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Sustainable Gifting 101: Ideas for the Holidays, Birthdays, and Beyond

These sustainable gift ideas are affordable, low-waste, and straight from the heart.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

If you have an event, holiday, or birthday coming up, there’s no need to stretch your wallet in order to find someone the perfect present. You can celebrate the important people in your life with one of the most special gifts of all—something sustainable.

Here's everything you should know about sustainable gifting, from what makes a gift sustainable to a handful of sustainable gift ideas your recipient will cherish forever.

Is Sustainable Gifting Possible?

Now that more and more people are learning about the relationship between overconsumption and the environment, it might feel like the idea of gifting is just promoting purchasing more things we don't actually need. But while we've all received gifts we weren't exactly ecstatic about, gifting can also be a very intimate and heartfelt way of displaying your love for someone.

It can feel really good to receive presents that are well-thought-out and personal. With all the gifts you might not have liked, there are probably countless others you've kept and have loved for all these years. The good news is opting for sustainable gift ideas allows you to show your love in a way that won't harm the planet.

The Benefits of Sustainable Gifting

There's a plethora of benefits to opting for sustainable gift ideas. If you give someone something they'll really love and will hold onto forever, the recipient may save money and the planet by purchasing less and utilizing the high-quality piece they already have at home.

Sustainable gifts are also produced in a more planet-friendly way. They're made with sustainable materials, are ethically made, and have a lower carbon footprint than your average gift. The brands that make these gifts prioritize people and the planet, and partake in responsible supply chains.

If you have a friend or family member that isn't the most eco-minded person, giving them a sustainable gift may be the first taste they get of what it means to lead a more planet-friendly life. Many people assume they need to make huge sacrifices in order to be sustainable. Receiving a great gift that's also gentle on the planet could open doors they never thought were there in the first place.

Sustainable Gift Ideas

When you're thinking of sustainable gift ideas, don't just think about the gift but also the person you're giving it to. Because if you give someone something they don't like and won't use... was it really that sustainable in the first place?

Luckily, there are tons of options for everyone on your list. Here are some sustainable gift ideas for birthdays, holidays, baby showers, and other celebrations.

1. Store-Bought Gifts

If you plan on purchasing a gift for someone, make sure to really do your research on what you want to gift. Look for something that's ethically made, uses natural and responsibly-sourced materials, and comes from a truly sustainable company (and not just one that's greenwashing).

It also helps to look for specific labels (we have a long list here!), such as Fair Trade Certified. Or, products that come from a Certified B Corporation. The products we feature in the Brightly Shop have a long list of sustainable qualities, making your search easier than ever.

Ideas for Store-Bought Gifts:

If you have a fashionista on your hands, find them a sustainable-yet-stylish bag or jacket. (Or, try thrifting the perfect piece!) If they're a foodie, get them a conscious chef's kit. Looking for jewelry for your significant other? There are plenty of sustainable options online. You can also look locally for timeless vintage options.

2. Handmade Gifts

Handmade gifts are a great, sustainable option for any occasion. Besides adding a personal touch, handmade gifts are oftentimes more eco-friendly (and more cost effective!) than going out and purchasing something.

These gifts can be especially eco-friendly if you're making something with natural or recycled materials, or things you already have at home. Handmade gifts are also a great opportunity to get creative. You can cater to that person's taste and craft them something they'll truly appreciate.

Ideas for Handmade Gifts:

If you're stuck on what to make for your recipient, think about what you're good at. If you're an experienced knitter, knit them a sweater or scarf to keep them warm in the colder months. Love baking? Make a batch of cookies or granola and put it in an upcycled container. Have a hardworking friend you know could use some pampering? DIY a little spa kit with a cozy robe, homemade bath bomb, and some organic tea.

3. Regifted Gifts

Considering the average American spent $1,865 on gifts in 2020, there's a good chance a lot of people received things they didn't like or simply didn't work for them. Instead of keeping that item around for years out of guilt, why not regift it? Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean it's not perfect for someone else.

Ideas for Regifted Gifts:

There are so many options when it comes to regifted gifts. Give someone the items as-is, like a cozy sweater that didn't fit you right or a book you never got around to reading. Or, upcycle a gift into something more personal. Paint that mug you received from a coworker three years ago and gift it as a unique planter. Unused makeup or beauty products make perfect gifts, too.

4. Experiences

Rather than gifting a tangible object, try gifting an experience. Whether you're celebrating an anniversary with your partner or planning something fun for a friend's birthday, it's a great opportunity to ensure the day is truly unforgettable. The memories you'll be able to make together will be unbeatable.

Ideas for Experiences:

Groupon and Airbnb will be your BFFs when it comes to finding unique and affordable experiences. If your friend is big on the Great Outdoors, go kayaking or visit a National Park. If they're a movie buff, see if there are any outdoor showings nearby and bring some snacks. Just looking for a relaxing day? Visit an art museum together or schedule an appointment to get massages. The options are endless.