Our Guide to Sustainable Gifting: 5 Ideas for Mindful and Eco-Friendly Gifts

Our Guide to Sustainable Gifting: 5 Ideas for Mindful and Eco-Friendly Gifts

While the holiday season is a time of giving and thoughtfulness, it can also be a time of excess and waste.

The manufacturing and distribution of goods create pollution, deforestation, and harm to people, animals, and our ecosystems. Americans also throw away 25% more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s — about a million tons of extra garbage weekly. 

So whether you’re gifting for the holidays or birthdays, here are some recommendations for useful, functional and sustainable alternatives.

Giving Gifts That People Actually Want

Let’s face it — we’ve all received bad gifts that we didn’t value as much as the person who gave them to us. Giving the perfect gift can be a challenge, so here are some tips that can help you avoid giving bad gifts. 

  • Ask for a list.
  • While this does take away the element of surprise (to an extent), it shows that you care about the gift receiver’s desires. You can also let them know that you want to see what they’re interested in and that you might get something else related to the list. It’s possible to add value when gift-giving if you can find something the receiver loves that they didn’t originally think about.

  • Think about the best gifts you’ve gotten and what made them good.
  • Are they your favorites because you still use them years later? Because they remind you of special memories? Because they fit into your life in a way you didn’t predict?

    Also, think about the worst gifts you’ve gotten and why you didn’t like them. Was it because they were based on trends rather than your personal interests? Because the gift-giving was more of a formality than a meaningful exchange? 

    Of course, everyone is different. But take these experiences and try to think from the perspective of someone receiving a gift. 

  • When in doubt, give money or gift cards.
  • Sometimes, you just don’t know someone well enough to get a great, non-generic gift. You could always try to ask their friends or you could play the safe route and give cash or gift cards. Most people wouldn’t complain about getting either, as long as the gift cards offer some flexibility. 

    Sustainable Gift Ideas

    Even if you approach gifting mindfully and know the person really well, it can still be hard to come up with gift ideas. To get the ball rolling, here are some eco-friendly gift ideas and ways you can gift sustainably.


    • A massage, facial or wellness service.
    • A kayak/canoe rental or another outdoor adventure.
    • Entry to a botanical garden or arboretum.
    • Local restaurant gift certificate.


    • Shop locally-owned, small businesses.
    • Shop from thrift stores, or online secondhand, for a unique gift.
    • Provide a gift receipt so they can return/exchange anything extraneous.
    • Gift reusable items like bamboo utensils, glass straws, stainless steel water bottles, and canvas bags.


    • Create a DIY scrub, cleaner, or other upcycled item.
    • Save and repurpose glass jars to create kits like hot chocolate or cookie ingredients.
    • Bake something like cookies, bread, granola or energy bars and repurpose a reusable container.

    Nature Based

    • Grow something to gift like herbs.
    • Propagate cuttings from your plants.
    • Gift a planter kit by bundling seeds, soil and a planter.
    • Make an upcycled planter by painting a container or repurposing a mug or tea cup.

    Gift Wrapping

    • Repurpose paper grocery bags or newspapers to create your own reused and recyclable wrapping paper.
    • Reuse gift bags and scrap paper rather than disposable wrapping and tissue paper.
    • Place gifts in a reusable canvas bag, basket or bin instead of wrapping.
    • Wrap gifts in cloth such as a throw blanket, shawl or scarf that can be a bonus gift as well.