The world is beset by waste, inequality, and unsustainable practices.
However, the prospect of negativity represented by such problems shouldn’t interfere with the positivity in gift sharing. Similarly, gift sharing shouldn’t be an excuse to contribute to the problem.
To that effect, we have compiled a guide of tips and sustainable gift ideas to help the eco-friendly gift giver through the holiday season.
Tips for Selecting A Sustainable Gift
- Prioritize experience over stuff. Your gift doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Provided it enriches lives and is worthy of appreciation, you are in the clear
- Try to identify needs and satisfy them. Expensive gifts are well and good, but a great gift meets a need right away
- Don’t be afraid to request some guidance in the form of a wish list. We cannot emphasize the usefulness of such a gift list more. It might seem odd asking for one alone, so maybe you could get your group of mutual friends to all share their wish lists for the season
- Keep things plastic-free. Avoid plastic, in both packaging and the gift proper, as much as possible
- Keep it simple and research your options to be sure of their sustainability. Sustainability goes beyond the surface use and material construction of a product. The proper selection should include a reasonable carbon footprint, a program to offset their carbon emissions, etc.
- Stay within your budget. Whatever great gift ideas you may think up are not worth it if they jeopardize your financial sustainability.
Ethical Gift Ideas to Leave An Impression
As we stated earlier, a gift doesn’t need to be expensive to have the desired effect. Instead, they just need to be thoughtful.
Green living enthusiasts are very passionate about the planet; it isn’t rare for this passion to be directed more at a particular cause than others. For example, some people focus on campaigning for fair trade; some bother about waste, etc.
A great ethical gift idea can be a symbolic identifier of a person’s passion. For example, it can be jewelry made from ocean-sourced recycled plastic bottles, fair trade coffee, an organic cotton dress, etc.
Anything that combines a person’s physical interest and eco-friendly passion fit the bill.
Zero-Waste Personal Products
It is possible that some people haven’t identified eco-friendly brands that manufacture and provide personalized products. For example, your friend might be stuck with plastic toothbrushes, harmful soaps, or other environmentally-problematic self-care products.
You can help them facilitate a change. For example, the criteria for zero-waste bathroom products (body products included) aren’t fixed.
Your gift idea could be a product that:
- Uses reusable packaging instead of single-use plastics (such as refillable shampoos and soaps)
- Employs recycled bottles as packaging materials
- A subscription service that determines and supplies just the right amount of a product (to help reduce waste and carbon emissions)
- Gifts made from upcycled materials (such as upcycled crafts)
- Use eco-friendly alternative materials (like replaceable razors and bamboo brushes), etc.
No matter how good paperbacks and hardcovers look on shelves, trees go down to create them, which doesn’t sit well with us.
However, people still need to read. If your friend is a voracious reader, a book subscription (especially an e-book or audiobook) service should evoke appreciation.
The digital service might not be for everyone, but we believe people should normalize reserving physical book purchases for the special ones they come across.
Landfills are already overcrowded, but we still generate a lot of waste. For example, a friend who generates a large amount of organic waste (for whatever reason) may find a compost bin a perfect gift.
Of course, it would be a great gift if they had a garden or lawn, but even without that, they could still donate the compost to a neighbor.
A compost bin is not the most sophisticated of gift ideas. Still, it helps an eco-conscious person keep avoidable waste out of landfills. In addition, they can sell the compost they make and earn a little bit of change on the side.
This is one of those ethical gifts with the potential to return profits.
Sustainable Gift Ideas
Our idea behind separating the ethical gift guide from this sustainable gift guide is that the latter provides perfect environmentally friendly gift options. This category, however, recommends gifts that are more sustainable alternatives to popular products.
For example, a more sustainable organic cotton dress still uses up many resources but is a better option than buying something made of synthetic fabrics.
In other words, our ethical gift ideas recommend sustainable gifts with significantly lesser downsides. In contrast, this sustainable gift guide is simply for essential products but with no significantly better alternatives.
That said, here are some of the ideas we have for you:
Sustainable Organic Cotton Clothes
Materials like recycled polyester are not perfect, but at least they are not introducing any new synthetic materials onto the earth.
Better alternatives are organic cotton or linen. The latter has lesser downsides but loses some biodegradable properties when bleached or dyed.
So, if your gifted party is a fan of plain clothes, linen can be a good choice; otherwise, you are better off with organic cotton despite its flaws.
Our idea of suitable clothing goes beyond the type of fabric alone, though. Considerations for a clothing gift should include the dyes and other chemicals used during production and whether the fabric is sustainably sourced.
Sustainably sourcing includes acquiring fabric through fair trade and ensuring that local farmers in poor, underdeveloped countries are getting their products’ worth.
Gifts Made from Recycled Materials
We mentioned how recycled polyester has an advantage over fresh polyester. However, like almost all other recycled materials, polyester loses its quality with every trip back.
The only exception to the rule is recycled metals which retain their quality repeatedly. This makes fully recyclable metal tools a good gift for handy people.
The gift is essentially zero waste and would continue to be if it is recycled again after it goes out of use.
Other recycled materials do not have such an advantage. Still, they represent an improvement because they provide a route for efficient management/use of waste.
Eco-friendly gifts made from these materials are as imperfect as the other gift ideas in this category. Still, they grant the environment a short-term reprieve.
Many small businesses procure (through fair trade or manufacturing) and sell sustainable jewelry and other accessories. This includes accessories made from recycled metals, recycled plastics, etc.
In fact, this represents a more effective use of recycled plastics as accessories are likely to stay in use longer than clothes, utensils, bottles, etc.
The distinction between ethical and sustainable gifts is thin, but we hope we have done them enough justice.
Using our guides (and help from friends and family), you should be able to purchase the perfect eco-friendly gifts for this holiday season.
However, ensure that this is simply a step in your eco-conscious lifestyle and not the end.