17 Gifts for a Lean, Green Household

Mostly practical—yet also delightful—holiday presents

By Katie O'Reilly

December 11, 2019


Photo by Sinenkiy/iStock

It’s notoriously difficult to shop for greens, but we've got you covered. Behold 17 pragmatic goods that will further streamline a green lifestyle—or just bring eco-minded homebodies good tidings and joy.     

The editors of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the popular literary magazine founded by San Francisco author Dave Eggers, had a similar response to the UN’s alarming 2018 climate report as you probably did. Given the near-apocalyptic forecast, they enlisted 10 top writers (including Tommy Orange, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Abbey Mei Otis) to envision how 2040 might look in the event that humanity cruises straight into the point of no climactic return. As jumping-off points for the wide-ranging stories in the freshly released McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D. issue ($26), they not only assigned each author a specific climate event (like coral reef destruction and sea level rise) but, with help from their collaborators at the Natural Resources Defense Council, also paired writers with expert scientist consultants. The fascinating and beautifully illustrated hardcover collection provides a sampling of high-quality cli-fi—complete with intergalactic travel, extreme life-extension, cults, and courageous citizens. The editors’ hope? That this collection’s legacy will one day exist as a relic from a moment in which humanity almost took the wrong road—but ultimately didn’t

Printed on 100 percent recycled paper and designed by naturalist-artist Katherine Homes, the very vibrant 2020: A Year for Action calendar ($20) does not cite traditional government holidays but rather identifies environmental and social action days. Talk about a great way to inspire personal-change-making action all year long.

Fact: Adults actually love opening up fun sock presents. And everyone on your list wants to save the whales, right? Good news—20 percent of profits from these mid-crew, mostly wool orca-print socks from Kavu ($25) go to the Center for Whale Research, a nonprofit dedicated to the study and conservation of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orca population.

Been meaning to get that great pic of you and your adventure buddies off your phone and into giftable shape? Fracture is a carbon-neutral operation that allows you to upload your favorite digital photos and have them printed directly onto durable glass and shipped to recipients in an environmentally conscious package, along with the single screw they’ll need to mount it to a wall. Plus, there’s no frame required—thus sparing wood, plastic, and metal. Pricing starts at $17.

To really shine a light on America’s ugly water-bottle habit, the water filter experts at Brita this year unveiled an Ugly Sweater collection featuring festive party garb woven from single-use plastic waste. The limited-edition collection features five distinctly tacky designs ($25 each) that foreground plastic waste and its ugly impact on the environment. Not only do they allow giftees to merrily spread the message that harmless single-use plastic is a ho ho hoax, but they also come with a 26-ounce, BPA-free reusable filtering water bottle.

The gift of clean, filtered air is golden. Capable of snatching 99.7 percent of pollutant particles above 0.3MM in size—including smoke, dust, bacteria, mold spores, pet dander, pollen, and tobacco smoke—the 3-in-1 HEPA Filter Particle Allergie Eliminator Air Purifier ($79) comes equipped with three fan speeds designed to filter variously sized living and office spaces’ air.

Revive memories of your favorite adventurers’ and explorers’ conquered mountains and cities with drinking vessels that feature fetching maps. Well Told Design etches topographic renderings onto water bottles, tumblers, and classic barware—and prices start at a reasonable $16.

Give the gift of a toasty green winter with help from BioLite’s limited-edition Climate Neutral FirePit ($200). Thanks to a patented airflow technology, this attractive backyard centerpiece creates a crackly campfire, minus the smoke. Even better, 10 percent of sales now support Climate Neutral, a new nonprofit with a mission of helping brands neutralize their carbon footprints.

Founded by Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik, the company Lettuce Grow aims to help people use fewer resources to grow healthier food at home. Give the gift of self-watering, self-fertilizing hydroponic vertical garden farmstands (starting at $348), which are made from recovered ocean plastic pollution, and your loved ones will be able to grow their own fresh produce at home, no gardening background required. What’s more, for every 10 farmstands sold, Lettuce Grow grants one to a school, nonprofit, or community organization. The idea is to help bring much-needed change to our food systems.

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of our planetary climate crisis. Empower giftees with good-looking tools to help greenify their lifestyles, via Great Big Story’s Zero Waste Starter Kit ($50). It contains stainless steel straws, a cotton mesh grocery bag, a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush, beeswax wraps, and a lunch box to help jumpstart a virtually waste-free existence. And check out Great Big Story’s fascinating new guide, which details exactly how various countries have banned plastic and otherwise incentivized citizens to reduce waste. 

To help dry all those reusables, consider an accompanying gift of this handy drying rack ($34) from Bee’s Wrap. Made from Vermont maple wood and designed for kitchen minimalists, it takes up about as much space, when collapsed in a drawer, as a rolling pin.

Is there any better gift for your climate-change-denying Uncle Joe than a donation in his name to your favorite local environmental group? Through December 31, Patagonia is making it easier to do just that—and to send recipients a digital or printed card stating as much—through Patagonia Action Works. Even better, the company is matching all donations up to $10,000 until they hit $10,000,000. No purchase of Patagonia products is required for the match; however, we recommend pairing your gift with this jaunty tee ($57) from Patagonia’s new ReCrafted collection. Expect the unexpected from the textile waste-reducing ReCrafted line—each one-of-a-kind garment is reincarnated from deconstructed and repurposed organic clothing scraps.

'Tis the season to start lounging. Made from hemp and organic cotton, the Men’s Epiq Joggers ($95) from Toad&Co are as breathable as they are cozy and vintage-chic.

Help your favorite homebodies cut down on harmful toxins in their favorite place: home. Launched just last month, Enviroscent nature-inspired diffusers are refillable, reusable, and recyclable—and free from parabens and phthalates too. They also come in 100 percent recyclable packaging, with zero plastic. The Stix + Stand Starter Kit ($17) makes for a pretty foolproof present.

There’s no present quite like the gift of great hair. Soap Cauldron’s Three Sisters Apothecary Boxed Hair Care Gift Sets ($34) feature paraben- and synthetic-free, eco-conscious products including shampoo bars (in full and TSA-friendly sizes), conditioner bars, and a TSA-friendly hair oil—all of which are handcrafted from biodegradable ingredients in small batches. These delicious-smelling products are designed to leave hair healthy, moisturized, and shiny, without stripping away natural oils. Choose from collections including Lavender & Tea Tree (designed for curly and wavy hair), Rosemary & Orange (for fine hair), and Mandarin Blossom (for straight, thick hair).

The world’s greatest gift for holiday hosts/hostesses? Delicious java, of course. Gorilla Conservation Coffee supports farmers living adjacent to the endangered gorillas of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and provides them with training in sustainable coffee farming and processing. This year they introduced a delicious new espresso-flavored option ($16 for 12 ounces).

Worldkind makes certified organic products, the sales of which support global conservation efforts, and the new Almost Gone collection consists of tees and pullovers (items start at $30) featuring critically endangered animals on the brink of extinction. See if the line includes any of your loved ones’ fave creatures. Because fashion, too, can be a voice for wildlife and habitat conservation.