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, 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.
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 don't have a green thumb, the packet also gives you directions on how to get the plants to grow and thrive.
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.
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'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.
Warby Parker isn't just the biggest glasses trend (I have two 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 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 and is dyed with all-natural, organic, vegetable-based dyes. Truly a purchase you can feel good about—and it's monogrammable.
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.
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). What do you get for the fashion-forward friend who has everything? This.
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.
By now, a tote is 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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).
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 was built on sustainable practices. They 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.
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 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.
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.
These aren't just any cozy slippers. They're actually made from recycled faux fur to give you a luxurious feel at a more affordable price tag—and a better conscience.
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.
If you've got someone on your list who enjoys a high quality cocktail, Air Company should be on their radar. The company, founded in 2017, turns carbon dioxide already found in the air into something humans can actually use. In this case: vodka.
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 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.
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'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.