon/polyester fillings in most pet beds – saving both your clothing (and that eventually-lumpy filling) from going to landfill.

  • West Paw’s hyper-durable collection of dog toys made from Seaflex™ — a safe, dishwasher-friendly, 100% recyclable material made from 88% zero-waste Zogoflex, 12% reclaimed ocean-bound plastic, and 0% bad stuff (no latex, phthalates or BPA) — come in a range of designs for different sizes and chewers.

Books

Image credit: Annie Spratt

For book-buying in general, we always recommend buying 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 fifth annual holiday drive to donate a million new, high-quality books to children in low-income communities.

The gift of experience

Image credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh

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:

  • Gift travel with more conscientious tour operators working to combat overtourism and benefit communities on the ground: Intrepid Travel specializes in small-group tours that prioritize lower-carbon, human-powered travel” over flying; and directly support environmental or wildlife conservation, preserve Indigenous culture or support marginalized social groups. And G Adventures has a similar commitment to ensuring destination communities benefit from tourism — including developing a Ripple Score that lets travelers see how much of their trip fee was spent locally, and a robust reforestation initiative in destinations most affected by climate change.

  • For entirely different perspectives on their UK cities, Invisible Cities and Unseen Tours are two tour operators who support vulnerably housed individuals to develop, curate and lead guided walks to different neighborhoods full of hidden stories and quirky facts you'd never find in a guidebook.

  • And for loved ones who aren’t looking to roam anytime soon, help them rediscover local experiences with wine tastings, walking tours, ghost hunts, or even roam-from-home scavenger hunts from Let’s Roam; or give arts, crafts, language, fitness, music and cooking classes from Airbnb, Masterclass and Uncommon Goods.

Wrapping

Image credit: Wrapp'r

Once you’ve put extra consideration into buying ethical and sustainably made 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, Wrappily has a lovely selection of recyclable and compostable gift wrap; it also comes off the press in folded sheets, eliminating the unnecessary cardboard tube. And gift bags are another easily reusable option.

Or get a little creative with alternative materials (newspaper, magazines, maps, inside-out chip bags, stone paper) 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.

Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, healthy holiday season!

- The SB team


Main article image credits, clockwise from top left: Thistle Farms, GoodSam Foods, Garden for Wildlife, Vida Bars, Finley’s Barkery, Nudnik, Rebel Nell, Wrappily, Oeuf, Sundree, Doughp, Nuttch, Yellow Leaf Hammocks, Half Shell Vodka

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