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The holiday season is upon us, and for most people, that means a season of festivities, fun, and, of course, gifts. There are plenty of presents you can give that say “I appreciate you” to your friends, family, and coworkers.
But, what about gifts for people who are concerned about consumption and waste during the season?
Americans use 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper alone (to say nothing of all the shipping boxes and packaging associated with online purchases), and much of that can’t be recycled.
The toy industry is one of the biggest producers of plastic in the world, much of which will never be recycled and can potentially contain harmful additives like PVC and lead.
All of this is to say, while Christmas brings us joy in many ways, the holiday season can also wreak havoc on our environment, and the brands we choose can make a difference. Here are some suggestions on sustainable and ethical products anyone can enjoy.
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1. Conscious Step Socks
We all look forward to opening up our drawer of holiday socks, so what if that festive accessory did some good too? The socks at Conscious Step are comfortable and sustainable. Each pair is made with organic cotton and are Fairtrade certified. Plus for each pair purchased, a donation is made to a special cause.
Conscious Step’s Let’s-Stay-At-Home Set includes nine pairs of wintry socks and for each set purchased a donation will be made to four different non-profit organizations.
There’s nothing more sustainable than a gift that’s almost entirely compostable once you’re done with it. These gorgeous seasonal wreaths, created from natural materials like dried fruit, flowers, and herbs, are shipped to you every few months so you can swap out your look each season. These wreaths, which are all made with fresh greenery, are shipped the day they’re made, and will slowly dry out, but you don’t have to trash them once they’ve dried, with proper care, the dried versions will last for another whole year.
3. Everyspace Recycled Rubber Deer Welcome Mat
L.L. Bean is synonymous with outdoor adventure, and as such, the brand has made a sustainability pledge to reduce the amount of waste and increase the amount of recycled materials used in their manufacturing processes.
This festive doormat from Everyspace, made of 94% recycled materials and in the U.S., will cheer up your entryway and prevent your home from becoming one big mud room.
Wrapping gifts is a rite of passage at the holidays, but all that gift wrap, which is often full of glitter and foil, and topped with plastic ribbon, does a number on the environment. If you’re not the type who wants to make your own gift wrap out of old brown bags, Wrappily’s wrapping paper is not only made of recycled newsprint, but it’s fully recyclable, and it’s got designs printed on both sides so you can get even more use out of it before you toss it.
5. Hemptique Decorative Hemp Cord
This biodegradable cord, made of 100% natural, vegan hemp is a beautiful, sustainable alternative to traditional ribbon on your gifts. Durable and reusable, you can save it for years, or you can use it for crafting or in your garden, as it will decompose over time. It’s available in dozens of colors and several widths, so you can be creative with your gift wrap while also being gentle on the earth.
6. Big Dipper Wax Works Hanukkah Candles
When you think about it, squeezing eight nights of light out of one night’s worth of oil is the ultimate in sustainability. These beeswax Hanukkah candles will help keep your holiday illuminated, while also offering an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional tapers. Beeswax is the most natural and sustainable of all the candle wax options, and these candles are made with a 100% cotton wick, to boot.
These recycled crayon wrapper firestarters might be one of the most ingenious items on our list. Everyone has had their share of spare, broken crayons lying around the house at some point, and Crazy Crayons is a company that accepts old crayon odds and ends and recycles them into new ones.
Rather than let the paper wrappers from all of those crayons go to waste, they’ve coated them with a thin layer of wax and packaged them up to be used as fire starters in your wood stove or campfire. They’re the ultimate zero-waste product, and they’re sure to be a conversation piece in your home.
8. Firecracker String Lights
Using LED lights instead of traditional incandescent string lights can save you 90% in energy costs. These firecracker lights from West Elm are a gorgeous and unique take on Christmas lights and would be perfect on a mantel or doorframe; plus, it will cost pennies to power through the entire holiday season.
Holiday cards are another way we unknowingly create waste around the holidays. Photo paper and cards embossed with foil can’t be recycled, and millions of cards end up in landfills every year (unless you’re that person who saves every card you receive every year, in which case, you’re a better friend than I am).
These pop-up holiday cards, made of 100% recycled paper, are a delight in many ways; not only are they a clever greeting card with a 3-dimensional design, but for each one sold, a tree will be planted in one of our nation’s forests.
It’s a piece of mail! It’s a gift! It’s a tree! Who knew one card could be so many things?
10. Grimm’s Annual Calendar Ring
If Christmas isn’t your jam, and you prefer the more natural spirituality of the Winter Solstice, check out this handcrafted, 100% wood Grimm’s Celebration Ring made by German brand Spiel und Holz. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one, and this plastic-free, colorful version is a wonderful addition to your table.
11. Lush Snow Bear Bar Soap
UK-based cosmetics brand Lush is known for their animal cruelty-free pledges and vegetarian formulas, and in recent years, they’ve made attempts to go package-free for many of their products, or use predominantly recycled packaging.
We love Lush’s soaps, bath bombs, and shampoo bars, which replace their bottled, single-use counterparts, and we love that they’ve gone all out for the holidays with seasonal scents and designs, like this cute oat milk-based vanilla-scented snow bear bar soap. You can also find items like candy cane bath bombs and North Pole bubble bars in their Christmas shop online.
12. Handmade Recycled Oak Wine Barrel Menorah
If you find yourself in the market for a new menorah this year, this gorgeous wooden one from Etsy is not only hand crafted, but it’s made from the repurposed staves, or wood planks, salvaged from French oak wine barrels.
13. Recycled Paper Trees
Bottle brush trees are regaining popularity these days, and while we love the look of them, we don’t love the fact that many of the readily-available ones are made of plastic. These miniature trees that we found on Etsy mimic the look of bottle brushes, but are made entirely of recycled books, cork, and wood, and they come in a range of sizes.
14. Celestial Lanterns Set
Made of partially recycled iron, these celestial lanterns (which also come in gorgeous non-seasonal cut-out designs like owls or mandalas) can illuminate any space, indoors or out. The seller, Fair Trade Winds, promises to only sell fair trade products, and their products are labeled according to which causes your purchase will contribute to, from empowering women artisans to fighting human trafficking, to creating children’s aid.
15. Square Wool Christmas Tree Pillow Cover
Arcadia Home is an earth-friendly brand, and their 100% wool pillow covers aren’t just a pretty way to make your couch a more festive place to sit. Handcrafted by artisans in India of sustainable wool, these textiles are manufactured in a facility that runs on solar power and recycles rainwater. Arcadia Home also seeks to provide a fair wage for everyone from the seamstresses who create the pillows to the sheepherders who gather the wool.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.