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Stuff we dig

Looking for something a little different? Is your mother-in-law impossible to buy for? Here’s what caught our eye in 2023.

| 02 Oct 2023 | 02:11

1. Eucalyptus pillowcases
There aren’t many better feelings than your head hitting that pillow at the end of a long day. Turns out, though, your cotton bedding comes with a heavy environmental footprint, and traps sweat and bacteria to boot – contributing to night sweats for the hot sleepers out there. American company Eucalypso was started in 2018 by a first generation immigrant who was living in New York at the time. Tired of continually waking up sweaty with new acne breakouts, Elle Liu spent a year traveling the globe, talking to fabric makers and weavers. She finally settled on a mill based out of Austria, a century-old business that’s leading the way in using sustainably grown eucalyptus to make the tree-based fabric Tencel. These generously sized pillowcases don’t look or feel much different than their cotton counterparts, but they do feel crisply cool on your cheek. Unlike cotton, growing eucalyptus requires no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, so there’s no need to wash before first use. The naturally antimicrobial quality of the fabric means less laundry down the road, too.

$55 for set of two

2. Swedish dish cloths
On the way to a waste-free kitchen, a common pain point is paper towels. Life happens hard here in spill zone zero, and you’ve got to prepared. These botanically themed dish cloths are super-absorbent, cheerfully emblazoned with lemons, strawberries, hops or mushrooms. Each print was originally hand-carved onto a linoleum block by a Washington-based printmaker and mom using an antique letterpress. Made of wood pulp and cotton, the cloths can be washed and re-used 40 times – or put through the dishwasher or disinfected in the microwave – and eventually composted. Katie Dean’s small, woman-owned business supports other likeminded businesses with a mission to grow sustainably. She also makes matching tea towels and a line of free-spirited greeting cards.

$21 for set of three

3. Upcycled coasters
This handsome set of four leather coasters has stood the ultimate test: a year of use in our house. They age beautifully. Water stains and dings that would otherwise have ended up on furniture become another chapter of their story, and they remain as durable as ever, with nary a loose stitch. Established in 2015, this New Jersey-based, woman-owned company is working to be part of the solution to fast-fashion’s notorious waste stream. They exclusively use leather remnants which would otherwise be landfill-bound, hand-patching them into new products whose appeal is in the fact that no two are exactly alike.

$25 for set of four

4. Hot fudge + sea salt caramel sauce
The addition of these sauces to a bowl of ice cream elevates the event to “better than the ice cream place,” our house testers assert. Made in Maine, both sauces earned wins in the Good Food awards competition, bestowed on American craft food producers based on taste, authenticity and responsible sourcing of ingredients. Local ingredients are used whenever possible, including Maine sea salt, organic heavy cream from a multigenerational family farm and butter from a creamery that uses grass-fed, pasture-raised milk and got its start in a church kitchen. The gift set comes in a reusable crate constructed out of Maine reclaimed wood.

$39.50 for gift set of two 9-ounce jars

5. Stackable garden kit
After the Canadian wildfire-smog this year, I decided it was time to up my houseplant game. Whether you’re looking for air purification, a splash of color, a year-round herb garden or all of the above, this stackable kit is an easy, neat way to grow five different plants without taking over the entire house. The base doubles as a reservoir, so you don’t have to water as often. All parts are made of eco-friendly wheat straw plastic. Founded by Californian Denise Hung, a Taiwanese immigrant, the company is active in the urban and vertical gardening movement.


6. Face wash + moisturizer
This vegan, cruelty-free brand of grooming products originates in the U.K. but now has a New York warehouse. The whole family can use the facewash and moisturizer, though the line is marketed toward men. Our resident gentleman-farmer, normally the understated type, said the cucumber-infused facewash “feels like a party on my face.” Instead of plastic, the tube is made from sugarcane. The “anti ageing” moisturizer – though I have continued to age since I began using it – is non-greasy and refreshingly unscented, quenching thirsty skin and somehow making it feel juicier. It picked up a win in the 2023 Beauty Shortlist awards, recognizing ethical, natural and organic brands.

$41.99 for face wash + moisturizer bundle

7. Laundry sheets
There are better ways to do laundry, so why do we keep lugging plastic jugs of liquid detergent home from the grocery store, to shortly thereafter throw them in the recycling bin, with fingers crossed that they won’t actually end up in the landfill? And don’t even get me started on the pods. Kind Laundry sheets come in light, recyclable cardboard packaging that takes up less space in your laundry room than that bulky jug, and none at all in the landfill later. Frequent flyers can slip a couple sheets in their carry-on. The plant-based formula – with naturally antibacterial tea-seed oil – does the job, and bonus: the act of tossing in a sheet is noticeably quicker than unscrewing, pouring and re-screwing that jug.

$19.95 for 60-sheet package

8. Relaxing facial soap set
Designed for the delicate skin of the face, this two-bar set includes the signature Rosner blend. Organic calendula flowers mix with a “secret formula” of essential oils in this bar, named for the couple that founded the Sugar Loaf fixture a quarter century ago. The store, along with the secret formula, changed hands in 2020, when Yaron and Kiki Rosner moved to France and sold their business to the owners of Merrily Paper, their longtime next-store neighbor. Kat Parrella and her husband Brian gamely picked up soap making at the height of the pandemic and merged Rosners with their gift shop. Each bar is wrapped in paper handmade from sustainably trimmed mulberry bushes.

$16 for set of two bars
Rosner Soap, 1375 Kings Hwy., Chester, NY

Note: The editor received free samples of the above products for gift guide consideration.