If you’re giving gifts this holiday season, we’ve partnered with REI to share the best sustainable gifts. After all, even small changes can make a big difference.
We’ll admit that we’re far from zero waste living, but lately we’ve been making an effort to be conscious of how we consume products. First of all, we love gifting experiences over things, but we get that gift giving is a love language too (we still like to do both).
Some of these are easy swaps to help encourage less plastic waste, while others are long lasting quality products from ethical brands.
A big thank you to REI for sponsoring this post. All opinions are always our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: January 5, 2021
15 Best Sustainable Gifts to Buy in 2021
This is one of the most popular sustainable gifts, which makes it an easy swap for water bottles. We always travel with reusable bottles, and refill them whenever we can.
We love our Hydro Flask Bottles. They have a variety of shapes and lids to carry any of your favorite drinks (adult bevies included). Isn’t it better since they keep your drinks warm for up to 6 hours or cold up to 24 hours?
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for something compact, this Platypus Softbottle is our go-to. It doesn’t regulate the temperature, but it rolls up into itself and is as compact and lightweight as it gets.
We’ve lost all our New York grit now that we’re acclimated to the desert climate. Hand warmers are a must for us when traveling to cold destinations, especially since we spend so much time outside.
Until recently, we always traveled with disposable hand warmers, but ever since we discovered these rechargeable hand warmers, we’ll be using them from now on. It’s also a power bank that charges USB devices, and the battery can last up to 9 hours!
It has 3 different settings and you can set it to be heated on two sides or one side. Compared to the disposable kinds, this feels much warmer. The disposable ones only feel warm when you keep them in a warm place, but this pumps out heat regardless.
One downside is that it doesn’t pack as nicely, but it’s a small inconvenience considering how many disposable ones we’ve gone through on our trips.
We’ve been trying really hard to decrease our straw usage. It’s crazy how much of a habit it is to throw it in your cup when they’re handed to you. We’re much better at not using straws when we dine-in, but need to fix the habit when we’re on the go.
This United By Blue Straw Case is perfect to leave in your bag or car so you have clean reusable straws ready at any time. There’s even a section to keep your dirty straws separate. Plus, the case is made of recycled material and for every product you buy, United By Blue removes a pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways.
We recently added Boba Straws to our collection too and keep them in the same case.
Pro Tip: Look for ones made of a compostable, natural fiber-based fabric. Or pick up a GUPPYFRIEND, which significantly reduces microplastics being introduced into our waterways and ocean and gives your clothes a longer lifecycle. Did you know that microfiber and other synthetic fabrics release thousands of microplastics in every wash?
Having the right gear and clothes for your adventures is important. We’re not big shoppers, but we pick up new pieces for trips when needed. As we worked on this post, we started looking into how we can shop more responsibly.
Brands like Patagonia are one of the outdoor brands at the forefront of sustainability. Patagonia even encourages people not to buy more of their gear but to repair and reuse.
The Patagonia Better Sweater is our ultimate go-to layer. Not only does it do a great job of keeping us warm, it’s also made of recycled material.
If you can’t find specific products made out of natural fibers or recycled material, the other option is finding brands that are doing their best to reduce their carbon footprint and brands that give back.
Jacob loves the Smokey Bear collection from the Landmark Project, where 10% of each product goes back to the Smokey Bear Fund for Wildfire Prevention Education.
We love our packing cubes since they help us stay organized when we travel and help compress our clothes. We’ve tried our fair share of packing cubes and not all cubes are created equal.
The Peak Design Packing Cubes are our favorite because they are so lightweight, durable, and they have a clean side and dirty side to keep your clothes separated. We’ve used them for a while now, and it’s a bonus that they are made of recycled material.
Reusable shopping totes can always come in handy, but the hardest part is remembering that we have them. Lately, we stash them in our car and pretty much anywhere else we can see and access them to help refresh our memory.
Not only are they great for grocery runs at home, but you can use it for travel and shopping anywhere you go. This REI Reusable Shopping Tote is one of our favorites.
Yes, we all love to steal the toiletries from the hotel, but if you think about it, those little bottles create a lot of waste. One small change you can make is to bring your own with you.
GoToobs have been our go-to reusable bottles for many years. They’ve never leaked on us, the large opening makes them easy to clean, they’re BPA free, and they’ve lasted us a long time.
Pro Tip: If you want to take it a step further, zero waste folks swear by solid shampoo bars and soap over liquids.
REI has been adding more sustainable products to their REI Co-op brands. New this fall is the REI Co-op Down Blankets in both 1 and 2 person sizes.
It’s made of recycled materials and down certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), which requires that ducks and geese are treated in accordance with leading animal welfare standards.
A Diva Cup is a great option for those who get their unwanted monthly visitor. It helps cut down the over 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons dumped into landfills each year (and that’s only in the US).
Not only are they reusable and easy to keep on hand, they also save you a ton of money. If convenience is important to you, most people only need to change it morning and night.
Our friends swear by them, but this is one I’ve tried in the past and it didn’t work well for my body. Now that they have different versions and fits, I may have to give it another go.
These make great sustainable gifts for the travel lover. If you’ve been following us for a while, we’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect travel backpack. Our friends have even commented that they notice we always have a backpack on us.
As you can already tell, we love Peak Design bags and we use their travel backpack, camera bag, and many of their travel accessories. They use varying recycled materials depending on which bag you get.
Things to Consider When Buying Ethical Products
- Quality – Sustainability is multi-tiered, and one way to start is by buying things that will be used and last a long time.
- Packaging – Are they packaged in biodegradable material? If not, is it reusable or recyclable?
- Materials – Is the product made of synthetic or organic materials? Is it made of recycled materials?
- Carbon Footprint – What does their manufacturing and operations look like? What are their labor practices? What about animal welfare?
The other day, as we walked through the aisles and aisles of products at our local warehouse store, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was standing in the middle of a future landfill.
It was shocking to stop from the daily grind, look around, and visualize all the plastic waste even in the one store.
We notice it less living in an apartment, but when we lived in an RV, we noticed every piece of garbage we created.
We know there needs to be a change, but it’s also not cool to shame people to change. The best way inspire others to act is through empathy and showing by example. I know that it’s been so inspiring for me to see others making small choices everyday to help our earth.
If zero waste living is too intimidating, it’s all about taking small steps and giving yourself grace on the journey. We all make mistakes, but at least we’re facing the right direction.
Any other sustainable gifts you would add? Which of these would you most like to receive as a gift?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.