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Go Green, Not Basic: 8 Totally Unusual Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts

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What do you get the friend who has everything? A green Christmas gift, of course. Sustainability is a crucial part of the future — so we should encourage everyone we know to incorporate it into their lives. Leave the basic metal straw and bamboo toothbrush behind. This year, you’re going all-out on unique, sustainable gifts that will wow even the least eco-friendly of BFFs and relatives. 

Whoever you’re shopping for, the following gifts are sure to please both the recipient and Mother Nature.

Bee hotel

Roughly 30 percent of the 5,000 native North American bee species live in nests above ground. However, they often travel far away from their homes to collect pollen and nectar. On these longer trips, they could use someplace to stay. Give your favorite gardener a bee hotel — a birdhouse-like wooden structure that attracts bees — to give these hard-working bumbles a safe place to rest and lay their eggs.

You could try your hand at DIY-ing a bee house for your recipient’s backyard, but it’s probably easier to buy. Since bees are pro pollinators, this unique holiday gift will also help your friend’s flower or vegetable garden thrive. 

Seed card

As lovely as it is to receive Christmas cards, you probably toss them after the new year. Sadly, most of your friends and family probably do the same. Minimize waste and support recycling initiatives by sending out seed cards instead. This biodegradable eco-paper is made of post-consumer materials and embedded with seeds. After reading your heartfelt message, the recipient can plant the paper and watch it grow into a beautiful wildflower or herb. 

Eco-friendly paint

Many paints release volatile organic compounds, gases that pollute the atmosphere and the air you breathe. Keep your favorite artists safe these holidays by splurging on an eco-friendly paint set.

Nowadays, there are a handful of brands to choose from, but all of them rely on natural pigments that are safe and sustainable. Some companies, like Natural Earth Paint, have even cut out all preservatives, synthetics and fillers, so your friends can share their art without worrying about its effect on the planet. 

Indoor vegetable garden kit

Know someone who’s totally into healthy eating, meal prepping or cooking? Take their kitchen to the next level by gifting them an indoor vegetable or herb garden kit. You can find all different versions of indoor veggie gardens, from aerogardens with LED systems to hydroponic options grown in water.

Learning to grow our own food is an essential part of eco-friendly urban agriculture, which helps contribute to greener communities by incorporating permaculture — the practice of producing our own resources in our everyday lives.

Little Sun solar lamps

Make everything merry and bright this season with Little Sun solar lamps. Installation artist Olafur Eliasson first created these tiny lights with the mission of bringing solar energy to the 1.1 billion people living without electricity. Since then, he has distributed thousands of Little Suns and released a new diamond version. Remind your loved ones how fortunate they are to have light and show them the true power of renewable energy by giving them one of these solar lamps. 

Recycled notebook

Have you ever written a poem on poo paper? Well, now you can — and so can your loved ones! Elephants, horses, and cows eat plants and excrete partially digested plant matter, which can then be turned into paper. This process takes much less energy than using raw wood and could slow deforestation, especially in places where there aren’t many trees left.

Check out brands like Poopoopaper and Mr. Ellie Pooh for all your stationery needs.

Reusable grocery bags

Humans use 5 trillion plastic bags each year but recycle less than 1 percent of them. Consequently, most grocery bags end up in landfills, oceans, forests, and other animal habitats. Reducing your impact is as simple as bringing your own bags to the supermarket. Encourage your friends to do their part by giving them some reusable shopping totes. Waxed canvas, mesh, and cotton bags make the ultimate eco-friendly gifts. Plus, they’re more durable and dependable than their plastic alternatives.

To make the gift more personal, you might have the bags customized with your own message or pick an adorable design your recipient will love — there are so many cute options out there to choose from!

Living composter

If money is no object, consider spoiling that special someone with a living composter. This sleek, biomorphic container will add visual interest to any kitchen and process more than two pounds of food each week. If you’re not able to splurge on a pre-made composter, you can get creative and DIY your own! Either will make a unique, useful gift for anyone in your life.

Toss food scraps to the worms inside and enjoy watching your waste disappear. Grow herbs in nutrient-rich soil and use them to flavor your next meal. Even the least earth-conscious individual will appreciate watching their food come full circle. 

Gift sustainably

As you wrap your eco-friendly gifts, don’t forget to use sustainable, recyclable paper, ribbons, bows or wrapping paper alternatives. Avoid foil, plastics, and other nonrecyclable materials and opt for recycled wrapping paper, forest-friendly cards, and plant-based glitter instead. You might even rethink your gift list and surprise your loved ones with regifted or handmade items rather than purchasing new ones. 

Finally, consider gifting experiences in place of things. After all, making memories together is one of the best presents anyone could give or receive. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your impact on the planet while enjoying each other’s company.