Last Updated on November 20, 2020
Looking for fun but eco friendly gifts for those special people in your life? Here are dozens of suggestions for everyone on your list. This collection of creative and eco-friendly gift ideas will help you give greener this year, and might even save you money.
Choosing Eco Friendly Gifts
The holiday season is here, and with it the perennial dilemmas about presents, especially for those of us concerned about our ecological impact.
How many is enough? What can I give the person who already has everything s/he wants? What will people actually use and what’s just a waste of money and resources?
As you make your list and check it twice, challenge yourself to give smarter this year. The last decade has seen a huge shift in awareness about the costly environmental footprint of so much of our stuff, and people around the globe are coming to recognize that we need to be far better stewards of our common home.
This season, help create a better future for your loved ones by thinking carefully about the impact of your holiday traditions and gift-giving. There are plenty of options for fantastic eco friendly gifts for everyone on your list that keep the holiday spirit without the huge eco-footprint.
Rather than yet another mass-produced sweater, how about some of your homemade bread, a grow-your-own herb kit, or a home soda maker? Below are some ideas for eco friendly gifts to help you give more wisely this season.
Eco Friendly Gifts Strategy #1: Think Outside the Box
The ultimate eco friendly gifts aren’t things.
Consider giving experiences, like theater tickets or museum passes, or a homemade certificate for something the recipient would enjoy, like your from-scratch bread, a knitting lesson, a garage clean-out, babysitting, or a date night.
My kids and I had a great time with the Kids Cook Real Food online course. Find out more here.
Know someone who might like to learn more about using herbs or foraging? The Herbal Academy runs numerous online foraging and herbalism courses. Here’s a list of the courses they’re currently enrolling.
E-books are another eco friendly gift idea, adding to your favorite life-long learner’s digital library. Consider e-books on gardening, cookbooks, or how-to-guides like this one on crafting your own body care from The Herbal Spoon. My new book on elderberries is also out in a Kindle edition. Here are some more books about gardening you can find electronically or in hardcopy. A Kindle Unlimited subscription allows the recipient to choose from an astonishing array of titles on any subject.
Some folks might appreciate a donation to a favorite cause given in their name. Check out Heifer International’s array of options if you’re looking for something with far-reaching positive impact, like tree seedlings for a family to start an orchard. Use your imagination and think about what might be appreciated more than yet another gadget or article of clothing.
Eco Friendly Gifts Strategy #2: Give Gifts People Will Actually Use
Eco friendly Food Gifts
Food is a great one-size-fits-all eco friendly gift idea and can range from simple homemade treats to fancy chocolates. Some fun options:
- Local honey or maple syrup
- Snazzy chocolate bars or gift boxes
- Dried fruit, either bought or dried yourself. You can also try an easy fruit leather, like this healthy, 3-ingredient apple-pear leather. Or try some of these inventive uses for orange peels!
- Unusual teas from your natural food shop or specialty tea store in pretty glass containers, homemade herbal tea blends, or prepackaged options. Mountain Rose Herbs is a fantastic source for high-quality herbs.
- Homemade snacks or treats (Spiced roasted chickpeas and chocolate fruit and nut clusters are two of my favorites and meet my healthy, green, and easy criteria. Someone on your list might also go for homemade fruit leather or delicious chewy dried bananas or apples.)
- Kits-in-a-jar: fill with everything needed for a homemade soup or batch of cookies or homemade elderberry syrup.
In need of some other easy homemade eco friendly gift ideas? Here are more than 25 easy homemade gifts for the not-so-crafty!
- Essential oils for adding to baths or homemade cleaners
- DIY bath salts (as simple as dropping a little essential oil in epsom salts. No idea why already-made ones cost so much!)
- An easy homemade sugar scrub using ingredients you already have in your kitchen.
- Here are instructions for (and inspiring pictures of) a bunch of other decadent homemade lotions and balms from Kristin at Live Simply.
Need more homemade gift ideas? Check out this list of gifts you can make yourself from Little Sprouts Learning!
Check out some of the special holiday deals I track in this post, updated regularly starting in November!
Tools that Enable an Eco Friendly Lifestyle
You can also find gifts that keep on giving, including kits that allow people to grow their own mushrooms or herbs or make things, like vegetable noodles. Here are some ideas:
- Mushroom farm or grow-your-own herb kit. Growing your own gourmet ingredients is fun and satisfying. (Saves money, too.)
- Popcorn popper. Most microwave popcorn contains some pretty unsavory ingredients, and bags are often lined with PFOA, a chemical linked to a range of health concerns. Help someone in your life break the unhealthy microwave popcorn habit with one of these awesome air poppers. Fill a mason jar with some organic popcorn from the bulk bins at your natural foods store and tie with pretty string or ribbon.
- Spiralizer. Turns all kind of veggies into “noodles” that let you get in more veggie servings.
- Gardeners might enjoy some new equipment, like sturdy gardening gloves or a good pair of shears.
- Cooks might appreciate a good new knife or cast-iron pan to replace an old (unsafe) teflon-coated one. (Check out this comprehensive guide to healthy cookware for more suggestions on choosing the best tools.)
- Artistic and crafty folk will enjoy supplies for their projects.
Home Soda Maker
Does someone in your life drink a lot of soda? Help them kick the habit, save money, and slash their foodprint with a home soda maker. Add a slice of fruit or a little juice and you have a refreshing spritzer without the chemicals and sugar.
Store-bought soda and seltzer have a pretty gigantic ecological footprint, and it’s easy to make your own at home without all the artificial flavors and additives. They’ll save a bundle not buying all those cans and bottles and help slash their contribution to carbon pollution.
Do you have some folks on your list who buy a lot of coffee out? They can save money by bringing coffee they make at home, or get a discount at their local coffee shop for bringing their own mug. And these nice looking insulated metal mugs are so much cooler than wasteful throwaway cups and don’t expose them to all the chemicals in takeaway cups and tops.
Glass or metal water bottles.
Plastic water bottles waste money and resources, and expose people to chemicals leached from the plastic into the water. One of these stylish bottles will save the recipient hundreds of dollars a year over buying bottles, while keeping unnecessary pollutants out of our environment. (Check out Annie Leonard’s awesome film on bottled water if you’re not convinced this is a habit to break as soon as possible.)
This one’s perfect for the person who has everything and likes saving money. A rapid charger with an assortment of batteries guarantees they’ll never be out of batteries for cordless tools and flashlights again. Plus they won’t have to buy batteries all the time.
Save money and keep all that unnecessary waste out of the landfill– what’s not to like? (If you don’t already have one, a charger might be a smart investment for your family as well. Here’s more on why to avoid single-use batteries.)
Eco Friendly Gifts Strategy #4: Choose Sustainably-Made and Upcycled Products
More and more artisans are making beautiful objects from upcycled and sustainably-sourced materials. You can find loads of eco-friendly options on Etsy, including affordable jewelry, keychains, and bud vases made from upcycled silverware or mittens made from recycled wool sweaters.
Viva Terra is another source for beautiful, sustainably-made things for the home or garden. Whether it’s beautiful bowls and serving pieces made from reclaimed wood or garden accents, you’ll find something unique to give.
Here are loads more handmade gifts you can buy to delight friends and family this season.
Don’t forget to green your wrapping!
Skip the one-use wrapping paper and get creative with fabric, recycled gift bags and boxes, and fabric ribbon. Kris at Attainable Sustainable has a great collection of greener gift wrapping ideas. Fabric scraps (even pillowcases) can be used year after year, so your holidays don’t create a mountain of trash. Here are 7 waste-free alternatives to gift wrap from Finding Our Green Life. Here’s a cool tutorial on how to make gift bags from old shirt sleeves from Design Life Hacks.
But even if you’re not handy with a needle, you can use a pretty scarf to wrap a present by securing it with some fabric ribbon. We have a stash of these that come out each year and get stowed for the next year after everyone’s opened their gifts.
Check out these suggestions for a waste-free holiday from Everchange Productions. Lori at Groovy Green Livin’ has even more ideas for greening your holidays here. Or listen to the Green Divas’ eco-friendly holiday podcast while you’re making your own gifts (like these great upcycled jars at The Crunchy Chronicles or beautiful crafts that kids can make at Rhythms of Play.) Looking for kids toys? Check out this guide from Rhythms of Play.
Eco friendly bonus points: Upcycle your Christmas tree! Check out these cool herbal ways to reuse your Christmas tree from The Pistachio Project!
I hope some of these suggestions give you the inspiration you needed! What are your best ideas for eco friendly gifts this year? Leave a comment!
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Photo credits: Cali4beach, Jessica Reeder, Daria-Yakovleva, rawpixel
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.