Editor's Note: We're rolling out 10 Days of Indie Merchant Gifts, in our annual celebration of the artists, craftspeople, designers and other independent merchants who make one-of-a-kind products. See gifts in the categories of pets, jewelry, kids, quirky, and food.
There’s undoubtedly one on your shopping list this holiday season: a friend or family member who recycles obsessively, never is without his or her metal water bottle, only buys sustainably harvested coffee and berates you ceaselessly for not bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. Buying something for a person that is distinctly anti-materialistic can be very tricky. But it’s that time of year: you have to get them something. Problem solved! Check out our eco-friendly gift guide.
We received dozens of submissions for our environmentally-friendly category, and so narrowing down the choices to the top ten was a challenge. There were oh-so-many tote bags and grocery bags made out of such innovative materials and reusable fabrics.
But after much hemming and hawing, we picked these 10 gift ideas for a combination of the “oohhh, cool” factor of the product and the story behind the invention. All the items that made the cut cost less than $50 and were made by craftspeople and companies headquartered in the U.S.
Product: Bamboo Toothbrush
Eric Cope and his wife traveled to Guatemala in the summer of 2010 where they hosted a dental clinic at local orphanages and community centers. “We soon came to realize that many of the kids had preventable and sometimes severe dental problems,” Cope says. Most of the kids didn’t have toothbrushes or access to sinks or running water. “I saw first-hand the effect that poor dental hygiene could have on children’s health," he says. "Not only do poor dental habits adversely affect children’s overall health, it also affects their confidence due to the poor aesthetic condition of their teeth. Simply put, some children don’t want to smile.” That experience motivated Cope to found Smile Squared with a “Buy One, Give One” business model where for every toothbrush purchased, the company gives one to a child in need. Furthermore, the bamboo handle is biodegradable and the box the toothbrush comes in is recyclable.
Editors’ comment: We think the Smile Squared toothbrush makes the perfect stocking stuffer. And we are big fans of the “Buy One, Give One” model -- the gift buyer feels just as good as the recipient!
Product: Mission Love iD Cuff
The co-founders of Love146 -- Rob Morris, Desirea Rodgers, Lamont Hiebert and Caroline Hahm -- traveled to Southeast Asia in 2002 to figure out what they could do to fight sex trafficking. While there, they went undercover with investigators and witnessed children being sold for sex. The girls being sold were wearing red dresses with numbers pinned to their chest. While waiting to be selected by the number, the girls were watching cartoons. Most of the girls had a look of total emptiness in their eyes, save for one girl, with the number 146 pinned to her chest. She had “fight left in her eyes,” the founders recall, and became the rallying cry for their movement to stop child trafficking. The bracelets are made of recycled plastic and imitation leather scraps that are bound together under extreme heat. The artificial leather bracelets are decorated in one of three designs.
Editors’ comment: The story behind the wristband is heart wrenching and inspiring. For the right sort of hipster fashionista, the wide leather wristband will be a welcome, thought-provoking addition to their accessory wardrobe. Not everybody, though, is especially eager to be a billboard for the issues they support.
Vintage Vinyl Journals
Product: Vintage Vinyl Journals
Katie Pietrak, of Telford, Penn., spent most of her life toiling away at the corporate grind, fantasizing about owning her own business. She was organizing her collection of vinyl one day when she realized that the records and sleeves would make for interesting notebook covers. “The unique journals gained interest among friends and family who encouraged me to fully devote my time to making journals and creating a business,” Pietrak says. This new take on “upcycling” prevents any old, damaged and unplayable records from ended up in the ole’ garbage. There’s something comforting about a favorite album being turned into a book, too. “Our customers really connect with the warmth and nostalgia of the vinyl – especially of a cherished album from their youth – and appreciate the quality of the craftsmanship,” says Pietrak.
Editors’ comment: We can’t help ourselves. Just thinking about writing in one of these nifty journals makes us feel decidedly hip and cool.
Product: Infinity scarf
The goal of Fashioning Change of Santa Monica, Calif., is to find eco-friendly and ethical alternatives to the trendy styles you see in your favorite brand-name stores. And with clothes purchased on Fashioning Change's website, there is no guessing about the genealogy: Fashioning Change has a scannable QR code that will display all of the product’s supply-chain details. Take, for example, this infinity wrap scarf -- the ultimate winter accessory. This wrap was made in Los Angeles from certified organic cotton and hemp.
Editors’ comment: You can never have too many scarves. They pull together an outfit in an instant. And the idea that we can feel good about looking good? Yes, please.
Solarville Communications LLC
Product: Solar Powered Portable Phone Chargers
Terron Sommerville ended up stranded one day with a dead cell phone. We have all been there, dancing around our cell phone hoping that good karma and nice dance moves will allow you to make just one more call. With so much of our daily life being organized on our handheld devices, losing power can mean missing meetings, losing access to contact information, or not being able to get to a destination. “My cell phone battery was dead, car stopped on me, it was hot, just an all-around bad day,” Sommerville says. He ended up having to wait six hours for help to come. The fateful day wasn’t all bad, however. The experience got him thinking about a portable charger for his cell: The Power Key Chain Charger will juice your cell phone, iPod, BlueTooth or tablet. In addition to being solar powered, the portable device can be charged through a USB port and it will hold the charge in its internal battery system.
Editors’ comment: The potential of a dead phone is a near panic inducing thought. We can’t read Entrepreneur.com on our mobile devices? We get anxious. We like the keyphone charger. And, solar? You mean we can charge our smartphones while picnic-ing? From the beach? While hiking in the jungle? Score. The only downside is that for dudes, it’s one more thing to stuff in the already packed jeans pockets.
United By Blue
Product: Anorak Ipad case
The United By Blue brand is dedicated to cleaning and conserving our nation’s ocean and waterways. With every item the Philadelphia company sells, it commits to removing one pound of trash from oceans and waterways throughout the world. So far, United by Blue has organized 80 beach and river cleanups in 18 different states and removed over 141,000 pounds of trash. Their IPad case -- called the Anorak Case -- is made out of heavyweight, 100% organic canvas with leather trim.
Editors’ comment: We see new and different takes on the iPad cover all the time. The reason we like this one is the company’s business model: Clean up our water! (We recently featured United By Blue in our Young Visionary series; watch a video here.) The canvas material is probably more appealing to the rugged, outdoorsy types on your list than the especially style-conscious.
Product: 3-piece grooming set
“My mission in life is to make the world a happier, healthier, better-smelling place,” says Mary Kearns of Falls Church, Va. She makes soaps with organic, natural, and Fair Trade ingredients and wraps them in environmentally-friendly packaging. In her other professional life, this newfound entrepreneur reviews cancer prevention programs. “So I not only care about aesthetics, but I also have a passion for helping people live their healthiest lives, and Herban Lifestyle provides the perfect melding of my creative and health-related interests,” Kearns says. She first launched her soaps line in 2008 as an Etsy store and then started making the rounds at craft shows and making some wholesale deals. Just this year, her soap shop became a full-time business. In addition to men’s grooming products, she sells handmade soaps and balms.
Editors’ comment: We are definitely interested in protecting the planet, but being eco-friendly does not give the men in our lives permission to get lax on the grooming habits. The ladies of Entrepreneur.com say there is just no room for a stanky-smelling dude in our lives, even if they are saving the planet. This gift set is a great compromise for that eco-conscious man in your life -- and your nose.
Product: Up-cycled Armwarmers
Tania Bambridge is an urban cyclist and she wants to stay warm -- and look cool -- while she rolls around her hometown of Long Beach, Calif. While her legs stay warm pumping the pedals, her arms get a bit chilly, so she invented arm warmers made out of used sweaters. She calls them “greensleeves,” since they are produced entirely from repurposed material and are sort of “optional” sleeves. “They are made from locally purchased repurposed sweaters and can be worn casually, after a work-out, or with that little black dress in a hip kind of way,” says Bambridge. These arm-warmers can work for the male and female bohemian fashionistas on your list.
Editors’ comment: These might not work as a Holiday Gift for your mom if she tends to shop at Talbots and Burberry, but our younger editors were super into them. Pair these greensleeves with some distressed jeans, lace-up boots, bright lipstick and a big scarf for an on-trend comfortable look. That they are “upcycled” is frosting on the hipster cake.
Green Kid Crafts
Product: Earth-friendly craft kit subscription
Price: $19.50 a month
Penny Bauder is a busy mom. She does not want to spend her precious free time shopping for eco-friendly craft supplies. She wants to spend her time doing craft projects with her kiddos. The idea for this eco-friendly craft kit was born out of need for this San Diego-based mom-preneur. “I designed the product to provide a convenient solution for other parents, while giving kids the tools to develop their creativity, build their confidence and encourage their love and respect for the environment,” Bauder says. A Discovery Box is delivered to your door every month with enough supplies for three different craft projects all based on one nature-related theme. “There are other craft kit subscription services on the market, but none that promote environmental awareness and education like ours,” says Bauder, whose kits are targeted for kids between the ages of 3 to 8.
Editors’ comment: Green Kids Crafts is a great alternative to swinging by the local Wal-mart megastore for art supplies. You save yourself an errand, save the planet a wee-bit and keep your kids entertained for a few afternoons. Obviously, these are only good for the parents and young kids on your list.
Product: Billboard Bags
The production of these satchels both recycles a material that would otherwise be thrown away and provides work for a group of people desperately in need of assistance. The Clarkston, Ga.-based bag-making company, Plywood People, makes bags out of the large outdoor advertising billboards that are more often than not thrown away once they are taken down from the side of the highway. And Jeff Shinabarger, the company founder, employes legal refugees to do the work. “When arriving in the U.S., refugees are given help for the first 90 days of life in the states, but then must fend for themselves without knowing the language, customs or being familiar with city life,” Shinabarger says. Orders for the up-cycled bags started coming in even before Plywood People had really become solidified as a business. “By purchasing a Billboard Bag, consumers give legal refugees who were forced to flee their countries because of conflict an opportunity to receive English classes and to have their dignity restored,” says Shinabarger. Note: Billfolds made out of the same material are $15.
Editors’ comment: While we all feel like we have more re-usable bags than we could ever use all at once, we couldn’t help ourselves with just one more, not necessarily because the bags are that awesomely different than anything we have ever seen before (although, they are neat-enough looking) but because we are a sucker for the story.