Sustainable Gift Guide: 15 Christmas Gift Ideas for Eco-Conscious Consumers
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s time to start seriously thinking about what to buy our friends and family for Christmas.
However, as we are becoming more aware of the impact our shopping habits have on the environment, it’s worth thinking more deeply about how we spend our money and what we spend it on.
According to a 2022 survey by finder, roughly 52% of Americans admitted to receiving at least one unwanted gift over the holidays, and 8% of that ended up in landfill — and that’s without considering the other excess waste generated by the holidays season; wrapping paper, glass, decorations, food waste, etc. Some 38,000 miles of ribbon are thrown away and usually end up in landfills. What’s more, it’s estimated that stores throw away around 25% of Christmas returns, adding to the large amount of waste created by the holidays.
Sustainable Gift Guide (2023)
While this gift guide offers a few ideas on what to buy your friends and family this Christmas, it's important to keep in mind that buying more stuff isn’t necessarily a great solution to our climate concerns — no matter how sustainable the product is. Only 1% of the stuff we buy is still in use six months after purchase — something to keep in mind when looking for gifts this year.
Gift a Nature Protection Membership
Gifting a membership or making a donation on someone's behalf is a great way to share your passion for a cause with family and friends. This Christmas, why not share your passion for protecting our world and give someone a Planet Wild membership! Planet Wild offers a monthly membership to restore our planet. Once a month the Planet Wild team supports grassroots projects around the world that clean our oceans, bring back endangered species and revive entire forests.
From just €18 you can get a gift that supports missions such as saving the European Bison from extinction, planting 40,000 trees in Senegal, and keeping dolphins safe from mass tourism in Portugal. Bring joy to the planet and your loved ones!
Around 0.5% of the world’s plastic ends up in the ocean — that’s around 1 million tonnes of trash every year. While the fishing industry is the biggest offender, single use plastics and other trash also makes its way from land into the rivers and seas. So what can we do about it? One way is to simply use less plastic! There are a wealth of products out there these days to help us reduce our plastic usage.
Here are a few products you can keep in mind while shopping over the holidays:
Stainless Steel Straws (€9.99 from Luxinity)
Beeswax Wraps (€43.97 from natissy)
Reusable Coffee Cups (From 19.99 from Ökocup)
Tote Bags (Try your local bookstore!)
Water Bottles (From €18.90 from waterdrop)
Music, meditation, gaming… you name it — there’s an app for everything these days. If there’s a busy book lover in your life who maybe doesn’t always have time to finish a chapter, why not give them an ebook subscription for Christmas? It’s totally waste-free and provides unlimited options on ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and podcasts.
You can gift an Everand subscription for $59.99 for 6 months.
Solar Powered Battery Charger
Solar power is being used to generate electricity, heating and cooling and is increasingly being used in a number of industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. It is one of the world’s most powerful renewable energy sources, so why not harness the power of the sun for yourself this Christmas?
Use the almighty power of the sun to charge your phone, laptop, or any other device you need with a solar-powered battery bank. From now on you won’t need access to a plug socket, but you can leave your charger outside for an hour or two wherever you are to charge your devices. This gift is ideal for adventurous types who enjoy camping, hiking, and other adventurous activities that might leave you a little far away from civilization.
Why not try the Xtreme Power Bank Rugged 35W which retails at €99.95.
Upcycled Clothing & Jewelry
100 billion items of clothing are created every year, but 93% of brands evaluated in a 2023 survey aren’t paying their workers a living wage (Fashion Checker). What’s more, textile production contributes to climate change more than international travel and shipping combined, that’s between 8-10% of all carbon emissions worldwide. The massive impact fast fashion has on the environment is a huge problem and is reason enough to avoid certain brands this holiday season.
Websites like Vinted, Etsy, Upcycle That and Rebag (to name a few) offer fashion-lovers and bargain hunters a wealth of options when it comes to clothes, bags, jewelry, shoes — anything pre-worn, recycled, or donated.
Clothing from Certified Brands
If you really need a specific item of clothing and can’t find it on any of the upcycling websites, then it’s important to do your research before hitting the purchase button. There are a lot of great clothing brands out there who are doing good work. Take Patagonia, for example. The company has issued a self-imposed ‘Earth tax’ where 1% of their total profits goes to support environmental non-profits protecting our planet.
When looking for eco-conscious retailers (or brands in general), the easiest thing is to look for green certifications such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Fair Trade, or Bluesign. Assessments from organizations like Fashion Revolution, Good On You, or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is also a good sign. Transparency is also an indication of a brand’s sustainability goals. Have a look at their social media and familiarize yourself with their mission.
Bee Hotels & Bird Boxes
Does someone you know have a balcony, backyard or green space they take pride in? Help attract even more biodiversity by gifting bird feeders, bird boxes, or even a bee hotel! Making your backyard even more attractive to wildlife is a really good way to support the diversity of species that live right on our doorstep.
Bee hotels are the insect equivalent of a bird house. They are wooden structures made up of lots of holes that create a solitary space for bees to nest, providing safety from the outside world. They simulate a nesting habitat usually found on hollow plant stems or dead wood. If you have access to wood and tools, you can build your own bee hotel, or you can purchase them online.
You can find a variety of pre-made Bee Hotels on Etsy ranging from €30 - €200 depending on the size.
Indoor Herb Gardens
If you don’t have access to a green space, that’s okay! Not all of us do, but there are some real ways to bring some sustainability and home-grown goodness into your kitchen. Indoor herb gardens provide everything you need to grow your own basil, mint, oregano, tyme, rosemary, sage, you name it. You don’t even need to have an especially green thumb, as many of these indoor herb gardens do most of the work for you no matter how big or small your space is.
However you also don’t need something super smart to grow herbs at home — a small box by the window will also do the trick!
Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Kits
Mushrooms are incredible, and did you know it’s possible to grow your own? While growing mushrooms entirely from scratch takes quite a bit of dedication, there are a handful of mushroom growing kits available that make the process easy and enjoyable.
Mushrooms have a number of functions in nature and serve as the ‘main character’ in most ecosystems. Fungi, which produce mushrooms, are critically important as they help break down organic matter and release chemicals like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, into the soil and the atmosphere. Plus, they’re absolutely delicious.
Finnish company Näckrosgården offers a number of organic ‘spray and grow’ mushroom kits to grow your own gourmet mushrooms from home. Kits start at €36.
The humble houseplant is a great gift for any celebration. Not only do they look great in your bedroom, but they actually provide a whole lot of benefits. Houseplants make your living space more verdant and colorful. They are also proven to help reduce anxiety and improve focus. Houseplants can provide a sense of purpose as you tend to their well-being, and can increase humidity in dry homes.
There are also a lot of different varieties of houseplants to suit anyone’s tastes and dedication levels. From the simple monstera to the tricky orchid. Check out your closest nursery or garden center to explore your options this holiday season.
Eco-Friendly Gift Baskets
Gift baskets are a really great gift to test and try a number of sustainable products in one carefully curated hamper. You can find gift baskets for almost anything — skin care, tea, confectionery, soaps, cheese, wine, etc, so you’ll easily find the perfect gift for your family, friends or even colleagues. Organic, sustainable gift baskets are abundant online, but here are a few places you can look to find the perfect eco-conscious hamper for your budget — or better yet, why not make your own?
The Goodness Project: UK company specializing in sustainable gifts and materials.
Our Green House: Organic, eco-friendly and fair trade gift baskets.
Packed With Purpose: Corporate gifting with social impact.
What we put on our skin is important; not just for our health but also for the impact it has on the planet. Much like retail, the beauty industry also suffers from greenwashing and a lack of regulation. Some of the most popular skincare products have come under fire for vague labeling or hidden toxic chemicals. Consumers are moving towards more eco-friendly and natural alternatives with more sustainable packaging. What’s more, it was recently reported that more than 10% of beauty products are thrown away due to overproduction and excess inventory — that’s a lot of waste.
So this Christmas if you’re planning on buying skincare, it’s really important to do your research. Here are some brands we can recommend:
Botanical Republic: All products are handmade using organic and natural plant-based ingredients.
Facetheory: Affordable, vegan, fairtrade skincare with minimal packaging.
Fleur & Bee: Clean and cruelty-free vegan skincare products.
There are roughly 6.9 billion smartphones in the world, used by around 85% of the world’s population. However, smartphones are in fact very harmful to the environment for a lot of reasons. Smartphones take a lot of energy to create, and need precious metals such as copper, tellurium and lithium. They also need tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — all of which potentially come from conflict zones in central Africa. Our phones also generate a lot of waste as new versions are released every year, fueling our fear of missing out on the latest technology.
One company is trying to change this. Fairphone is a smartphone manufacturer who believes in a fairer electronics industry. They ensure all their materials are responsibly sourced, and makes it easy to repair, update or replace its hardware easily which reduces waste.
The latest product from Fairphone is the Fairphone 5 which retails at €699.00 and has a five year guarantee.
Food recycling isn’t anything new or particularly gift-worthy, but there are a number of smart devices on the market that can help you level up your food scraps! Food waste is a huge problem, contributing 3x more to emissions than the aviation industry. There are lots of ways to combat food waste on your own, but there's also a lot of technology trying to make it easier.
One way is with food recyclers. These machines break down food waste by drying, grinding and cooling all kinds of bio-waste to create compost, an exceptional fertilizer for plants, herbs and flower beds. These types of electronic composters are compact, quick and odor-free — a brilliant way to reuse food scraps and tend to your green space.
Chocolate is one of the world’s most loved confectioneries, and American’s eat around three billion kilograms each year. It’s also a very popular holiday gift. Unfortunately most people don’t think too hard about where they’re chocolate has come from, and what kind of impact this purchasing decision can have on the communities at the start of the supply chain.
Most of the world’s cocoa is harvested in Africa, and the chocolate industry is known for using cheap labor to collect and process the pods. Chocolate production is also a driver of deforestation due to both palm oil and cocoa. So how can we make sure our chocolate purchases are better for the planet? Several ethical chocolate brands are making a stand against unfair practises:
Tony’s Chocolony: They reserve 1% of the net revenue yearly to fight slavery in the chocolate industry and spread awareness.
The Raw Chocolate Company: 100% vegan chocolate made with organic, ethically-sourced cacao.
The Equal Exchange: Not only chocolate, the Equal Exchange also offers fairly traded coffee, tea, and other snacks.
Seed & Bean: UK-based company that wishes to create the most ethical, sustainable and delicious British chocolate.
Beyond Good: Made in Madagascar, Beyond Good employs a small number of farmers who harvest the pods and make the chocolate directly on the island.
Before you head off to do your holiday shopping this season, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind while looking for products and services. Check to make sure all the eco-friendly and sustainable gifts you buy this Christmas aren't simply labeled as such, but are also created and sold with people and the environment in mind. Greenwashing is still a big problem despite consumers being even more aware of the issue.
Lastly, if you can buy your gifts in store or locally then that might be better than ordering online and shipping to your door. While it’s increasingly difficult in this day and age, buying more stuff (especially online) has a big impact on carbon emissions — especially over the holidays. Thankfully, it is still possible to have a holly jolly (eco-friendly) Christmas season by being a little bit more aware of where you put your hard-earned money!