Too often, the giving season feels like a mad rush to check tasks off a list. It’s all too easy (and embarrassing) to wind up giving our friends and family junk gifts that we regret buying. Our shopping guide makes it simple to find sustainably made, easy-to-purchase presents that you can feel good about giving over the holidays.
Spent grain pancakes
Everybody has to eat, and anybody sane likes a good pancake. This spent grain mix is low carb, high protein, contains lots of fiber and uses recycled grains. What?! That’s right, these pancakes are called “spent” because the barley flour comes from microbrewery castoffs. You and your pancake gift recipient will feel even better about breakfast knowing that Grain4Grain donates to a food bank every time somebody purchases a box.
Shoes by Allbirds
Buying shoes can be intimate, so this one is for your close friends. Allbirds, best known for its sneakers, also makes boat shoes, slip-ons and flats. Choose from shoes made from wool — supposedly these New Zealand sheep have a fabulous life — or, for your vegan bestie, choose shoes made from responsibly sourced eucalyptus fiber. As a carbon-neutral company, Allbirds puts eco-thought into all aspects of business. The laces are made from recycled plastic bottles, the insoles use castor bean oil and even the shipping boxes are made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Digital thrift store gift card
Some friends are easier to shop for than others. For some particular people, it’s best to let them pick out their own gifts. Help them shop sustainably with a digital thrift store gift card from Rent the Runway or thredUP.
Upcycled clutch from Jungalow
Jungalow specializes in bright colors and bold botanical patterns. The company is the brainchild of design blogger Justina Blakeney. Now you can get Jungalow’s super lush upholstery fabrics in a clutch purse. These clutches use upholstery scraps that wound up on the cutting room floor. Your friend can carry it as a small purse, or keep important things organized inside the clutch while tossing it in a larger bag. Darling little tassels adorn the clutch’s zipper.
Girlfriend Collective activewear
Through fashion alchemy, Girlfriend Collective turns old fishing nets, plastic bottles and other trash into chic leggings, bras, socks, sweatsuits and shorts. The company has already sidetracked about 4.5 million plastic water bottles bound for a dubious fate. You can find clothing for all sizes, and even a maternity section on their website.
Homemade sugar scrub
For a low-cost yet personal gift with a sweet scent, make your friend a sugar scrub. All you need is sugar, coconut oil (or similar) and a few drops of essential oil. Use the essential oil straight out of the bottle, or make a special blend for your friend. Scoop the scrub into a mason jar, tie a bow around it, and it’s ready to gift. Full details on making sugar scrubs are available at The Simple Veganista.
With a Malala scrunchi, your friend can secure her hair while simultaneously promoting education for girls. When you buy these hair holders, the money goes to the Malala Fund, named for the brave and beloved Pakistani heroine and kick-ass activist Malala Yousufzai. The scrunchies are made from sustainably sourced bamboo fabric and dyed with natural plant dyes, like turmeric for yellow, indigo for blue and madder root for pink. We like the pumpkin color for fall and winter.
Cruelty-free, 10-free nail polish from Pear Nova
Ten what? Bad ingredients: toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, xylene, parabens, camphor, fragrances, phthalates or animal ingredients. Not sure what all those ingredients are? The bottom line is you probably don’t want them on your nails. Pear Nova products are 10-free, designed in Chicago and look much more stylish than your average drugstore nail polish. The inventive colors have fun names, such as Cleo F*ckin Patra, Rub My Temples, It’s Summer Somewhere and Rooftop ‘Til You Drop.
Wine barrel Apple Watch strap
In another clever example of upcycling, Uncommon Goods offers an upgrade for your Apple Watch strap. Your oenophile friend will feel good knowing that her new watch strap was once a French oak wine barrel. These straps are made in Austria and compatible with Apple Watch Series 5, 4 and 3.
Eco travel kit
In this pandemic holiday season, everybody wants things to go back to normal ASAP. Give the gift of optimism with this eco travel kit. Your friend will smell delightful with naturally flavored lip balm, deodorant, moisturizer and perfume in grapefruit, bergamot and rose scents. She’ll nap beneath a silky eye mask and wake to note her thoughts in an artisan-crafted kite notebook. The kits come in a vegan leather case and also include earplugs, q-tips, hair ties, disposable face masks and Emergen-Cs. You can upgrade and personalize the Aria Kit with extra add-ons.