People are increasingly interested in living more sustainably. Some are even taking steps to live a zero-waste lifestyle. There’s no doubt the shift is long overdue. According to National Geographic, the average American generates 1,500 pounds of trash every year. While making a significant lifestyle change is never easy, every small step toward reducing waste is a step in the right direction.
Fortunately, there are plenty of products to help people make the transition to creating less waste. These products can help the eco-conscious person in your life to live more sustainably, and they’ll make a big difference for the planet too.
Best Eco-Friendly Gifts
Giving eco-friendly or zero-waste products makes a difference in the short term and might inspire longer-lasting change. Often, the smallest changes have the biggest impact, creating a ripple effect of other positive changes in your life. For example, making the switch from disposable paper towels to cloth can make you feel so good you’re inspired to make your own cleaning products or remember to take your reusable grocery bags to the store.
Here are 17 great gift ideas for the eco-conscious person in your life, no matter what size your holiday budget is.
Gifts Under $10
Sometimes, the most useful products are the least expensive. Many of the gifts in this category replace the single-use items we use most often.
1. Reusable Shopping Bags
Around most people’s homes, you can find several reusable shopping bags they got for free or for 99 cents at the local supermarket. But why not give a reusable shopping bag your loved one can be excited to tote around the store?
Blue Q reusable bags are one option. These shopping bags are incredibly durable – mine has lasted for years – and very stylish. And there are designs to suit every taste and interest. Try the Plant Study design for the gardener in your life or the Flamingo tote for the beach lover.
If you’re looking for more bang for your buck and you’re willing to spend a little more, buy a six-pack of heavy nylon shopping bags from iFavo. They come in a wide variety of patterns and designs, so it’s almost certain you can find a set suitable for anyone on your list.
Also consider reusable produce bags. They’re a great eco-friendly replacement for the flimsy plastic bags you’ll find in the produce department. Purifyou reusable bags are made of very lightweight nylon, and a pack of nine comes in a variety of sizes to hold everything from large produce (like bundles of kale) to smaller fruits and veggies (like berries or herbs).
2. Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
If your friends or family members are still using cleaning products with harmful ingredients, give them a set of natural cleaning products, like plant-based Mrs. Meyers. You can also make your own eco-friendly cleaning products using essential oils and give them to friends and family in amber glass spray bottles.
If your loved one is trying to go plastic-free, give them a dishwashing soap block from Well Earth Goods. It provides a rich lather and makes it easy to wash dishes without having to use and then recycle a plastic bottle.
3. Reusable Straws
In the United States, we use 500 million plastic straws each day, according to National Geographic. A study published in Science Advances estimates there are 8.5 billion plastic straws polluting the world’s beaches. Some cities, like Seattle, have banned plastic straws entirely, and some companies, like Starbucks, are committed to eliminating them from all their stores.
Reusable straws – which come in either stainless steel, bamboo, or plastic – are small and easy to carry in a pocket or purse. Some straws, like Scurry straws, collapse so you can store them in a small included container that attaches to a keychain.
Gifts From $11 – $20
The gifts in this category focus on the products we use most often at home, particularly in the kitchen. Making a few small changes in this one room can make a big impact over time.
4. Reusable Food Wraps
The kitchen creates a great deal of waste, making it a perfect theme for eco-friendly gift-giving.
Reusable food wraps eliminate the need to use plastic wrap. For example, Bee’s Wrap reusable food wraps last up to one year and are made in the USA.
BPA-free reusable plastic lids also help you use less plastic wrap when microwaving food or storing leftovers in the refrigerator.
5. Reusable Zip-Close Bags
Reusable zip-close bags help people use – and buy – fewer disposable bags. Stasher sandwich bags are made with 100% food-grade silicone, and they’re dishwasher- and microwave-safe. And reusable stand-up zip-close bags are really convenient when you have to pour foods like soup or trail mix.
6. Compost Scrap Container
If the person on your list lives in an area where the city collects compost, or they’ve expressed an interest in starting a compost pile in their yard, give them a charming compost scrap bin to store kitchen scraps until it’s time to put them outside. Nicer compost bins, like the Enloy stainless steel bin, come with charcoal filters to eliminate odors. But filterless bins like the Oxo compost bin are just as functional at a lower price point.
Even if your loved one doesn’t live in an area where the city collects compost, or they don’t have a yard to start a compost pile in, some local farmers or farmers markets accept kitchen waste to feed their animals or compost on their farm. Google “compost near me” or “compost” and your friend’s zip code to find a composting opportunity near them.
7. Biodegradable Garbage Bags
Now, let’s talk garbage. Most people use plastic garbage bags in the kitchen, but plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Giving a box of compostable garbage bags doesn’t seem that exciting, but it will make a difference for the environment, as these bags break down in weeks.
8. Wool Dryer Balls
Wool dryer balls replace the need for fabric softener and dryer sheets, both of which are full of harmful chemicals. They also reduce drying time by up to 25%, which further helps the environment. For a few dollars more, add some essential oil your recipient can use on the dryer balls to scent their clothes naturally.
9. Reusable Cleaning Towels
Paper towels are wasteful, and they get expensive over time. According to The Wall Street Journal, the price of paper towels went up almost 20% between January 2018 and January 2019. Giving a set of reusable kitchen towels for messy cleanups saves your loved one money and helps the environment at the same time.
There are many options here. You can create a customized and unique set of kitchen towels by scouring thrift stores and finding vintage towels to cut down to size.
Or opt for Swedish sponge cloths from Simplycasa, which hold 15 times their weight in liquids, are biodegradable, and come in trendy colors and designs. Many reviewers say the Swedish sponge cloths work very well and last around a year.
10. Glass Mason Jars
Wide-mouth Mason jars are some of the most useful products ever made, and these humble canning jars are experiencing a resurgence as people reimagine how they can use them to live more sustainably. For example, you can use them to:
- Store home-canned food
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator
- Make salad in a jar
- Give homemade hot cocoa, cookie mix, or soup
- Take hot coffee or tea on the go
- Store herbs
- Make a homemade soap dispenser
- Store pencils and other small items
- Make a bird feeder
- Make an oil lamp
Pick up a pack of Ball wide-mouth Mason jars and find some creative ways to give them to friends and family.
11. Vegetarian or Vegan Cookbooks
Eating less meat is one of the best things we can do to help the environment. According to The Guardian, deforestation to clear land for livestock, along with the methane emissions from livestock and fertilizer, creates as much greenhouse gas as all the world’s cars, trucks, and planes.
If someone you know is interested in eating less meat or wants to become a vegan or vegetarian, help them along by getting them a cookbook to show them how to do it.
Kathryne Taylor’s cookbook “Love Real Food” or Jen Hansard’s “Simple Green Meals” are both guides to helping people eat less meat without sacrificing flavor or fullness. Toni Okamoto’s “Plant-Based on a Budget” is full of vegan meal ideas for less than $30 per week.
Gifts From $21 – $50
Some of the zero-waste gifts in this category focus more on our daily routines, like bringing water with us wherever we go or taking lunch to work instead of going out to eat.
12. Cloth Diapers
Plain bleach-free cloth diapers make excellent eco-friendly cleaning towels because they’re super-absorbent and last forever. They don’t come in the bright colors and designs of other types of kitchen cloths. But they’re true workhorses that pull their weight around the house.
Before you give a set of these, do your recipient a favor and wash and dry them a few times. These diapers actually get more absorbent after several rounds through the washer and dryer, so doing this beforehand means they’ll be ready to get to work.
13. Lunch Boxes
Bento boxes are a stylish and relatively inexpensive way to replace paper bags. Aoosy’s classy wooden set works well for insulating both hot and cold foods. The hand-painted camphor wood is BPA-, PVC-, and phosphate-free, and the inner compartment is removable for easy cleanup.
But if your loved one is starting from scratch when it comes to zero-waste living, and you’re in a position to splurge a bit, give them Net Zero’s plastic-free lunch bundle. This gift set has everything they need to bring a zero-waste lunch to work or school, including a stainless steel lunch container, reusable sandwich wraps, bamboo cutlery, and dip containers.
14. Reusable Water Bottle
If the person on your list is like most people, they have a reusable water bottle. But they probably forget to use it because it’s, well, forgettable. But a really nice water bottle, like the S’Well vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottle, guarantees they’ll take it along because it’s so beautiful.
Or for hot drinks, pick up a Hydro Flask insulated coffee mug, which comes in a variety of colors.
15. Solar-Powered Charger
Having a solar-powered charger for cell phones and devices will help your friend reduce their electricity use. These gadgets are also essential during power outages or natural disasters.
Gifts Over $50
The gifts in this category show that sustainable can also be beautiful. If you’re in a position to spend more, buying a gift box full of zero-waste products can help your loved one live more sustainably from the ground up.
16. Cloth Towel Storage Box
Keeping reusable towels out on the countertop makes it more likely people will use them because they’re just as quick to grab as paper towels. Pick up a tasteful wood box, like the custom cherry wood box from Well Earth Goods, so they can store reusable kitchen towels on the countertop. Or look for an inexpensive one at a thrift store or from a local woodworker.
17. Net Zero Bathroom Bundle
The Net Zero bathroom bundle makes a perfect gift for the personal care maven in your life. This eco-friendly gift box comes with everything they need to create a zero-waste bathroom routine, including reusable face scrubbers, bamboo toothbrushes, and a bamboo safety razor.
Bonus Tip: When Wrapping, Opt for Reusable
As you might guess, paper gift wrapping is incredibly wasteful, especially shiny or highly metallic paper that can’t be recycled. But there are other options.
One of the most beautiful, furoshiki, comes from Japan. Furoshiki is the Japanese art of using cleverly folded and knotted fabric to wrap gifts. Once opened, the furoshiki wrap is reusable for things like tapestries, scarves, and picnic bags. You can even turn these wraps into a stylish handbag with a leather strap.
Furoshiki wraps are available on Amazon in a variety of different Japanese-inspired designs, such as cherry blossom prints and koi pond print. The website 1 Million Women has a good tutorial on furoshiki wrapping, or you can pick up Etsuko Yamada’s book, “Wrapping With Fabric,” to learn more about this beautiful and eco-friendly art form.
You can also scour thrift stores for vintage fabric, buy some bandanas, or head over to a local fabric store to buy fabric in bulk. While it’s a less expensive option, you must hem the fabric to stop fraying.
Purchasing pre-made fabric bags to put gifts in saves a few steps, though they do cost a bit more. The bags are reusable for toting lunches, storing loose items around the house, or wrapping gifts next year. Before purchasing any reusable bags, make sure they’re large enough for the gifts you’re giving.
Holiday gift-giving is a perfect time for inspiring friends and family to live more sustainably. And giving eco-friendly gifts feels good because you know you’re helping to make a difference.
Many of today’s eco-friendly products are also incredibly stylish, making it more likely people will use them.
Even basic gifts, like flour sack towels, are inexpensive but highly useful. For example, I use my flour sack towels for things like covering rising bread or food I’m heating in the microwave, cleaning the windows, sopping up spills and cleaning the countertop, drying produce after washing, and straining food. Like Mason jars, this one product reduces waste because there are so many different ways to use it.
What eco-friendly gifts are you thinking about giving this year? What gift ideas would you add to this list?