Are you trying to find an eco friendly gift for special someone that doesn’t cost the earth?
If so, great!
Christmas, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc are synonymous with excessive consumption. Getting stuff we mostly don’t need.
There also seems to be a weird association between the monetary value of the gift and the perceived value of the relationship… which shouldn’t be the case.
We think, as cliche as it sounds, that it’s the thought that counts.
So that’s what we’ve tried to do with this list – find the best eco friendly gifts for him and her that truly say “I care about you (and the environment, of course 🙂 You are important to me”.
WHY SUSTAINABLE GIFTS?
A big part of that journey is about leaving only footprints. And to do that we try to live a zero waste (or at least a less wasteful) lifestyle.
Giving eco-friendly gifts (for birthdays, weddings, etc.) is one of the ways in which we practice a zero waste lifestyle. Making conscious choices about the brands we choose to support and products (or in this case sustainable living gifts) we choose to buy.
If you’re not familiar with zero waste living, the goal is to live in a way that sends no trash to landfills or incinerators. Instead minimizing impact by purchasing biodegradable, compostable, or reusable products or environmentally friendly gifts!
So that’s what we’ve tried to shoot for in this list.
Of course, re-gifting or buying second-hand will always be better for the environment. Though, if you do need to buy this list should provide some ideas and options for sustainable giving.
If you have any other eco friendly or zero waste gift ideas, let us know.
QUICK LINKS – THE BEST ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS
CHEAP ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS
1. ELECTRONICS-FREE PICNIC IN THE PARK
Life is busy and finding the time to just be in the moment with loved ones is a challenge for most (us included!).
Give the most environmentally friendly gift of all – time!
Commit to spending an afternoon just hanging out, munching on grapes in the park, playing the odd game of pétanque (if you like) and committing to being electronics- free so you can both detox and enjoy some offline time.
These are the moments that truly matter in life…not stuff.
2. ORGANIZED BIKE RIDE (OR HIKE, RUN, WALK) FOLLOWED BY BREAKFAST/LUNCH
We did this recently with a particularly active family member (who wouldn’t tolerate sitting in a park that well!) and it was such fun.
You’re also giving the gift of time but with a little well-being and pizazz thrown in.
If you handle all the organizing, bring along delicious snacks (like homemade cookies, lemonade, coffee) and finish with a relaxed meal somewhere, you can’t go wrong!
If you want to keep the costs down, just stick to the bike-ride with fancy snacks!
3. BAKED COOKIES IN AN UPCYCLED JAR (DIY ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS)
DIY eco friendly gifts are truly special. You’re not only putting in time but also effort. And this one is an oldie but a goodie.
I recall receiving a jar of homemade cookies from a motherly, lovely family friend A REALLY LONG TIME AGO and I still remember it to this day.
It was such a kind gesture and the cookies were delicious. Plus they person can re-use the jar afterwards!
4. TRIP TO A BERRY PICKING FARM
This is obviously dependent on whether you have access to something like this.
Where we live, you can drive out about an hour to a handful of berry farms, pay a few bucks entry fee and pick until your hearts content.
You come home with a huge amount of berries which can be frozen or consumed fresh.
It’s a super fun day out and great way to spend time together while also doing something productive. You can of course, also throw in a coffee, lunch or meal of some kind (in addition to eating the berries, of course) for fun too!
5. CAREFULLY CURATED REUSABLE JAR COLLECTION
Another DIY eco friendly gift idea. This one also takes a bit of planning.
If you know your person is wanting to live more sustainably or is striving for a zero waste lifestyle, good sized re-usable jars are the.best.things.ever – you can never have enough!
So a super thoughtful move is to start collecting jars for them way in advance and before you gift them, jazz them up a bit by painting the lids, adding nice labels (chalk paint could be fun), etc.
I personally would LOVE this gift…
6. COMMIT TO A DAY HELPING THEM IN THE GARDEN
Again, this is a gift of time.
If your loved one has a garden, there are always weeds to pull out, soil to turn, new things to plant, plants to water, etc.
Help them and the environment by spending some time in nature and putting in a little labour, ideally with your loved one so as to get some good quality time together.
7. LIBRARY MEMBERSHIP
For those who grew up before or during the 90s, this may have the added bonus of a taste of nostalgia!
With the growing movement towards de-cluttering (hullo Marie Kondo), conscious consumption and the sharing economy, a huge collection of books is not what everyone wants… so for friends who aren’t into kindle but prefer the real deal, a membership for their local library might be a fun way to remind them of some great local and in many cases free resources around them!
For this one, you may need a little creativity as our local library requires some sort of ID to sign up – perhaps you could do a partial sign up on your loved one’s behalf and get them to finish the job when they come in for the first time… or convince your local library to start offering “Gift” memberships!
ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS UNDER $50
8. INDOOR / OUTDOOR BEAUTIFUL PLANTS
Another gift I absolutely love.
Or if you want something a little different what about a terrarium (a semi/closed glass container with plants and soil – the picture right at the top is an example of two that we have in our apartment).
For the plants themselves, you can find them in a lot of places these days (nurseries, hardware stores, fruit & veg shops, indoor interior shops) – IKEA even has plants now!
9. ORGANIC VEGGIE SEEDS / SEEDLINGS FOR THEIR GARDEN
If your person is planning on growing a veggie garden or is just a green thumb, how about some seedlings or seeds for their favorite veggie or flower?
Or to make it interesting, buy them some unmarked seeds with instructions on how to water them but don’t tell them what the plants is. They’ll have to wait until it grows to find out what the surprise plant is!
Ideally buy those which are suitable for the season and climate! Succulents are a safe and sustainable gift idea if you’re unsure.
10. ZERO WASTE STARTER KIT
This is such a popular eco-friendly gift idea. So much so that we even wrote a dedicated article on zero waste starter kits. If you’re not sure what they include have a read!
Most people who care about the environment have taken steps to live a more waste free life or are thinking about it. A zero waste starter kit can really help inspire some further action. Or if your person already has a kit, think about what could be missing and fill the gap.
Here are some typical tools and reusable product ideas that you could supplement your friends zero waste kit with (note, if you put all these things in the kit, it will be more than $50, so pick to your budget).
Zero waste coffee cups (or reusable cups) of all shapes and sizes are an essential sustainable living tool.
We’re big fans of the Hydroflask – it’s super robust, great for coffee and cold liquids. We’ve used ours for years for camping and days at the office. You can pick on up on Amazon US, UK or Australia.
Just be sure your friend doesn’t already have one.
Reusable Grocery Bags
You can save your friend heaps of space beneath their kitchen sink by getting them some durable reusable bags. Etsy has some great options many of which are artisan and handmade.
Zero Waste Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Floss Kit
There are now enough options to make an environmentally friendly gift out of dental care products!
Zero Waste Shaver
Zero waste shavers or safety razors are making a comeback. And rightly so, they’re way more eco friendly than plastic razors, they’re super cost effective in the long run and look a whole lot better.
I even find they give you a better share.
11. ECO-INSPIRING BOOKS
For avid readers, books are fail safes!
And if they’re on the path to learning as much as they can about eco-living and reducing their impact, a book that either educates or provides practical tips on how to live more sustainably will be hugely appreciated.
Here are some ideas, would love to hear from you if you have any more recommendations??
- Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual
- Lorenzo Fioramonti’s Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth
- Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
12. GIFT VOUCHER FOR THEIR FAVOURITE THRIFT STORE
For low impact, eco friendly, conscious consumers, fashion has become a bit of tough one to navigate… many of us love fashion and love the feeling of confidence the perfect outfit can give but as we now know, fast fashion has been devastating for the planet.
For those of us wanting to reduce our impact, thrift shopping has become a wonderful way to embrace creativity and look good at a lower cost to the wallet and the planet.
Many thrift stores offer gift vouchers and many of them are set up as charities so by supporting them you are doing double good.
Perhaps you can follow this gift up with a good old fashioned shopping trip to said thrift store, followed by coffee and cake…
We wrote a detailed article on the best online thrift stores we could find – have a read for some more sustainable fashion gift ideas.
13. TREE PLANTED ON THEIR BEHALF
This has to be one of our favourite gifts… not only is it thoughtful, it leaves (lol, leaves…) a legacy in your special person’s name – that tree will hopefully be there forever, producing oxygen, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and potentially feeding the planet.
Arguably one of the most important things our generation can do is plant trees!
There are some great organisations through which you can buy a tree gift.
- Greenpop SA – A tree planting organization that greens urban communities in South Africa, while educating and bringing people together (see our podcast episode with founder and “TREE-E-O”, Misha Teasdale).
- National Forest Foundation in the USA: “plant a tree for every $1 you give to our tree-planting programs, helping restore National Forests damaged by wildfire, insects, disease and other impacts” – This might be especially special for Californians, where there is increasing suffering from very serious wild fires.
- One Tree Planted: This not-for-profit pools donations to help fund reforestation projects around the world, your tree donation will be directed to where it’s needed most. From One Tree Planted, you can also buy other tree related gifts (like a tree planting kit).
- The Woodland Trust in the UK allows you to dedicate an existing tree (or trees) to someone special which helps fund the planting and protecting of trees and woods across the UK.
- The Heart of England in the UK offers not only the tree but also the experience of planting the tree together.
- The Orangutan Project has tree planting gifts that “helps reforest land and expands orangutan habitat areas”.
- Australia’s Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund sells e-Cards that are emailed directly to the recipients and on which you can choose how many trees you’d like planted in their name. Much like other tree planting options, this charitable fund plants in areas hard hit by fires (among other things). They have planted 5.4M trees so far!
ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS FOR HIM AND HER ($50 – $100)
14. SPONSOR AN ENDANGERED / THREATENED SPECIES ON THEIR BEHALF
Similar to tree planting, keeping an endangered or threatened species alive and well is critical to our biodiversity… much more so than yet another T-shirt or iPad!
Last year, I was gifted a year’s worth of feed and shelter for Valkyrie, a Jackal Buzzard from South Africa’s Radical Raptors which was such a wonderful and thoughtful gift.
Here are some other excellent options. Let us know if you have any great ideas to add to this list!
- The Rhino Orphanage South Africa (Check out our interview with Wildlife Documentary Maker, Bonné de Bod to learn more about the Rhino Horn War and why Rhino Orphanages exist).
- The Owl Rescue Center in Johannesburg South Africa: Another one close to our hearts, we visited their Sanctuary and interviewed founder, Danelle on our podcast, these guys do incredible work to save, rehabilitate and release owls back into the wild.
- The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to foster a baby Elephant in Kenya.
- Wild is Life Elephant Nursery in Zimbabwe: We follow the movements of their baby Elephant, Moyo, such a cute and cheeky baby! There are so many important projects to contribute to at this nursery.
- WWF offers adoptions for numerous species around the world.
15. ETHICAL & SUSTAINABLE GIFT COSMETICS PACK
For eco friendly loved ones that love cosmetics but want to consume only the most ethical and sustainable options, a little care package of some select but ultra impressive options would go down a treat.
Some of our favorite sustainable beauty brands are listed below but also check out our full list of brands that we’ve researched and can highlight recommend (we’ve prioritized cruelty free, vegan, palm oil free products that have thoughtful packaging – ideally zero waste!): Cruelty-Free, Ethical And Sustainable Beauty Brands: The Master List and Cruelty-Free, Vegan And Sustainable Makeup Brands.
16. ETHICAL PERSONAL CARE PACK
Similarly, a set of personal care products like lotions, moisturizers, deodorants and soaps are always useful.
Below are some of our favorites that are cruelty-free, vegan, palm-oil free and in some cases, fit into a zero waste lifestyle too! See here for our our full list of favourites and their ethical attributes:
- Meow Meow Tweet (zero waste options)
- Plaine Products (zero waste)
- Ethique (zero waste)
- Earth Tu Face (zero waste options
- Fat & the Moon (zero waste)
- Conscious Skincare (zero waste options)
- Dirty Hippie Cosmetics (zero waste)
17. MOVIES FOR TWO
Who doesn’t love the movies!?
Why not put a spin on it and buy tickets to an eco film? Most cities even have dedicated eco film festivals too.
Otherwise, if this is not as convenient for you, organize a home movie night with zero waste popcorn and rent an eco-documentary.
One that is super close to our hearts (as already mentioned above) is multi-award winning STROOP: Journey into the Rhino Horn War – be warned, it’s a tear jerker.
18. VEGAN DINNER FOR TWO
You can cook at home or head out for a nice dinner together where you can celebrate the special occasion while dining on your lower impact dinner.
Most major cities now have amazing vegan or vegetarian options. Use the Fair Food Forager App to find something near you.
19. DONATION ON THEIR BEHALF
Maybe your loved one lives minimally and may not personally want anything. Show you care by contributing to something they care about. Here are some sustainable charity gifts:
20. WORM FARM / INDOOR COMPOSTER
We recently gifted this to a family member who is not overly eco-minded, the reception was well… mixed but polite.
Perhaps reserve this one for those that are at Level 2 or 3 on their eco friendly journey…
We’ve done some research on the various options for this eco gift here but you can’t go wrong with a decent bokashi bin, vermicomposter or a FoodCycler for serious green technology (note that one is definitely over the $100 budget).
UNIQUE ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS (OVER $100)
21. HEADSPACE MEMBERSHIP
Headspace is a meditation app that takes even the most inexperienced through a series of guided meditations – starting with just 10 minutes a day and working up from there.
We’ve used Headspace ourselves and we’ve gifted it before.
We’d highly recommend it as most people won’t spend this sort of money on themselves for something as simple and as important as mediation.
Not only is this a great zero waste option that does not add unnecessary consumption to the world, it also works toimprove sustainability of the mind.
Most of us are busy out of our minds so remembering to sit quietly and focus on the now is more important than ever.
We think this is one of the best eco friendly gifts around.
22. TRIP AWAY FOR A NIGHT OR TWO
Another gift probably reserved for someone special. Experiences will (usually) trump stuff.
Over at Airbnb, you can book nature experiences (like horseback riding with a farmer or hiking secret beaches) which could be a great way to force some relaxation! Add on a lovely dinner (either home cooked or out and about) and voila, the perfect gift!
23. NETFLIX SUBSCRIPTION FOR A YEAR (WITH A LIST OF SUITABLE DOCUMENTARY RECOMMENDATIONS)
For lovers of documentaries, this is a winner and so easy to do. Netflix offers gift cards and a huge variety of incredible eco documentaries, here are some of the most popular:
24. BULK ECO-FRIENDLY TOILET PAPER
This is a fun one for the person that has everything and loves a laugh!
It’s true that eco-friendly toilet paper has become a real thing recently. There are a few brands that are making toilet paper out of recycled paper or using sustainably managed bamboo.
We actually reviewed Who Gives A Crap and they are the real deal when it comes to sustainably sourced TP.
They also donate a huge chunk of their earnings to charity, are packaged without plastic and don’t use any dyes or scents! Winning.
Also check out Smartass another sustainable leader in human er…waste.
25. EVENT TICKETS FOR BOTH OF YOU (SPORT, THEATRE, ETC.)
Whether a music lover, or sport super fan, consider getting two tickets to whatever gets their goat: ski lift ticket, yoga classes, dance lesson, just to name a few.
Opt for digital tickets for true zero-waste goodness.
The best part about this is you can do it together, so in that sense it’s a double gift!
EXPENSIVE ECO FRIENDLY GIFTS (OVER $500)
26. THE FAIRPHONE
The Fairphone has been on our wishlist for a LONG TIME. This is a mobile/cell phone that is built to last, with modular components and an entirely fair supply chain.
The Fairphone is all about:
- Long lasting design: “both their original design and in designing their repair to be as easy as possible”
- Fair materials: “ tracing where our phone’s parts come from and creating demand for materials that are good for people and planet”
- Good working conditions: “we work closely with selected suppliers to assess the current situation, uncover the underlying issues and take a collaborative approach to improvement.”
- Reuse and recycling: “moving one step closer to a circular economy by encouraging the reuse and repair of our phones, researching electronics recycling options and reducing electronic waste worldwide.”
27. A BICYCLE OR BICYCLE THEMED GIFT
It’s very likely that your eco friendly person already has one of these but if they don’t, a bicycle is an amazing vehicle for change (see what I did there ?).
In fact, this is one of the first sustainable changes we made to our lifestyle. Commuting in London (or Melbourne, Aus – where we live now) via bike is easier and healthier than by tube (or subway).
It has the power to create personal health while reducing carbon emissions. Buying second-hand is an even better way to be eco-friendly and save money!
If your person is more into the sharing economy, why not get a membership to a bike sharing program in your city?
OR if they already have a bike, get them some handy bike accessories like a pump, gloves, lights etc…or what about a bike service / tune up!
That is always something we all seem to be behind on…
28. SEND THEM TO AN ECO RETREAT OR ON AN ECO HOLIDAY
An Eco retreat could come in many forms, it could be a camping Eco festival like South Africa’s Greenpop Tree Planting Festivals or it could be more of the relaxing or luxury type of retreats with mediation and yoga.
It could just be a Responsible Travel themed holiday – Responsible Travel has some pretty epic ideas/holiday themes like turtle conservation, snow leopard tracking, no single use plastic, vegetarian and vegan and scuba diving conservation.
29. ECO COURSE OR EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
Personally, we’d LOVE to do our PDC (Permaculture Design Course) like this one, run by one of the co-founders of Permaculture, David Holmgren himself.
It runs for 15 days where you camp on the property, participate in the yoga program and eat ethical and wholesome meals while learning about permaculture.
There are of course other impressive course options for various topics and skill levels – with a quick google, it looks like “ethical hacking” is even a thing!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE GIFT IDEAS
We probably went a bit overboard here but it’s hard not to when there are so many eco friendly gift ideas worth sharing!
Applying a little creativity and coming from a place of care and love makes all the difference – we’re sure the recipient of your gift will feel extremely loved and grateful for having you in their life.
If you didn’t find the one gift that says it all, have a look at our zero waste gift article for more sustainable gift ideas.
Before you go, tell us what you’re giving your loved ones this year?