Green Gift Ideas for Ethical, Eco-Conscious Holidays

Smaller environmental footprint, greater joy and memories
BY Micaela Strömbäck Vujica TIMEDecember 3, 2013 PRINT

With more material goods being consumed during the holiday season, your eco-conscious friends will likely appreciate gifts that represent minimal waste.

According to a Gallup survey, Americans expect to spend $786 each on average for Christmas gifts, up from $770 last year. 

Here are some eco-friendly gift ideas, many of which are also wallet-friendly.


1. Give an Experience

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Image of a sleigh ride via Shutterstock

Give your loved one a unique experience or plan an outing for the whole family. The memory will last longer than most material objects.

You can either plan something yourself, or search for an experience gift on a website such as 

Excitations allows you to search by city in the United States for experience gifts. For example, if you live in Boston, you can get passes for a workshop on brewing your own soda; if you live in Miami, you can arrange kickboxing lessons for someone; or if you live in San Francisco, you can set someone up with gourmet cooking lessons also has experience gift ideas. Though some (such as driving a dream car or being a pilot for a day) aren’t exactly eco-friendly, it also offers wine and dine packages and more.


2. Buy Local, Handmade

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Image of a winter market via Shutterstock

Buying local helps provide for the local economy as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since goods are not transported far. Many of the products also have a nice story behind them. It might be something like, “This guy at the market made this by hand out of scrap wood he found when they tore down the old school house. …”

So how do you find your locally made products?

Finding a market is a good start. Try this market finder.

Etsy also helps you find your locally made goods with this store finder


3. Recycled Gifts

Many businesses today have produced great products using recycled materials—bags, children’s toys, lamps, and more. You could also make some gifts of your own. Here are a few items made of recycled goods that could make great gifts. 

1. Reclaimed chalk boards tell the time.

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2. Kiintage on Etsy uses old dictionary pages as canvases for illustrations. In the days of, print dictionaries are increasingly in need of recycling. 

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3. EyePopArt sells bracelets made of old records on Etsy.

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4. Choose Gifts Without Batteries

Batteries contain the toxic substances of nickel and cadmium.

The blog “This Reading Mama” gives 50 ideas for childrens’ gifts that don’t use batteries. Included on the list are: 

1. Tobbles Neo Tactile Stacking and Balancing Toy 10

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2. Domino Race Set

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3. Wooden Wind-Up Trucks
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5. Re-gift

If you receive a gift and it’s something you already have or don’t need, why not re-gift? has many success stories of people who made good use of something that would have otherwise been useless.


6. Donate to a Good Cause

Buy a family in need a vegetable garden or a goat through Oxfam.

Use the Charity Navigator to pick the organization that suits you.


*Image of green gifts via Shutterstock

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