Sustainable gift ideas: the ultimate guide for home & travel 2020
Giving a gift to a loved one can be a beautiful way to demonstrate your feelings… or a stressful and expensive exercise in consumerism. Giving should be about thoughtfulness and gratitude, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth. Sustainable gift ideas aim to use materials that already exist, support artisans and all workers fairly, minimise negative impact on the environment, and give back in a positive manner.
I’ve done a huge amount of research for you here, so you can easily find ethical and sustainable gift ideas for that special someone. Each product has been vetted to ensure it’s a sustainable option, and you can choose to buy it from my included links or find it locally.
This gift guide is suitable for Christmas gifts, Hanukkah gifts, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or any reason! It will help you to find meaningful, useful and environmentally friendly gifts for anyone in your life. Below are ideas that have been recycled, upcycled, and made with non-toxic materials and processes. They’re also fairly-traded, reusable, responsibly-produced, vegan-friendly, and come from stores I trust to be ethical.
I don’t link to Amazon as I prefer to support smaller stores who support fair trade practices and do their best to reduce carbon emissions and their impact on the earth. I’ve also included links to three continents, so you can buy from the store closest to you and keep your personal emissions minimal.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, but many aren’t, too, because this guide is to help you find green stores and sustainable gifts even if I don’t get a cut. I do link to many products from my go-to stores on each continent, because they have similar stock and ethical initiatives. This is helpful for us because they’ve done the legwork to find sustainable products already! And if you have several things to buy, you can purchase at once and save on postage and handling.
My go-to stores are:
Australia: Biome Eco Store
Biome has a massive range of sustainable products, is 100% palm-oil free, and is the most ethical and responsive store I’ve tried here.
United States: Earth Hero
Earth Hero also has a large range of eco-friendly products, and they’re a certified B-Corp and member of 1% for the Planet among other great initiatives.
United Kingdom: Natural Collection
Natural Collection stocks a huge amount products that are fair-trade, eco-friendly, locally-produced, organic, and/or otherwise having a positive effect on the environment.
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Still, if you can buy presents within your local town, or make them yourself, that will always be a better option than buying online. But since you’re here I assume some internet ordering is necessary for you!
This green gift guide has been fully updated for 2020 so you can be sure these ideas are relevant and on sale now. This is one of the biggest sustainable gift guides available, as I’ve really tried to include as many types of people as I can. Anyone can benefit from an ethical and sustainable gift as there’s a better alternative for pretty much everything now!
But being such a big post means that there’s a lot of info here, so to avoid overwhelm, use the table of contents to easily find the person you’re shopping for, or browse each section and find a suggestion for your location in the table columns: AUS/NZ is always the left column, US/CA is the middle column, and the UK is right column.
Please note: UK readers, you may have to scroll left on the tables to see your column of suggestions on mobiles/cell phones.
To those of you reading from Asia, I’m sorry I couldn’t add suggestions local to you as well. I hope the included ideas give you inspiration that you can find in a store nearby.
- 1 For people who like to drink…
- 2 For people on-the-go and people with wanderlust: lightweight, zero waste travel gear
- 3 For organisers, record-keepers, students, writers and bookworms
- 4 For children
- 5 For people who love to garden and encourage wildlife
- 6 For people who need clothing, shoes, bags, or underwear
- 7 For fur babies and their hoomans
- 8 For people who prefer to give than receive: gifts for a cause
- 9 For that person who’s always really hard to buy for
- 10 Some last thoughts about eco-friendly gift giving
For people who like to drink…
Coffee or Tea
It’s enjoyed in most countries of the world, but coffee can be a very unsustainable drink. Tea can also be produced unethically, and all hot beverages can be wasteful if they come in single-use containers.
These ideas will help you find practical, ethical, zero-waste and interesting gifts for the coffee- or tea-lover in your life.
Fair trade producers & subscription services
|Oxfam Fair coffee and drinking chocolate was launched in 2010, and they pay additional premuims to empower communities. |
Love Tea are an organic brand from Melbourne who trade fairly with communities and cooperatives.
|Think Coffee is a NYC-based company which is pioneering a Social Project model, supporting specific projects in the coffee's area of origin. |
Equal Exchange Co-op is a worker-owned business and their teas are fairly-traded from small scale farmer co-ops.
Natural Collection has a huge range of coffee, tea, and herbal tea that are all fair trade certified.
|Tribes and Nations are based in the Blue Mountains and stock Fair Trade certified coffee, tea and other products. They offer sample boxes and single orders as well as coffee and tea subscription programs.||Phil & Sebastian are Canadian coffee roasters who source 100% of their coffee direct-trade with small producers. They offer free shipping in the US and CA and subscriptions can be cancelled any time. And save 50% off your first month with the code "SAVE50".||Django Coffee Co offer several different subscriptions as well as a gift box of their direct trade coffee. They focus on minimal environmental impact and supporting small growers.|
Reusable coffee & tea accessories
|Podstar Reusable Coffee Pods come in sizes suitable for Nespresso or Aldi/Caffitaly machines. Grinders, reusable pods, tampers and measured scoops are available separately or as gift sets.||WayCap reusable pods are compatible with Nespresso and Dolce Gusto systems.||Coffee Union sells ReCap stainless steel reusable pods, for use with Nespresso machines.|
|These reusable teabags are a great idea! They balance over your cup so you can easily enjoy loose-leaf tea. The same store also sells stainless steel tea infusers.||This hand-painted mug was crafted in Bat Trang, Vietnam. A fair trade partnership ensures that the women artisans earn sustainable incomes.||These bamboo/cotton reusable tea bags are handmade in the UK. Wearth partners with independent UK brands and all products are sustainable and vegan.|
|This reusable drinks tray is made from recycled plastic and will replace many disposable carry trays. It's BPA-free and dishwasher safe, and ethically made in Australia. Use with your reusable cups for 100% waste-free barista treats!||These cute coasters are fairly-traded and made by deaf or physically disabled Indian artists. They feature four different coffee-themed encouragements to inspire your day!||This gift caddy is reusable and comes with 40 fair-trade tea bags. This blend is an apple-spiced Christmas tea, and Early Grey or English Breakfast are also available. Each caddy sold donates £1 to the David Shellick Wildlife Trust.|
Coffee- and tea-themed products
Circular consumption and sustainable materials abound!
|This tea kit enables you to grow your own cuppa! It comes with everything you need to grow and brew your tea. Choose from Echinacea, Peppermint, Chamomile and Lemon Balm.||This coffee tasting journal is handmade from 100% recycled paper, made from cotton! It's also produced in safe working conditions. A great gift for a coffee-connoisseur. Beer and wine tasting journals are also available.||These beauty products are based on waste from coffee and chai tea. All of Upcircle's range are also vegan, non-toxic, palm-oil free, easily recyclable, and made in the UK.|
|This special kit allows you to grow eight cups' of mizuna and cress in coffee grounds! Reused cups are also part of the kit, which gives new life to several waste products from Byron Bay cafes.||This handmade soap is made from coffee grounds and other vegan, non-toxic ingredients. It's made in the USA with solar power and every order removes 1 lb of beach trash! Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||This is a coffee tree! You can grow your own coffee at home and roast it yourself for the freshest brew ever. Or try this oyster mushroom kit: they're grown in coffee grounds.|
Waste-free drinking on-the-go never felt so good.
|Did you know reusable cups can be ceramic too? These are insulated, designed in Melbourne, fit cup-holders, are spill- and shatter-proof, and toxin-free. Also browse this huge range of Keep Cups: there's one to suit any personality.||This insulated tumbler comes with either a coffee or sports lid (or both) and is made in the USA from 40% recycled stainless steel. It's also printed using solar energy! Several more sweet designs are available. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||This pretty cup is made from rice husks! The lid is food-grade silicone and the whole mug is BPA- and plastic-free. Several other designs are available, too.|
|These reusable cups are made from coffee grounds! Huskee is also pioneering a swap-system where you can swap your cup for a fresh one, and they take all unusable cups back for recycling, too.||These stainless steel cups keep hot drinks hot for 10 hours! The lid is BPA-free and Klean Kanteen is a certified B Corporation and member of 1% for the planet. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||This recycled cup is made from 40% disposable cups! It's also BPA-free and the lid allows sipping from 360 degrees, while also locking for safety.|
Smoothies and cold drinks
Stainless steel tumblers and straws enable zero waste cool beverages while you’re out and about, too!
|I have this exact vacuum-insulated tumbler and it's awesome. It keeps drinks cool for 20 hours or hot for four hours, comes in a range of colours and is 100% non-toxic. The silicone-tipped straw is also extra-safe and easy to clean.||This double-walled cup from B-Corp Klean Kanteen comes with a silicone-tipped straw in black, silver or coloured options. Its capacity is 16oz. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||These silicone straws are a nice alternative to metal and bamboo ones. They can be cut to size, are microplastic and BPA-free, and come with an ethically-made straw cleaner. They're also dishwasher safe and support 1% For the Planet and Eden Reforestation Projects.|
Quality reusable water bottles are an excellent gift that will really last, while removing the need for a huge number of plastic water bottles. Our favourite bottles are leakproof, insulated and straw-free, but they’re only readily available in Australia so I’ve provided links to similar products in the US and UK.
Some bottles come with added health benefits now too!
|These leakproof bottles are the best we've ever had! They have great insulation, are easy to clean and use, and have minimal components. Great for travel, work and home life, they comes in 3 sizes and a huge range of plain colours or patterns.||This beautiful bottle is made from double-walled stainless steel and food-grade silicone. It features an anti-slip design and comes in several pink variations as well as black. HYDY is a member of 1% for the planet.||This insulated bottle is suitable for hot or cold drinks, and can keep water cool for 24 hours. Bambaw donates some of their profits to The Plastic Soup Foundation and the 5 Gyres Institute.|
|These copper water bottles supercharge water with copper ions. Drinking water from copper is said to have many health benefits: for digestion, joints and cell regeneration. It's also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and an antioxidant.||This crystal-enhanced bottle infuses the properties of gems with your drinking water. The Wellness bottle includes amethyst, rose quartz, and clear quartz; other blends are good for Balance, Love, 5-5lements, and Fitness.||This glass filter bottle has a cork and silicone stopper and comes with a neoprene protective sleeve. The filter is from sustainably-sourced wood and it lasts up to 6 months.|
Wine, beer or spirits
You don’t need to know a good vintage from a bad one with these ideas!
|These wine holders are made from old wine barrels! They come in single or double-glass capacity, and the same company also makes cheese and sushi boards and share platters.||This insulated beer mug can keep your drink fresh for hours, and can be used for any drinks, hot or cold. Ecovessel also make super-strong wine/spirits tumblers and growlers, and they donate 5% of all orders to environmental non-profits.||These organic spice sachets are 100% Fair Trade, so you know you've really supported the growers who flavoured your wine and fruits.|
|This reusable wine tumbler is another way to keep your drink from spilling or breaking while you're outdoors. These are made ethically and come in a range of base colours. Biome also sells Ecovessel products (see US listing).||This beautiful set includes 4 jicara tasting cups and a large decanter, hand-blown by artisans in Mexico. Also available by Verve Culture is a wine caraf and stunning tumblers, all using recycled glass. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off at this store.||These beer soaps are made by a passionate family business in the UK. All of their products are hand made and free from animal fats and chemicals.|
|The Big Book of Home Brewing has over 50 beer recipes, and explains the whole process of brewing with step-by-step photography. Professional brewers share their troubleshooting tips, too.||This wood and cork bottle topper is handcrafted by fairly paid artisans in Kenya, and will keep your open bottle fresh. A zebra topper is also available.||These recycled wine glasses are also fairly traded and hand made. The company supports local communities in India and Africa, using traditional skills and sustainable materials.|
For people on-the-go and people with wanderlust: lightweight, zero waste travel gear
Eating out and shopping
Travelling, shopping and eating out without producing much waste requires a little bit of planning. Having eating gear on-hand whether at home or travelling is often very useful to avoid plastic waste. These utensils and straws won’t take up much room, and washable snack pouches are surprisingly handy: for carting nuts, dried fruit, veggies, biscuits or crackers, and for enclosing organic waste until you get home again, too! There’s no need for plastic zip-lock bags with these pretty, reusable solutions.
I also recommend always having foldable shopping bags with you, whether at home or while travelling. They’re strong yet so light you don’t even notice them, and they can be used for shopping needs as well as carrying laundry, an impromptu seat covering, or even an umbrella!
|These silicone straws come apart for easy cleaning and storage and are available in a range of colours. They're food-grade and completely safe for kids and adults.||This collapsible straw is made of stainless steel and food-grade silicone, and comes with a cleaning brush and a recycled plastic travel case. You can choose the case color to suit you, and choose wisely because the straw is good for 12,000 cycles!||This telescopic travel straw and cleaning brush comes with a rose gold carry case and carabiner clip, so it can always be attached to your bag. It's packaged 100% plastic free and is dishwasher safe.|
|This cutlery set is ethically made and comes with full-sized knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks made from 100% bamboo. The case is made from post-consumer recycled materials and includes a clip to easily attach it to a bag. But if you're like my husband and hate the feel of bamboo utensils, try a spork made of stainless steel, tritan or titanium!||This travel utensil set is biodegradable and makes use of factory scraps of bamboo fibres plus sugar cane starch. They're completely free from plastic, BPA, phthalates, or synthetic additives and are dishwasher safe, too. |
Also from this store are bamboo kits containing chopsticks with a knife, fork and spoon, in kid's and adult's sizing.
|This fair trade utensil set comes with a sustainable cork-leather pouch. The set is fully organic and free from chemicals, and is biodegradable, too. Also check out travel utensil kits that contain cutlery, chopsticks and straws if you need a whole set.|
|This washable snack pocket has a plant-based lining inside and is super handy for carrying snacks while out-and-about or while travelling. We've been using 4MyEarth products for years and they are excellent quality, all are still looking great and working well. We've travelled many places with our snack pockets!||These reusable snack bags come in a 2-pack and are BPA Free, phthalate-free, and PVC-free. Full Circle Home is a certified B-Corp and they also make cute kid's patterned snack bags and reusable sandwich bags. Also check out these snack packs which use RPET in the outer lining.||This snack bag is responsibly sourced and ethically produced by a women's cooperative in India. Several patterns and larger food wraps are also available.|
|These reusable bags weigh only 55g but can carry up to 20kg! They come in many colours and patterns to suit any personality, and are made ethically with food-safe, non-toxic material. Loqi bags are made to last and are also water-resistant and hand washable. They roll up very small for storage or carrying anywhere!||This reusable bag is lightweight yet strong and is made of 100% RPET. Even the carabiner and cord clip are made from recycled materials! Chicobag is a Certified B-Corp, and at the end of its life, they'll recycle your old bag into something new.||Onya RPET bags are now available from their UK store and a range of stockists, too. Their shopping bags come in several sizes and colours, and are all made from recycled plastic bottles. They fold away small so they're perfect for handbags or backpacks.|
Zero waste travel bathroom
These suggestions are perfect gifts for a conscious traveller to reduce their bathroom waste while travelling. They could be ‘wrapped’ in a sustainable toiletries bag if your loved one needs that, too!
|This toothbrush holder is made of bamboo, but not the type that pandas eat! My family and I used these on our last big trip and they were great. They don't last forever, but as they're completely compostable they are an excellent zero-waste product.||This bamboo travel case is made from sustainably harvested bamboo and includes a hole at the bottom to assist water to drain out. It's certified cruelty-free and compostable at the end of its life.||This sustainable toothbrush case is made of bamboo that's grown without any artificial irrigation, making it a water-neutral product. It's handmade in a fair trade environment, and 10% of Hydrophil's profits are donated to non-profit Viva con Agua.|
|These solid shampoos are made by a small Aussie business, and they're palm oil-free and excellent for travel. We have used Dindi's shampoos and they're lovely even at home, and can be used as soap as well! They also make beard soap, and cheaper refills are available for your tin.||This shampoo bar is handmade in the USA and is certified vegan and cruelty-free. It's also made with solar energy and comes in a reusable aluminium tin. For every order, Bestowed Essentials collects & recycles 1lb of beach trash through their partnership with Ocean Blue Project.||This conditioner bar is made in the UK and is fully biodegradable, vegan and chemical free. It comes in a reusable tin, handy for travelling with. Other bars are available for normal hair, blonde hair and irritated scalps.|
|This makeup bag can also be used for toiletries or travel needs, and many other patterns are available. Beekeeper Parade is a social enterprise that upcycles bags from fabric remnants.||This range of toiletries bags are made from sustainable materials such as hemp, recycled plastic and truck inner tubes! They're all great choices if someone you love needs a sturdy travel case for their bathroom needs.||This travel case is made in the UK from reclaimed fire hose and waste parachute silk! Elvis & Kresse donate 50% of the profits to The Fire Fighters Charity, and they also make other products from firehoses.|
Also check out the Little Sun solar lamps near the bottom of this post: they’re solar-powered lights that are awesome for travel and also give back to a great cause. Above are heaps of reusable drinkware ideas, and in the fashion section are some sustainable backpacks, too. And this post details more eco-friendly travel gear that you might be interested in for any travellers in your life.
For organisers, record-keepers, students, writers and bookworms
Sustainable paper gifts
Fully recycled and reused materials are features of these products, as well as tree-free paper!
|This pretty journal is made from 100% recycled paper and it's carbon neutral too! It's printed using soy-based inks and is chlorine- and acid-free.||This fair-trade journal is bound with leather off-cuts from food production, processed naturally, and filled with tree-free paper.||This recycled sari journal is handmade and includes acid-free khadda paper, which is made from recycled cotton!|
Notebooks/ for students
|These A5 notebooks come in a two-pack and are carbon-neutral, non-toxic, recycled, and designed and made in Australia.||This 100% recycled notebook is produced in the US in a Green e-Certified factory. There are many styles to choose from and they're all chlorine-free and printed using wind power.||This lined notebook is tree-free as it's made from bamboo fibre. I also love stone paper notebooks by Onyx.|
Second hand books
We often find new or barely-used books at our local op shops (charity/thrift stores) so I recommend checking them first. But if you’re after a specific book it will be easier to search online!
|Brotherhood books is a non-profit who works to alleviate poverty across Australia. |
They stock a huge range of quality second hand books and I was very pleased with our order. They deliver for free if you order three or more and offer 20% off your first purchase.
|Thrift Books is the biggest seller of used books in the USA, and they save millions of books from being destroyed every year.||ABE books supports independent sellers from around the world on their platform. You can find second hand books including rare and first editions, and textbooks on their site.
Sustainable writing, drawing and painting
Recycled and tree-friendly pencils
We love products that are safe for humans and the environment, and I also love pencils that actually work properly for kids!
|These bright pencils are chunky for little hands to grip, plus they're non-toxic and won't roll away thanks to their hexagonal shape. They come in rainbow and single colours.||These pretty pencils are handmade in Nepal, and this store supports them and other artisans in developing countries to reach a global audience for their work.||These coloured pencils are made from recycled newspaper! An excellent tree-free alternative. They also come in black for writing with.|
Traditional highlighters include harmful chemicals and virgin plastic. These are much better alternatives.
|This eco highlighter pencil is bright yet non-toxic, plastic-free, lasts longer than traditional highlighters, is carbon neutral and made from sustainable wood!||These non-toxic gel highlighters have a body made from 100% post-industrial waste plastic. Their packaging is also recycled and printed with soy-based ink. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||These fine neon highlighters have a chisel-tip and are also non-toxic and covered with a 100% recycled PET case.|
Recycled and sustainable pens
Pens making use of abundant resources are much healthier for the planet.
|This bamboo pen is refillable! It's also made in South Australia and gets consistently great reviews.||These refillable pens are made of grass! Well, grass and recycled plastic, and they come unpackaged. They're also made in a factory powered by renewable energy. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||These recycled pens used to be milk cartons! Their packaging is also 100% recycled and printed with soy-based inks.|
Standard crayons are made from petroleum, which is best to steer clear from for many reasons.
|These chunky crayon sticks are easy for kids to grip and completely plant-based. They're handmade, palm-oil free and 100% biodegradable, too.||These pastel crayons are made in the USA with soy, clay and FDA-approved pigments. They're safe for kids and the environment, unlike traditional pastels. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||These little crayon rocks are super cute and easy for small children to draw with. They're made from soy-wax and natural pigments and don't break easily due to their small shape.|
100% biodegradable paints
Paint that isn’t made from harmful ingredients can return to the earth with zero impact.
|With these paints, kids can create fully compostable masterpieces. Ecopaints are food-grade, allergy-friendly and vegan certified. Even their packaging and mixing containers can be composted!||This natural paint is made in the USA, is completely non-toxic and is coloured with earth pigments! This store also makes natural face paint, easter egg dye and several kits. They have paint for artists available, too.||This natural paint is made from real earth! It uses clay pigments which can be mixed to create thick paint or watercolours. For kids and adults. Completely vegan, non-toxic and biodegradable.|
If you’ve skipped ahead to this section, make sure to check out ethical clothing and sustainable backpack options for kids below. And above are some lovely ideas for drawing and creating with, too.
Stuff to play, pretend and dig with
Non-toxic, recycled plastic gear
Let’s make use of plastic that already exists!
Green Toys makes excellent-quality products from 100% recycled milk bottles. They’re all BPA-free, PVC-free and phalate-free, and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. These gift ideas won’t add more plastic pollution to the earth yet are safe, sturdy and strong.
We love our Eco Saucer which is perfectly balanced for excellent flight, our watering can set which comes with a mini shovel and hand rake, and our well-used sandpit set; all by Green Toys. They’re extremely durable and last well outdoors, unlike many cheaper plastics which go brittle quickly.
For young kids, their stacking sets, shape sorter and jingly keys are great alternatives to non-safe plastic, and older children will appreciate their sturdy transport range, tea and food sets, or skipping rope.
|Hello Charlie in Australia has a large range of Green Toys products including cookware, transport, outdoor sets and baby toys. They're all discounted at present too! If you're in NZ, Naked Baby Eco Boutique also stocks a huge range of Green Toys.||Earth Hero stocks Green Toy's transport range, pull-wagon, watering can set, bath and baby toys, farm and house sets, and their new playdough range. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off your order at this store.||Natural Collection stocks Green Toy's transport range, toolkit, stacking cups and shape sorter, jump rope and cooking sets.|
Sustainable wood games and puzzles
These beautiful options are made to last, with the environment in mind.
|EverEarth make quality toys, puzzles, garden tools, instruments, and games made from 100% FSC-certified wood and bamboo, painted with non-toxic, water-based paint. My daughter had one of their shape sorters and it was excellent. EverEarth is also part of the 'Plant-A-Tree' forest sustainability initiative. In NZ, Naked Baby Eco Boutique stocks Plan Toys, another excellent brand made from sustainable wood sources.||PlanToys make their products from rubberwood trees that can no longer produce latex, and woodchips! They're also non-toxic and the company is involved in reforestation projects. They have a huge range including pretend play sets, outdoor games, blocks, instruments and learning tools. We've had one of their tea sets for 8 years and it still looks new. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off at this store.||Dr Zigs bubbles are made in the UK and use sustainably-sourced wood for the wand, together with unbleached cotton ropes. The bubble mixture is palm oil-free and completely biodegradable, making these bubbles awesome eco-friendly fun for kids! But if you're also looking for Plan Toys, Babi Pur has a huge range for all ages.|
Indigenous language resources and cultural learning toys
As citizens of the world we think it’s vital to teach children about cultures and to be inclusive of all races and backgrounds. These ideas are child-friendly and supportive of indigenous people’s knowledge and languages.
|Modern Teaching Aids stock a great range of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander games, books, puzzles, dolls, pretend play resources and recycled floor mats. Many are fairly traded and support local artists. Other cultures are also represented, too.||Native Teaching Aids create indigenous American language and culture resources, including board games, matching games and cards. Some are suitable for younger children and others are educational and fun for older kids and adults.||Little Linguist is a store that specialises in children's books in many languages. They stock story books as well as games, kid-friendly dictionaries, multimedia resources, posters and more in Welsh, Irish and Cornish as well as many African, Asian and European languages. They also stock resources in English as an additional language.|
|Miniland dolls are ethnically-diverse, anatomically-correct, and they are excellent quality. My daughter has one and she is very well-loved, yet still in great condition. They're made of BPA-free and phthalate-free vinyl.||Zeki Learning stock fair-trade toys and learning materials which are hand-made by refugee and low income women in Palestine. As well as non-language resources like stuffed toys, they create beautiful Arabic, Spanish and English games, toys and soft books.||This world puzzle is made of recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based ink. It gently teaches about places and animals of the world with cute illustrations. It also comes with a wall poster and recycled carry case.|
Children’s subscription boxes and DIY kits
Most kids love to create and grow things themselves, and getting special parcels in the post is the BEST — especially when they’re ethical and sustainable!
|This seed kit contains five varieties of edible flowers plus everything you need to grow them. The Melbourne-based company test all of their kits and include biodegradable propagating plugs and reusable plant labels. Other kits are also available.||Green Kids Crafts are a carbon-neutral subscription company who create monthly STEAM kits for kids aged 2-10 and over. Each kit aims to encourage child development holistically, and includes a book, activities + materials made in the USA. Various subscriptions and one-off boxes are available, and they plant one tree for every order placed.||Original Organics sells a large range of children's growing kits. Both flowers and edibles are available, and the packs come with biodegradable pots and everything else they need for successful propagation.|
|This special kit allows kids to upcycle old newspapers and magazines into beads! We've used these beads before and they look and feel great, and it's such a fun use of old paper products.||Raven Reads is an indigenous owned and operated literacy subscription service. Each kids box contains 2-3 books written and/or illustrated by indigenous people, suitable for kids up to age 9. Teen/adults boxes are also available. Choose from several subscription plans or a one-off gift box.||The Toy Box Club is like a toy library by post! It's a subscription service in the UK which delivers toys to borrow each month, and replaces them with others next time around. A great example of the circular economy, and a handy solution to keep little ones entertained.|
And if your kids love to explore the world (like ours), this post outlines all of the best gifts for kids who travel, including experience gifts, journals, subscriptions and more.
For people who love to garden and encourage wildlife
Native seeds or special trees and seedling are usually well-received by garden enthusiasts. Protecting and encouraging wildlife is increasingly important with their habitats and populations decreasing.
Also check out some of the ideas in “Coffee and tea themed products” above, where you can grow your own tea or coffee, or grow greens in coffee grounds!
And for children, there are some growing kit ideas above, under the subheading “Children’s subscription boxes and DIY kits”. Green Toys (also see above) make some excellent garden tools for kids from 100% recycled plastic.
|This wooden tool allows you to make seedling pots from old newspaper! Seedlings can be left in the paper pot for planting to avoid disturbing the roots. We have used these and they are excellent tools.||This gardener's nail brush is made from sustainably harvested Beechwood and tampico plant fibres. Redecker uses raw natural materials and plastic-free packaging. Get 15% off at this store with the code "footprints10".||These latex-covered gloves come in several colours and are designed for grip and dexterity even in very cold weather.|
|This recycled timber birdhouse is made by Queenslanders Colin and Jess. They upcycle wood, scrap metal and cutlery to create unique birdhouses and art based on Australian birds.||This bright birdhouse is made from a wire frame and plastic snack wrappers! Women in India make these (in several designs) in a fair trade environment. Bird houses from other materials are also available from this store.||This interactive hotel is made of FSC certified wood and will give shelter to many garden creatures. Other insect hotels for butterflies and ladybirds are also available here, as well as hedgehog homes and bat houses.|
|This seed kit provides ideal food for bees, along with eight recycled coffee cups and coffee soil for planting in. 10% of profits go to Beemunity Research to find a solution to Colony Collapse Disorder which is impacting bees globally.||This trio of fair trade pots are made from post-consumer scrap metal by artisans in India. Be sure to check out the fair trade pumpkin planter, too!||This hedgehog crossing connects gardens to neighbours or wildlife areas, which is vital to assist hedgehog's survival. It's made of recycled plastic, too! This store has a huge range of bird, insect and small wildlife homes and feeders, too.|
Also see this post which has 25 lovely ideas for gifts to make from your garden!
For people who need clothing, shoes, bags, or underwear
Please don’t buy into fast fashion. Too much is still produced in sweat shops, grown unethically or made with cheap, toxic materials. There is an enormous range of sustainable options now, for all budgets and tastes, so you really don’t need to support the stores who haven’t changed their ways any longer.
The other issue with fashion and accessories is simply an excess of it on our lives. These are suggestions for people who truly need a new product, not for someone with a bulging wardrobe already. Too many choices only encourages further waste and under-use of apparel in their life. There are plenty of other ideas in this post to pick from instead!
Clothing for men, women and kids
|Thread Harvest stocks womens, mens, teens and kids clothing, as well as adult's shoes and women's swimwear. All of their range is ethical and they are transparent about how, be it Fair Trade, eco-manufacturing or supporting marginalised people.||Symbology Clothing aims to make Fair Trade fashion sexy. They stock women's clothing in standard and plus sizes, as well as maternity wear, wedding and bridesmaid's dresses. Each piece is handcrafted by women artisans in developing countries using traditional techniques. Also check out Neunomads for streamlined, single-colored womenswear in sustainable fabrics.||Natural Collection stocks a large range of sustainable and fair trade apparel, including political statement t-shirts and mens and womens clothing, underwear and socks.|
|Biome's slow fashion is a large range of ethical and sustainable clothing for women, men and children. Many of their brands are Australian and all garments, shoes and accessories are ethically-produced, conscious of their environmental footprint, and made to last.||Soul Flower makes men's, women's and children's wear with eco materials like organic cotton, hemp and recycled PET blends. They also use low-impact dyes and hand-make all stock in the USA. Everything's discounted at the moment too!||People Tree is a leading UK brand of Fair Trade and sustainable fashion. All of their clothing is dyed using low impact dyes and free from harmful azo chemicals. They stock womens clothing, activewear and underwear in natural and organic fabrics, and everything is discounted at present.|
|Lonely Kids Club is an ethical Sydney brand for older kids and teens, which focuses on unisex clothing and pyjamas. Many of their items have positive messages, and their own range of funky characters and popular interpretations don't conform to trends but are fun and interesting.||Mini Mioche make all of their clothing in Canada, for babies, kids and teens. Their range comes in gender-neutral colours and simple, everyday styles, and they use low-impact dyes and no plastic packaging.||Frugi clothing make ethical, organic baby and kids clothing, and use recycled PET from plastic drink bottles for their outerwear, backpacks, pencil cases and lunch bags. They also support various charities. Babi Pur stock Frugi clothing as well as Patagonia, Raspberry Republic, Little Green Radicals and more ethical brands for kids up to six.|
Ethical shoes and footwear made from sustainable materials
Allbirds make casual and athletic shoes from wool or tree fibres, plus sugarcane for some soles, and their laces are made 100% from recycled plastic bottles. They’re a certified B-Corp and are carbon-neutral, too. Will and Jayden Smith’s JUST brand have recently collaborated with Allbirds to make a runner for which all of the profits are donated to Leonardo Di Caprio’s Amazon Forest Fund.
VIVObarefoot combine two things I love: barefoot movement and recycled materials. Much of their collection is made from recycled PET, and they have a fully vegan range for men, women and kids. They really are tough and comfortable: I’ve been wearing mine daily for over a year, for casual wear and running/hiking. I even wore them through a Spartan race recently! As well as active wear they make boots and everyday flats.
Links to both companies plus some other suggestions for ethical footwear are included below.
Allbirds New Zealand
|Allbirds Unites States|
|Allbirds United Kingdom
VIVObarefoot New Zealand
|VIVObarefoot United States|
|VIVObarefoot United Kingdom
|Etiko Shoes are an Australian brand that are 100% Fair Trade and vegan. They use natural and recycled rubber for the soles of their sneakers and their Thong collection, which collaborates with various environmental and social organisations, including an Indigenous artist collective.||Oka-B Shoes make comfortable flats, flip-flops and sandals in Georgia from up to 25% recycled materials. All of their shoes are, in turn, recyclable, and are flexible and machine-washable, too! They come in bright and neutral colours. Oka-B takes care of the recycling if you mail them back at the end of their use, and rewards you with 15% off another purchase.||Natural Collection stock vegan sandals and boots, and the casual/athletic range Ethletic for men and women. Ethletic are Fair Trade and 100% vegan, with Forest Stewardship Council certified rubber soles. Ethletic also pays a 15% fair trade premium on every pair of shoes made.|
Sustainable underwear & swimwear for periods and light bladder leaks
This is definitely a present for someone you know well! If a special woman in your life is keen to try alternatives to pads and tampons, Modibodi menstrual underwear is fantastic. They completely replace the need for pads and panty liners and they’re more comfortable too.
I’ve found that they’re also very handy for travelling: no more days anxiously wondering if my period is going to arrive, no more sweaty rear-end showing to the world, and no need to try to clean a menstrual cup in a public toilet.
Modibodi has a fully vegan range, a collection for teens, and a maternity range, too. And I’ve used their swimwear this year and find them fantastic. This is my full review of Modibodi’s underwear and period-proof swimwear which answers all of your FAQ’s and more.
And you can get 15% off any full-priced Modibodi products with the code MODIROCKS!
|Shop Modibodi Aus/NZ here.||Shop Modibodi US here.||Shop Modibodi UK here.|
Handbags, wallets and purses
|Flora and Fauna have a large range of vegan bags. I love the cork leather collection, which is a very sustainable material, and the Piñatex bags: pineapple leather!||Mothererth is a social impact company which repurposes waste plastic-laminated foil into amazing bags, coin holders and clutches. They're woven by artisan women in the Phillipines who are paid Fair Trade wages.||Wilby make beautiful bags and clutches in the UK from sustainably-sourced cork and other PETA-approved materials. They come in natural hues and bright colours, and Wilby also make sterling silver earrings with upcycled metal components.|
|Velvety is an Australia vegan stores that stocks beautiful bags, purses and wallets which are fairly made from sustainable materials such as leaf leather, cork, bamboo, Piñatex, upcycled tyres, or recycled fabric.||Tree Tribe have a range of Leaf Leather bags, purses, wallets and nature journals made from sustainably harvested teak leaves. They're made ethically in Thailand and are sealed with a non-toxic film to give them durability. Each purchase also plants a tree!||Sangkhum is a German Etsy store who sells Fair Trade, upcycled bags, phone cases and wallets from Cambodia. They're made from old mosquito nets, cement bags and feed bags, keeping these waste streams in use. Also check out this UK Etsy store who makes purses, card holders and bags from reclaimed bouncy castles!|
Backpacks for adults and children
|Beekeeper Parade is a social enterprise in Cambodia that makes bright backpacks, weekender bags, bumbags and other carry cases in support of children's education projects. All of their products are upcycled from end-of-roll, remnant, discarded or donated fabrics and clothing. |
I also love my Onya backpack, which is made 100% from recycled PET. It's super light and folds down very small, so it's great for a day-pack while travelling.
|TenTree are a Canadian company who plant 10 trees for every products sold: which you can track with an included metal token. This backpack's fabric is 100% REPREVE® (recycled polyester), and the padding is BLOOM Foam (from algae). It also comes with a lifetime guarantee.||Nukak is a Spanish company who make backpacks and travel bags from reclaimed materials such as tyre tubes, kitesurfing sails and advertising banners. They're ethically made in Spain and fairly-traded. Their backpacks are strong and include a breathable layer against your back.|
|SoYoung make beautiful backpacks for kids that are completely free from phalates, BPA and PVC. They're also made responsibly and include stretchy side pockets.||Apple Park made cute kid's backpacks from 100% recycled PET. Each animal design saves 24 plastic bottles from landfill. Older kids might like these LEGO backpacks which are also made from recycled PET. Get 10% off at this store with the code "footprints10".||Fjällraven has a recycled polyester line of children's backpacks. The company is committed to sustainable production, reducing emissions and low-impact materials.|
For fur babies and their hoomans
Animal lovers will get a kick out of these ideas, and their furry besties will benefit from toxin-free alternatives.
|This shampoo bar by Urthly Organics is less than $10, made ethically with ingredients sourced locally wherever possible, and free of all toxins and palm oil. It's suitable to wash dogs, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other furry animals -- except cats!||The Good Dog Company makes leashes and toys from eco-friendly hemp, as well as collars for all sizes of dogs and cats. They're all extremely durable and machine-washable, too. Use the code "footprints10" to get 10% off at this store.||Beco toys made quality pet toys from sustainable materials like recycled PET, hemp, rubber and rice husks. They also make pet bowls, litter trays and reusable pet food can covers.|
|These dog toys are made from sustainable hemp, which is grown without chemicals and is compostable at the end of its life. They have a range of safe, strong hemp toys available, and hemp collars, too.||This recycled cat basket is handmade in Bangladesh from strong jute, recycled plastic and recycled saris. It's also fairly traded and is the perfect size for your kitty.||This zero waste shampoo bar is made with renewable energy and is free from palm-oil free, animal products and chemicals. It's handmade in Cambridge and comes packaged completely plastic-free.|
|This innovative system hygienically and easily composts pet waste. It's made from recycled plastic and is installed in the ground, making it discreet and suitable for even the smallest yard. It breaks down the waste fast using Bokashi microorganisms, which also helps with odours.||This cute plant pot is perfect to plant some catnip for your feline friend! There are many other great Fair Trade ideas for cat and dog lovers from Ten Thousand Villages, including kitchenware, bookends, birdhouses, purses and ornaments.||This dog collar is hand-made using reclaimed rubber tyre inner tubes. It's also soft and comfortable and comes in 3 sizes to suit most dogs.|
For people who prefer to give than receive: gifts for a cause
Gifts that give twice are favourites of environmentalists and minimalists. There are so many charities who need support, and a donation in your recipient’s name is a thoughtful and very useful gift idea. Choose a reputable organisation working to help a topic they care about, such as poverty, climate change, wildlife support, violence against women, and emergency services assistance.
These ideas below also help those in need while giving your recipient a small gift, too.
Oxfam charity cards
Oxfam is an international charity organisation which helps people in crisis and conflict all over the world. We love their Unwrapped gift card collection, which allows you to donate towards a cause that your recipient relates to.
You get a card (electronically or hard copy) all about your gift to give to your loved one, and some people with very little get a chance to live a better life. We’ve bought these for family and friends for years and they really are a gift that everyone can feel good about.
Little Sun solar lamps
I recently bought one of these for our travels and absolutely love the product and what it stands for. The lamp shines brightly for hours or can be used in a dimmer mode. It’s charged during the day via sunlight and can be used as a night-light at home or for travelling with. Kids love it but so do adults! It’s awesome for festivals, outdoor areas and more.
Each purchase of a Little Sun allows another solar lamp to be purchased at a low price to one of the 1.1 billion people living without access to power, through partners in rural Africa. The Certified B-Corp is also involved in other humanitarian and environmental projects. Little Sun stockists can be found worldwide.
Aus/NZ and US/CA
Fair Trade socks that support the cause of your choice
Conscious Step make certified organic cotton, vegan-friendly socks for men and women with sustainable manufacturing processes. They also support a range of charities around the world with each purchase.
Want to empower women, treat HIV-patients, help animals, fight malaria, give books, or send food packs to malnourished children? Choose the socks that support the cause you care about, and Conscious Step make your donation through verified Impact Partners.
Choose one pair of socks or a gift pack which includes three pairs of socks supporting different causes.
|Biome stocks Conscious Step socks and gift packs.||Ten Thousand Villages stocks Conscious Step socks and gift packs.|
Life Less Ordinary hand-make ethical jewellery in Brighton, UK, from tagua nuts (vegetable ivory). Their collections include bracelets, anklets, earrings and cufflinks, with nature-based and adventure symbols, and positive messages including a Pride collection.
Many can also be personalised! Handwriting can be replicated on the tagua plagues, or initials, coordinates or a message printed.
As well as supporting a small UK business, 10% of profits from this shop go to Indigo Volunteers and the ‘Reserva’ Youth Land Trust. The Reserva Collection bracelets also further assist the Chocó rainforest in Ecuador.
For that person who’s always really hard to buy for
We all have one of those people: they would love a small gift but they’re hard to please. Or perhaps it’s someone you don’t know very well but you’re obliged to give them a little something. These ideas are useful for anyone, and are will reduce dependence on disposables or power consumption. Or check out my post Seven ways to reduce your impact and choose to help them work on some environmental solutions!
|This organic cotton hankie is designed and handmade in Australia. It can also be used as a pretty napkin, and is fully machine washable. Other colours and designs are also available.||These cloth napkins will last a lifetime. They're made from flax plants and are naturally anti-bacterial, lint-free, and more absorbent than cotton. They won't shrink in the wash or need ironing, either! And best of all, they remove the need for disposables. Plain white and grey are also available.||This hot water bottle features a recycled wool cover, either from old clothing or redundant yarn. A great example of upcycling, and a low-impact way to keep warm in bed!|
Some last thoughts about eco-friendly gift giving
The most valuable gift you can give to someone is your time. Whether you use it to make something for them or to buy a thoughtful gift, your time and energy are part of the giving. Spending time because you want to, not because you HAVE to, is much more enjoyable and reflects in the gift you end up giving.
You can also give people your time by planning an experience together, or by simply being with them or helping out in some way. (This post lists 30 gift experiences if you need some inspiration) Many people would appreciate special time together more than a present that’s all wrapped up.
Some friends and I have re-gifted toys and puzzles that our kids no longer use, which has been a great way to minimise and circulate rather than buy new all the time. Our kids have never cared that they’re not brand new!
Have a think about whether you need to buy wrapping paper and gift cards. You can get creative with children’s paintings, old cards, newspapers, used ribbons, tissue paper from floral arrangements and more, to wrap gifts in a unique and waste free way. Kids usually love to help make and decorate cards!
Finally, whatever you receive this year, please practice gratitude. Being thankful in receiving is something our family talks about often, so we can truly recognise the effort, time, thoughts and hopes that someone is giving us along with a gift.
I wasn’t always grateful in the past, and I now see the effect of that on the people who gave me something with all their heart. I have since vowed to recognise and appreciate every gift offered to me, however small; even a rock that my child thinks is nice. I want to be a model of gratitude to my kids and anyone else I can inspire. I hope you will join me.
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