There are small adjustments we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint, and the holidays are a good time to start changing your habits, considering there is much more waste created during this time. According to the Stanford University Recycling Center, Americans create 25 percent more waste in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of year, totaling 25 million tons of additional garbage.
When thinking about eco-friendly living, words like “recycled,” “organic,” and “green” might come to mind, but there is actually a lot more to it than that. “Asking questions like ‘Who made this product?’ ‘What materials did they use and where were they sourced’ and ‘What is their working environment like?’ will help you understand if the entire product and its processes are really sustainable,” said Aimee Singh, co-founder of Plastic Free Pursuit, an online shop for zero-waste products with gift registry options for various occasions.
If you know someone who is trying to be less wasteful, you may want to give them something they can use on their journey. Singh advised to gift items that replace wasteful things like single-use bathroom or kitchen items, and to look for fabrics like cotton, bamboo and hemp. If you’re looking for a more subtle gift, she suggested something like a reusable water bottle or a sweet-scented shampoo bar that’s “sustainable without making it obvious.” When in doubt, a starter kit is a good jumping off point: “Zero-waste kits make great gifts because they’re sort of a nice step toward a more sustainable lifestyle and anybody can use them,” she said.
Whether you know someone who is very into living a more green lifestyle or you want to introduce them to ways they can be more earth-conscious, we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite sustainable and eco-friendly gift ideas.
The best eco-friendly gift ideas
To help you find the best eco-friendly gifts, we rounded up top-rated and earth-conscious gifts based on Select reader interest. Whether it has biodegradable packaging or is made out of upcycled material, each of these gifts has some sort of sustainable element.
Growing herbs right at home is a great way to jumpstart a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. According to the brand, this kit includes USDA Organic seeds for five commonly used herbs: thyme, cilantro, basil, parsley and sage. It also includes compostable starter pots and soil discs so they have everything they need to get started. Gift with a ceramic pot from a small local business or a watering can made from recycled materials.
A brand that is attempting to reduce candle waste, this DIY candle set from Siblings is a fun craft to do on a winter day that the receiver will enjoy all season. All they have to do is melt the bag of eco-friendly coconut wax, place the included wick in the vessel and pour. With notes of rose, bergamot, and earth oakmoss, this scent should suit most tastes and comes in plant- based packaging, according to the brand. The brand offers several other options as well in case they prefer something sweeter or even scent-free.
A great way to sneak something eco-friendly into a loved one’s wardrobe, this watch from Nixon is solar-powered, eliminating the need for batteries. There are five stylish colorways to choose from and the band and case are made from recycled ocean plastics, according to the brand.
Great for the beauty guru in your life, this eyeshadow palette could be a great addition to their beauty kit. The natural earthy tones are made with organic ingredients like jojoba and coconut oils and can be used as eyeshadow, blush or highlighter, according to the brand. Plus, the brand says the palette itself is made of upcycled cork and is fully backyard compostable.
This chic wrap can be worn as a scarf but is also big enough to cuddle up with on the couch. It Is made from bamboo, which requires less water and is more sustainable to grow than cotton, according to the brand. The wrap also comes in recycled packaging with vegetable-based inks. It’s available in four colors and is anti-static for more comfort on the cold days ahead, the brand says.
Sheet masks are typically made with different types of fabric, but Masque Bar says these are made from plant cellulose and are biodegradable. Included in the set are Rose, Banana, Coconut, and Green Tea masks to handle all their skin woes.
The gift that keeps on giving, use this pretty fabric to wrap their gift, and then they can reuse it for another gift in the future. Available in three colorful motifs, this cloth eliminates the need for wasteful wrapping paper this holiday season.
Introduce the eco-conscious person in your life to the sustainable practice of composting. This stainless steel bin, which I myself own and love, can rescue their food scraps from the landfill. When gifting, include information on where they can drop off their compost and some compostable bin liners to get them started on the right foot.
One of our favorite eco-friendly shoes, the Allbirds Wool Runners are available for both men and women and come in 11 different colorways. Allbirds is a Certified B Corporation, which means that they allowed B Corps to audit their sustainability practices and were given a stamp of approval.
A gift that any aspiring chef or cooking connoisseur will likely enjoy, this gift set is filled with items that are meant to be reused or regifted when done. The set includes an organic cotton apron from Reluctant Threads, Food Huggers to replace plastic wrap and sustainably sourced spices from Burlap & Barrel.
Upgrade their lounge or game room with the gift of a classic game like Dominos. This set from ChopValue is made out of recycled chopsticks — the company says it collects used chopsticks from restaurants and gives them new life in the form of fun games, home decor and furniture.
Regular yoga mats are made of synthetic materials, but Scoria says that its mat is made out of antimicrobial cork and sustainably sourced natural rubber. The mat with a carrying strap for convenient transport to their favorite yoga spot, and the brand says that proceeds of each purpose go to educating indigenous youth.
This organic travel minis set comes in simple recycled cardboard packaging that won’t take away from the fun inside. It includes baby essentials like diaper balm, baby wash and nose and cheek balm. A set like this could be smart to buy for loved ones with babies who might be staying over for the holidays so they can use it during the trip and then take it home.
Give the gift of fashion-forward trends with the popular puff jacket from Aritzia. The normal version of this jacket is stuffed with goose-down, but the brand made a more eco-friendly version out of vegan leather and a down alternative it says is made with 100 percent recycled materials. There are five colors to choose from, so you can find the one that best suits their style.
New for 2021, this set from Blueland includes four reusable hand soap containers with soap tablets in scents like gingerbread, peppermint and evergreen. The eco-friendly cleaning brand, which previously appeared on “Shark Tank,” says it prides itself on doing everything possible to eliminate single-use plastics from the home, so these glass containers are meant to be refilled and reused for years to come.
According to Girlfriend Collective, 47 plastic water bottles were used to make this sleek and, ironically, water-resistant backpack. It comes in five earth tones and has an interior laptop sleeve, making it great for heading back into the office.
Whether you’re shopping for someone who loves to hike or even just your coworker who is constantly ordering takeout, the BPA-free set will help them avoid single-use plastic utensils. The dishwasher-safe set includes a fork, spoon, knife, straw and set of chopsticks. The carrying case is small enough to stick in any bag, and according to the brand, it’s made from post-consumer water bottles.
Great for the dad obsessed with his lawn or the frequent flier who isn’t home much, this smart sprinkler system can be customized to your lawn and its needs and can be controlled by your smartphone or any smart home device. It uses a smart scheduling system that knows when your lawn needs watering the most — according to the brand, this helps conserve water use and waste, helping both the planet and their bank account.
Made out of organic dyes, natural rubber and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and Fair Trade certified organic cotton, these scrunchies from Kooshoo are biodegradable and plastic-free, according to the brand. Sold as a pair, there are nine fun color sets to choose from.
This stylish carry-on has a recycled polycarbonate shell, recycled zippers, vegan leather details and recycled aluminum. Not only does the brand say that it offsets the carbon used in sourcing, creating and delivering the product to the customer, but it also says it offsets an additional .33 tonnes of carbon, which it approximates to be the estimated equivalent to the first trip you might take with this carry-on.
Coming in several sizes and fun colors, this reusable cup will allow them to drink their favorite coffee without the need for a cardboard sleeve, as the cork band does the job. Supplement this gift with a gift card to their favorite local coffee shop or some fair trade coffee grounds.
Vrai says it has the world’s first diamonds produced with zero carbon footprint and according to the brand, each carat it makes saves over 2,000 ounces of air pollution. Choose from hoops in recycled 14K yellow, white or rose gold to match their everyday style.
The Foggy Dog says that its trendy bandanas are made from materials like organic cotton and upcycled denim in a zero-waste textile mill. Made in the USA, they come in three sizes and can be bought with matching scrunchies so you can match your pup. The brand also says it donates one meal to a shelter dog with each order.
Fully compostable and biodegradable, according to the brand, this case from Pela is made of flax straw material (Flaxstic is what they call it). This case features a colorful daisy design that is sure to enhance their mood. Not only is the brand a member of 1% For the Planet (meaning it donates proceeds to planet-protecting initiatives), but it also says that it’s already saved nearly 600,000 pounds of plastic from entering the system by selling its cases.