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. 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. These clothes, jewelry, and accessories will last your recipients for years without ever needing to be replaced. These options 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.
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 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 five 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.
Warby Parker isn't just the biggest 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.
Parker Clay is founded by a husband and wife duo that 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, dyed with all-natural, organic, vegetable based dyes. Truly a purchase you can feel good about—and it's monogrammable.
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.
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 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.
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."
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.
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, in other words), the packet also gives you directions on how to get the plants to grow and thrive.
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 almost anyone's taste and style. Meghan Markle, Jessica Alba, and Emma Watson all have worn and loved the brand, so it's celeb-approved.
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.
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.
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 gift recipient inevitably forgets to water them.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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, classic color you can wear year-round.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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'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 pima-modal blend cami is ubiquitous, comes in gray 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.
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 recycled-content fleece is "apres-ski" but it'll work just as well running groceries in the fall and winter.
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. Plus, they have sweet and thematic designs, like this gorgeous honeycomb pattern in honor of dwindling bee populations.
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