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What are some eco-friendly and sustainable gifts you could buy for your friends and family this holiday season?

By
Stephanie Safdie
updated Nov 29, 2022
pink and white presents with small plant in background and rose gold ornaments on white hardwood floor

Eco-Friendly Gifts 2022: 10 ideas for Christmas

The holidays can be stressful: from planning family gatherings, to coordinating travel, to planning the meal menu for all of your guests – the last few weeks of the year are some of the most hectic. However, no doubt – many can agree that one of the most stressful parts of the holidays is gift shopping. 

2022 has shown us that the global predicament of climate change is growing exponentially, and therefore – many people are trying to make their holidays more sustainable. Given one of the biggest challenges of the holiday season is gift shopping, it can be even more difficult to scout out eco-friendly gifts in the midst of an already chaotic season.

What are some eco-friendly gifts you can find this holiday season to keep the planet from getting too toasty this winter?

What are Eco-Friendly gifts?

👉 Eco-friendly gifts are gifts that won’t create waste, carbon emissions, or contribute to further climate change. Eco-friendly gifts are also any items that are considered sustainable and can help to reduce one’s carbon footprint over time. 

Even if the gift itself isn’t great for the environment, what you can do to make your gift automatically more eco-friendly is to ensure that you wrap it in recyclable wrapping paper and that the packaging for your present doesn’t end up in the landfill. Also, reuse old gift bags and cardboard boxes to get the most out of last holiday season's forgotten wrappers – and be sure to keep the ones from this year for the next year, too. 

Eco-friendly wrapping can help make your gift more eco-friendly. Try to avoid excessive tissue paper, gifting holiday cards that someone isn’t likely to keep, or giving your holiday gift in a gift bag that is also likely to be thrown away. You may be wondering the importance of eco-friendly gifts or environmentally friendly gift packaging.

👉 Here’s why: during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away a whopping 25% more trash. In addition, over 2.5 billion Christmas cards in the U.S. annually – which is enough to fill a football field ten times. 

Besides the waste created from holiday presents that don’t count as eco-friendly gifts, how else do the holidays create a massive carbon footprint?

How much waste do the holidays usually create? 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but does climate change agree? 

Similar to Halloween and Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holiday season aren’t the greatest for the planet. From plastic decorations, excessive purchasing and use of wrapping paper for gifts, Christmas lights, extensive travel, and the carbon footprint of a typical holiday meal – the environmental impact of the holiday season easily adds up.

👉In fact, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of travel in the U.S. every year, with nearly a third of Americans opting to travel. This makes the holiday season produce an average of nearly 70 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Can you help to reduce the environmental impact of this holiday season with eco-friendly gifts? 

Our Top 10 Picks for Eco-Friendly Gifts

Gift shopping for everyone during the holiday season is stressful enough, let alone – the search for eco-friendly gifts that everyone will love just as much. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of our top eco-friendly gifts for this upcoming holiday season.

1. Reusable Canvas Bags

Long gone are the days where people used plastic bags for grocery shopping, and even more so now in big cities like Paris and New York – people are using canvas bags to carry around their daily necessities, too. 

They’re affordable, and you can often find a customizable one to personalize it for the person you’re giving it to with a cute image or quote. You can’t go wrong with this eco-friendly gift!

2. Eco-friendly Gift Basket

Homemade gifts are often more heartfelt, but you know what they say: there’s only one way to a man’s heart – through his stomach. A homemade gift basket made out of eco-friendly and other recyclable and reusable materials like jars make for the cutest, eco-friendly gifts.

Some favorites include cookie mixes, homemade jam, and spices.

3. Bamboo Robe or Blanket 

Bamboo is an eco-friendly solution as it’s biodegradable, with many daily necessities like toothbrushes now being made out of bamboo – but did you know some of the most desirable, cozy-season items can be made from bamboo too?

Gifting a plush robe or blanket made out of bamboo makes for the perfect eco-friendly, winter gift!

4. Recycled Books 

One trend that hasn’t been completely taken over by technology yet are good, old fashioned hardcover or paperback books.

5. Ethical Fashion 

We all know how bad fast fashion is, but many people still put a new sweater or comfy lounge set on their holiday wish-list. Some of our favorite sustainable retailers include Patagonia, ABLE, and Levi’s.

6. Sustainable Beauty Products

Everyone loves to pamper themselves during the holiday season with darker makeup, luxurious skincare, and fluffy bubble baths. We’ve rounded our favorite sustainable beauty brands here for you to get a better idea where to look.

7. Refurbished Electronics

Electronics are undoubtedly one of the most popular gift items purchased by gift-shoppers every holiday season: from a new laptop, smartphone, gaming system, T.V., portable speakers, or wireless earbuds – odds are, someone on your shopping list this holiday season is asking for something electronic.

Unbeknownst to most, you can usually buy your desired electronic product of choice refurbished – which is when the piece of technology is made for recycled or reused parts. Even better, most refurbished products are usually cheaper – and they work just as well as if you were to buy them brand new!

Reusable Water Bottle or Recycled Wine Glasses

What’s a better stocking stuffer than something someone will use every day? Whether it’s a reusable water bottle to hit up the gym or a wine glass you can feel good about while sipping your favorite vin chaud this holiday season – this makes the perfect gift for those seeking sustainability in their everyday lives.

9. Recycled Jewelry

Look online on Etsy or for other sustainable jewelry brands that can help you find the perfect necklace, bracelet, earrings, or ring that is environmentally friendly, too.

10. Eco-Friendly Hand Watch

Hand Watches have made a fierce return despite the colloquial use of the iPhone to tell time; they have become more of a fashion item than an actual time device. A great luxurious, eco-friendly gift this season can be an eco-friendly hand watch – such as the Citizen Stiletto Unisex Watch.

This hand watch doesn’t need a battery, making it a long-lasting environmentally friendly gift that stays in style and keeps the planet cool at the same time. 

Besides purchasing friends and family eco-friendly gifts – how else can you make your holiday season joyous for the planet, too?

What are some other ideas you could do if you want to keep the holidays sustainable?

Travel

Although travel can create its fair share of carbon emissions as well, this is a big one that many people think of – who doesn’t dream of a summery-getaway in the middle of winter?

The only problem is that those tropical vacations in December often resort to flying, and air travel is one of the industries contributing to excessive carbon emissions. If you have a friend or family member that would really appreciate a trip as an eco-friendly gift this holiday season, what you can do is purchase carbon credits or pay to offset your vacation.

Cooking

One of the highest carbon emitting parts of the holiday season are the meals, similar to Thanksgiving. Traditional holiday turkeys or hams leave behind a massive carbon footprint, with the average Christmas dinner creating an alarming 198 pounds of carbon dioxide. To reduce the carbon emissions that come alongside your mashed potatoes and pecan pie, you can switch out dairy products for plant-based milks or creamers and serve more vegetables than meat-based dishes.

Keep Electronics Off

The holidays are meant to be a season spent with the people you care about most, but also – if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, odds are you’re spending much of your time inside since it’s cold outside. Much of the world is already facing an energy crisis, meaning that electricity is already sparse and will inevitably cost you and your family more this holiday season.

If you want to keep your holiday festivities as sustainable as possible, one of the best things you can do is keep the electronics to a minimum. We know it’s tempting to cozy up to a movie or play video games during the time off from school or work, but opt to switch out one of those typical winter activities with a night by the fire, drinking hot cocoa, and playing board games instead. You just might create a new holiday tradition that you’ll find yourself repeating year after year without the environmental benefits in mind.

Offer an Experience Instead of Gifts

I know for a fact that when it comes to moms especially – they don’t want something like a necklace or a new dress from their children. My mom would always say that for her birthday or Mother’s Day, all she wanted was a clean house and for someone to make her breakfast. No dishes, no laundry folding, no cooking – just a day off of rest and the roles of mother and child to be reversed for twenty-four hours. 

If you’re still living with your parents and looking for an affordable, or free gift, that your parents will appreciate – this might be one of them.

As many try to steer towards minimalism, more and more people don’t even want to receive a gift that is more than likely going to end up having a short shelf life, getting returned, or donated. Therefore, the best answer for a gift these days may be giving someone an experience they would really appreciate.

For instance, maybe you have a friend that loves to travel – and you can offer them a quick weekend getaway together. Maybe your aunt is really passionate about cooking, and you can give her a ticket to a cooking class. If you live in a city, maybe there’s a new art gallery your friend would appreciate going to before a lunch date together. I’m personally a big fan of going to concerts, and I was always much happier when my holiday gifts included a ticket to see one of my favorite singers as opposed to anything else.

While not all of the experiences may be great for the environment either: such as travel or attending a concert – you can make it an eco-friendly gift by carefully planning a low carbon footprint road trip or choosing an artist committed to offsetting the environmental impact of their concerts.  

We may find sitting by the fire during the holiday season to be a joyous comfort, but imagine sitting there non-stop with no choice to ever leave. That’s exactly how the planet has felt for a while now, and what could make this holiday season all the merrier is if we spread the joy to not only our loved ones – but to the globe that gives us a winter wonderland to celebrate in the first place.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about the International Sustainability Standards Board, or the ISSB, has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint. 

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