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11 Sustainable Holiday Gifts Everyone Can Use At Home

Every year I set out to make a holiday wish list with items that will add to my life rather than fill it with clutter and despair over consumerism. As an environmentalist, I recognize that what we purchase and where we purchase it from has an effect not only on the planet but on the people that produce those goods. We have to watch our carbon footprint, but we also need to be wary of the structures that suppress the right to unionize, carry out modern-day slavery, and refuse to pay workers a living wage. This is hard to do in a world where Amazon Prime reigns supreme. In short, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. 

That being said, we can still do our best to shop mindfully when we are looking to show our loved ones that we are thinking of them. 

Before you buy anything, you should ask whether you need to in the first place. After that, assess how long the object will last; aim for things of quality that will be useful for a lifetime. Lastly, check the source. Are you supporting a small business? Is it WOC or BIPOC-owned? Are you choosing materials that align with a healthy environment? Try to check all of these boxes if it’s within your economic ability and remember not to shame people that don’t have as many options as you. I would encourage you to check out this article that lists 180 Black-owned businesses and do some searching of Indigenous artists you can support.

My list this year is all about thrifty, sustainable gifts that only need to be bought one time. Whether you’re looking for yourself, a family member, or a friend, everyone can use something on this list to make their life a little greener. These gifts may not each check all the guidelines above, but they are a starting point in looking for the right thing to spark joy.

1. Reusable cotton pads

Ideal for someone who wears makeup or has a robust skincare routine! There are so many options and patterns out there, from bamboo rounds ($20) to cotton squares ($10). Some come with a laundry bag for washing.

2. LastSwab

This product is really cool because it reduces the plastic waste that comes with cotton swabs. According to the company, one LastSwab can replace 1000 single-use cotton swabs. There’s both a basic option ($12) and a beauty option ($12) for removing makeup. Both are made of medical-grade silicone. There are also reusable masks, tissues, and cotton pads on this site.

3. Produce bags

A reusable bag is perfect for anyone who shops and wants to reduce the use of those small plastic bags in the produce aisle. Opt for a French Market bag ($12-$14) for fruits and veggies and separate linen pouches ($5-$6) for loose herbs. 

4. Mesh laundry bag

Perfect for delicates and face masks. These can be found in multiple sizes and fabrics, from tones of pink ($7-$14) to pineapple ($9).

5. Plastic-free hair ties

If you are like me, you lose hair ties everywhere you go. Because they are made of plastic-based synthetic materials, hair ties leave plastic waste in their wake. Durable, biodegradable hair ties are the best way to keep your hair in place without contributing to long-lasting pollution. There are wide ($15 for 5) and thin ($17 for 27) hair tie versions out there just as strong as plastic ones.

6. Wool dryer balls

FYI, dryer sheets are made of plastics in addition to being single-use. That waste can be reduced by using dryer balls ($17 for 6), which are made out of organic materials and help to both soften clothes and absorb extra water from laundry. For gifting, add a few bottles of essential oils for an added scent.

7. Reusable sandwich bags

Single-use Ziplocs are often a contributor to household plastic waste. Washable and recyclable options can help reduce that waste, from ones made of a hardier plastic ($19 for 10) and food-grade silicone ($15 for 9) to those made out of fabric ($15 for 3). Beeswax food wraps are also a great option to look into for a range of sizes and prices.

8. Boie Skin Care Bundle

For healthy skin, look no further than these colorful, antimicrobial exfoliating scrubbers ($15). The company encourages customers to send back their product for recycling, meaning it’s a circular life cycle. There’s also a toothbrush ($10) available if you want to help someone in your life change their dental hygiene habits for the better.

9. Plastic-free safety razor

Being a feminist means choosing to shave or not shave! There’s a lot of safety razors out there, including these in bright colors ($30 with 10 blades). Disposable razors at the store produce plastic waste. These just require changing out the blade. 

10. Cosmetic bag

Look for bags made out of cotton, linen, or other durable fabrics. This olive green canvas bag ($17) is a great place to put all the eco-friendly beauty products on this list. This one ($30) has a wipeable lining so makeup spillage is no big deal. These canvas organizers ($37-$45) are also an easy way to make any bathroom counter look eco-chic. 

11. A window solar charger

This is the most expensive item on the list, but it’s ideal for someone looking to take baby steps into a renewable energy lifestyle. This WOC-designed window solar charger ($119) has a USB-A port compatible with most devices and can hang on any window using a suction cup. Once it’s paid for, the gift recipient can charge their phone forever. 

The above list is all about shopping mindfully and thinking about the needs of others outside of the box that is capitalism. Most of us don’t need more in quantity but can gain something in quality, especially when it comes to saving the planet. Reusable objects are one way to usher out wasteful practices and focus on living simplistically. Lastly, remember to wrap your gifts in newspaper for an added zero-waste touch!

Sophia Chapin

George Mason University '21

Sophia Chapin is an alumni of George Mason University. Her articles reflect a journey of learning about environmental and social justice issues.
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