These are the items I'd buy again because they're well made and make our world a better, cleaner place.
Thanks to my job as a lifestyle writer for TreeHugger, I get to try a wide range of products that are sent to me by brands and startups, in hopes of a review that might catch the interest of readers. To be clear, I only accept samples of those products that I think are relevant to the website and that meet my own criteria for 'green-ness'. Usually I write a review, then decide whether or not to keep the product or pass it on to friends, family, or a local shelter or charity shop.
What follows is a list of green products that made the biggest impression on me in 2019. Most of these were sent to me, some I discovered on my own. These are the items I'd buy again because I think they're well made, superbly designed, and ultimately make our world a cleaner, better place. You can find links in each of the descriptions to longer reviews I've written, should any of the items pique your curiosity.
1. Zero waste planner
Wisdom Supply Co. specializes in school and office supplies that are plastic-free and zero waste. One of its products is an elegant weekly planner made is 100 percent recyclable. That means no spiral binding, laminating, coated papers, plastic tabs, or even wasted paper in the form of maps, blank pages, time zones, or 'goals'.
2. Cork phone case
It's common sense to protect a smartphone with a case, but most are ugly plastic. A more attractive and eco-friendly alternative are the phone cases made by 15:21, a Swedish company that uses Portuguese cork to craft warm, natural phone and travel accessories.
3. Short-stack coffee mug
2019 was the year I discovered a reusable coffee mug that I want to take everywhere with me and that everyone comments on whenever they see it. The short-stack coffee mug is a more reasonable size than many of the insulated mugs on the market, making it perfect for hot drinks on the move.
4. Zero-waste dish soap
It's much easier to eliminate plastic beverage bottles than it is to get rid of them in household cleaning products, dish soap being a particular challenge. Then I learned about Etee, a Montreal-based zero waste buyers' club that just invented plastic-free dish soap. It comes in a wax pouch that you squeeze into a glass dispenser and mix with water. I've been using it for a few months now and love it.
5. PONS Avarcas sandals
These leather sandals made by a family-owned company in Spain are the best I've ever owned. They were soft and comfortable from the day I got them, requiring no breaking-in time, and have continued to be versatile and practical, thanks to a classic upper and wonderfully grippy bottom. I've worn them to climb mountains in Sri Lanka and attend elegant dinners in Turkey. I get frequent compliments on them and will buy another pair as soon as they wear out, which likely won't be for many years.
Described as "the mini Mason jar of biodegradable pure silk dental floss," this clever product solves the issue of dental floss waste entangling wild animals and never breaking down in the natural environment. Made of pure silk and coated in candelilla wax, it eliminates the concern of toxic PFCs entering your body through the Teflon-like coating on many flosses. I actually find it gentler to use, too.
7. Mobius backpack
One of the products I am happiest to have accepted, the Mobius backpack by tentree launched in March 2019. Not only is it an eye-catcher (I can't even tell you how many people have asked about it), but it's made entirely from recycled materials – from the fabric and mesh to the buckles and zippers. Even the padding is made from pond algae transformed into BLOOM foam.
8. Shampoo bars
Long-time readers will know that I've engaged in a number of hair-washing experiments (including not washing), but I'd say the most successful to date is my transition to shampoo bars made by Canadian company Unwrapped Life. My thick, frizzy hair is finally tame and manageable and my scalp no longer feels dry, thanks to these bars.
9. Clothes by Époque Évolution
There are a lot of ethical, sustainable fashion brands out there now, which is a great thing, but none has caught my eye as quickly as Époque Evolution. This company uses fabric that is organic, upcycled, recycled, or deadstock (surplus fabric that would otherwise be discarded by textile mills). The designs are basic and chic, perfect for building a capsule wardrobe, though pricey. The Nonstop Midi Dress, sent to me for review, has become a favorite. I'm saving for more pieces.
10. Kora base layer
Made from yak wool, which is warmer than merino wool thanks to yaks' extreme living conditions in the Himalayas, this base layer is cozy, breathable, and odor-resistant. The wool is sourced from a yak herders' collective and purchased at a premium. I used the base layer for much of last winter, and took it on a ski trip to Jay Peak, where I compared its performance to a synthetic base layer.