Eco-friendly gift-giving—is there even such a thing? More stuff inevitably means more plastic and waste, plus more emissions from manufacturing. The need to be a mindful shopper has never been more important. With that in mind, a growing 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 (and sometimes all of the above). In each case, they're moving away from "fast fashion"—goods made quickly and cheaply, designed to fall apart or stop working after a couple of uses. A good retailer will encourage you to buy investment pieces that'll last a long time—which may lead to fewer sales for them, but also fewer harmful byproducts. And, lest you think that sustainable always equals pricey, there are a number of ways to shop sustainably without breaking the bank.
The clothes, jewelry, and accessories on this list will last your recipients for years without needing to be replaced. The home and beauty products—bars of soap, makeup, food bags, and so on—will give your giftee the option to replace their plastic, toxin-heavy products with cleaner and healthier versions. These are a few of the ways to give the perfect gift without ignoring climate change and waste, and each of these items will work as a thoughtful gift to give or ask for.
Reformation Nikita Dress
For the Fashion Girl
Reformation is Climate Neutral Certified as a company actively working to offset emissions, and they publish quarterly sustainability reports to show their progress (encouraging other companies to be similarly transparent). They even tell you exactly how much carbon and water was saved for each item: The manufacturing process on this pretty dress saved 9 lbs of carbon dioxide and 4 gallons of water.
GlobeIn Cozy Box
For Your Grandma
If you like subscription boxes but want to be ethical about it, GlobeIn is committed to sustainability and fair trade (as they detail in their 2020 impact report). They offer boxes with artisan-made items from around the world with themes like "sow" for gardening and "bash" with dinnerware. This "cozy" box includes a mug from Morocco, a fair trade scarf from Thailand, fair trade Ghanaian cocoa, and a palm leaf basket from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Mini Floating Elephant Ear Basket
The Sustainable Home Decor
Gullah basket weavers in Charleston, South Carolina, have the opportunity to sell their wares on Etsy for the first time and tell the stories of their artwork thanks to Nest, a nonprofit supporting artisans and handworkers globally. Dating back to the 1700s and rooted in West African culture, Gullah basket weaving is a tradition through generations of families—and each artist earns 100 percent of the sales they make off these one-of-a-kind items.
Sprout Plantable Pencils with Seeds
For the Student
You can channel all your adult doodling/note-taking 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 don't have a green thumb, the packet also gives you directions on how to get the plants to grow and thrive.
World Wildlife Fund Adopt a Tiger
For the Kids In Your Life
There are a number of critical causes one can donate to these days, and it's worth making a donation in lieu of a gift. 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.
The Zero-Waste Kit
For Your Family
Everything you need for starting down the path to zero-waste is here. Straws you can use instead of plastic. Net bags for your produce at the store. Beeswax food wraps for your perishables. Reusable zip lock bags. This is particularly useful if you know someone who wants to be more sustainable, but has no idea where to start.
Ethique Creme Body Wash
For Stuffing Stockings With
You can't get much more natural than this, and who doesn't need/want/love a good body wash? It has natural ingredients, including coconut, clay, and sweet orange oil, and it's plastic-free, cruelty-free, and vegan (plus, one tree is planted for every order). Even your strictest, most ethically minded friend will love it.
Warby Parker Harris
For Your Boyfriend
Warby Parker isn't just the biggest glasses trend (I have three pairs and counting)—they also 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.
Parker Clay Merkato Signature Tote
For the Bag Lady
Parker Clay is founded by a husband and wife duo who moved to Addis Ababa after adopting two Ethiopian girls. There, they saw the prevalence of human trafficking and prostitution amongst women, and launched this brand to create job opportunities and help them financially. The leather is sourced from tanneries that recycle all the water used during the process and is dyed with all-natural, organic, vegetable-based dyes. Truly a purchase you can feel good about—and it's monogrammable.
Comfort Stretch Ultra High Rise Stove Pipe
For the Denim Lover
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. Their jeans include straight, flare, and even trendier trouser styles 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.
For Your BFF
This 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 gift recipient inevitably forgets to water them.
thredUP Thrift Card
For the Thrift Store Lover
Now you can give the "gift of thrift" and jump-start your sustainability New Year's resolutions, thanks to thredUP's Thrift Cards. 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—plus, ThredUP just strategically lowered their prices to attract more customers who'd pay more for new clothing. So, this is a terrific outlet for that friend who loves to spend hours searching for the most fabulous recycled piece ever.
Sienna Byron Bay Florence
For Your Secret Santa
Plenty 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, classic color you can wear year-round.
Opus Mind Medium Backpack
For the Commuter
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.
Cuyana Silk Cami
The Sustainable Staple
Cuyana founders Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah are all about their Lean Closet program—fewer, better pieces that provide everything you need to make a small, but impactful wardrobe. They also partner with thredUP with free shipping labels so you can clean out your closet. The program also benefits H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma). This silk cami is ubiquitous, comes in black, white, blush, and navy, 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.
lemlem Telem Peasant Dress
For the Glamorous One
Supermodel Liya Kebede founded her brand when she took a trip to Ethiopia and met a group of traditional weavers—who no longer had a market for their goods. The brand means "to bloom and flourish" in the Ethiopian language of Amharic. Kebede explains, "By employing traditional weavers, we're trying to break their cycle of poverty, at the same time preserving the art of weaving while creating modern, casual, comfortable stuff that we really want to wear."
Mie Faro Dress
For the Beach Lover
This resort wear brand relies on artists and craftspeople in Lagos, Nigeria (which is also where the brand is based). Launched in 2018, Míe pieces are made from natural, biodegradable fabrics. They don't have hundreds of options (that's sort of the point—to have classic pieces, the slow fashion way), but each one is breathable and ideal for your next tropical getaway. They also have items that'll double as the perfect summer wardrobe‚ like this linen dress.
Hope For Flowers Dense Floral Violet Blouse
For the One Who Needs Work Clothes
Fashion designer Tracy Reese implements strong social and ethical structures into her brand, allowing women to look and feel good while supporting worthy causes. Celebrities including Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tracee Ellis Ross, and even First Lady Michelle Obama have all worn her clothes. Her work is both chic and fun; pair this buttoned-up blazer with trousers for work or distressed denim and heels for date night.
Eugenia Nouveau Fleece Pants
The Organic Culottes
Amour Vert (French for "Green Love") prioritizes brands that offer sustainable, stylish pieces. A good pair of culottes is perfect for everyday workwear, and this version offers a wide leg option that's comfortable and made out of a soft fleece—with organic cotton that's better for the environment than regular cotton—that can be dressed up (work!) or down (chilling!).
Girlfriend Collective Midnight Compressive High-Rise Legging
For the One Who Exercises
Girlfriend has sustainable practices woven throughout their business structure. These leggings are made from 79 percent recycled polyester and from 25 recycled post-consumer bottles; their packaging is made from 100 percent recycled materials and is 100 percent recyclable.
Christy Dawn The Sonny x Sun Keep Sweater
For the Lounger
Christy Dawn was built on sustainable practices., and partnered with ThredUP earlier this year to help reduce clothing waste. Each piece of clothing donated through ThredUP will turn into Christy Dawn shopping credits. This sweater was created using organic cotton and non-toxic dyes with a low-waste process.
Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Eyeshadow Palette
The Planet-Friendly Palette
There are a number of makeup brands that are working to be sustainable, but Aether is something special: The palette is paper and fully recyclable, which they say is a first for the beauty industry. A mirror on a palette makes 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).
Ninety Percent Ribbed Organic Cotton-Blend Jersey Midi Dress
The Midi That Gives Back
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. An organic cotton-blend knit dress is fashionable not just now but all the time, and this midi's the perfect giftable neutral.
For Your Skiing Friend
Patagonia was sustainable before it was cool—and now, they're actively fighting to combat the climate crisis. They're part of the "1% for the Planet" program, in which they donate one percent of their annual sales to environmental nonprofits. Even better, their styles are still very wearable—this fleece is "apres-ski," but it'll work just as well running groceries in the fall and winter.
Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser
The Clean Skincare
Youth To The People' formulas are biodegradable so that they don't harm the environment once they hit your drain. Each product is also entirely vegan and cruelty-free and is packaged in glass containers for simpler recycling. This best-selling cleanser deeply cleans without stripping the skin, so you'll probably want to stock up.
Dos Swim Playa Hat
The Eco-Friendly Trend Piece
Everyone seems to be in bucket hats lately, but probably not ones like this. Each one of these one of a kind bucket hats by new swimwear brand Dos Swim is made from 100% cotton vintage beach towels from the '70s. Because they're made by hand, no two hats are completely the same. To order one, reach out to the brand directly.
Naadam Cable Knit Crewneck Sweater
For the Cashmere Lover
Naadam was founded with sustainability at its core. They work directly with their herders to provide the highest quality cashmere at the lowest possible price. They also have a set of sustainability goals that they hope to hit in 2025 which include using traceable and recycled materials and going carbon neutral.
The Kit Issa Jumpsuit
Every single one of the THE KIT's items are made on an on-demand basis, meaning that there's less dead stock at the end of the season. In other words, they don't actually make the piece until you order it. They also digitally produce each print so less water is used in the printing process. This so-called 'tomboy' brand is slow fashion at its finest.
Everlane The Oversized Stroopwafel Turtleneck in ReCashmere
For Your Sibling
Everlane's radical transparency has long made it a shopping destination for ethical fashionistas, and it always has a full list of gifts that go the extra mile towards sustainability. Chief among them are their ReCashmere items, made of up to 100 percent recycled cashmere, with a smaller carbon footprint than regular cashmere. This sweater comes in eight 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.
For Your Friend Who Loves Summer
Swap out your usual sandals for a pair of these espadrilles. While most of the materials used to create each pair of shoes is recycled, what isn't recycled is naturally sourced. The outsole, for example, is created using recycled bottle caps pulled from the ocean and the midsole uses natural jute.
Veja Recife Rubber-Trimmed Leather Sneakers
For the Sneakerhead
Everyone's white sneaker collection could use a refresh now and again. The soles on every pair of VEJA sneakers is made from natural rubber intentionally harvested from the Amazon, and the upper sections are designed from organic cotton.
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributing editor at Marie Claire online who covers celebrity, fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle—from “The Bachelor” to Everlane to Meghan Markle. She also edits the Couples + Money series, so she’s always looking for volunteers at email@example.com. Igoe: “I go to the store,” not “Her huge ego".
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