10 Wedding Gifts for Eco-Conscious Newlyweds
Something old, something new, something blue—everything green
Choosing a thoughtful wedding gift can be like running through a maze of ice cream makers and decorative napkin rings. Should your present be whimsical or practical? Will it be used once, or will it last? Whether you're sticking to a registry or thinking outside the box, a personal gift demonstrates that you put thought into the couple and the world they want to build together. Choosing an ecologically conscious gift, then, is the perfect way to help a sustainably minded pair lighten their footprint.
Here are some ideas for presents that prioritize environmental health, reusability, and/or sustainable lifestyles—feel free to add your suggestions in the comments! (And remember, purchasing locally sourced gifts is inherently more sustainable, as they rely less on fossil fuel transportation and excess packaging for shipping.)
Prepare for a recycling-bin shocker: Only a fraction of what gets dumped into recycling bins actually gets recycled. Global development and low oil prices have made it easier for countries to produce certain raw materials domestically rather than import them, which has decreased the value of “foreign trash” from other countries that gets imported and reused. As a result, in the United States, many local recycling centers have either shuttered or gotten much more aggressive at ditching contaminated recycling loads—which get diverted to a landfill. Glass has been especially hard-hit: The EPA estimates that only 26 percent of glass waste actually gets recycled, with the majority of glass going to landfills. Why not extend the shelf lives of glass bottles by gifting recycled wine tumblers? The Ultimate Green Store's glasses (sets of which range from $30 to $272) are handmade from recycled parts, polished smooth, and annealed (slowly cooled after molding), which makes them even more durable than regular glasses.
Cookware makes a great wedding gift. Even more on trend? Eating food that’s free of cancerous toxins. If you’re going the more traditional route and seeking to give long-lasting pots and pans, opt for brands that are free of PFOA, like Anolon or Cuisinart’s Green Gourmet cookware (both of which are priced comparably to traditional cookware and sold at Macy's department stores). PFOA is in a class of highly toxic substances that has historically been used in Teflon and nonstick pans and has been scientifically linked to numerous cancers and birth defects. PFOA leaches into food when pans are heated to high temperatures (which, you know, is their only purpose). Thanks to mounting litigation against DuPont, the maker of Teflon, and other manufacturers in recent years, millions of dollars have been recompensated to people sickened by PFOA. Get on the right side of history and choose PFOA-free cookware when gifting.
According to Millennial-targeted marketing, mason jars can solve most of life’s problems, and indoor gardens can thrive in the darkest of micro apartments. Unfortunately, jar gardens can sometimes lead to limp, stubborn herbs—or worse, annoying fungus gnats. The Chicago-based duo behind Modern Sprout, Nick Behr and Sarah Burrows, tackled that problem by creating an innovative hydroponic system within a mason jar ($54, pictured above), which cycles nutrients up through plants’ sensitive roots while regulating moisture in the larger chamber. The planter is suspended neatly inside of a tinted, vintage-inspired jar, allowing you to imbue your favorite newlyweds’ kitchen with flavor and style. You can choose from a three-jar starter set (an Oprah pick) of parsley, basil, and mint, or create your own with options like organic cilantro or sage.
Odor-Control Steel Compost Bin
Help newlyweds reduce CO2 emissions in landfills by providing an easy routine for composting, which, together with recycling, annually reduces more than 181 million metric tons of emissions—comparable to those of 38 million-plus passenger cars. While compost management has continued to increase in the United States, the nearly 2 million tons of food composted in 2014 only accounts for 5.1 percent of total food waste. With help from this cute, steel Natural Home Brands composter ($30), the happy couple can divert their eggshells and vegetable scraps from landfills. A charcoal filter helps neutralize odors, and once their food scraps are composted, the resulting nutrients can go back into the soil, where it'll nourish plants. What’s not to love?
If the newlyweds are yoga enthusiasts, extend their mindfulness beneath their feet and away from landfills. Suga Mats ($79) are the brainchild of a California surfer and yoga enthusiast who sought a solution to the waste produced by nonbiodegradable neoprene wetsuits and believes corporations “should take responsibility for their products from cradle to grave.” Sounds rad, right? Neoprene—that coveted sleek material used to make laptop bags, mouse pads, shoe sole inserts, and as noted, wetsuits—is yet another result of chem manufacturer DuPont’s endless tinkering with petrochemicals. It's derived from crude oil or limestone, mixed with toxic additives, heated and pressed between layers of polyester, and it's so long-lasting that it's actually>used to line landfills. Suga Mats’ creator worked with engineering experts to “recycle these petrochemical-based landfill-clogging neoprene monsters into highly functional instruments of yogic bliss.” And if all those weddings are taking a toll on your bank account, you can exchange your old wetsuit and receive a 10 percent discount on a gifty new mat.
Solar-Powered Portable Fridge/Freezer
Looking for an outrageously practical and long-lasting gift for that really outdoorsy couple—the pair that camps for every anniversary or holiday, throws great al fresco parties, and probably plans to one day quit their jobs to tour around in a camper, van, or boat? If this describes the people you’re shopping for, you’ll want to check out the solar-powered Engel AC/DC Portable Fridge-Freezer. Reviewers rave about its multiyear durability and extreme energy efficiency: One couple relied on it for a nine-month boat trip around the Great Loop of America waterway, while another has used it regularly for 12 years. It can be used as a fridge or a freezer, with options for coolness settings, and uses only one to three amps per hour, which means on a vehicle battery it won’t compromise other critical resources like steering and lights. The only drawback? It runs over $800, not including the solar panel—so consider it for a group gift.
The Inspired Vegan
Nothing says romance like strolling arm-in-arm through a local farmers’ market learning about local seasonal ingredients, all while reveling in the knowledge that the delicious meals you’re planning are healthy and won’t cost animal lives. Celebrated chef Bryant Terry has been hailed by The New York Times as a “young food activist [making] Southern cooking healthy and cool.” His book ($13), infused with lyrical storytelling, will make your favorite newlyweds feel like welcome guests in his home, swapping family stories while peeking into a delicious-smelling saucepan. Terry pairs satisfying cooking with education about the need for just, sustainable food systems, all while celebrating the complex flavors of the African diaspora. He is Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and you can peruse his full collection of cookbooks here.
Eco-friendly Pet Gear
Raising a pet together is a big step for any pair. Whether or not the couple’s pet has ringbearer status, you can celebrate their furbabe with an ecofriendly gift. Many companies are steering away from unsustainable materials like nylon and toxic plastic, and instead prioritizing recycled or environmentally friendly materials that can last potentially nine lives. Check out kitten-soft organic cotton collars ($24) from WigglyWoos, nontoxic chew toys (starting at $9) made with recycled materials (for the discriminating power chewer) from Olive Green Dog, and this collapsible travel bowl ($16) from Cycle Dog, which comes in various designs—including rainbow for pets who can help broadcast their humans’ pride!
“Hurricane-tested,” “MUST have for an emergency,” and “packs a punch” are just some user praises showered on this conveniently sized, solar-powered emergency radio ($24) from iRonsnow. Ideal for camping, power outages, or any emergency situation, this little gadget is ideal for couples looking to amp up their camping or disaster-preparedness game and eliminate the hassle of replacing dead disposable batteries. This device’s battery is sensitive enough that ambient light in a dim bedroom will give it a charge. Its hand crank is easy to use; it's equipped with USB ports for multiple phone charges; and the LED flashlight is bright enough to illuminate distances of 50 yards, tapering off into a dimmer circumference. With a radio signal designed to pick up AM/FM, NOAA, and weather stations for emergency updates, it’s one fitting gift for those tying the knot in the age of climate change.
Speaking of which, hikers, first responders, and international travelers alike rave about this portable solar-powered water filter from Puralytics ($45). The purifier relies on “sunlight-activated nanotechnology” to filter water through a coated mesh catch that destroys organic contaminants (like giardia) and, according to one reviewer, leaves water tasting like “fresh fallen snow.” Easily portable and reusable, it is designed to enhance emergency preparedness (many reviewers reported using it as an alternative to suspect tap water), international and remote travel, disaster relief, and backcountry camping.