Welcome, loved ones of an eco-conscious consumer!
If you’re pretty new to this whole intentional shopping thing and want to make sure you get it right this year, you’ve come to the right place, and we’re happy to have you!
It’s actually a great time to be shopping for the environmental advocate in your life, because these days, there are more and more products being designed with sustainability in mind.
On the other side of the coin, since companies know that consumers value eco-friendliness in their products, there’s also a fair amount of greenwashing going on, meaning that products are being marketed as more environmentally-friendly than they actually are.
But, if you follow along with this guide, you should have no trouble finding a truly sustainable gift for everyone on your list, and you won’t have to worry about falling into the misleading marketing trap some unscrupulous brands are using.
Ready to dive in?
Step 1: Question the Marketing
It seems like every other product on grocery store shelves is marketing itself as an “eco-friendly alternative” these days, but some of that marketing logic is, well, flawed.
Your first task in seeking out an eco-friendly gift for your loved one will be to develop your marketing x-ray vision so that you can see through all the hype and half-truths and evaluate a product for what it actually is.
You’ve probably seen this before when your local grocery store started recycling plastic bags (instead of removing them from their stores) or when gas stations started installing solar panels on their roofs. These are symbolic gestures designed to trick you into thinking these brands are doing more for the environment than they actually are.
It’s present on individual product packaging and advertising as well- green text, pictures of flowers or beautiful landscapes, and vague terms like “natural,” “pure,” and “green” can all go a long way toward making a product seem like something it’s really not.
When a bottled water company uses sliiiiiiightly less plastic on its bottle cap, that’s greenwashing. At its heart, greenwashing makes people feel better about maintaining an eco-unfriendly habit, and so they do it more, and any minimal positive effect it might have had is instantly negated. But profits rise!
So, how can you spot it?
The first step is to gather information. If you’re just looking at packaging, scan for symbols and seals that you recognize. If you just see the word “organic” without the organic symbol, that’s meaningless.
If you can access their website, you should be able to find a lot more information there. Look for specifics, since businesses that really care about sustainability will be eager to share information about their initiatives, but greenwashers are more likely to resort to vague and ambiguous statements that say not much of anything at all and leave you going, “huh?”
Above all, go with your gut. If it seems to good to be true, and you can’t find much information on how those stunning claims are achieved, it’s probably greenwashing.
Step 2: Buy Directly When Possible
So, say you’ve found the perfect eco-friendly gift that you just can’t wait to give to your loved one.
Before you order it, make sure you’re buying it directly from the company whenever possible.
Although Amazon and other big retailers are certainly convenient, they not only operate with some questionable ethics, but they can also increase the carbon footprint of your gift significantly through their inefficient delivery methods.
It’s much better to buy from the company directly, which will likely take measures to reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping package in line with their brand’s values, than to buy it from an online retailer where the product has been shipped to a warehouse and then shipped to you- always in a comically large box for some reason.
Because of this, a lot of sustainable companies will only sell their products through their own stores, but if you have the choice between buying directly or buying off a larger retailer, it’s worth it to buy directly.
Step 3: Watch Your Wrapping
I’d hate to see you go to all the trouble of vetting and selecting an eco-friendly gift only to fumble at the last possible second, but that’s exactly what would happen if you wrapped up your gift in regular ol’ disposable, single-use wrapping paper.
Luckily, there are many ways around this final hurdle, and you almost certainly have something suitable at home that you can use instead of having to go out and buy something new.
You can keep it simple or get as creative with this as you want. Newspaper, plain brown kraft paper, or even paper grocery bags can all make great wrapping paper that’s easy to embellish if you want to add a little more pizazz.
To make things more involved, you could also wrap your gift using scraps of fabric. There’s a whole Japanese art called furoshiki that explores all the different ways to wrap a gift using cloth. It’s kind of like fabric origami, and makes for a pretty cool hobby if you’ve got a little time on your hands!
If you only have traditional wrapping materials on hand, try packaging your present in a sturdy gift bag that’s easy to reuse again next year. Even if you only have flimsy wrapping paper on hand, it can be reused with a little care.
Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas
Now that you’ve mastered the basics of eco-conscious gift giving, you’re ready to go out into the world and seek your eco-friendly dream gifts!
Just wait a second, because you actually don’t have to go anywhere.
We have a ton of pre-approved, tried and tested, eco-friendly gift ideas right here at DoneGood, all curated and collated for you. You actually don’t need to know the ins and outs of determining which products are actually eco-friendly and which are just pretending to be when you have a trusted source like DoneGood doing all that research for you ahead of time.
Yes, I knew that the whole time.
But don’t be upset. That tip about the wrapping paper is still good, and these skills are still useful to have! Because, as much as we want to, DoneGood can’t be there for every purchasing decision you make, but now you’re well-equipped for just such a scenario.
In the meantime, Christmas is fast approaching and we’re burning daylight, let’s get to the eco-friendly gift ideas!
This gorgeous yoga mat from Yoga Democracy is made with biodegradable, PVC-free tree rubber with a recyclable microfiber top layer that’s colored with non-toxic dyes. It’s extra long, extra thick, and designed to get extra grippy the more you sweat it out on the mat. Speaking of sweat, this baby is machine washable, so you can keep it fresh after every sesh.
This classic sheet set from Eucalypso is sustainably made with Eucalyptus that grows on marginal land and requires way less water than conventional cotton. The eucalyptus is processed in a way that allows for the recycling of the solvent so that very little goes to waste. You can read all about the full process on their website. In addition, Eucalypso donates 10% of its profits in support of wildlife conservation. That should let you sleep well at night!
Panda makes great, eco-friendly luxury watches from natural materials like bamboo. This particular watch features a bamboo face and a strap that’s made with Portuguese cork and vegan leather. Plus, for every one of these watches sold, the company makes a donation to the Washington National Parks Fund.
Also called a tiffin, a name which I much prefer, this stainless steel lunch box is the perfect eco-friendly choice for anyone who wants to bring a lunch into work or school, or even take leftovers home from a restaurant. It comes with three nesting pieces so there’s room to separate all your different food items. This modular bento system replaces plastic lunch boxes and will last you a lifetime, making it a great sustainable option.
This is the real deal organic, and you can tell because Under The Canopy has earned itself several prestigious certifications. Its towels are lush and luxurious, and each one saves about 7 bathtubs full of water when compared to a towel made from conventionally grown cotton. They come in 16 different colors and several different sizes, so you should be able to put together a nice gift set for anyone, regardless of home decor or style. Under the Canopy also sells bed linens, rugs, robes, and baby clothes that are every bit as soft and sustainable as its towels, so you may be able to get all your holiday shopping done right here!
Freelance writer working with bighearted businesses who want to better our world.