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Published Dec. 8, 2021

The feeling you get when your loved one opens a cherished gift is unequivocally gratifying—and means that you successfully scoured through dozens of present ideas before landing on a true winner. But while gift-giving itself can be delightful, knowing the impact these new products can have on our environment can take some of the holiday spirit out of shopping. 

That’s not to say you need to swear off gift-giving altogether. Eco-minded presents will still put a smile on someone’s face while doing your part to protect our planet. Even small changes to your daily life can make a difference when it comes to sustainable living. 

Though any new product will contribute to emissions due to it’s manufacturing and shipping processes, these gifts have the long-term goal of cutting down your waste production and carbon footprint. From replacing single-use plastics like water bottles and coffee cups to going green by riding a bike to work, these sustainable gifts are a must-have for anyone who wants to help the planet. 

Best for transportation: 6KU Track Fixed Gear Bicycle

Cars represent the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, contributing almost 30 percent of the country’s total emissions. Riding a bicycle is one of the only modes of transportation that requires no fossil fuels or pollution.

This fixed gear bicycle from 6KU is perfect for cruising through most towns and cities, as it maintains speed to make your ride simpler and cut down on the number of parts it requires. While this sustainable gift is more of an investment than some other options, a high-quality bicycle is a functional pick that can be used for years to come—and as far as commuter road bikes go, this one is on the affordable end.

Best for everyday: YETI Stainless Insulated Mug

We’re not immune to the appeal of a specialty latte or coffee while on the go, but those quick trips to your local cafe quickly add up. Globally, 16 billion paper cups hit the waste bins each year, which equates to roughly 6.5 million trees cut down and four billion gallons of water wasted. It’s also a common misconception that your coffee cup can be tossed in the recycling—paper cups are lined with a plastic moisture barrier called polyethylene, which actually contaminates the other recyclables in your bin.

The simple solution to limiting your own personal waste? A reusable travel mug. This YETI pick comes in 30 different colorways, is BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and has an insulated design to keep your beverage at the desired temperature for longer (take that, paper cups). Not to mention that many coffee shops give you a small discount for bringing your own mug as an incentive to help our planet.

Best plant-based cookbook: The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook: 500 Inspired, Flexible Recipes for Eating Well Without Meat

Best reusable water bottle: Hydro Flask Water Bottle with Straw Lid

Globally, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, 1.3 billion bottles every day, and 481 billion plastic bottles every year. With only 20 percent of plastic successfully recycled and reused, the best alternative to cutting down on your consumption and carbon footprint is investing in a reliable reusable water bottle.

And if you’re in search of a nearly indestructible, BPA-free, phthalate-free, stainless steel bottle that will keep your H20 chilled all day long, the Hydro Flask is a reliable favorite. You can toss it in the dishwasher for easy cleaning without worrying about the slip-free powder coating becoming tarnished or damaged.

Best compost bin: Joseph Joseph Compo 4 Easy-Fill Compost Bin Food Waste Caddy

We’ve all fallen victim to the weeks-old bag of spinach rotting in the back of our fridge, or berries that sprout mold after just a few short days. While your instinct might be to toss them in the garbage, composting provides a more sustainable way to dispose of food. As food scraps and garden waste account for almost 30 percent of our garbage, starting your own compost bin reduces your overall waste stream and cuts down on methane emissions produced by organic decomposition in landfills. 

Our pick for the best compost bin to get you started? This pick reduces the peskiest part of composting—the smell. The ventilated design allows air to circulate through, which results in less moisture and odors. It also features a replaceable odor filter to trap any potential smells, a polypropylene body for easy-cleaning, and a flip-top lid with a wide opening, specially designed for scraping your dinner leftovers without any mess. 

Best reusable straws: StrawExpert Set of 16 Reusable Stainless Steel Straws

From restaurant booths to drive-through coffee shops, single-use plastic straws are a ubiquitous part of daily life for many Americans—with an approximated 500 million straws used in the United States each year. And with a lifetime of 200 years, this relatively small piece of our daily waste adds up. While straws account for less than one percent of the plastic waste in our oceans, taking small measures to reduce your impact can add up. Though compostable straws are a step in the right direction, reusable straws are the best way to cut down on production and landfill waste. 

This set of stainless steel straws from StrawExpert can last a lifetime—with enough sizes and shapes to suit any kind of tumbler or cup. The 10.5 inch straight and bent straws fit up to 34 ounce tumblers, while the regular 8.5 inch straws are great for 16 to 20 ounce water bottles or mugs. And if you hate the feeling of metal on your teeth, these straws also come with a small silicone mouthpiece for added comfort. 

Best solar generator:Jackery Solar Generator 1000

Whether you’re on a long-winded camping trip or setting up lights in your backyard, a solar generator is an eco-friendly way to power up devices without resorting to a gas-guzzling generator. While a gas generator faces the potential of running out of fuel while you’re on the go, a solar generator never runs out of it’s endless supply of power. Not only is the Jackery Solar Generator significantly more portable than it’s gas counterparts, but it also saves money in the long run, as you won’t need to continue buying gas for refueling. 

With 1000 watts, you can power even large appliances like refrigerators, TV’s, and electric grills for some time. While many people might turn to solar generators for journeys off the grid (ie. camping, road trips), you can also use the Jackery Solar Generator to power your outdoor appliances, like Christmas lights, electric heaters, and electric lawn mowers. Simply set up the solar panels facing the direction with the most sun and plug in your tech.

Best gift for kids: Wooden Train Set for Toddler

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a kid opening a brand new toy—which is likely to be their favorite for the next few months. But as kids outgrow toys and change interests, over 80 percent of these new toys will ultimately end up in the trash. And as 90 percent of toys are made of plastic, these playthings will stay in our environment for over 450 years after they’re discarded. 

So—how can you give your kiddo a new gift that won’t further contribute to our climate crisis? The best option is toys made of biodegradable materials like wood, silicone, or recycled fabric. While these toys still produce emissions, once discarded they will have less dire impacts on the environment. This 39 piece polished beach wood train set allows your kid to create a variety of paths using the curved and flat tracks, plus the accessory bridge, people, engine, car, and hauler keep them playing for hours. Ultimately, your little one will thank you for looking after their future planet. 

The final word on sustainable gifts

These sustainable gifts allow you to be in the holiday spirit while staying environmentally conscious. Whether you’re trying to send a hint to the aunt who gets a to-go coffee every day or you’re in search of a plastic-free present for the kid in your life, these picks are a gift to your loved one and our planet.

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