Whether it’s a birthday, or the holiday season, we’re putting our money where our principles are. No more mounds of wrapping paper, single-use plastics, and fast fashion. We have committed to a more green, eco-friendly lifestyle and we’re sharing sustainable gift ideas that reflect that.
A recent survey showed that over 77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably. But it’s not always easy to do without the right tools. We’ve put together this eco-friendly gift guide to help you find a thoughtful gift for your earth-loving friends and family members.
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Support Sustainable Brands
How to find brands that follow eco standards and give back
Look for companies that are B corp certified. This certification is awarded to for-profit companies that operate with sustainable practices.
A certified B corporation meets “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
Some of my (B corp) favorite sustainable fashion brands:
- Eileen Fisher
Choose brands that use fair trade practices.
Choose clothing made from sustainable fabrics – bamboo, merino wool, organic hemp, TENCEL®, or organic cotton. Learn about these textiles and more at Sustainable Fabrics for Travel.
Shop vintage clothing, or clothing made with recycled natural fabrics.
Best Environmentally Friendly Gifts for the Home
Everyone can use a set of reusable cutlery for the impromptu picnic or meal away from home. I keep a set of reusable cutlery in my car and in my child care bag. I always carry stainless steel straws with different colored silicone tips for each one of my grandchildren. They are the first to remind me to take out the straws when we’re dining out and they know which color is theirs.
Dishwashing soap and dishwasher tablets – Happily, there are now many options for eco-friendly dishwashing. You can get Dawn Free and Clear at your local store, but if you’re looking for a gift try Blueland products which come in a cute little tin. My daughter gifted me a set of Blueland products and I’ve been very impressed. (For suggestions on the best way to clean your dishes, read the tips page on the Blueland site.)
Cloth towels and napkins are a great alternative to paper towels. I’ve recently discovered Geometry House towels and love them! They’re made with post-consumer recycled materials and come in lots of pretty designs.
Tip: I have small cloth napkins (from Marley’s Monsters) in a variety of patterns for my grandchildren. We use them when they visit and I carry some in my Grandma bag. Each child has her own pattern.
Food waste is preventable with the right means of storage and reheating. Glass storage dishes are ideal for both!
(Tip: If you’re gifting homemade treats, consider checking out local thrift shops for old Pyrex dishes. Use these as your container and don’t worry about getting them back.)
Stasher silicone bags are dishwasher safe and a great option to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Bee’s Wrap food covers can be wrapped around odd shaped foods or used as a bowl cover instead of plastic wrap for picnics or in the fridge. Look for these at your local Farmers’ Market or make them yourself.
Refillable Hand Soap Dispenser
Who doesn’t like a foaming hand soap in a pretty bottle? Save your friend some plastic waste by purchasing a refillable glass bottle. Just add a soap tablet to warm water to refill. Blueland has lots of designs, or you can refill a glass bottle you have at home.
Solid Soap & Shampoo Bars
These are great stocking stuffers! Solid cleansing bars have been around forever – think Dr. Bronner’s – but in recent years the trend to create eco-friendly travel products has resulted in soap and shampoo bars for every skin and hair type.
My favorite eco friendly toiletries:
- Ethique brand solid soaps and shampoos – the Frizz Wrangler works great for my unruly hair.
- Honey House solid lotion in those tiny tins. I don’t leave home without one.
- Lush cosmetics has many great products. I love the Sleepy lotion and am looking forward to trying the toothy tabs to eliminate the plastic of toothpaste tubes!
Laundry soap and dryer balls
Those huge laundry detergent bottles are heavy to carry and produce a lot of plastic waste. Since changing to Clean People laundry sheets we haven’t looked back!
Wool dryer balls cut down on drying time by as much as 40% and reduce static. They’re an easy way to save electricty!
Best Eco-Friendly Gifts for Travelers
If you have travelers on your gift list, they are probably acutely aware of the need to support conservation and leave a smaller carbon footprint. They will appreciate you choosing eco-friendly travel gifts for them!
With this in mind, what can you purchase that will help your friend travel well AND won’t contribute to plastic pollution? The good news is that there are many great eco friendly travel products available today. Consider some of these sustainable gift ideas to help them reduce their ecological footprint.
Reduce Single Use Plastic on the Road
Reducing single use plastic is always a challenge to us when we travel. It’s so easy to forget to pack reusables or forget to tell the waitstaff that you don’t want a straw. But we’re trying…
There are lots of great products on the market that make this commitment easier.
- Stasher silicone bags are great at home, but also work well as the 4-1-1 bag for travel.
- Travel cosmetic containers are game changers! No need to buy ‘travel sized’ products – just dispense some of your favorite brands into a silicone tube or jar for the trip. Save money and space with this eco travel gift!
- A set of reusable cutlery ensures they’ll have what they need to skip the plastic.
- Stainless steel straws with a silicone tip are easy to pack and great to have on hand. There are some that fold into small cases to make them even more compact for your traveling friends.
Reusable Water Bottle
There are as many varieties of reusable water bottles as there are types of travelers. If your gift recipient is an outdoors adventurer, they will appreciate a filtered water bottle like this one from Brita.
But if they are light packers and leave reusable water bottles at home because they’re too bulky or heavy, gift them a collapsible one like this from Hydaway. Easy cleaning and…no taste, no waste, no plastic bottles!
For the traveler who is most committed to sustainability, choose an Ocean Bottle. They are made with recycled materials and are fully recyclable at the end of its use. Not only that but each bottle purchased contributes to the removal of 1,000 plastic bottles from the ocean. (Ocean Bottle is a certified B Corporation)
Consider a travel hot beverage cup for your tea and coffee lovers. Definitely one of the best gifts for the work commute.
Rocketbook Journal for Travel Notes
These spiral notebooks (Rocketbook, etc.) can be written on, scanned into a digital file, and then erased. Perfect for keeping track of itineraries, notes, and travel memories. The notebook can be used as is, or customized by its owner to work for their system of journaling.
Tip: I’ve created an itinerary page, a checklist of must-dos for the trip, and a balance sheet for travel expenses. There are plenty of pages left for journaling. I use a permanent marker to create my template pages. (The permanent marker cannot be erased, so plan carefully before using!) Then I fill in my template using the Pilot Frixion pen included in the package. I carry the Rocketbook notebook on my trip, as I would an itinerary, and scan it into a digital file once I’m home. Then a quick wipe with the included towel and my book is ready for the next adventure!
Gift Certificate for Audible, or another Entertainment Service
Audiobooks are great for passing the time on a road trip or long flight. Audible offers bestsellers, classics, and travel guides your friend can download onto their phone or device.
eBooks are a perfect gift for travelers. Carrying your reading material on a device saves a LOT of space and weight in your luggage. Most travel guides come as eBooks and often allow for the traveler to highlight and note places of interest. In our opinion, these are best read on a tablet. But for our pleasure reading we greatly prefer an eReader. It is easier on the eyes and can be read in the dark without disturbing others.
Tip: remind them to download eBooks and audiobooks from their local library.
My Top 5 Favorite Sustainable Gifts
#5 Gifts that Support Local and Small Businesses
Buy local! Not just for your traveling friends, but for everyone on your gift list. Purchasing from small businesses, and supporting local artists and crafts people, is a big part of sustainable living. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but the carbon cost of shipping is eliminated.
Tip: for friends and family at a distance, find businesses local to their area online. It’s usually easy to purchase a gift card to a restaurant or favorite store from their website, but if not, give them a call! Most small businesses appreciate your efforts.
#4 Homemade, or Locally Made, Treats and Beverages
Does your town produce something special your friend enjoys? Is there a local vineyard or a world-famous bakery? We are lucky to live in an seaside town with outstanding oyster farms, so every year we send a dozen or two to family members around the country. Nothing is more earth-friendly than consumables!
No local specialties? A gift of your signature bread or the garden vegetables you’ve preserved is a great way to share a part of yourself with your friends.
Create a gift set by presenting your treats in a reusable container. For example, fill a reusable coffee mug with coffee beans or your trademark biscotti.
#3 Donation in Their Name
Listen to what your friend or family member talks about. What are their environmental causes and priorities? Make a donation in their name to a library, wildlife reserve or humanitarian charity that reflects their interests.
Make a donation to World Wildlife Fund and get a thank you item. Your animal-loving friend will appreciate your donation and will love their set of Bamboo Cutlery, cute animal socks, stuffed animal, etc., you’ve included in their package,
Our favorite charity is the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in East Africa. There work with orphaned elephants, and other wildlife, is remarkable. Donations to this group support not only the orphanage, but also anti-poaching teams, and mobile vets to assist animals injured on the savannah. We have been supporters of the trust for many years and had the opportunity to visit on our last trip to Kenya. Read about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust here.
#2 Experience Gifts
“Collect moments, not things!” – Karen Salmansohn
Tickets to a sports event, a museum membership, a cooking class, or even a massage, will create memories and enrich their lives.
Bonus points if it’s a shared experience!
As we’ve gotten older, we really appreciate this! Love having a good reason to get together with friends.
Plan an adventure together. This can be as simple as a day in the city or as big as a bucket list experience.
Ideas for local experiences:
- lunch and a museum,
- visit to a local winery
- dinner at a special restaurant,
- hometown tours
Somewhat similar to #2 above, but this gift is all about them! In this busy world, the gift of time is priceless. This can be as simple as offering to babysit, or watch their pets, so they can enjoy free time, run errands for them so they can enjoy a day with their family, or offer to drive them on their errands if they don’t have transportation.
Go green in all aspects of gifting: sustainable shopping & wrap
Shop locally – saves on packaging, shipping fuel expenses, and supports local businesses.
Avoid items with excessive packaging.
Make your packaging part of the gift.
- Create a gift kit by using containers that’ll enhance your gift. For example, present your to-go utensils and reusable straws in a pretty cosmetics case.
- Reuse old gift bags. Store them after the holidays to use again.
- Use fabric to wrap – Use a pretty scarf that you’re no longer using, cloth napkins, or invest in fabric wrap created specifically for gifting. Rapt Gift Wrap is a women owned business that creates lovely wraps you can use for every event.
If you prefer to send gift cards, think about sending them by email rather than purchasing a plastic card.
How can a former librarian create a shopping list without including a book?!?
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m gifting several people on my list The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. Look for a copy at your neighborhood bookstore!
Southern Cross University Study – Going Green