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Local Giving, Global Impacts: The SB 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Images (L-R, starting top): DONO reusable gift wrap; Back to the Roots' product line; Bureo sunglasses; BioLite holiday edition CampStove; Soma water pitcher; reWrap laptop bags.

Sustainable products geeks rejoice, for 'tis once again the season of giving! And what better way to celebrate and participate than with gifts whose giving creates exponentially 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.

Gifts that support the makers

  • Choba Choba chocolates — Peruvian cocoa farmers are co-owners of this socially minded startup. Choba Choba sources its cocoa beans exclusively from participating farming families in Peru. The raw product is shipped to Switzerland and transformed by famed chocolate producer Felchlin. Every two months, a new production is issued, consisting of three different, limited edition bars of dark Choba Choba chocolate. A single cocoa variety produced by a single farming family is used, making each production unique.
  • Sierra Leone tie-dye shirts from American Apparel — A line of unique t-shirts all tie-dyed by hand by artisans in Sierra Leone, who receive 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts, to help boost an economy ravaged by civil war and Ebola.
  • Kuli Kuli bars, energy shots and powders — A boost for your health thanks to the super-nutritious superfood moringa, which also helps to boost economic conditions in Haiti and West Africa, where the moringa oleifera tree grows.

Better-made products

  • Fairphone 2 — A modular phone designed to be longer-lasting and repairable as well as ethically sourced, the second edition of Fairphone’s ethically made smartphone — an antidote to the planned obsolescence and materials waste rampant in the personal electronics industry — began shipping this month.
  • Flint and Tinder’s 10-year hoodie — Just like it sounds, this hoodie is built to last a lifetime and backed with a decade of free mending — an antidote to fast fashion.

Edible goodness

  • Back to the Roots’ ready-to-grow products — This Oakland, Calif.-based startup is determined to “undo food” and reconnect families to it through fun, delicious and sustainable “ready to grow” and “ready to eat” products. Their product line has grown from Grow-Your-Own mushroom kits and the Water Garden home aquaponics kit to Gardens in a Can and simple, wholesome and organic cereals and cereal toppers.
  • Cricket-based protein snacks — Need to get your protein but conscious of the ecological impacts of beef and other livestock? Leave your comfort zone behind check out delicious, high-protein cookies from SBIO semi-finalist Bitty Foods, or snack bars from companies such as Chapul and Exo, You’ll never know you’re eating bugs!

Gifts that help those in need

  • Jonas Umbrellas — This small umbrella company puts 75 percent of its profits toward clean water projects in Africa; the first 500 units sold will fund a well at a school in Uganda.
  • Soma pitchersSoma gives you clean water and pays it forward: Each purchase includes the 10-cup pitcher, a filter and a $15 donation to charity: water.
  • Hand-blown glass pitchers and tumblers from UNICEF — Not just beautiful glassware: With the sale of each pitcher, UNICEF donates 16 packets of nutrition supplements to children suffering from acute malnutrition; every set of glasses provides 137 sachets of oral rehydration salts, which can help children combat dehydration and diarrhea.
  • Pills from the First World Problem Store — 100 percent peppermint, 100 percent placebo pills that solve all your everyday dilemmas, with 100 percent of the profit benefiting the Dutch AIDS Foundation, to provide HIV medication to patients who can’t afford it.
  • BioLite Limited Edition Carbon CampStoveBioLite, an innovator in off-grid energy, is offering a limited Carbon Edition CampStove for the holidays, which supports the company's work in developing countries to reduce black carbon — aka soot — through its HomeStove program.

Upcycled gifts

  • Bureo sunglasses — The enterprising startup, which got its start in 2013 upcycling plastic marine waste lining Chile’s waters and shores into skateboards, has just released The Ocean Collection, a line of sunglasses made from upcycled fishing nets.
  • Tidal Vision wallets and T-shirts — This Alaskan startup is taking a unique approach to combating fishery waste: It purchases the byproducts from sustainable fisheries and turns them into various textiles; its first products include salmon leather wallets and ultra-soft ChitoskinTM T-shirts made from chitosan, the main component of shrimp and crab shells (and the company insists that you’d never smell the difference).
  • reWrap Tree Bags/SleevesreWrap is a young Dutch brand committed to Cradle to Cradle design. Its Tree Bags and laptop sleeves are fully biodegradable (though they will only biodegrade when you compost them), made entirely of materials from trees.
  • Süga yoga mats — for the eco-conscious yogi, Süga manufactures yoga mats from recycled wetsuits. The company has partnered with three major wetsuit manufacturers to use their scrap neoprene and collects wetsuits from the wider community. Beginning Tuesday, Süga’s mats will be available thru January 17 via Kickstarter.

Whatever you give, consider reusable gift wrap

Copenhagen design studio Frensk has developed a reusable gift wrap called DONO. Made from recycled paper, DONO closes with a drawstring — so you don’t have to rip it open — and features an extra-long gift tag, encouraging recipients to continue to re-gift it.  

Happy holidays from the SB team!


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]