Sustainable gift guide: 20+ gifts that keep on giving

Saving the world is a team effort. And hopefully our team can help save you some time, too, when it comes to choices.
A selection of sustainable gifts, featuring a stack of Coyuchi towels, steel watering cans, and Jackery solar generators

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It’s a great feeling when you give a gift that delights a loved one—and it probably means that you scoured through plenty of ideas before landing on a true winner. But while gift-giving can be fun, knowing the impact these new products can have on the environment can take some of the holiday spirit out of shopping. Though any new product will contribute to emissions due to its manufacturing and shipping processes, these environmentally friendly options can help cut down on waste and carbon footprint. From replacing single-use plastics like water bottles and coffee cups to going green by riding a bike to work, these are our picks for sustainable gifts that are a must-have for anyone who wants to help the planet. 

Best for coffee lovers: Bruvi Coffee Maker

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Pod coffee makers aren’t typically known for being sustainable (or providing delicious brews), but the Bruvi Coffee Maker is aiming to change that. Its pods—which pack in 40 percent more grinds than typical competitors—are a curated selection from around the globe. You can select from coffee, tea, espresso, Americanos, espresso, and cold brew in 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce sizes. And when it comes to sustainability, the pods can also biodegrade 84 percent in an anaerobic environment in less than two years, according to the company’s testing, unlike plastic pods. Plus, you can use the Bruvi app to remotely ensure the WiFi-ready IoT brewer has the coffee ready in the morning and automatically reorder favorite blends. For more options, check out best coffee makers.

Best for office workers: YETI Rambler Stainless Insulated Mug

Sturdy Construction

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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. The YETI Rambler 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 for students: Rocketbook Core Reusable Smart Notebook

Best notebook

Rocketbook Core Reusable Smart Notebook

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Your favorite student can take notes or draw but save paper with the Rocketbook Core Reusable Smart Notebook. This 6-inch by 8.8-inch, 36-page digital notebook works with an app to save your notes and drawings to the cloud, should you wish. The set comes with a pen for your scribbling and a cloth to wipe the page clean when you’re finished. Plus, it’s got the traditional spiral rings of a notebook for the classic experience, comes in executive and letter versions, and is available in 16 fun colors and patterns.

Best composter: Lomi Smart Waste Kitchen Composter

Best composter

Lomi Smart Waste Kitchen Composter

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Composting is good for the Earth, but it can take months for food scraps to decompose into soil in the backyard. But with the Lomi Smart Waste Kitchen Composter on the counter, users can turn the remnants of dinner into nourishing feed for plants in a matter of hours with the touch of a button. This unobtrusive appliance also serves as an odor-free compost bin and lets users cut down on what they send to the landfill and pay for fertilizer.

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

Scent-Trapping Design

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We’ve all had that 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,

Best for commuters: 6KU Track Fixed Gear Bicycle

Commuter-Approved

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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 riding simpler. 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 solar generator: Jackery Solar Generator 1000

Best solar generator

Jackery Solar Generator 1000

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Whether you’re on a long camping trip or setting up lights in your backyard, a portable generator is an eco-friendly way to power up devices without resorting to a gas-guzzling generator. Not only is the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 significantly more portable than its gas counterparts, but it also saves money in the long run, as you won’t need to continue buying gas for refueling. 

With 1,000 watts, a topped-off power station can run even large appliances like refrigerators, TVs, and electric grills. While many people might turn to solar generators for journeys off the grid (i.e., camping, road trips), you can also use the Jackery Solar Generator to power your outdoor appliances, like Christmas lights, electric heaters, and electric lawnmowers. Simply set up the solar panels (some included here, more sold separately) facing the direction with the most sun and plug in your tech. And if you like this idea but want more options, we’ve got the best solar generators coverage, well, covered.

Best for new homeowners: Coyuchi Temescal Organic Towels

Best for new homeowners

Coyuchi Temescal Organic Towels

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Moving into a new home is exciting but also a big expense. Treat some new homeowners to a gift that will last: Coyuchi’s Temescal Organic Towels. Hand-woven from organic cotton in Turkey, these towels are both plush and lightweight, with ribbing for extra drying power. The six-piece set includes two bath towels, two washcloths, and two hand towels. It’s available in four rich colors (Alpine White, Deep Ocean, Terra, and Shadow), plus an undyed version that will go well in any bathroom. This set is also certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for extra peace of mind. 

Best for new cooks: The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z

Best for new cooks

The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z

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Cooking from home is an excellent way to save money and know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating. But for new cooks, the prospect of whipping the disparate ingredients in the fridge and cabinets into a tasty meal can be daunting. Fortunately, The Everlasting Cookbook: Leftovers from A to Z provides a comprehensive guide to combining everything from a leftover burrito to aging scallions to even potato chip crumbs into something delicious. Written by award-winning cookbook author Tamar Adler, The Everlasting Cookbook features more than 1,500 recipes with beautiful illustrations that show how even those last few black olives in the jar can transform into a work of art.

Best for home cooks: The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook: 500 Inspired, Flexible Recipes for Eating Well Without Meat

Easy Lifestyle Swaps

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Speaking of vegetables, if someone you know could use some inspiration to get three to five servings a day, consider The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook. With 500 recipes developed by America’s Test Kitchen, this book also provides a primer on plant-based eating and includes a section of gluten-free recipes. Everyone from vegans to people just exploring meat alternatives and looking to get more veggies on their plate will find plenty to like in these easy, budget-friendly recipes that draw on culinary traditions from around the globe.

Best for healthy eaters: Pacific Merchants Acaciaware Set

Pacific Merchants Trading Acaciaware Bowl

Best for healthy eaters

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The USDA recommends three to five servings of vegetables each day, and that should include some leafy greens. This wonderful 12-inch round bowl comes with two servers, all made from natural acacia wood. Fill it up with some nice field greens, or just live the dream of making an all-crouton salad. Just don’t put it in the microwave or dishwasher because that will ruin the wood. Round out your table with more of the best serving bowls.

Best for gardeners: Sporgard Galvanized Steel Watering Can

Best watering can

Sporgard Galvanized Steel Watering Can

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Whether your giftee is a new plant parent or has a green thumb, they will certainly appreciate the utility of a good watering can. This one-gallon steel container is both practical and decorative and can be used on indoor and outdoor plants alike. And not only is this can designed to endure, but the steel can also be recycled. The double handle makes it easy to manage, even when it’s totally full of liquid. We recommend using water and not energy drinks.

Best for families: Nordic by Nature Reusable Sandwich Bags

Best for families

Nordic by Nature Reusable Sandwich Bags

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Living sustainably can be challenging when you’ve got a family to feed 365 days a year. Nordic by Nature’s Reusable Sandwich Bags make it a little easier. The set comes with four bags: two large, one medium, and one small in a pretty floral pattern that zips closed. They’re free of toxic chemicals such as BPAs and lead and they come at an affordable price. Plus, cleanup is super easy: just toss them in the dishwasher.

Best for kids: Tiny Land Wooden Train Set for Toddlers

Biodegradable Materials

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There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a kid opening a brand-new toy. But as kids grow 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, and the bridge, people, engine, car, and hauler will keep them playing for hours. Ultimately, your little one will thank you for looking after their future planet. 

Best for hydration: Hydro Flask Water Bottle with Straw Lid

Chilled Water All-Day

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Globally, 1 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 searching for a nearly indestructible, BPA-free, phthalate-free, stainless steel bottle that will keep 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 powder coating getting damaged.

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

Variety of Shapes and Sizes

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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. They are a staple in most sustainable gift guides.

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 sneakers: KOIO Men’s Sneakers

Best sneakers

Koio Men's Sneakers

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For a person that just any footwear won’t do, consider KOIO Men’s Sneakers. Handmade in Tuscany, these kicks combine buttery Italian leather with recycled rubber soles that use up to 40 percent recycled materials. The hand-painted trim also provides a sleek look. Available in more than 30 colorways, these laced low tops are also water-resistant and come with a removable insole for extra comfort. The recycled foam and rubber insoles also make them perfect for all-day wear. We highly recommend checking out the boot, sneaker, and slip-on options for both men and women.

Best slippers: Glerups Wool Slip-On Leather Slippers

Best slippers

Glerups Wool Slip-On Leather Slippers

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The Danish are well-known for their appreciation of coziness. So it’s no surprise that these comfy, rustic slippers are made by Glerups, a company based in Denmark. It all began in 1993 when the co-founder started making felt boots as a hobby from the wool of her Gotland sheep for friends and family. Now, Glerups makes a line of slip-ons, shoes, and boots using natural textiles and dyes and designed for comfort. Plus, the company practices regenerative agriculture and recycles its wool and leather. So, if your giftee isn’t into bunny slippers, these Glerups slip-ons are unisex and available in seven muted colors (gray, charcoal, cranberry, petrol, red, blue, forest).

Best for puzzle lovers: Party Fowls Trick Puzzle

Best for puzzle lovers

Party Fowls Trick Puzzle

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This head-scratcher of a jigsaw puzzle features some tricky chickens. At 1,000 pieces and 20 by 27 inches, the Party Fowl Trick Puzzle is a project. But your puzzle lover will also be in for a surprise, as the final product doesn’t exactly match the box. It’s all in good fun, and you can also feel good about this purchase, as the puzzle is made of 100 percent recycled chipboard and paper.

Best for music lovers: House of Marley Champion True Wireless Earbuds

Best for music lovers

Best for music lovers: Grateful Dead X Pact Graphic Tank

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Made by a company inspired by the late singer, these wireless earbuds provide up to 28 hours of high-quality audio on a single charge and feature a microphone for hands-free calls. Designed for a snug fit, these earbuds are also made from sustainable materials, including bamboo, environmentally-friendly silicone, and natural wood fiber. And they’re sweat- and water-resistant, which also makes them great for fitness lovers.

Best bag: Troubadour Sling Bag

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We’ve all got a handful of essentials we need to take with us, but hauling a pocketbook or tote everywhere can be a hassle, while traditional fanny packs can scream tourist. Troubadour’s Sling Bag elegantly bridges the divide, with a sleek bag that can fit your phone, wallet, charger, water bottle, keys, sunglasses case, and more. Made from recycled plastic, it’s waterproof and comes with a cleanable anti-microbial lining. Plus, the shoulder strap comes with a magnetic buckle that you can easily adjust for maximum utility.  

Best for neat freaks: Me Mother Earth Quick Dry Diatomaceous Stone Bath Mat

Best for clean freaks

Me Mother Earth Quick Dry Diatomaceous Stone Bath Mat

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Say goodbye to soggy bath mats! The lucky recipient of the Me Mother Earth Quick Dry Stone Bath Mat won’t have to step over puddles on the bathroom floor anymore. It’s made from diatomaceous clay, which is derived from fossilized algae and is the same material used in swimming pool filters. This 6.4-pound, non-slip stone mat is capable of absorbing 150 percent of its weight within seconds (and it’s fun to watch wet footprints disappear). Plus, it’s easy to clean with soap, water, and vinegar.

Best toothbrush: SURI Electric Toothbrush

SURI Electric Toothbrush

Best toothbrush

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Oral health can provide a window into someone’s overall well-being; for example, periodontitis has been linked to the development of diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Fortunately, good oral hygiene goes a long way. So why not help a loved one ditch the plastic toothbrush for some cutting-edge teeth technology? The SURI Electric Toothbrush uses 33,000 sonic vibrations a minute to deep clean teeth between dental checkups. The body of the device is made from aluminum and slim enough to fit into a travel pack. And it comes with plant-based replaceable heads, so there’s no need to get a new brush every time they visit the dentist.

Final thoughts on sustainable gifts

Our sustainable gift guide allows you to keep the holiday spirit of giving 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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Jen McCaffery

Director of commerce for the Science, Tech, & Outdoor brands at Recurrent

Jen McCaffery is director of commerce for the Science, Tech, & Outdoor brands at Recurrent. She enjoys editing and writing about innovations in health, science, technology, sustainability, and the outdoors. She’s been surprised by how much she has taken to spreadsheets.