110 Eco-friendly Holiday Gifts

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

The ultimate guide for finding eco-friendly gifts for all budgets for all kinds of people. These ideas can also be used year-round for other events like birthdays, anniversaries, or other occasions.



Holidays are one of the most wasteful times of the year, and that goes for actual waste and wasted money. Most people think they have to give gifts to everyone, even if it means that the gift is just something cheap, cheesy, and maybe even straight-up junk (guilty).


So, in this post, I want to talk about how you can give more sustainable and environmentally friendly gifts this year. This will be a quick way to come up with ideas for your friends, families, teachers, and even co-workers. Try your best to avoid junk items and games that involve a lot of waste and maybe even talk everyone into playing a more sustainable version.


If you would rather watch a video on this topic (plus more Denahi bloopers) click here. Keep in mind, though, that I kept the video brief and that the full blog is a better guide. The blog includes a full price guide and gift description while the video is just a list.



Don’t worry, you will still be able to enjoy all the holiday festivities, but this year, you won’t have to be as wasteful. And (!!) there are even some FREE options! Here is the price key:


- $: free

- $$: under $20

- $$$: $21-50

- $$$$: $50 and up


Here is a quick breakout if you want to skip to the section that is best for you:


- Experiences: 1-14

- Memberships/subscriptions: 15-17

- Memories: 19-24

- Make something yourself and utilize your skills: 25-33

- Money or gift cards: 34-36

- Thrift the gift: 37-44

- Make your own gift baskets: 45-57

- Chose sustainable brands: 58-78

- Shop local: 79-83

- The gift that keeps on giving: 84-90

- Gifts for the whole crew: 91-94

- Upcycle: 95-97

- Regift and Rehome: 98-100

- Pampering: 101-105

- Gifts to help them become more sustainable: 106-110


Experiences:


What this means is, instead of getting someone a physical gift, get them something to do. There are endless options and most might depend on your region. For example, you wouldn't take someone surfing if you live in Ohio, but you won't take someone to a corn maze if you live in Hawaii. This is a great way to make so many memories without collecting physical items. Here are a few ideas:


1. Christmas filled day of making cookies, caroling, and seeing Christmas lights ($)

2. Tickets to the movies ($$)

3. Date night (prices may vary)

4. A play ($$$-$$$$)

5. Laser tag ($$$-$$$$)

6. Go-karting ($$$-$$$$)

7. Tickets to an indoor sports/recreation center ($$$-$$$$)

8. Paint-balling ($$$-$$$$)

9. Archery ($$$-$$$$)

10. Horse-back riding (Free if you have horses, otherwise $$$-$$$$)

11. A class such as cooking, sewing, or wood-shop ($$-$$$)

12. A museum or gallery ($$)

13. A local festival ($-$$)

14. An ancestry program ($$$$)


My birthday 2018 we took a weekend trip to Nikko, Japan for my "gift"

Memberships/Subscriptions:


Now, don’t go giving someone a gym membership just because you don’t have any other ideas. This can be taken the wrong way, unless they are already a big gym rat, then that might be a very good gift! Here are some other membership ideas though:


15. A monthly subscription box (they will actually use) for clothing, food, or cleaners ($$$$)

16. A gym membership for the gym rat in your life ($$$$)

17. Pay for their Netflix or Amazon Prime for the year ($$$$)

18. A subscription to a food service like Thrive Market (US only) ($$$$)


Memories:


This is a kind of combination of experiences, DIYs, and utilizing your talents, but this can be a lot more meaningful to you and the other person. A gift that keeps on giving, if you will. This might take a bit more planning than experiences, but I am sure it’ll be worth it. You will have memories and special moments captured for years and generations to come. Here are a few ideas:


19. A photoshoot (Free if you do photos or have a friend do them, otherwise ($$$$)

20. A weekend (or even week) getaway. This can be anything from a legitimate vacation or just a trip to a local state or national park ($$$$)

21. Making something together like pottery or painting ($$-$$$$)

22. A scrapbook or photo book from this years best memories ($$-$$$$)

23. A video documentary of your lives or this year ($ if you have the abilities)

24. A shadow box from the year’s events, festivals, movies, etc. that you went to ($$$)


We got photos done as our anniversary gift to each other in 2019


Make something yourself and utilize your skills:


I have always loved making gifts for friends and family. It means so much more when it comes from your own hands and heart and now they have something totally unique, not something 1,000 other people are going to get this year. Choose what area of expertise you have access to and enjoy doing, and go from there. Here are a few ideas:


25. A handmade wreath, perfect for the holiday season ($$)

26. A painting, drawing, or other form of art you enjoy ($)

27. Crochet, knit, or sew something if that is more your thing ($-$$)

28. Even just a handmade card ($-$$)

29. A Christmas cookie platter ($)

30. Make them dinner ($$)

31. Make something out of wood: coasters, a new shelf, a blanket ladder, a wall hanging, a frame, cutting boards, you name it ($$-$$$)

32. A gingerbread house ($)

33. Take photos for your parents, family, or friends ($)


I love making blankets for new babies in my family


Money or gift cards:


This might not be as meaningful as some gifts, but if you are in a time crunch and if you’re just getting something, say for Secret Santa, this can be a great gift for coworkers. This way they can get something that they actually want or need. Here are some ideas:

34. Their favorite restaurant or store ($$$-$$$$)

35. Amazon (really can’t go wrong with this one) ($$$-$$$$)

36. Local shops and businesses to support the local economy ($$$-$$$$)


Thrift the gift:

Over the past year, I have been compiling a list of things I have wanted and sent it to my family for gift ideas for us. This way they were not scrambling to find us things we might want and they weren’t risking getting us something we wouldn’t use. My mom ended up thrifting me a large glass bowl and metal spoon I have been hunting for and I was so happy! And, it was significantly cheaper than buying new. Win for me, win for her!


You don’t have to even go thrift shopping, you can check places like Facebook Marketplace, Depop, eBay, and more. Here are some other ideas if the person you are buying for did not give you a list:

37. Photo frames that you can fill yourself ($$)

38. Books to add to their collection ($$)

39. Unique Christmas decor ($$)

40. A coffee mug and add their favorite holiday drink mix ($$)

41. An ugly Christmas sweater ($$)

42. Kitchen gadgets and utensils ($$)

43. Scarves, gloves, and other items to stay bundled up in the cold ($$)

44. Home decor such as mirrors, lamps, wall hangings, etc ($$)


Some of my favorite thrifted items, some of which were gifts


Make your own gift baskets:


Versus buying pre-made ones of course. Gift baskets are still a great gift that can incorporate a lot of nice gifts. But, most of the time, you can’t choose the items inside and they might be cheap, wasteful, or not even get used by the person you are giving it to. So, instead, make your own! Don’t forget to thrift your basket and thrift whatever you can for the baskets. Try to only buy new when necessary. And, since you are making it yourself, there is no need to cover it in all that cellophane! All baskets are probably going to be between $10-50 depending on where you get the items. Here are some ideas:


45. For the Christmas lover: Christmas cookies, Christmas cookie cutters, mugs, hot chocolate, candy canes, ornaments, a playlist of Christmas favorites, Christmas movies/movie night date

46. For the zero waster (or trying to be): bamboo utensils, produce bags, metal straws, shampoo & conditioner bars, tote bags, mason jars

47. For the book worm or teacher: books, a gift card to a book store, stationary, pens, mugs, their favorite tea, Christmas inspired bookmarks

48. For the foodie: Christmas cookies, other Christmas candy, a gift card to their favorite restaurant, Christmas plates, handwritten favorite recipes

49. DIY edible arrangement: cut seasonal fruit into fun shapes and put them on skewers, add whole fruit and chocolate to the basket

50. For the chef: mixing bowls, measuring cups, whisks, spoons, handwritten favorite recipes, Christmas cookie cutters, silicone baking mat or cupcake “tin”

51. For movie night: popcorn, candy bars, sodas, gift card to Redbox/Netflix/another streaming or borrowing service

52. For Dads/men you just don’t know what to get: use a bucket as the base, car cleaning supplies, rags, tools they might need, a gift card to Home Depot/Lowe's/other home goods store

53. Breakfast inspired: homemade pancake mix in a jar, maple syrup, chocolate chips, tea or coffee, Christmas mugs, muffins

54. For the beauty guru: (don’t forget to choose sustainable brands!) Lotion, shampoo & conditioner bars, nail polish, a gift card to a mani-pedi, homemade make-up remover pads, nail files, lip gloss/stain

55. Self-care inspired: bath bombs, lotion, face-masks, Christmas slippers, candles, Christmas mug, their favorite tea, bath salts

56. Family game night: favorite board games, popcorn, candy

57. For the techie: pela phone case and screen protector, nimble portable charger, screen cloths, a stylus


My DIY sustainable gift basket complete with homemade produce bags and coffee in paper


Chose sustainable brands:


If you do choose to buy something material, choose a sustainable brand instead. This way you are creating less waste. The items are almost always better quality and will last a last longer. They are also more unique than buying from big-name stores. For a complete sustainable brand gift-giving guide, click here to read more from Learn to Love our Earth. Here are some other ideas though:

Clothing:

58. Green Spirits: tees and sweatshirts ($$$) (use code EMMA10 for 10% off)

59. Organic Basics: tennis socks, undergarments, leggings, and more ($$-$$$$)


Bag and tee from Green Spirits

Reusables:

60. Net Zero: reusable glass coffee cup or collapsible coffee cup ($$$)

61. Green Spirits: water bottles ($$) (use code EMMA10 for 10% off)

62. Mantra Kind: bamboo toothbrushes and utensils ($$)


Accessories:

63. Green Spirits: tote bags ($$) (use code EMMA10 for 10% off)

64. Stockholm Rose: necklaces, earrings, and more ($$$)

65. Pela: phone cases, sunglasses, and screen protectors ($$$)

66. Matt & Nat: handbags and footwear ($$$)

67. Loft & Daughter: jewelry, baskets, rugs, and more ($$$$)


Misc:

68. Subluceo: candles with Christmas scents ($$)

69. Aether Beauty palette ($$$)

70. Nimble: portable chargers, wireless chargers, and more ($$$$)

71. Zero waste kits: from Package Free Shop or the Sustainable Duo ($$$-$$$$)


Sustainable Brand Gift Cards ($$-$$$$ depending on the price you choose):

72. The Package Free Shop

73. The Green Labels (fashion)

74. Organic Basics (fashion)

75. Everlane (fashion)

76. Patagonia (fashion)

77. Raven & Lily (home decor)

78. Saje (essential oils)

Pela cases makes a great sustainable gift!


Shop locally and shop small:

Shopping local can help save waste because the items are made in or near your hometown and don’t have to be shipped halfway across the world. They are also often made from quality materials that will last a long time.


This is another great idea if you chose to get something material but don’t really want to thrift or make anything yourself. If you don’t know where to start looking for brands, check google maps, yelp, trip advisor, or just ask on Facebook. This year for my birthday, my mom gifted me handmade soap and handmade decorative spider (weird back story there) made out of beads. There are people out there who make everything, so just look around until you find the perfect gift. Here are some ideas:

79. Homemade soaps: shampoo, conditioner, hand soap ($$)

80. A local baker: cookies, cakes, donuts, and more ($$)

81. Artists: painters, potters, and other media ($$-$$$$)

82. Wood or metal workers: furniture and wall decor ($$-$$$$)

83. Support local plays, shows, musicals, etc ($$$-$$$$)



The gift that keeps on giving:


This year, consider giving your time. The holidays are a hard time for people in rough life situations. You can do this alone or you can take friends and family and give your time to help those less fortunate or just help the community. Most of these just require you to donate your time or choice of money. Here are a few ideas:


84. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and help make and serve those to less fortunate during the holidays

85. Volunteer at an orphanage maybe to read stories or sing Christmas carols

86. Make book bags full of necessities and donate them to homeless shelters or homeless people you see ($$-$$$$)

87. Organize a beach, park, or city clean up and help make your city clean for the holidays

88. Donate money to an organization you feel passionate about

89. Volunteer to help hang up lights in your city and town to get it ready for the holiday season

90. Volunteer in or organize a cookie drive for homeless shelters/orphanages


A beach clean-up I organized in 2018


Gifts for the whole crew:


This is a great idea if you don’t want to get, make, or organize a bunch of different gifts for a bunch of different people. These ideas just require you to organize one event on one day and just invite everyone! Here are some ideas:


91. Cook Christmas/holiday dinner for your whole family ($$$-$$$$)

92. Organize a cookie swap party. Everyone bakes their favorite cookies and brings extra recipes to pass out as well ($-$$)

93. Take everyone to the movies, to paint, or a family weekend getaway ($$-$$$$)

94. Sustainable/useful white elephant: instead of everyone buying junk, have everyone buy a useful gift instead and you can still enjoy this fun holiday tradition without being wasteful ($$-$$$)