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Eco-Friendly Gifts That Your Friends, Family, and the Planet Will Love

Make every holiday Earth Day.

Image by Morgan McMullen

Eco-friendly gift-giving—is there even such a thing? More stuff inevitably means more plastic and waste, plus more emissions from manufacturing. With that said, though, a number of brands have responded to the call for more ethical, transparent processes by leaving a smaller carbon footprint. By now there are a number of innovative solutions: Each of these brands really prioritizes some aspect of sustainability, from zero-waste to recycled materials to transparency in production. There are still ways to appreciate the holiday without ignoring climate change and waste, and each of these items will work as a thoughtful gift to give, or ask for, this year.

The Classic Crew
The ReCashmere Crew

Everlane's radical transparency has long made it a shopping destination for ethical fashionistas, and this year it has a full list of gifts that go the extra mile towards sustainability. Chief among them are their ReCashmere items, made up of 60 percent recycled cashmere and 40 percent ethically sourced merino wool, with half the carbon footprint of their regular cashmere. This crew sweater comes in 10 colors and is incredibly soft and luxe. Part of shopping sustainably is buying clothes that don't just last a few wears—and this one will be a closet staple for years.

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For Your Boyfriend
Warby Parker

Warby Parker isn't just the new glasses trend (I have two pairs and counting)—they use cellulose acetate, a renewable, plant-based material, to make many of their frames. They practice responsible sourcing and transparency, and they're a carbon-neutral company. Warby Parker also has a Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program to help those who need glasses but can't afford it. Plus, their styles are stylish and fun on top of all that, like these tortoise sunnies.

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For Fashion Girls
Gift Card
Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway, one of the few luxury clothing rental services, allows its clients to feel as though they're getting the perks of a new wardrobe without the production costs of actually buying new clothes or adding to more clothing waste (the average person discards 75 pounds of textiles a year). They've just partnered with Nordstrom to give access to exclusive inventory and provide more dropoff locations for the service. What do you get for the fashion-forward friend who has everything? This.

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The Eco-Friendly Denim
Originals High Waist Loose Jeans
Re/Done Nordstrom

Re/Done has a cool, creative solution to the denim problem in the fashion industry (which normally wastes a ton of water and uses harmful chemicals). Instead, Re/Done takes worn old jeans, deconstructs them, and uses the fabric to create new jeans. It's luxury fashion that's also sustainable, and their jeans include this trendier trouser style that'll still be totally wearable years down the road. Think of sustainable shopping as creating a really great long-term capsule wardrobe—and this as a perfect piece. 

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The Zero-Waste Starter Pack
Zero Waste Starter Kit: The Works
Package Free

Everything you could possibly need for going down the path to zero-waste is right here. Utensils and straws you can use instead of plastic. A reusable non-plastic water bottle. A net bag for your produce at the store. Bamboo toothbrushes. Beeswax food wraps for your perishables. This is particularly useful if you know someone who wants to be more sustainable, but has no idea where to start.

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The Sustainable Stationery
Plantable Coloring Pencils with Seeds
Sprout Amazon

You can channel all your adult coloring impulses with these lead-free pencils, and when you've used them up, you can "plant" them—there are seed capsules in the base of the pencil instead of an eraser. Each pencil has a marking of the seeds it contains and is biodegradable. If you have a black thumb like me (the opposite of a green thumb), the packet also gives you directions on how to get the plants to grow and thrive.

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For Your Mom
Soul Necklace

This one's an investment, but it's both chic and sustainable—Kimai grows their diamonds in a lab and uses 100 percent recycled gold. This necklace comes in silver and rose gold, too, and it's just simple enough that it'll work for just about anyone's taste and style. Meghan Markle, Jessica Alba, and Emma Watson all have worn and loved the brand, so it's celeb (and Duchess) approved. 

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The Instagram Pick
The Glam Romper in Gold Sparkle
Smash + Tess

You know those matching rompers that you see celebrities like Selma Blair and Jenna Dewan wearing with their kids on Instagram? Turns out they're sustainable, too. Their rompers are made out of rayon from bamboo and a cotton blend that's more durable than a fast fashion equivalent. They make their goods in the United States instead of abroad and practice ethical manufacturing. This one is a romper anyone could dress up and leave the house in, but all their offerings are cozy and casual—a perfect gift. 

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The Recycled Shoe
The Merino Point in Aubergine

My poor friends are by now exhausted from hearing me go on and on about how much I love Rothy's. Their fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles, but they're just as durable as non-sustainable shoes. Since the weather's turned cold, though, I've been wanting something a bit warmer. Just in time, Rothy's has brought out new styles that are made from sustainable merino wool, their traditional thread, and vegan leather for the very first time. This eggplant color's just bright enough but not too out there (something Rothy's excels at) to make it an exceptional match for just about every wardrobe. 

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For Your BFF

This (apparently) could not be an easier plant to grow, even if you kill every green thing you touch, like myself. This planter can be hung from the ceiling or placed on a flat surface for a bright and modern addition to home decor. The planter doesn't include the air plant itself, but you can get one from the store—the plants get most of their nutrients from the air and are incredibly low-maintenance for when your friend forgets to water them. 

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The Organic Culottes
Atelier Culottes
Kowtow Amour Vert

Amour Vert (French for "Green Love") prioritizes brands that offer sustainable, stylish pieces. Kowtow is based out of New Zealand and works to make its garments sustainably and ethically with organic materials. We know Kate Middleton loves a good pair of culottes for everyday workwear, and this version offers a wide leg option that's comfortable and made out of 100 percent organic cotton (which is better than regular cotton in terms of sustainability). 

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The Planet-Friendly Palette
Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette
Āether Beauty

There are a number of makeup brands that are working to be sustainable, but Aether's something special: The palette is paper and fully recyclable, which they say is a first for the beauty industry. A mirror on a palette make the whole thing unrecyclable, which is why Aether doesn't have one. One percent of sales go to The Water Project for water solutions in sub-Saharan Africa. ALSO—the colors are gorgeous, which means it's a joy to give (and receive).  

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The Budget-Friendly Pick
Reusable Everyday Tote in Leopard

By now, a tote's basically essential for heading out of the house to run errands. But I somehow manage to forget mine at home a good chunk of the time, mostly because they don't really feel like part of my wardrobe. Enter this pretty bag that's also monogrammable—I got my sister a similar personalized one when she moved to an urban area. I might just grab one too, since they're so cost-effective. 

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The Eco-Conscious Fleece
Lunar Frost Fleece Jacket
Patagonia Nordstrom

Patagonia's been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives for over 25 years, long before it was the "cool" thing to do. This luscious fleece jacket channels the cozy, fluffy trend and is made out of 100 percent recycled polyester lining with 35 percent recycled polyester in the body. It's "eco-conscious après-ski style," which sounds glorious, but it's just as appropriate as a gift so your friends can run errands in their slippers.  

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The Classic White Sneaker
Women's Low Top Sneakers
Nothing New

When they say "nothing new," this brand really means it: According to their site, each pair repurposes 5.6 plastic bottles and saves 160 gallons of water. Everything from the binding to the lacing is made from recycled or fully sustainable materials, and the stitch construction between outsole and upper is more expensive and less taxing on the environment than cheaper kinds of construction. Plus, white kicks are always in style, no matter the season, so a well-constructed pair would be a long-lasting, low price-per-wear present. 

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For the Thrift Store Lover
Thrift Card

Now you can give the "gift of thrift" AND jump-start your sustainability New Year's resolutions, thanks to thredUP's Thrift Cards. They're aiming to reduce the 1.25 billion pounds of returned gifts that end up getting thrown away every year. Plus, according to their research, over half of consumers would love a used gift to cut down on emissions and waste. Thrifting is so in right now, both in person and online. So, this is a terrific outlet for that friend who loves to spend hours searching for the most fabulous recycled piece ever. 

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For Secret Santa
Sienna Byron Bay

Lots of nail polish contains toxic chemicals, not to mention a whole bunch of plastic in the container. Not so with Sienna. Their polishes are free of nasty chemicals, vegan, and certified as cruelty-free by PETA. Their caps are made from sustainable timber, and their nail polish remover is made from soy and renewable sources. They also have an abundance of pretty colors, including this pretty fall and winter-ready color (oh, and it matches those Rothy's flats! Sorry, I'll stop talking about Rothy's now).

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For Your Partner
Medium Backpack
Opus Mind

Opus Mind specializes in upcycling—it works with RecycLeather, a company that recycles leather fibers from leather waste, for a circular fashion model. It also specializes in classic styles like this backpack (which also comes in pink, orange, black, and olive) and isn't constantly debuting trends that come and go.  Their goods are designed for a streamlined timelessness so that they can be worn over and over. 

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The Maxi That Gives Back
Organic Cotton-Jersey Maxi Dress
Ninety Percent

Ninety Percent is eco-friendly enough to merit inclusion in Net-a-Porter's Net Sustain edit, for products and brands that align with industry standards of sustainability. As its name suggests, Ninety Percent donates 90 percent of its proceeds to charitable causes, and they specialize in basics that use sustainable materials and alternatives to plastic-based viscose/polyester. A slip dress is fashionable not just now but all the time, and this maxi's the perfect giftable neutral. 

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For the Kids In Your Life
Adopt a Tiger
World Wildlife Fund

There are a number of critical causes one can donate to these days, and it's absolutely worth making a donation in lieu of a gift this holiday. This does both: You can (symbolically) adopt an animal, and you get a stuffed toy in its honor. I currently have the fennec fox and have gifted out the hedgehog, so I can vouch that it's a crowd-pleaser. Bonus: The website includes a list of the endangered species WWF supports with simple, sweet explanations about the species' importance, and your gift comes with supplementary materials about your animal.

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For Stuffing Stockings With
Ethique Eco-Friendly Gingersnap Face Scrub
Ethique Target

You can't get much more natural than this, and who doesn't need/want/love a good face scrub? It only has 11 ingredients, including brown sugar and vanilla, and it's totally plant-based, plastic-free, and vegan. Even your strictest, most ethically minded friend will love it.

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The Sustainable Staple
Trench Wrap Dress

Cuyana is all about their Lean Closet program—fewer, better pieces that provide everything you need to make a small, but impactful wardrobe. They're also partnering with thredUP to expand their program, with free thredUP shipping labels so you can clean out your closet. The program also benefits H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma). This trench dress is ubiquitous, comes in navy and black too, and is the exact kind of staple that you can wear everywhere—in other words, the price-per-wear is low, and your gift recipients can find a use for it in their daily lives. 

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For Your Cousin
Black (Bee Edition) Eco-Friendly Phone Case
Pela Case

Pela Case market themselves as the first truly sustainable phone case. They pride themselves on their durability (great for someone who drops their phone on the reg, a.k.a. me) and they're 100 percent compostable. They're also part of the "1% for the Planet" program, in which they donate one percent of their annual sales to environmental nonprofits. Plus, they have sweet and thematic designs, like this gorgeous honeycomb pattern in honor of dwindling bee populations. 

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