A gift that's thoughtful, affordable and kind to the planet is hard to beat. To help you find the perfect sustainable present, we've put together a list of the top eco-friendly gift ideas.

Credit: Tatyana Aksenova, TWINS DESIGN STUDIO, Rawpixel.com – Shutterstock

When buying eco-friendly gifts, the ultimate goal is to find items that put a smile on someone's face without having a negative impact on the planet. And we know of lots of present ideas that will do just that.

Some of the key things to consider on your search for an eco-friendly present are: is it locally sourced, sustainably produced, consumable or long-lasting, low (or no) waste and reusable? It can be difficult to find a gift that ticks every box, but it's useful to keep each of these qualities in mind.

And to avoid the risk of the gift ending up in a landfill, it helps to check with the gift recipient that it's definitely something they'll want – as long as you don't mind it not being a surprise. However, we're confident you'll find something they will want in this list…

Once you've read through our list of the best gift ideas, head to the bottom of the page to see some tips about eco-friendly ways to wrap presents.

Top sustainable gift ideas

Here are the 20 best eco-friendly gifts:

  1. Plants

    Chinese Money Plant

    Credit: Bloom & Wild

    Plants really do make great gifts. In comparison to cut flowers which can be carbon-intensive to grow, package and transport, potted plants are usually much better for the environment.

    To minimise the transportation of the gift, try to look for plants in local garden centres and markets.

    You could also consider buying flower and plant seeds as a gift, along with an eco-friendly plant pot. On Etsy, for example, you can often find biodegradable plant pots. And for seeds, you could try Seedboms – they should be very easy to grow and are a bit more unusual than a standard packet of seeds.

  2. Bird feeder

    For anyone with a garden, a bird feeder could make a lovely eco-friendly gift. If you know of a local independent store that sells handmade bird feeders, this would be an ideal place to get one.

    In comparison to ordering a mass-produced item online, buying one that's made and sold locally allows you to support a small business while reducing the carbon footprint of the gift.

    If the person you're buying the gift for doesn't have a garden, this could still be an option – it's possible to buy small bird feeders that you can attach to windows and window sills (like these).

  3. Wax food wraps

    Wax food wraps are brilliant eco-friendly home products. They make a great alternative to cling film (which is single-use plastic) as they're reusable, long-lasting and effective at keeping food fresh.

    As they also tend to come in beautiful designs, they make really good gifts.

    The Beeswax Wrap Co. have a big selection of wax food wraps (including vegan wax wraps) and often collaborate with popular brands such as Emma Bridgewater and Cath Kidston. However, if their food wraps don't appeal or suit your budget, there are plenty of other stores that sell similar products.

    You can find a huge range of different wax food wraps available on Etsy and Amazon. It's also a good idea to visit shops on your local high street as you may find that some of them sell reusable food wraps at affordable prices.

  4. Reusable water bottle

    According to the book How Bad Are Bananas? (which we'll talk about a bit more later), bottled water is 1,000 times more carbon intense than tap water.

    So, using a reusable water bottle could really help to reduce the carbon footprint of anyone who regularly buys bottled water.

    You can often buy reusable water bottles at affordable prices on sites like Etsy.

    Alternatively, you could consider getting one from Chilly's. Their small bottles (260ml) usually start at around £15 and you can get a 10% student discount.

    Or, if it's within your budget, a good sustainable one to try is the Ocean Bottle. It costs around £35 at full price and students can get 10% off.

    This product comes with a 10-year warranty and replacement parts for life. For every Ocean Bottle sold, the brand commits to collecting the equivalent of 1,000 plastic bottles.

    Reusable water bottles are often designed to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, but if you're keen to find a specific coffee cup, see our next point…

  5. Takeaway coffee cup

    reusable coffee cup

    Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj – Shutterstock

    Know any eco-conscious coffee lovers? If they haven't already got one, a reusable coffee cup could be the perfect gift for them.

    Getting a reusable cup can be a simple and effective way to cut down on waste (billions of disposable coffee cups get used in the UK each year!).

    Plus, some coffee shops reward you with extra loyalty points for bringing in your own takeaway cups, making it that bit easier to get free coffee.

    One example of an eco-friendly coffee cup is the Circular NOW Cup by Circular&Co. It's made from recycled single-use paper cups to avoid waste. They're designed to last for five years of use, and then at the end of their lifespan, they're 100% recyclable. They cost around £7 each and are available from the Circular&Co. website. We've also seen them for sale on the Oxfam online store.

    Another option could be to get a takeaway cup made from coffee husk (a waste material from the production of coffee). Huskee sells a range of coffee husk cups, but they are a bit more on the pricey side. At the time of writing, they sell a 6oz cup that comes with a lid for around £13.

  6. Local produce

    Farm shops are amazing places for eco-friendly (and tasty) presents.

    They tend to sell a good range of food and drink items that have been produced locally. This means you can find foody gifts that should have needed minimal transportation and have therefore led to lower carbon emissions than supermarket food items.

    The products on offer will vary from shop to shop, but you could find locally-made treats like chocolate, beer, cheese, cooking oil and chutney.

    You could also consider buying a gift from an eco-friendly brand like Toast Ale. They make beers using surplus bread and give all profits to charities that are fixing the food system. For environmental reasons, they only distribute their beers within the UK.

  7. Edible insects

    The thought of eating insects can definitely take a bit of getting used to. But, there's a reason why they're often described as "food of the future".

    Edible insects are a good source of protein and the process of farming insects is far less carbon-intensive than meat farming.

    The emphasis is on edible insects, though. Be careful when looking for insects to buy as a gift that they're fit for human consumption. You may find some packs of insects are only intended to be used as bird feed – not ideal!

    Eat Grub is a good website for finding edible insects. To give you an idea of cost, a 45g pack of edible mealworms will set you back around £6.50.

    Edible insects won't be for everyone, but if you know someone who's keen to find more sustainable alternatives to meat (or even someone who's already a fan of edible insects), this could make a great eco-friendly present.

  8. Coconut bowl

    Coconut bowls not only look very striking, but they have the added bonus of making use of the shells of coconuts that would otherwise go to waste.

    Often when coconuts are harvested for oil, flesh and water, their shells are burnt or thrown away. Some sustainable businesses are trying to change this by transforming the shells into unique and practical bowls.

    You can find coconut bowls in a number of eco-friendly online stores, such as Peace With The Wild and Wearth London. They will vary in price, but as a general rule, a single bowl could cost around £8 or £9.

  9. Bamboo homeware

    Bamboo is often celebrated as a versatile sustainable material, particularly as it grows very quickly.

    However, it's important to bear in mind that not all bamboo is harvested sustainably, so it's a good idea to do some research before buying a product. It can help to look out for bamboo-focused brands and products that are FSC certified (you can read a bit more about this here).

    If you've found a brand that you're confident is focused on sustainability, bamboo homeware can make great eco-friendly gifts. You could consider items like bamboo cutlery, stationery, a lunchbox or just about anything else for the home that you could think of.

  10. Plastic-free phone case

    Phone cases are extremely useful as they can help to protect mobiles from getting damaged if they're knocked or dropped on the floor. But, the issue is, it's rare to find ones that are free from plastic.

    If you know somebody that's looking for a new phone case, have a look at the eco-friendly phone accessories at Wave. Their phone cases are plastic-free, biodegradable and come in a range of colours.

    They sell phone cases for iPhones and Samsung devices for around £18 each.

  11. Books about sustainable living


    Credit: Unuchko Veronika – Shutterstock

    It's always a joy to receive a good book as a gift, especially when it's focused on your biggest interests. When buying a gift for someone who cares deeply about environmental issues, a book about sustainable living is sure to go down well.

    Earlier, we briefly mentioned How Bad Are Bananas?. This is a book by Mike Berners-Lee that looks at the carbon footprint of just about everything. It's a brilliant and often surprising book that includes handy tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

    You could also look into getting a personal finance book about making mindful shopping choices, such as The Year of Less by Cait Flanders or A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button.

    We've linked to Hive.co.uk here which supports independent bookshops and offers a 10% student discount. Although, if you're able to find second-hand copies of the books anywhere, these are better than brand new books in terms of their environmental impact.

    Buying second-hand increases the lifespan of the existing item, while reducing the need for new things to be manufactured and distributed – these processes lead to carbon emissions, so are best avoided when possible.

  12. Vegan recipe book

    Vegan recipe books can be useful and thoughtful gifts for anyone who's trying to eat more sustainable produce. Even if somebody's not fully vegan, there's still a good chance they'll enjoy cooking and eating vegan meals.

    LEON has a cookbook called Fast Vegan which has 200 recipes including ones for breakfasts, party food, weekday dinners and sharing plates.

    Another one you can consider is Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This recipe book focuses on vegan food that's delicious and easy to make.

    For more ideas, have a look through the vegan cookbooks on Hive.co.uk. Also, keep in mind our tip in the previous point about buying second-hand books instead of new ones when possible.

  13. Sustainable clothes

    Keen to buy some eco-friendly clothes and accessories as a gift? Have a read of our list of the best sustainable fashion brands for ideas.

    One good example is Lucy & Yak which sells dungarees in fun prints at affordable prices. If you're shopping from there, have a look at their sale – you can usually find some bargains in there.

    For t-shirts, Rapanui is a great brand. They create clothing with natural materials in a factory that's powered by renewable energy. Plus, their clothes are made with a circular supply chain. This means they're designed to be sent back when they're worn out, at which point Rapanui uses them to make new products.

    Or, for socks in cute gift boxes, you could try Thought. Their socks come in a wide range of designs and are made from natural and sustainable materials.

  14. Eco-friendly soap

    Good-quality soap is a very popular gift option. As an essential home product, you can feel confident that a bar of soap won't go to waste.

    The key thing to look out for when buying eco-friendly soap is that it has plastic-free packaging and uses sustainable ingredients.

    In our guide to the best eco-friendly home and cleaning products, we've included Friendly Soap which is a great choice (see the guide for a code to get 15% off orders).

    It's also worth having a look in Boots for soaps with plastic-free packaging – keep in mind that you can get a 10% student discount.

    Have a look in independent shops near you, too. You may find some eco-friendly soaps there that you're unlikely to find anywhere else.

  15. Trees planted on their behalf


    Credit: OlegRi – Shutterstock

    As planting more trees is essential for the planet, one of the best eco-friendly gift ideas is to make a donation for trees to be planted on someone else's behalf.

    At Save the Student, we regularly plant trees via Ecologi. They have several tree-planting gifts available which, at the time of writing, includes the chance to have 250 trees planted for £31.

    The National Trust also lets you make a donation for a tree to be planted. They ask for a minimum donation of £5 which covers the cost of planting one new sapling.

  16. Charity gift

    Buying a charity gift has many benefits: your money goes to a good cause, the gift has the potential to make a real, positive difference and it avoids the risk of a physical gift going to waste.

    Oxfam offers a range of gift cards including ones that are related to eco issues. At the time of writing, there's the option to buy a gift card for £10 that helps farmers facing climate change, and also one for £15 that provides beekeeping training for farmers.

    Or, you could donate specifically to a charity that works to combat environmental issues. This could include The Climate Coalition, Rainforest Trust or any other organisation that you know the gift recipient cares a lot about.

  17. Sustainable chocolate

    There are many huge issues with the global chocolate industry including modern slavery, child labour and deforestation.

    But, thankfully, there are a number of chocolate brands such as Tony's Chocolonely and Divine that campaign for change within the industry and work hard to ensure their chocolate is made in an ethical and sustainable way.

    When searching for sustainable chocolate brands, it helps to look for ones with Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certifications. These indicate they're following ethical and sustainable practices.

  18. Artwork

    Bike drawing

    If you're keen to give a gift that lasts and (hopefully!) won't go to waste, a handmade item like a drawing, print or painting is a great idea.

    It's ideal if you're able to give away an artwork that you've made yourself. This way, there will be limited transportation required to deliver the gift, especially if you're able to hand it over to them in person. You could also use recycled paper to ensure it's as eco-friendly as possible.

    As well as this, you can completely tailor the gift to the person you're giving it to. If they like cycling, for example, you could draw them a bike as we've done in the picture above.

    But, for anyone that's not very artistic, don't worry – there are loads of handmade artworks available to buy online. Etsy is a good place to start. On there, you should be able to find plenty of people selling art for reasonable prices.

    It will likely be a bit more expensive, but you could also have a look at online art sites like Artfinder and Saatchi Art.

  19. E-voucher

    As we mentioned earlier with the idea of a charity gift, some of the best eco-friendly presents are ones that aren't physical objects – these avoid the risk of waste.

    You can buy an e-voucher for just about anything that you think they'll enjoy, and either print it out or send it to them by email (the most environmentally friendly option).

    Perhaps you could buy a gift voucher for them to use at their favourite local restaurant, or maybe for a sustainable fashion brand that they love. You could even buy a voucher for an experience day through a site like Red Letter Days or Buyagift.

    Or, if you're keen to go one step further to ensure your gift will definitely get used, try the last idea on this list.

  20. Cash

    You can't really go wrong with cash. By giving someone money as a gift, you can be confident that it won't go to waste.

    If you're concerned that it doesn't feel thoughtful enough as a gift, you could mention a way they can spend the money in your card to them. If you're struggling with ideas, perhaps you could suggest a spa day or a similar self-care idea.

If you're looking for sustainable items at discounted prices, keep an eye on our eco-friendly deals page.

7 eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts

These are the best ways to wrap eco-friendly gifts:

  1. Use recyclable wrapping paper

    Unfortunately, not all wrapping paper is recyclable – but the good news is, it's easy to find wrapping paper that is when you know what to look for.

    It's often when gift wrap is decorated with foil or glitter that it can't be recycled.

    When buying wrapping paper, look out for rolls that specify on their label that they can be recycled. If you have a roll at home already, it might say on the inverse side of the paper whether it's recyclable.

    There's also a handy trick that you can do to test if your wrapping paper is recyclable: scrunch it up. If it stays scrunched up, it's probably recyclable. If it quickly unravels again, it likely isn't.

  2. Upcycle old clothes into fabric gift wrap

    Fabric gift wrap is brilliant as you don't necessarily need to buy it. If you have any old clothes at home that you no longer wear but don't feel able to sell or donate to a charity shop for any reason (such as if they've stretched out of shape), you could upcycle them into gift wrap.

    It's quite easy to do. You simply need to cut out a piece of fabric that will be big enough to wrap around the gift, and then tie it together in a bow.

    Once you've made the fabric gift wrap, it can be reused time and again. To avoid it being thrown away, check with the person receiving the gift whether they plan to reuse the fabric. If so, perfect. But if not, you could always ask for it back (minus the gift, of course) to use it again for future presents.

  3. Brown paper


    Credit: TierneyMJ – Shutterstock

    While you can buy recyclable wrapping paper, another great choice is plain brown paper.

    Brown paper can be recycled and it's often pretty cheap to buy large rolls of it from craft shops. For example, at the time of writing, an 8m roll of kraft paper from Hobbycraft costs a few pounds.

    And when tied up with twine or reused ribbon, it's even better…

  4. Reuse ribbon and twine

    If you ever receive a gift tied with ribbon or twine, hold onto it to reuse the next time you're wrapping a present. It's a great way to save money and avoid waste.

    Or, anytime that you do choose to buy ribbon or twine to tie around a gift, keep in mind that twine is often more eco-friendly than ribbon as it's more likely to be recyclable and biodegradable.

    It is possible to buy a roll of ribbon that's recyclable but it can sometimes be a bit harder to find. Try doing a bit of research and perhaps search on sites like Etsy for eco-friendly ribbon.

  5. Use a gift bag

    Using a gift bag is a great way to present a gift, and a major benefit of it is that the bag itself can be easily reused for years to come.

    Keep hold of any gift bags that you're given as they're bound to come in handy the next time you give away a gift. And, if you're ever buying one new, try to look for ones that are recyclable, and in particular, ones made from brown and/or recycled paper.

  6. Reuse boxes and packaging from deliveries

    A good way to make use of boxes and packaging from deliveries is to reuse them as gift boxes. We're sure no one will mind too much if the gifts aren't immaculately presented if you explain that you wanted to reuse the boxes to avoid waste.

    Having said that, though, if you're not keen on how a gift looks when packaged in a cardboard box, keep in mind the earlier tips in this list.

  7. Get recyclable greetings cards

    Once the gift itself is wrapped and ready to be given, the last step is to write the card.

    One eco-friendly option (if you're confident in your artistic abilities) is to make your own card for them using recycled paper. A handmade card should have a much lower carbon footprint than a mass-produced greetings card from the supermarket or an online store.

    But, if you'd prefer to buy a card rather than make one, look out for ones that are recyclable. If it's not immediately obvious whether a card can be recycled, think about whether it's decorated with glitter, glue or a foil design, as these are unlikely to be recyclable.

    Although many will be keen to give out cards alongside gifts, you also have the option to not write cards if you're really keen to avoid waste. It's entirely up to you!

Looking for more tips about sustainable living? Have a read of our full guide on how to reduce your carbon footprint (and save money while doing so).

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