Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow
This sustainable gift guide contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
This year has been a weird one, to say the least. Many of us have not had much of a chance to spend time with friends and family due to the pandemic, lockdowns, travel bans, etc. And while I’m not a fan of consumerism at all, I do realize that sending each other gifts may be one of the few ways we can show our appreciation to loved ones this year. I for one have not seen my family in person this year, and as great as it is to have modern technology to stay in touch, it’s still not the same.
And although I have never created a gift guide before I feel like this year is perfect for sharing some sustainable gift ideas with you. Because showing our friends and family that we care shouldn’t come at the cost of the planet. Especially not in 2020 which should have taught us that we are not separate from nature, as we have convinced ourselves for the longest time.
That’s why I decided to share a sustainable gift guide with products that can help make life a bit easier and eco-friendlier for your loved ones and the planet.
Sustainable Gift Guide 2020
I’m sticking to three different brands here for a few reasons. First of all, although many people like to order from Amazon, I believe this year has shown even more what an awful company they are. (Read about the Black Friday strike at Amazon centers in Germany.) They’ve really benefited from the situation this year but have not improved their standards whatsoever. I get that it’s easy to order from them and that their prices are often better than anywhere else. But before getting into this sustainable gift guide I’d like to urge you to think about the consequences of Amazon’s dominance in online shopping. Would a sustainable gift guide linking to Amazon really make sense?
Furthermore, many smaller businesses have had to close this year due to everything that’s been going on. While I don’t think it’s up to consumers who are struggling themselves to save businesses, I do believe that if we can spend a little more money it’s worth spending it on sustainable businesses. Isn’t that the whole point of looking at a sustainable gift guide in the first place?
But since many people are reluctant to sign up to yet another online store I think focusing on three companies makes it easier for you to buy different products listed on this sustainable gift guide instead of linking to dozens of shops. And last but not least, let me be transparent and state that I’m an affiliate for Net Zero Co., The Veg Query, GladRags whose products I am featuring on this sustainable gift guide. Note that I was also given some of these items by Net Zero Co., but as you know by now, I don’t work with a brand unless I really believe in their ethics.
There are other brands who make similar products, but as an affiliate, I could possibly earn a commission if you order from Net Zero Co. So if you want to support a sustainable brand and me at the same time I’d be happy for you to use my links. As a thank-you, I have a 10% discount for you on your Net Zero Co. purchase with my code LEMON10 which you can use at check-out.
Net Zero Co. is a small Canadian plastic-free company helping you to live a low-waste life. While you don’t need all their products to lead a sustainable life they can be helpful if you don’t have alternatives that you can reuse. They also make sure all their packaging is fully biodegradable.
Keep in mind that one of the key aspects of sustainability is to only purchase what you need, and there are some solutions here that might not be necessary. However, I think that’s the great thing about giving gifts: If you know somebody would really enjoy some of these products they will definitely cherish them and be able to use them for a long time even though they might not have bought them for themselves. Unless you’re looking at this sustainable gift guide for inspiration for what to buy yourself – which is perfectly fine, too.
Net Zero Co. also donates to the Eden Reforestation Projects for every order placed on their site (they’ve chosen three out of the eight countries Eden Projects plants trees in: Nepal, Indonesia, and Haiti). So let’s dive right into this sustainable gift guide!
For People Who Love Camping/Day Trips/Picnics
If your country is not currently in lockdown and people can still have picnics or go hiking and camping then these stainless steel containers are perfect for anyone who wants to bring their own food. They’re also great for getting takeaway or storing leftovers.
Because each box comes with a divider you can store different items in one box. For example, I put my homemade fries and dip in the same box separated by the divider, as you can see below. These are definitely a great sustainable gift idea for anyone who takes their own food to work or goes camping.
If you’re looking for something to store snacks or sauces in there are also these stainless steel containers that are round and a lot smaller. (The largest container holds about half as much as the smallest lunch box.) So you could bring your main meals in the lunch boxes and then use the round containers for snacks in between. And since they’re good for sauces they might also be useful around the house.
Then there’s the bamboo cutlery set I had planned to use so many times this year. I was looking forward to tons of lovely picnics, but then 2020 had other plans. In combination with the lunch boxes, the cutlery set is really all you need for a camping trip or day out in the park.
You get everything you need in this set with a fork, spoon, knife, straw, chopsticks, as well as a cleaning brush for the straw and a handkerchief to wipe off the cutlery. You can then store everything again in the pouch it all comes in. What more do you need?
To transport all those items for my picnic or day trip I’d probably use whatever bag I have. But if you have someone in your life who would benefit from an insulated bag that keeps food fresh and exactly as warm or cold as it’s supposed to be it would make for a perfect gift: It’s super useful but not necessarily something people would buy for themselves.
What would a sustainable gift guide be without listing water bottles? I have a glass one at home and fill it with filtered water, but I was recently interviewed for a podcast and had to admit that when I travel I don’t take that bottle with me. There’s something about carrying a 1-liter glass bottle around all day that’s not very appealing (it also wouldn’t fit in my bag). I think that sooner or later I’ll have to invest in a smaller bottle that is easier to bring along when I go on trips or to the gym.
Net Zero Co. makes a stainless steel insulated bottle that holds 600ml of water. Yes, you have to refill it more often during the day. But at least it’ll be easier to carry meaning the person you’re buying it for will be more likely to use it. Since it’s insulated they could also use it for tea.
For People Who Love to Cook and Bake
Many of us are back in lockdown which actually means we have more time to cook and experiment with new dishes. That also means that there tend to be leftovers. And while I do have a lot of glasses and containers at home, sometimes I simply want to cover a bowl or a fruit. I always hated using plastic wrap for these things, and now I no longer have to.
Net Zero Co. sells these silicone lids in six sizes that can fit over different shapes because they’re stretchable. I often make things like hummus, and these lids cover the bowls perfectly. But they also work really well with fruit halves.
If I had a regular-sized oven I’d immediately get these silicone baking mats! I don’t know how much money goes into buying baking paper (plus, as our oven is tiny we can only use part of each sheet!), let alone the amount of trash this generates. But a silicone baking mat simply needs to be cleaned after use and that’s it! What’s even better is that these mats don’t stick so you don’t have to use oil either.
I don’t remember the last time I ever made muffins, but perhaps I’d be more inclined to do so if I didn’t have to buy and then trash single-use baking liners. Now you know I would never recommend unnecessary products, but I think these silicone baking cups are really useful even for people who only make cupcakes once a year. A pack comes with six cups so you might want to get more than one depending on how much baking your loved one does.
Net Zero Co. has four different sizes of silicone ziplock bags, and you can even get them as a set. Again, one could simply reuse plastic ziplock bags as long as they last, but obviously these silicone ones are a lot better quality.
Another must on any sustainable gift guide are reusable produce bags. In many countries they are becoming more and more common. Usually, you can simply go and have the bag weighed before your purchase so that their weight will be deducted from the final price. Some countries such as Portugal have even banned plastic produce bags making these reusables indispensable.
And one final kitchen product: linen bags for your bread. They keep your bread from going stale, don’t add bulk, and can easily be washed. These would make a particularly nice sustainable gift idea for someone who bakes their own bread.
Sustainable Gift Ideas for the Bathroom
If there’s one thing I think everyone should start doing to live a more sustainable lifestyle it’s swapping regular plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones. These bamboo toothbrushes can be composted after removing the bristles. They come in a set of four with different markings making them perfect for a family of four.
Along with brushing your teeth at least twice a day everyone should floss. Regular floss comes in single-use plastic, but this biodegradable floss made of corn is stored in a tiny glass bottle you can refill. So you could perhaps gift someone the bottle and floss along with the 4-pack refill. The best part is that it’s vegan which isn’t the case with many other sustainable flosses.
If you’re looking for a sustainable gift idea for someone who wears make-up then these reusable cotton pads that come with their own laundry bag and travel bag might be it. They’re a sustainable way to remove make-up or cleanse the face. They simply go in the washing machine after each use and can then be used again. Why would anyone not want them?
Because the problem with regular cotton pads isn’t only the plastic packaging. Cotton itself is one of the worst materials out there as it’s extremely water-intensive.
Another face care product I really enjoy are konjac sponges. They feel really nice on the skin and help to gently exfoliate. They’re 100% biodegradable and can be used on their own (in the morning, you don’t necessarily need to cleanse with more than water) or with any cleansing product.
On to hair removal. There are so many methods out there, but one of the least eco-friendly ones is definitely the use of plastic razors. You can get safety razors for very little money and even find them in some supermarkets. But if you’re buying one for a loved one you probably want something prettier such as the bamboo handle safety razor by Net Zero Co. which comes in silver or the super pretty rose gold. By the way, if you’re not sure how to use a safety razor my post can help you with that.
If you’re the type of person who tries to give loved ones the possibility to choose their own gifts Net Zero Co. also have gift cards for $50 to $300. That way the person can choose what they need the most.
For People Who Menstruate
This November, Scotland became the first country to make pads and tampons free! In most other countries they’re still quite expensive and taxed as luxury items. People who menstruate spend hundreds on these products in their lifetime.
But these items also create a lot of waste. Single-use pads are made of plastic, and even the organic ones can’t easily be composted.
But there are better options. From reusable pads and period underwear to menstrual cups, eco-friendly period products can be used for several years. While their initial price is higher than that of disposable period products this balances out after a few cycles.
I got my first two sets of cloth pads and menstrual cups from a woman-owned company called GladRags. They make all their products in the US and source many of the materials from local and/or women-owned companies. They’re also a certified B Corp making their products the perfect ethical gift idea.
Aside from menstrual cups and cloth pads, GladRags also sells cleaning products for pads, informational material, and other items. You can also get gift cards if you’re not sure what the person you’re getting a gift for would prefer.
Let’s end this sustainable gift guide with something cozy. This year has been psychologically difficult for many of us. We probably spent more time at home than outdoors, and even if we were able to go outside, it’s getting colder now so we’re bound to spend more time at home. That’s why it’s super important to make your home as comfortable as you can.
While I’m not really into decorating, I do love a nice fragrance at home. Whether it’s incense, fragrance diffusers, or candles, I love them all. Plus candles create a nice warm light and make every room so much more inviting. But regular candles have been found to have toxic ingredients. They have a negative effect on our health and on the environment so I stopped using them. And I have to admit that better-quality candles usually cost more than I want to spend.
That’s why they make a great gift: So many people love candles but few actually buy really nice ones for themselves. I’m super excited to announce that a good friend of mine has started making her own candles. They have a really nice aesthetic, are 100% natural, and many of them are vegan. The candles also don’t have an intense scent as my friend doesn’t use any essential oils (which can actually be quite hazardous as well when you burn them).
If you get any of these Luft Natural candles you are supporting handmade Romanian products from a new woman-owned business. Each candle is made with lots of love and dedication and will bring that same love and warmth into your home.
If you know somebody who wants to go vegan, but struggles a bit with how to go about the transition why not gift them a course that will teach them everything they need to know? Gifting a course is perfect for people who don’t want to buy material items. The Veg Query offers a Vegan Self-Coach Program to help people identify the hurdles in their vegan journey, balance their meals, and it provides lots of background information.
If you’re already vegan you know some of the challenges of living a vegan lifestyle. How amazing would it be to provide someone with the tools they need to make a smooth transition? I always say that one of the most important things when going vegan is to know why you want to do it in the first place, and this course can help people figure out their motivation. The program is currently on pre-sale with a 50% discount so head on over and gift your friend this tool to lead a more sustainable life.
So there you have it, my first sustainable gift guide. I hope you at least found some inspiration for gifts for your loved ones. Because buying presents for someone else shouldn’t mean the environment has to suffer. At the end of the day, what really matters is the thoughtfulness with which you choose a gift for someone. And perhaps, next year when things will hopefully calm down, instead of buying a gift you can spend more time with the people you love.
If you want to support my work on this blog I’d be grateful if you could share this post or even buy something from the affiliate links I posted (Net Zero Co., GladRags, and The Veg Query) That might help me earn a small commission. Here are all the links again so you don’t have to scroll back up before buying:
- Stainless steel lunch boxes
- Stainless steel round containers
- Bamboo cutlery set
- Insulated bag
- Stainless steel insulated bottle
- Silicone lids
- Silicone baking mats
- Silicone baking cups
- Silicone ziplock bags
- Reusable produce bags
- Linen bread bags
- Bamboo toothbrushes
- Biodegradable floss
- 4-pack floss refill
- Reusable cotton pads
- Konjac sponges
- Bamboo handle safety razor
- Net Zero Co. gift card
- Menstrual cups
- Cloth pads
- Cloth pad detergent
- Period guide
- Natural wax candles
- Vegan Self-Coach Program
Which item on this sustainable gift guide would you most like to receive from your friends or family?