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Forget the boring eco-friendly gift ideas of the past. Lots of sustainable brands are designing green products made with upcycled materials and the planet in mind. Nothing on this list is eco-perfect. We’re a long way from a truly circular economy. But I compiled this list based on the brands making progress because no company has reached perfection. A few items are not squeaky-green, but I know my readers are smart enough to discern what’s perfect for the eco-conscious people in their lives.
Green gifts for the home
Who needs another vase? If you’re buying for newlyweds, these green gift ideas are practical, thoughtful and earth-friendly.
Soda Stream* – Flavored soda water is a popular and healthy alternative to sugary soda, but all those plastic and aluminum cans end up as a lot of waste. Soda Stream lets you make your own sparkling water and when the carbonation cylinder is empty just send it back to be re-used. You reduce waste and keep those carbonation cylinders inside the economy.
LIFX LED Lights* – If the one you love loves great lighting, LIFX is the LED light to buy. You can adjust the color and brightness without a dimmer. Just program it on your phone. LED lights reduce your electric bill, and your person gets good light.
Nest Smart Thermostat* – Smart Thermostats are a great way to reduce your electric bill, and it makes it easy to schedule the ideal temperature for everyone in your house.
Grove Collaborative* – Ok, so you have to be careful if you’re going to give a box of green cleaning products to your spouse. It’s a gift that can go terribly wrong! But Grove has a lot more than just cleaning products. They also sell lotions and potions and essential oils. Everything is clean and green so you don’t have to worry about whether a candle is releasing toxic chemicals into your home, or if a lotion if full of phthalates. I’m crazy about their concentrated cleaning pouches*, but maybe make those as a stocking stuffer.
Learn more about Sustainable Products To Look For in 2020.
Sustainable fashion & fitness gifts
If you haven’t already heard, ethical and sustainable fashion is the latest thing. So are online fitness classes. These are a little off the beaten path, but who wants an ordinary gift?
Made Trade* – This is your one-stop-shop for sustainable and ethically made clothes and furniture. Check out the clothes by Tonle.
Patagonia* is a sustainable materials leader. If the person on your list loves the great outdoors, anything made by Patagonia will be well received. On Patagonia’s website, you can even find used clothes and gear. It’s kind of like buying certified pre-owned. Same branded stuff, better prices, and better for the environment.
Hip Shake Fitness – Telecommute your workout! If your wife, girlfriend or daughter loves to dance, this is the online workout community for her. It’s fun and supportive and you get to dance like nobody’s watching because nobody is! And in the time it takes you to drive to the gym, you could have had a full workout. You don’t need special equipment or machines, just your yoga mat and the ability to laugh at yourself when you have two left feet.
When it is possible to exist and function remotely, the need to travel becomes less necessary; herein lies telepresence’s potential impact on climate.”– Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.
Eco-friendly stocking stuffers
Alter Eco Chocolates* - So this is more of a stocking stuffer, but it’s a good one. I love truffles, but most brands use palm oil in the filling. Sustainable palm oil is a thing, but I have yet to see major brands with a sustainable palm oil certification. Which is why Alter Eco is awesome. They use coconut oil instead of palm oil so I don’t have to worry about burning down the rain forest when I need a little sweet. Alter-eco is also part of the Regenerative Organic Certification pilot program that has products rolling out this spring. Did I mention it's delicious? Addictive really. Yum. Now I want a truffle.
What is the big deal with coconut oil? As it turns out there is a great deal of goodness that goes along with this coconut byproduct. Not only is it what makes the inside of Alter Eco chocolate truffles so smooth and creamy, but it’s also a sustainable alternative to palm kernel oil, containing health promoting properties, and versatility in the kitchen."- Alter Eco Foods
Eco-friendly gifts for kids and teens
The kids in your life may not care if your gifts are eco-friendly or not, but you'll feel better knowing you gave a gift that's better for the environment and their future.
JanSport* - JanSport has made a commitment to making their backpacks as durable and circular as possible. That means they are 99.9% PVC free (PVC is widely used to make luggage and bags and is also terrible for the environment.) JanSport also offers repairs and replacements for backpacks that break which keeps them out of landfills.
Fjällräven* - This is also a sustainably-minded brand that makes backpacks and luggage. A great brand if you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary that's designed with the environment in mind.
Native Shoes* - Did you know Native uses upcycled materials in many of their shoes? And you can bring Natives back to the store to be recycled. Better yet, they slip on and off super easy which is my favorite part. I can only tie shoelaces so many times per day.
Read more about the latest sustainable shoe brands made with recycled materials.
Hydro flask* - If you're tired of reusable water bottles falling apart and leaking, the only brand I come back to again and again is Hydro Flask. It's not the most romantic gift, but it will be appreciated if found in a stocking.
Non-toxic gift ideas for toddlers
Piggy paint* - If your toddler is anything like mine he or she is all about the nail polish. But traditional nail polish has so many nasty chemicals that Piggy Paint was the only polish I let my daughter use when she was a toddler. Now she’s six and she’s grown out of the Piggy Paint but it was a staple in our house for years! Now we use 100% Pure nail polish instead. It stays on longer, and there are more color options.
Naturepedic* - Ready for a big kid mattress? Naturepedic's organic mattresses are clean and green, and they sell twin mattresses with a water-resistant topper. That water-resistant topper is essential even for a year or two after potty training is done. Let's just say accidents happen! If your son or daughter is ready to transition out of the toddler bed, Naturepedic is the way to go, and the holidays are a good time to make the switch.
Best books on sustainability
Is the person on your list an avid reader? If so, these are a few of the best environmental books your person will actually want to read. I'm personally a huge fan of No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. It was written over a decade ago, but it's still a timely and insightful read for anyone interested in environmentalism.
No Impact Man*: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process - This book changed the way I look at the environmental movement. It’s about a man and his family who go zero environmental impact in one year. It’s a fascinating journey into how complicated environmental issues are. Lights are turned off, farmers' markets are explored. He even learns how to make his own laundry detergent to use in the bathtub, which is where he washes his clothes. It’s intense. It’s also the reason I'm such an advocate for a circular economy and systemic change.
Most people don’t have the time it takes to live an environmental impact-free lifestyle. It’s just so much work and so complicated. We can make small changes, but at the end of the day we need systemic change. This book helped me see that.
Drawdown*: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming - Drawdown is the book I reference the most. I originally bought this as the Kindle version, but I ended using it so much that I wanted a hard copy. It was totally worth buying twice. The images are gorgeous, and the print version has a flow to it that simply isn’t captured in the Kindle version.
Best books for a global perspective on eco-consciousness
If the person on your list is interested in seeing progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Factfulness and The Moment of Lift are classics. Both are engaging and well-written while also shedding light on how we can solve major environmental issues while also helping people all over the world. What's not to love about Melinda Gates, right? The Moment of Lift is a deep and powerful read for the enlightened man or woman on your list.
Factfulness*: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think - If you’re interested in understanding the world outside the United States and Europe, Factfulness is eye-opening. If No Impact Man was the first book to show me that a zero impact environmental lifestyle is almost impossible for the average family, Factfulness is the book that helped me understand how essential it is that the environmental movement also works to lift people out of poverty all around the world.
The Moment of Lift*: How Empowering Women Changes the World - If we want the environment to thrive, we need women to thrive. This book explores women's lives throughout the world, and why it's essential to lift women up. This is also not a "green" book, but raising women up is one of Drawdown's top ways to draw down climate change, so I consider it a related topic.
10% Happier*: Revised Edition: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story - This is also not a green book, but if the person on your list has already read everything there is to read about the environment they just might need a few tips on how to be 10% happier. It’s well-written, funny, critical of many of the claims made by self-help gurus and also full of insight and wisdom. We can all use a little more happiness.