This year’s holiday shopping season may be the most unusual we’ve experienced in a long time, if ever. On top of the lingering reality of Covid-19 and variants, disruptions in the global supply chain will likely continue to wreak havoc on overall item availability and pricing. Besides the practical reasons for shopping more sustainably this season, buying locally—for those of us in/near Boston—is a meaningful way to support small business while giving yourself the opportunity to gift more unique presents that will serve purposes far beyond the holidays themselves.
In this spirit, we’re focusing on quality over quantity to present to you The Toyary’s inaugural Top 10 for the Holidays. Each of the items or businesses on this list by definition fit the following criteria: local (to Boston); sustainable and of long-term value. In alphabetical order: these are unsponsored brands we know and track, and that we want you to know about as you strategize your family’s holiday giving this year.
1. Fusion Dolls
We’ve been fangirling over Boston-based Fusion Dolls beautiful black and multicultural dolls for a while now. Built with a vision for inclusion and a message oriented toward celebrating self-love and diversity, we love Fusion Dolls’ line of largely curly-haired black, brown and albino dolls with a book and narratives to boot. With names like “Kind Kinara”, “Motivated Malaika” and “Assertive Adelaida”, it’s ALWAYS a great time of year to invest in experiences that foster diversity and inclusion through play. You can view and order from the full Fusion Dolls collection here.
2. The Finery Vintage
With shops on Etsy and Shop Thrilling, Boston-based The Finery Vintage offers a curated selection of size-inclusive vintage clothing and accessories. Their classic and colorful picks make us smile, along with their generally more accessible pricing. Not only do you get the benefit of wearing sustainable fashion, by shopping through The Finery Vintage you’re also pretty much guaranteed to find unique, one-of-a-kind items at a quality that fast fashion could never match.
3. Loving Little Minds
Based in Medford, the Loving Little Minds Home Library Project is on a mission to bring multicultural children’s books to families on a monthly basis so that everyone—in their words—can recognize diversity as positive and as “the norm”. While Loving Little Minds prioritizes providing these books to families that might not have access to them, anybody can subscribe to receive them. As subscribers ourselves, we can tell you how timely and thought-provoking their books have been for the youngest child in our household to the oldest.
Right now, they’re offering a terrific holiday promotion where you’ll get an extra month for the price of a 6-month membership (7 months of books total), or an extra 2 months for the price of a 12-month subscription (14 months of books total), if you order between now and December 3, 2021.
4. The Monarch Studio
Based in Martha’s Vineyard, The Monarch Studio is a mom-run business that hand-crafts and customizes beautiful wooden mud kitchens. While these can be used indoors or out, we love how their use outside motivates kids to creatively play in nature to make the mud feasts of their dreams. While these are larger ticket items, each kitchen is an investment in play for years to come.
To put a Christmas order in, head over to The Monarch Studio Shop and enter the coupon code THE TOYARY to get 10% off all orders from now until Dec. 5th.
When we first glanced at the Schedwalls behind Schedwall, we just knew these were designed by someone who gets it. Founded by a father, inspired by his wife and fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Schedwall is a whiteboard planner designed to help families find order and inspiration amid the growing chaos. Now, this is not any whiteboard mind you.
We love how easy Schedwall is to apply and reposition. It’s big enough to get all the information you need on it, and it leaves room for inspiring quotes and “tell me something good” spots to celebrate positivity and keep you motivated. It’s a reusable, feel-good organizer with structure and flexibility that will last you from week-to-week or month-to-month, or both, depending on your needs. Wouldn’t this be such a great way to kick off a new year?
6. Serenity Sage
The holidays might not be associated with calm, but that’s all the more reason to seek out your own zen. This year, Melrose-based Serenity Sage tops our list of handmade pottery (and other goodies) that we’re eying to sip on that soothing cup of tea or coffee for years to come. We’re especially fond of Serenity Sage’s Wine Tumbler Soy Candle, which brilliantly turns the scented candle container into a beautifully unique wine-style tumbler when you’re done burning it. Burn a candle, sip some wine and sign us up!
7. The Toyary
While we’re certainly biased, there’s probably no season more associated with toy purchasing than the holidays. Unfortunately, there’s also no industry more associated with plastic waste than toys: by some estimates, the toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenues, the vast majority of which remain unrecyclable.
Rather than fuel this cycle, the gift of joining a toy library for the holidays is a fantastic way to give the gift of toys that will grow with children, with no strings attached, throughout the year. If you’re in the North Shore and Boston areas, you can join/gift our membership or help us build the waitlist for your area here.
8. Trove Green Provisions
We’ve been thrilled to discover this Medford-based, mom-founded treasure trove of people- and planet-friendly cleaning supplies. Focused on providing us with a more convenient way to live a lower waste and greener life, Trove Green Provisions not only sells environmentally friendly products; it serves as a refilling store too.
There’s a wonderful peace of mind that comes with knowing that the products you’re using are good for the planet, your home and your family, and that being green can be as simple as buying in bulk with the option to refill on a regular basis. We’re approaching this holiday season on the heels of the U.N. reporting “Code Red” for human-driven global heating. Simply put, there is no better time than now to give your family and your planet the gift of a greener home.
Delivering daily through Greater Boston and offering pick-up in Acton, WECO is a meal delivery service emphasizing local, sustainable foods with an interesting twist: you order early to make sure you get on their list and you pay after you’ve received and enjoyed your meal. We love the transparency behind their pricing and the reliance on trust that this business encourages on both sides of the equation: the trust in you as a consumer to pay fairly for the meal you had; and our trust as consumers in the deliciousness they will empower us to cook up. We also give them serious bonus points for the creative kid menus they whip up.
Order a gift card now and WECO will match 10% of all gift card purchases through 12/1, donating the funds to community servings.
10. Wonder Bitz
Founded in Jamaica Plain by a mom with a background as a PhD Neuroscientist, Wonder Bitz tinker trays embody all the wonder, exploration and fun of loose parts play on steroids. No where else have we seen loose parts play come together with the thoughtfulness and narratives that Wonder Bitz brings to them.
Unlike many other learning-based toys, you’ll quickly find why these kits are worth holding onto: they’ll adapt to your child(ren) across growth stages and they’re destined to be used, loved and (of course) tinkered with in ways truly unique to your kid(s). If loose parts play is relatively new to you, we highly recommend checking out Wonder Bitz introductory kits. We’re also big fans of its Dino Tinker Kit and Diversity and Melanin STEM kits.
Here’s to challenging ourselves to shop more locally and sustainably this year! If you’ve been doing this, please share more pointers in the comment box below. If you’re just starting out, what are you finding most useful in your hunt to consume more sustainably?