Between the boxes and the wrapping paper and the assorted bags and bows, the holidays are not exactly the most environmentally-conscious season.
However, what’s contained within those packages under the tree (or whatever present repository, denominational or otherwise, you choose to embrace) can help to offset that — provided you know where to look.
And thus we’ve compiled this list of our favorite gear — from handsome clothes to stately home goods to handy tech doodads — that are produced in ways that are sustainable, earth-conscious and geared toward helping out those in need.
Behold, your path to giving and giving back simultaneously — two birds, one holiday stone.
Plenty of brands are making “sustainable” clothing by using things like organic cotton and fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. But Minnesota-based Askov Finlayson is one-upping everyone with its climate-positive parka. Yes, the tundra-ready jacket has innovative materials (like a first-of-its-kind 100% recycled insulation from 3M), but the main thing is the company offsets its entire carbon footprint (down to employee commutes) by 110%.
Animal agriculture is responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and consumption is increasing. But people just don’t want to give up their meat. Well, with the Herbivorous Butcher, you don’t have to. The company makes some of the best fake meat and cheese around, and this kit includes their greatest hits: ribeye steak, Korean BBQ ribs and bacon brats, just to name a few. Give it to a vegan, an aspiring vegan or your meat-eating dad (and see if he can tell the difference).
Single-use coffee cups are one of the low-key scourges of the planet. Bringing a to-go mug is so damn easy (and usually results in a lil’ discount) but let’s be honest, most of them aren’t good for anything except dumping dark roast into. Hydro Flask’s “soft touch finished” cup is great for artisanal lattes, flat whites or even cold brew. We should know, we tested out all the best options earlier this year.
We’ve tested Rab’s anorak-style quilted puffer hoodie against some miserable New York weather, and we are happy to report that the fact that it’s crafted from both recycled fabrics and recycled down has absolutely no adverse effect on its ability to keep one feeling warm and dry. The throwback vibes are very on-trend as well, for the record.
The environmentally-minded folks at Marine Layer had an interesting idea recently: they asked customers to send in their old, worn tees, which were then broken down via a process too scientific to get into here and “re-spun” into new fibers. Those new fibers then became a line of cool casual duds like this short-sleeve crew right here (everyone should own one of these, btw), which is breathable, lightweight and quick-drying, and also made via a waterless process with no added dye. If you’ve got old tees lying around yourself, send ‘em in — ML will give you a $5 credit for each one.
We can all agree that plastic straws are an irresponsible environmental scourge — I don’t think there’s really anyone in their right mind out there claiming “to hell with the turtles.” The problem no one is trying to talk about though is that paper straws straight up suck (pardon the pun). They are not a truly viable alternative. What is, however, is a telescoping stainless steel and silicone straw that folds up into a case small enough to be attached to your keys. Will pulling out your own straw at a restaurant make you feel weird and self-conscious at first? Yes. But anytime you catch a questioning glance, just look that person dead in the eye and say “I’m doing this for the turtles.”
Honorable mention: Food52 Five Two Silicone Straws
You know what’s truly sustainable? Restoring old things rather than churning out new things. That’s the mission behind NYC’s Patina, who painstakingly refurbish classic mid century pieces (think Eames chairs, modernist credenzas, etc) to their former glory. A gorgeous piece of furniture with a story might cost more than a mass-produced replica, but that’s the difference between and heirloom piece and something that winds up in a landfill after a year or two. Additionally, Patina uses only recyclable products when packing and shipping their orders, and also donate a portion of their proceeds to environmental charities.
The Swiss know versatility — they wrote the book on the multi-purpose pocket tool, after all. So leave it to them to realize that the weatherproof polyvinyl used to make truck tarps (the kind used to protect 18-wheeler goods in transit) also makes for a pretty damn durable bag. Freitag has been upcycling these tarps since the early ‘90s, and recently started incorporating material spun from broken-down PET bottles (and you know how we feel about those). Freitag makes a variety of different bag types, all of which look very cool and are basically impervious to any abuse you can throw at them.
If you’re in the market for a bag that’s a little more “business” than what Freitag has on offer but still want to do some good for the planet, consider this handsome number from MATT & NAT — the Canadian bag makers use no animal-based products in their designs, instead focusing on vgan leathers and sustainable materials like recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork. Every bag lining is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, keeping approximately 21 bottles out of a landfill or the ocean for every bag. Plus they’ve just got a pleasingly minimalist vibe we can really get on board with.
Smartphone cases are not something one typically thinks of as being bad for the environment, until you realize that most of them are made of plastic and the world has almost three billion smartphone users. Pela’s cases are made from plants, 100% compostable, and will protect your attention-leeching black mirror every bit as well as the plastic competition.
Honorable mention: Nimble Bottle Case
Have a friend who wants to start their carbon footprint reduction journey but doesn’t know where to start? Are you that friend? Package Free has you covered with this handy kit featuring everything from stainless steel water bottle/tumbler to mesh produce bag to beeswax food wrap (and more), making it an excellent jumping off point for those who just need a nudge in the right direction.
Mass-produced bar soap (even the “gentle” stuff) tends to be full of harsh chemicals that aren’t great for the environment or your bod. Hand in Hand’s bars smell terrific and are crafted with organic shea + cocoa butters to keep your skin feeling silky smooth. Additionally, for every bar purchased, they donate a bar and month of clean water to a child in need. Clean body, clean conscience. Win win.
One doesn’t typically associate the world of tech with eco-consciousness, but the folks at Nimble have managed to craft a handy wireless fast-charging pad from recycled plastic bottles and plant-based bioplastics. Charges two devices at once (fast), is the perfect size for travel, and arrives in plastic-free packaging.
Everyone needs a nice solid blanket, so why not opt for one that does a little good? For every product purchased, Keep Nature Wild picks up a pound of trash, with over 250,000 lbs collected to date. This should make your weekend Netflix sessions a tad more guilt-free.
A good pair of lightweight gloves are always a good gift, as, to be honest, they tend to wander off. So as long as you’re gifting a pair (and at seven bucks you should be), you might keep Mother Earth in mind and opt for something like these mitt-warmers from ASOS’s “responsible edit,” which are made from recycled plastic bottles and textile waste used to create new fibers. New fibers, it bears noting, that are smartphone-conducive.
One would need to have been living under a rock not to be aware of Patagonia’s continuous strides to help the environment, and thus we co-sign pretty much everything they sell out of principle. Their “Better Sweater” line is crafted from 100% recycled fleece and features all the bells and whistles (flat-seam stitching, smartphone pocket, etc) the brand is known for. Each piece is also “Fair Trade Certified sewn,” meaning the people who made it earned a premium for their labor.
It’s soft. It’s fluffy. It’s breathable. It’s got everything you’re looking for to achieve maximum REM coziness, and it’s also made from eucalyptus fabric (which takes 10x less water than cotton to produce) and recycled fill (that keeps 50 plastic bottles out of a landfill and protects a dozen geese). So basically, you’ll get a good night’s sleep on two fronts.
EKOBO’s mission was to craft products durable enough for everyday family use (these people have three kids) from something other than plastic — enter their composite of sustainable bamboo fibers, which can take a beating without the messy environmental impact. Jars like these are great for dry good storage, but they’ve also got everything from cups to trays to serveware on offer to help make your kitchen a little more earth-friendly.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.