We put a lot of energy and time into thinking about how to help people become more sustainable and how we can support our fellow sustainability enthusiasts.
When it comes to gift giving, shopping for sustainable gifts isn’t the easiest no matter where you fall on the environmentalist scale. This time of year, in particular, we’re bombarded with generic listicles.
Rather than trying to shout over the crowd, we’re moving the conversation to the next room over and giving you the essential info to help you choose the best gift for the environmentalist in your life.
There’s nothing wrong with a generic list, they can be helpful but ultimately we don’t know who TF you’re buying a gift for — or why — so who are we to make a list?
Instead, we’re going to illuminate what makes a gift sustainable and what the hell is going on in the mind of the eco-warrior you’re shopping for.
Using all this knowledge + these FIFTY suggestions + your knowledge of the gift recipient, we’re 150% confident you’ll choose a perfect sustainable gift.
what is a sustainable gift
A sustainable gift involves an item that was made in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of the planet. Its use and end of life will also leave few, if any marks, behind. It can be something small like a plastic-free chapstick or something huge like an electric car — kidding! An experience gift or a consumable gift is a better example.
Today we’re walking you through what’s going on in the brain of a sustainability enthusiast and helping you find the perfect sustainable gift for any occasion.
why is ethical and sustainable gift-giving on the rise?
With all the greenwashing and climate denial is it even worth looking for ethical and sustainable gifts? Yes!
We love to hear sustainable and ethical gifting is getting more popular, especially as we continue to realize that everyone can love a sustainable and ethical gift not just eco-warriors and environmentalists.
Shopping ethically can make any gift-giving experience less about extreme consumerism and more about connecting with your loved ones while supporting small businesses that are fighting for our future.
To be honest, we’re living in a strange time in history.
Novelty items are the most affordable and the most accessible they’ve ever been, while the cost of basic necessities is skyrocketing. Sure, your rent is 85% of your monthly take-home, but look, Amazon can deliver this product in two days (while Bezos is figuring out how to get the hell off this planet).
5 factors to consider when choosing any sustainable gift for an environmentalist or eco-warrior
Did it come from the planet? Can it return to the planet or be made into something new? Did it hurt the planet to create it? Prioritize items made with natural materials, that are sustainably sourced, can be composted, or can be endlessly reused. Recyclability should also be considered.
2. use and longevity
How is the gift going to be used? Once? Twice? A couple of times a year? Avoid products that need a ton of different gadgets and materials to operate, and that are likely going to break. Instead prioritize products that are reusable, useful, and can be enjoyed well into the future.
Certifications come with some grey areas because not all of them are regulated and some are even considered greenwashing. They often come with extensive work (and price tags) which makes it difficult for small brands to obtain.
But put down anything that says “green”, “ethical”, “sustainable” or “contains recycled material” and back up slowly. Unless those claims are clearly outlined and can be backed up with facts, skip it.
A quick Google search will tell you how legit a certification is and what it stands for. The goodtrade has a great article outlining 8 of the most prominent certifications.
The main takeaway is to not let yourself get sucked into false claims or certifications.
4. packaging and shipping
Obviously, you can’t always tell how a product is wrapped until you buy it, but there are a couple of ways you can get an idea.
- Sometimes there is a photo of a ‘sealed’ product in the descriptions. Like ours!
- Check the review section for a photo of the product when it arrives. You can see if it comes in a mess of plastic and styrofoam packing peanuts.
Check the website for a ‘sustainability’ page, a blog post, or info on the product page. Companies will definitely be bragging (as they should) if they’ve made a choice to ship with more eco-friendly ingredients like kraft paper, dissolvable packing peanuts, and minimal plastic.
5. source and origin
Prioritizing local businesses is always the best place to start. If your recipient lives in another city, look for a local business near them. Prioritize local businesses that have sustainable claims or are making/selling unique items (read: not mass-produced). For example, we explain where our materials come from, where they’re shipped from, and the impact we’re having.
what kinds of gifts do you give to an environmentalist or eco-warrior?
Novelty items are more accessible than they’ve ever been before. Need a drawer organizer in a specific size? Easy. Need an obscure book tomorrow? Easy. Need groceries or like, a mortgage? Not so easy. The price for everything is skyrocketing making sustainable goods a luxury.
With that in mind, we’re dividing gifts for your environmentalist into three categories: consumable, experience, and material.
As you might have imagined, consumable gifts fall into the category of items that can be used. Food comes to mind first but it also includes gift cards, nature-based gifts, and services. Clothes can technically fall under this category, however, we recommend proceeding with caution when purchasing clothes as gifts (thanks fast fashion).
In our opinion, experience gifts are highly underrated. Something generic (like a museum day pass) could be something the recipient has been meaning to do but couldn’t afford, couldn’t make a decision about, or couldn’t find the time to book it. With a little thought about who the gift is going to, an experience gift becomes extremely memorable.
We’ve been taught that materials are bad, minimalism is in, and you should not be a material girl. But we are material girls living in a material world! Your blankets are material, your tableware is material, your computer is material — we need materials to survive. However, when shopping for your eco-warrior the goal is to avoid overconsumption.
Alright, alright, alright, you asked (no you didn’t) so we delivered — let’s talk 50 sustainable gift ideas (!) for your eco-warrior or environmentalist loved ones.
part 1: 18 ideas for consumable gifts
Anything you cook up or gift will be appreciated — and most importantly — devoured.
1. Prepack your famous cookies, brownies, *brownies*, or soup recipe into a mason jar.
2. Infuse your own liquor or make a beverage like limoncello or tepache.
3. Put together a box for the ultimate “girl dinner” using locally sourced (and plastic-free) ingredients.
4. Literally any type of baked goods for someone with a dietary restriction. (thank us later)
5. Share your sourdough starter.nature
Not everyone has a green thumb or knows how to bring the outdoors in. Think about gifts that can help them get in touch with nature.
6. Annual passport to the national parks.
7. Use your vegetable garden to make homemade gifts like preserves, bread, muffins, salsas, and more. This also works for homemade broth and fresh produce right out of the garden!
8. Propagate one of your edible or non-edible plants. Get it started, pot it, and provide watering instructions no matter how basic you think they are please-and-thank-you.
9. Sometimes, a simple (plastic-free) bouquet from a local florist or farmers market will do the trick.
There are a plethora of services you can gift solo or with a group budget, but they can easily be tailored to a person’s wants or needs or your budget.
10. A professional cleaner.
11. A professional organizer.
12. A professional stylist or wardrobe consultant.
13. A car detail.
14. A photographer for a special photo session.
15. A vacation/event planner.
16. A private chef experience or a week of home-cooked meals.
17. An interior design consultation for that person who’s been talking about it for 5 years.gift cards & e-cards
part 2: 19 experienced-based gifts
Experienced-based gifts basically force someone to take a little time off and we’re here for it. It can be hard to break through the schedules, the calendars, and the exhaustion so having someone choose for them is an ideal situation.
a new or indulgent experience
19. Massage, beauty, or wellness appointment or consultation.
20. Tickets to a local museum.
21. Theatre tickets.
22. Local concert or comedian.
23. Local wine tasting.
24. An amusement park.
25. Or DIY a scavenger hunt for a budget pick.
Learning something new is incredibly important to our development and happiness as adults. But it can often feel unattainable. Education gifts are a great introduction to what’s available!
26. A foreign language class
27. Cooking class
28. Dance class
29. A personal trainer
It feels like everything requires a subscription. When your budget is maxed out, or you just want to treat yourself, an amazing gift is knowing you have a subscription covered.
32. A relevant magazine/news subscription
33. Kindle (e-book) subscription or gift card
34. A weekly/monthly meal kit
35. CSA program (community-supported agriculture)
36. A fairtrade coffee or chocolate subscription
37. A plant or flower subscription (start with local CSAs)
part 3: 13 material-based gifts for your environmentalist or eco-warrior
A material item isn’t a bad thing. And sometimes, depending on the person, the best way to find out what to give them is to ask what they need.
An easy guess for any planet lover is to get them something durable and reusable.
38. A reusable travel silverware set
39. A set of containers for bulk food
40. Reusable paper towels (cloth or Swedish cloth)
41. A non-toxic, eco-friendly yoga mat (and block)
42. Vintage cocktail glasses (literal second-hand, hold the lead)
43. a set of durable, hangers made from recycled plastic (hint: it’s us!)
leave no trace / you be the decision-maker
This is partially us projecting but it’s hard for the sustainability enthusiasts in your life to shop with all their knowledge about the environmental effects of everything. As long as you’ve ensured it is truly eco-friendly they will appreciate you gifting them something “luxurious” that they don’t have to think about.
44. A zero waste cookbook
45. A sustainable (refillable) candle
46. Non-toxic cookware
47. A sustainably sourced, fairtrade, natural blanket
49. With a little extra planning, souvenirs make great gifts! You can find a plethora of street artists making handmade paintings, drawings, baskets, jewelry, and more.
what they asked for50. Sometimes the best gift is simply something the recipient needs. Don’t discount it just because it doesn’t feel like a gift to you.
wrapping it up: environmentally-friendly gift-wrapping ideas
Don’t stop thinking about sustainability after you’ve settled on a gift — the wrapping is just as important! And then you’re done, we promise.
The wrapping paper industry is worth SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS in the U.S. Is it a coincidence we think a gift isn’t good if it’s not beautifully packaged?
Unfortunately, no matter what bin you put it in, the majority of that wrapping paper is headed right into the landfill. Once you add the glitter, the shine, the smooth cutting, the de-wrinkling, ribbons, bows, and everything else it has one foot in the landfill.
But never you fear with a little creativity soon you won’t even need wrapping paper!
- Grab a scarf and use the Furoshiki wrapping method
- Save kraft paper from your purchases throughout the year and reuse them (kraft paper IS recyclable)
- Save kraft paper bags throughout the year and dress them up a bit with recycled tissue paper (also from previous purchases) or stamps
- Purchase reusable wrapping paper and ask for it back
- Go naked — we promise your environmentalist won't mind.
We notably left out skincare and beauty products. Everyone has a different routine, needs, and tolerances so to avoid purchasing something someone won’t (or can’t) use, it might be better to give a gift card or avoid this category unless the recipient has specifically mentioned it.
Whenever it comes time to give a gift to the environmentalist in your life, we’re almost positive they’ll love anything you give them but we know that putting in the extra steps to tread lightly on the planet will not be something they forget anytime soon.