Eco-friendly gifts are a growing trend and we are here for it!
The holidays can be a wonderful time for us, but a terrible time for the planet. Every year, there is a huge global spike in the consumption of consumer goods during the holidays.
These might bring magic and joy to you and your loved ones, but what do they do to the environment?
Conscious consumption is always a bit challenging in a consumer-driven world, but the holidays can be downright hard.
So, what are the environmental impacts of holiday gifts and how can we do better?
In this guide, we’re covering exactly that, plus some great sustainable and eco-friendly holiday gifts to give instead. Who doesn’t love a good gift!?
Let’s jump right in!
Skip to What You Need
- 1 The Environmental Impact of Holiday Gifts
- 2 How to Choose Great Eco-friendly Gifts
- 3 14 Amazing Eco-Friendly Gifts
- 3.1 1. Butter Me Up Organics – Organic Magnesium Lotion
- 3.2 2. Plaine Products – Zero Waste Starter Kit
- 3.3 3. Scoria – Butterfly Cork Yoga Mat
- 3.4 4. Trail Botanica – Everyday Care: Vegan and Zero-waste Skincare Set
- 3.5 5. Simply Chi Vintage – Glass Domes and Terrarium Jars
- 3.6 6. Solios Solar Watches – The Solar Black
- 3.7 7. Fitch & Folk – Wooden Picture Blocks
- 3.8 8. Allegorie – Black Gala Bi-fold Cardholder
- 3.9 9. Baleen Jewelry – Ohelo Necklace
- 3.10 10. Tender Leaf Toys – Galaxy Magblocs
- 3.11 11. Pact – Organic Cotton Honeycomb Knit Scarf
- 3.12 12. Creative Women – Stonewashed Linen Throw
- 3.13 13. Nisolo – Rosa Pouch
- 3.14 14. Klean Kanteen – The Plastic Free Kit
- 4 Wrapping Up
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
- 6 References and Useful Resources
The Environmental Impact of Holiday Gifts
When it comes to the holidays, there is a huge spike in the consumption of consumer goods. Driven by events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas people buy vast quantities of gifts, electronics, toys, decorations, food, clothing and accessories, and just about every consumer good out there.
In the US alone, the National Retail Federation projected that 2021 holiday season spending in November and December would increase by between 8.5% and 10.5%, with a value between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. Although the numbers for 2022 aren’t out yet, the growth is expected to increase even more this year.
So, how do holiday gifts and increased consumption impact the environment?
This comes down to a few key things:
The Holidays and Holiday Gifts Generate Vast Amounts of Waste
Almost every item bought or sold comes in some form of packaging, the majority of which contains at least some plastic. Online purchases come in even more packaging due to shipping and they also need things like Styrofoam pellets to protect items in transit.
Most plastic packaging cannot be recycled and goes straight to landfill. Take a look at this video by CBC News for a peek into what this looks like:
Holiday Gift Manufacturing and Distribution Impact the Environment
When we give gifts, they’re often not items that are really needed by the recipient. That means that the environmental impact of those items’ manufacture and distribution is really unnecessary and avoidable.
The environmental impacts of holiday gifts and the packaging they come in start from the raw materials used to make them and continue right up the supply chain.
In broad strokes, these include things like climate change, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, impacts from manufacturing processes, wasted resources, and waste generation.
There are also profound social and ethical impacts, the people involved in the production of raw materials and the manufacture of the goods we buy.
Cosmetics and make-up are a great example:
As you can see, something as simple and seemingly innocent as a tube of hand cream can leave a huge environmental, social and ethical footprint behind it.
So, how do you choose eco-friendly and sustainable gifts instead?
Let’s take a look at some easy ways to make the holidays more sustainable.
How to Choose Great Eco-friendly Gifts
How do you choose eco-friendly gifts? Here are some easy ways to make your holiday gifts more sustainable:
- Choose items that the recipient really needs and will use (and reuse)
- Opt for sustainable materials and skip the plastic wherever you can
- Buy secondhand wherever you can
- Opt for natural fibers and natural materials that can be composted or disposed of safely
- Select organic and sustainably made items, learn a bit about the company what they do to reduce their impact on the environment
- Buy local and support small businesses
- If you’re buying online, look for places that offset their carbon emissions from shipping
- Choose vegan and/or cruelty-free items
- Look for reliable sustainability certifications
- Consider social impacts and choose Fair Trade businesses and those that treat workers well
- Consider buying experiences or subscription rather than physical things
- Look for businesses that use sustainable packaging
- Reuse last year’s wrapping paper or use a fabric wrap that can be used and reused
- If you have to buy wrapping paper or cards, use plastic-free wrapping paper that can be recycled or composted
- Skip the plastic and polyester ribbons
Right, with the above in mind, let’s look at some great eco-friendly gifts! We have chosen gifts from companies that go good for the environment and make great quality, sustainable gifts.
14 Amazing Eco-Friendly Gifts
Here is our selection of the best eco-friendly gifts to give in 2022:
1. Butter Me Up Organics – Organic Magnesium Lotion
Butter Me Up Organics makes a wonderful range of cruelty-free, zero-waste personal care products. All their products are personally made in-house at their studio in Livermore, California.
They use only natural ingredients, which are carefully sourced, mainly from local suppliers. Most of their ingredients are fair trade and certified organic.
Butter Me Up Organics is a passionately zero-waste brand. They minimize waste in all their processes and only use sustainable packaging that is biodegradable or compostable, reusable, or recyclable. They ship 100% plastic-free, using materials that are recycled and recyclable.
Butter Me Up Organics’ Organic Magnesium Lotion is a rich and nourishing lotion made with organic avocado oil, shea butter, coconut oil, and pure lavender essential oil.
The base of the lotion is a Magnesium oil that Butter Me Up Organics made themselves. Magnesium is readily absorbed through the skin and offers a host of health benefits! It is packaged in a glass jar, with a metal lid.
Website: Butter Me Up Organics
2. Plaine Products – Zero Waste Starter Kit
Plaine Products is a woman-owned, zero-waste, vegan, and cruelty-free brand. They’re also a Certified B Corp, carbon-neutral, and partner with 1 for the Planet.
Their ranges include zero-waste hair care, body care, and face care products, as well as a lovely selection of zero-waste gift sets! All their products are natural, safe, and non-toxic, using only Environmental Working Group (EWG) approved ingredients.
As a fully zero-waste brand, they use aluminum bottles and offer refills and subscription services. Their shipping is carbon-neutral and they use recycled boxes for delivery and returns.
Plaine Products’ Zero-Waste Starter Kit doubles as a travel kit, and makes an excellent gift! It contains a full-size hand wash and lotion, as well as travel-size shampoo and conditioner.
They’re all refillable, and the travel-size shampoo and conditioner are a nice choice for someone trying them for the first time. We love the Rosemary Mint Vanilla, but you can also try their Unscented or Citrus Lavender.
Price: $50 per set
3. Scoria – Butterfly Cork Yoga Mat
Scoria is a woman-owned business making sustainable yoga mats with the vision of bringing play and joy back into adult life. Their products are made from biodegradable, recycled, or natural, renewable materials, in ways that minimize energy use and waste.
Scoria yoga mats are made using 100% sustainably grown cork and backed with natural tree rubber. They contain no synthetic TPE/PVC plastics yet do not lose any comfort, functionality, or durability. Cork is also naturally anti-microbial and non-slip, making them a good choice for hot yoga.
Their cork yoga mats come in a variety of designs to suit anyone’s preference, from completely plain to intricately patterned.
Website: Scoria World
4. Trail Botanica – Everyday Care: Vegan and Zero-waste Skincare Set
Trail Botanica (previously known as ApothecaryMuse) is a Pennsylvania-based skincare brand making vegan, zero-waste ‘Adventure Skincare’. Their products are a great choice for men or anyone who prefers a minimalist approach to their skincare.
Train Botanica’s products are made with all-natural and plant-based ingredients, contain no plastic and no manufactured chemicals. Even their packaging is plastic-free, as they use a biodegradable plant-based ‘cellophane’ instead.
We love their Everyday Care skincare sets, which contain a Meditation Mixer Soap, Herbal Warrior Lip Balm, Trail Blazer Deodorant, and a Funk Fighter Laundry Stain Stick. The perfect eco-friendly gift for someone who loves an active, outdoor adventure!
5. Simply Chi Vintage – Glass Domes and Terrarium Jars
Simply Chi Vintage is a California-based store selling second-hand items that are an “eclectic mix of the 80s & 90s, mid-century, boho-inspired, and anything that just has an organic, earthy feel”. They stock a wide range of items, from home décor and lighting to toys and trinkets.
When it comes to eco-friendly gifts, buying second-hand is a great choice. Especially if the items you’re buying are high-quality and made from natural materials so they can be re-used again or recycled/disposed of safely.
We love these rustic glass dome specimen displays and terrarium jars. They’re pretty, versatile, and made of glass so they can be infinitely recycled when the time comes.
Simply Chi Vintage sells second-hand so their pieces are unique and there won’t always be more than one of each.
Website: Simply Chi Vintage on Etsy
6. Solios Solar Watches – The Solar Black
Solios is a B Corp certified watch brand making solar-powered watches with the environment in mind. Founded in Montreal, they aim to create a circular economy, minimize the environmental footprint of manufacturing and maximize long-term usage of each item. They offset their carbon emissions and aim to be net-zero by 2025.
Their watches are made from infinitely recyclable stainless steel, and silicone-based eco-vegan leather that contains no plastic.
Solar watches run on renewable energy and last much longer than conventional battery-operated watches. They offer a take-back program to take back old watches so that the materials can be recycled.
We love their clean, minimalist designs for men and women, and their dedication to creating a sustainable brand. A great eco-friendly gift for a watch enthusiast who also loves the planet!
Price: $340 (both men’s and women’s style)
Website: Solios Watches
7. Fitch & Folk – Wooden Picture Blocks
Fitch & Folk make beautiful décor, baby toys, playmats, and blankets out of natural materials, like certified organic cotton and beechwood, painted with non-toxic paints. Many of their products are fully customizable, so you can give a truly one-of-a-kind, personalized gift.
Their wooden toys are hand-made in Australia, and their soft items are made in India, by Fair Trade partners, using certified organic cotton. Bonus: if you buy through their Etsy shop, your shipping will be carbon neutral – making your eco-friendly gift even more sustainable!
We love their customizable wooden block sets as a gift for small children. They’re natural, non-toxic, and hand-painted. The blocks are 5cm square, making them the perfect size and weight for babies and toddlers. Small wooden blocks that have been customized will last a lifetime and make a great keepsake too.
Price: $15.35 (set of 3) – $51.15 (set of 10)
Website: Fitch $ Folk on Etsy
8. Allegorie – Black Gala Bi-fold Cardholder
Allegorie is a women-owned, environmentally sustainable, and socially ethical brand making bags and accessories from food waste.
Soiled produce and fruit peels from the fruit juice industry are the main source of raw materials, diverting them from landfills and avoiding the huge amounts of greenhouse gases released by rotting produce in landfills.
Unlike most ‘vegan leathers’ their plant-based leather alternative material is completely biodegradable and contains no plastic/PVC. The material and final products are made in ethical, socially responsible working conditions.
Allegorie bags, purses, wallets, and cardholders are beautifully styled in simple, minimalist designs that limit waste from offcuts. They’re a great choice if you’re looking for chic eco-friendly gift.
9. Baleen Jewelry – Ohelo Necklace
Baleen Jewelry is a small Seattle-based studio that produces handmade pieces out of recycled metals in a zero-waste facility. They make a comprehensive range of jewelry, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets.
Every piece contains recovered and recycled metals and/or materials like colorful, plant-based cellulose acetate.
Baleen offsets their shipping carbon emissions and their packaging is recycled and recyclable. Their tags and gift boxes are made of recycled paper, from a mill powered by renewable energy in the USA.
They do not use any plastic bubble wrap and instead use 100% recyclable paper shaped like a honeycomb to protect products in transit. The paper is also sustainably sourced from an SFI certified source.
We love the wide range of styles and designs they have, from bold pieces to delicate necklaces and dainty chains, like this Ohleo Necklace.
10. Tender Leaf Toys – Galaxy Magblocs
Tender Leaf Toys is an eco-friendly toy brand from California. They make beautifully hand-crafted wooden toys, puzzles, and games for children of all ages. Their toys encourage imaginative play and physical interaction with different shapes and sizes.
Tender Leaf Toys are made from FSC certified plywood and sustainably reclaimed rubberwood, which is a by-product of the latex industry. They use only safe, non-toxic paint and glue, which contains no formaldehyde.
Their packaging is completely plastic-free and they use recyclable cardboard and paper instead.
The facility where the toys are made in Indonesia is family owned and they ensure good working conditions and fair wages for all their workers.
Tender Leaf Toys made a huge range of toys and sets, from simple blocks to intricate playsets and dollhouses. We love their magnetic blocks because they’re super cute, simple, and versatile – giving plenty of options for a young imagination to run wild with!
Website: Tender Leaf Toys
11. Pact – Organic Cotton Honeycomb Knit Scarf
Pact is a small sustainable clothing brand from Colorado. They’re one of the most popular eco-friendly brands and use only GOTS-certified organic cotton. All their garments are made in a Fair-Trade certified factory in India.
Certified organic cotton requires more than 70% less water and none of the harmful chemicals used to grow conventional cotton.
We love their Honeycomb Knit Scarf, as a cozy but pretty and practical eco-friendly gift.
Their packaging is made from 98% to 100% post-consumer recycled paper and cardboard, which are completely recyclable. The plastic sleeves inside are made from biodegradable plastic.
Pact also offsets their carbon emissions from shipping through offset purchases for renewable energy.
12. Creative Women – Stonewashed Linen Throw
Creative Women is a woman-owned, fair-trade, and vegan brand. They made a wide range of handmade textiles and also stock various other home décor items (we love their baskets!).
Choosing an item from Creative Women is not only an eco-friendly gift, but an ethically and socially responsible one too.
Their products are all hand spun and handwoven, using natural fibers that are grown locally to where they’re made. Creative women use only Fair-Trade suppliers, throughout their supply chain.
Their linen throws are a great eco-friendly gift that is super functional, versatile and feels lovely. They’re made from pure linen (flax), which is a more sustainable material than cotton and dyed with azo-free dyes.
Website: Creative Women
13. Nisolo – Rosa Pouch
Nisolo is a Nashville-based company making sustainable leather goods. They are B Corporation, Climate Neutral, and Leather Working Group Certified. They make bags, wallets, shoes, and belts for both men and women, out of leather that is processed sustainably.
Nisolo reduces and offsets 100% of their carbon (for their entire supply chain), uses natural materials, and is committed to ethical working conditions and living wages throughout their entire supply chain.
We love these Rosa Pouches as a high-quality gift that is the perfect size to use a clutch, or you can use it in your purse or tote bag with anything small inside it, even cosmetics or electronics. These little purses make a stunning eco-friendly gift that can be used in so many ways, for many years to come.
14. Klean Kanteen – The Plastic Free Kit
Kean Kanteen is a California-based company that makes stainless steel alternatives to most of the small plastic items we use in everyday life – water bottles, cups, and travel mugs, flasks, lunch boxes, and straws.
Klean Kanteen is B Corp certified and all their products are manufactured in a facility that is 100% solar powered. Renewable energy is part of their mission to eliminate greenhouse gas and carbon emissions from their business. They buy carbon and greenhouse gas credits for the emissions they’re not able to eliminate.
Stainless steel is an infinitely recyclable material, which is light but very durable. Their products are made to last and last, making them a great eco-friendly gift for anyone who wants to eliminate plastic from their life and reuse it forever.
The Plastic Free Kit includes a single-wall 27oz Reflect water bottle with bamboo cap, a 32oz Insulated TKPro thermos with pour-through cap and cup, and a 16oz Insulated Tumbler with straw lid. It also comes with a 20oz steel lunch box and 12oz Insulated TK Wide coffee mug and a stainless steel straw set.
Website: Klean Kanteen
To wrap it up, when you choose sustainable gifts, you’re choosing to support businesses that support the environment and work in responsible and ethical ways. Eco-friendly gifts are a way of giving and giving back to the planet at the same time.
In this guide, we covered all you need to know to make the holidays sustainable – how common gifts impact the environment, how to choose more eco-friendly gifts, and some of the great options you have for sustainable gifting. Where will you start?
Frequently Asked Questions
What gift do you get for someone who is environmentally friendly?
If you're looking for an eco-friendly gift, look for gifts that are:
- something that they will use many times, for a long time
- made from sustainable, renewable materials like natural fibers or wood/bamboo
- organic, all natural and non-toxic
- made by companies that are eco-friendly and use sustainable business practices
- vegan and/or cruelty free
- have sustainability certifications
- are plastic-free
- come in sustainable packaging that is reusable recycled, recyclable or compostable
Read the full guide for more ways to make gifting eco-friendly and a list of great eco-friendly gift ideas
What are eco-friendly gifts?
Eco-friendly gifts are products that are made and distributed in ways that do not harm the environment and that can be reused, safely disposed of or recycled. Check out the full guide for more on what makes a gift eco-friendly and how to choose the best eco-friendly gifts.
What are the best eco-friendly gifts for men?
Some great eco-friendly gifts for men include:
- zero-waste safety razors
- solar watches
- vegan and zero-waste toiletries
- organic cotton or linen clothing or bedding
- sustainable jewelry
- experiences and subscriptions rather than physical products
Read the full guide for more eco-friendly gift ideas and some amazing eco-friendly gifts to choose from.
References and Useful Resources
Certified B Corporation: Certification Requirements
Columbia University Climate School: How Buying Stuff Drives Climate Change
National Retail Federation: NRF Predicts Highest Holiday Retail Sales on Record (2021)
Shop Like You Give a Damn: Infographic – How Sustainable Are Your Christmas Gifts?
The Good Trade: Truly Sustainable Brands Have These 3 Values In Common