London, England, decked out for the holiday season
Whether you're wishing your loved ones holiday greetings in person or from a few time zones away, yet again we’ve got you covered with our annual sustainable holiday gift guide. From zero-waste options to gifts that give back and support local artisans, start checking off your holiday gift list with these suggestions that are fun and festive yet light on impact.
We say it every year: You’ll be hard-pressed to find more responsible and sustainable holiday gifts than items that already exist and would otherwise go to waste. Fortunately for shoppers seeking to avoid waste, a bevy of companies have embraced re-commerce and are making it seamless to shop secondhand without sacrificing style. Retailers like Patagonia and REI have a rich selection of pre-owned outdoor gear, while The North Face and Eileen Fisher have long been solid options for finding clothing and outerwear that are worthy of a second life. Don’t dismiss portals like Poshmark and, of course, Etsy if you’re patient — you could be surprised! Check out more of our favorite re-commerce shops here.
If you can't buy used, consider buying local. Many small businesses are still struggling after the pandemic, and all the chatter about inflation and a possible recession isn’t helping. Your support can offer them a lift.
Even if you're still avoiding in-person shopping, sources like Google Maps and Yelp make it a breeze to find nearby mom-and-pops with online shopping options. To support Black-owned businesses, which were especially hit hard during 2020 and 2021, directories like We Buy Black, Goodee and EatOkra can help guide your way.
Almost 10 months after Russia invaded Ukraine, countless citizens are still facing hardships, whether they’ve stayed in their country or have moved abroad. Aid2Art Ukraine, an art show and campaign curated by humanitarian relief organization Alight, offers a way for holiday shoppers to give back while they find meaningful gifts — in this case limited-edition prints — for their loved ones. Half of the proceeds go to Alight’s programs that help support Ukrainian artists and others who work in the creative space. The other half goes to the artists participating in the program.
If you’ve never tried nopales in Mexican dishes, you’re in for a vegan treat. But the cactus commonly found in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S. is also a key ingredient in this line of personal care products like soaps and exfoliants. Sandra Valesquez, founder of the personal care brand Nopalera, touts the plant’s ability to hydrate skin and hair. She describes the cacti as “strong, resilient, beautiful, and has always been here.”
Bamboo is renewable, sustainable and resilient, but not all bamboo-based products are necessarily sourced responsibly, and the quality, look and feel of textiles made from bamboo can vary. Cozy Earth strives to achieve both. The company says it's involved with the production process from the very start. The results are products free of chemicals that feel good to wear. We’ve tested out Cozy Earth’s soft, comfy and minimalist hoodies, joggers and socks. The brand’s bedsheets, a bamboo-linen blend, kept us cool in summer heat and warm in late fall temperatures hovering near freezing.
Price: Sheet sets starting at $144; tops at $46; set of 3 socks at $31.50
Michelle Oten’s company, Goalz, checks all the boxes: She sources from farming co-ops in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil, where farmers have incorporated sustainable farming practices and don’t use forced or child labor. The brand's wafer-shaped chocolates have only three ingredients: cacao, prebiotic fiber and allulose, a sugar substitute that works for chocolate-lovers who prefer treats that are keto-friendly or low-carb. Unlike other sugar-free chocolates that have a waxy texture, Goalz’s chocolates taste rich — the eight- and 11-year-old who tested them out with us heartily approved.
Greyson Bakery has long been a TriplePundit favorite. The brand's brownies are decadent enough to make an appearance in Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors like Half Baked, and the social enterprise is also a trailblazer for open hiring. Having built its team without interviews, job applications or background checks, Greyston is now primarily staffed by people with criminal justice histories, as well as those experiencing homelessness, substance abuse issues or who, for whatever reason, have trouble finding steady work. The company is also running a promotion on its holiday brownie gift packages until December 11.
Another socially conscious brands that regularly makes our holiday gift guide list is Homeboy Industries. Operating under the motto "jobs not jails," the social enterprise offers employment, education and other services to former gang members after they are released from prison. Having worked with more than 100,000 people in its home city of Los Angeles since 1986, it now powers the Global Homeboy Network of more than 400 organizations committed to giving formerly incarcerated people a second chance. Cookies, cakes, granola and coffee are among the treats available this holiday season.
In last year's holiday gift guide, we talked up a cult favorite cutting board from Material Kitchen. This year, we’re bowled over by these 20-inch mixing bowls, which keep to the brand’s minimal design. Made from 75 percent recycled plastic and 25 percent renewable sugarcane, the reBowl comes in four eye-catching colors. The New York City-based company is also focused on giving back. This year, the brand is donating a portion of sale proceeds to the Korean American Community Foundation, as well as supporting Heart of Dinner, which delivers meals to elderly Asian residents, and Drive Change, a nonprofit that provides formerly incarcerated people with training in the foodservice and hospitality sectors.
Price: $25 for one; $60 for three
Silk pillowcases and sleep masks have surged in popularity, as they are often praised for reducing hair breakage and preventing acne, premature wrinkles, puffiness and sleep creases on the face. For the beauty-lovers on your list, we’ve vetted a couple for you to consider.
Avocado’s silk pillowcase is made from 22-momme mulberry silk, a thinly-woven silk that works well for linens and clothing as it’s breathable and not too heavy. Its envelope enclosure design keeps the pillow inside so it doesn’t squish out during sleepytime, and it comes with a 100 percent organic certified cotton wash bag, which also makes it easy to bring along for a road trip.
The Ethical Silk Company has an eye mask and pillowcase set as well. The brand’s set is free of dyes, and its design is handmade by artisans who use block printing. The brand says its pillowcase can help prevent “bed-head” while helping your night cream to be absorbed by your skin, not into your linens.
Merino wool is one of the more unheralded fibers out there — that is, if this lightweight, moisture-wicking material is sourced sustainably from a supplier who participates in one of the various certification programs. Allbirds is one such company that is always looking for more responsible materials for its athletic shoes and apparel. We’re fans of its latest line of joggers, which are made from a blend of merino wool, recycled nylon and lyocell. They are quick-drying, breathable, flattering and extremely comfortable.
Our awesome brand story of the year goes to 8000Kicks, a Portuguese brand founded by a grandmother-grandson duo. The brand’s Explorer V2 loafers are made from industrial hemp, are extremely lightweight and waterproof to boot (pardon the pun).
Between their strength, minimal weight and clean styling, they make a cool gift for anyone at all ages, including one of our editorial staffers' 82-year-old father who remembers way back in the 1960s when ganja (and face it, industrial hemp) emerged as a tempting, but illegal, forbidden fruit.
As they say, buying jewelry is an extremely personal decision. It’s also personal for artisans who make beautiful items time and again but don’t necessarily get the spotlight from the leading fashion publications. So, we’re shining some light after becoming smitten with Arlokea, a Black-owned business that uses sustainable materials and is fair trade. Plus the company partners with nonprofits in order to give back to local communities.
Okay, you may need a huge stocking for some of these, but if you’re looking for space-saving ideas, start with the StoveShelf, a TikTok hack that’s become a seamless way to score more shelf space in a tiny kitchen. Reclaimed wood crates we stumbled upon visiting Etsy offer a sustainable option to store and stack all those stray items (like stockings), and EarthHero sells kits to create wall shelves with components made from bamboo chopsticks.
On the subject of stockings, Arvin Goods makes adorable socks out of thread derived from fabric scraps. If you've got a lot of polar fleece or synthetic fibers in your closet, this laundry bag from Guppyfriend helps reduce microplastic shedding. Revival designs calico belts derived from leather scraps. And finally, channel your inner Heartstopper character with a Fjällräven backpack or accessory made from traceable wood chips from Scandinavian forests.
Image credit: Leon Kaye
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.