6 Creative Eco-Friendly Gifts

Iím in a gift-giving rut.

I pulled out my holiday gift list the other day and the realization hit me: itís so much stuff. And much of it is very similar to all the stuff I bought for people last year.

I can do better, canít I? There must be a way to give gifts that are meaningful, enjoyable and useful, but that donít take up so much space or materials. So hereís my holiday gift list, Take Two.

For the Athlete: A Trail Pass or Lift Ticket

There are so, so many benefits to being outside. We know this. And yet, too often we let life get in the way of our time in nature, especially in winter. Not this year. Iím slipping a cross-country trail pass into my husbandís stocking. It uses next-to-no wrapping paper and doesnít require storage space. And since itís already paid for, it provides that extra bit of encouragement to get outside and use it.

For the Smart Phone Addict: “Green” Phone Cases and Ear Buds

Letís just accept that everyone has a smart phone (except me, it seems). Rather than fight it, this year Iím going to help people prolong theirs with protective cases made from recycled plastic or aluminum, like the ones made by Case Mate. And when my friends plug in to rock out, they can use ear buds made from bamboo or recycled plastic.

For the Fashionista: Recycled Yarn Goodies

As December approaches every year, many of us lie awake gnawing at that age-old philosophical question: where do holiday sweaters go to die? I have discovered the answer, my friends. These expanses of yarn stitched into snowflakes, twinkling lights, holly and reindeer undergo a metamorphosis and emerge, renewed, asÖ mittens! And scarfs, and hats. This phenomenon can be found at many of your local craft/gift shops, or online at sites like Uncommon Goods and Etsy.

For the Summer Party Host: a Greener Outdoor Wine Glass

Not that Iím counting, but itís six months until Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer and the official start of wait-donít-take-that-glass-outside season. But instead of stocking up on disposable cups (The horror! The waste! The disrespect to vintners!), my buddies will enjoy their poolside/beachside/fireside cabernet in style. These eco-friendly cups come in stainless steel or BPA-free copolyester (with stems or stemless, too!) and can be found at most outdoor stores, like REI.

For the Kids, Part 1: A family Membership to Our Zoo or Aquarium

The scene: my home on a chilly, overcast Saturday. As the day wears on, the boundaries of the playroom grow smaller. Then, inspiration strikes. Hats, mittens and coats are donned. The car is started. Excitement builds unity between siblings. We arrive at the place where my kids know they can run free, greeting the hosts by name like the old friends they are. We arrive atÖ our local zoo. By now, my kids know every inch of it, but theyíre still enthralled. Will the snow leopard be out? How many flamingos have laid eggs? Has the baby spider monkey grown? Each visit gets them outside (a benefit in itself), and further solidifies the bond theyíve developed with the animals that live there. And since a membership often pays for itself after just two or three visits, I save hundreds of dollars in the course of a year.

For the Kids, Part 2: Eco-friendly Crafts and Toys

Yes, they love the zoo, but Iím a realist, too. I know that my kids Ė like most Ė still want to rip open brightly-wrapped boxes and start playing right then and there. For my daughter the craft-maker, Iím getting a set of paint-it-yourself wood crafts (nesting dolls, birdhouses and more) made from sustainable bamboo. For my son the inventor, a science kit full of do-it-yourself experiments and a kidís cookbook. These and other great green toys can be found at your local toy store or online at sites like Growing Tree Toys.

I like this new list. I like that Iíll be getting the people I love outside more, and even though thereís still some ďstuffĒ on here, I like that Iím supporting businesses (be they in my hometown or online) that are making the effort to go a little greener. Itís a bit of gift to myself, reallyÖ although Iím still planning to slip a ski trail pass into my own stocking as well.

For more ideas, visit†Green Gift Holidays.

[Image: Pattee Canyon, Montana. Image source: Ted Wood.]



by Kerry Crisley, The Nature Conservancy


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

great ideas

Anna M.
A M5 years ago

Fun ideas!

Stella Gamboni
Stella Gamboni5 years ago

I would include Fair Trade items from stores like Ten Thousand Villages (unsolicited plug).

Nimue Pendragon

I feel blah about the whole thing this year.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Emily S.
Emily S5 years ago


Syera N.
Syera N5 years ago

Nice ideas. Thank you.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Sue Ritchie
Sue Ritchie5 years ago

good ideas

Magdika Cecilia Perez

thank you