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Last-Minute Gifts That Give Back: A 2016 Holiday Buying Guide

Sustainable gifts for the environment, your budget, and your neighbors around the globe, ending 2016 on a much-needed high note.
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It’s hard to escape the social media echo chamber resonating with all the reasons 2016 was such a garbage fire, so we’ve put together a holiday gift guide that’s more soothing than simple retail therapy. Below is a compendium of last-minute gifts that offer more substantial comfort than the rush brought on by the swipe of a credit card. At best, these gifts offer aid to the increasingly targeted, and at the least, they’re far less hopeless than 2016. That, and they’re quick and easy, y'all who have put off shopping ‘til RIGHT NOW. That's always a plus.


One Tree Planted

As climate change deniers make their way into our governing bodies, forests like the Amazon in Brazil and on the Sumatra island of Indonesia are facing an even grimmer future than previously imagined. Trees are the planet's OG air conditioners, and with 85% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from deforestation, your gift of One Tree Planted is not only appreciated, it's necessary. Choose from reforestation efforts in Africa, Thailand, and South and North America, where donations start at $1.00 for one tree. Make the donation in a friend's name and they'll receive a certificate made of 100% recycled material, commemorating the tree(s) planted in their honor.

Amphiro A1 Self-Monitoring Water & Energy Smart Meter for Shower

There's nothing like a good, hot shower—this much is clear (water pun, zing). Water, however, is a finite resource, and one to which many people do not have access. Check out the A1 Self Monitoring Water & Energy Smart Meter by Amphiro, and give that annoying (but objectively correct) friend who’s always turning off the faucet while you’re washing your face the gift that will show you’ve been listening as you roll your soap-smothered eyes.

PelaCase Plant-Based Phone Case

With almost two billion smartphones in circulation, you’re bound to know someone who needs a new phone case. Why not spend a little extra dough on PelaCase’s eco-friendly phone cases, made of plant-based bioplastics instead of fossil fuel-based plastics? Beyond minimizing your carbon footprint and combatting our reliance on landfills, PelaCase is also a part of the “1% for the Planet” initiative, donating at least 1% of their profits to environmentally-focused organizations including Amnesty International and UNICEF, among others.



A few options here. Choose the LifeStraw (Original or Steel) for all the outdoor-enthusiasts in your life, and rest assured that they’re safe drinking from that swamp they’re always trying to convince you is ‘cleaner than your tap.’ If you know a whole crew of campers, Lifestraw Mission and Family offer the same LifeStraw technology but for larger groups. And for those who just want to stay hydrated, LifeStraw Go is a refillable water bottle that comes in *all* the nice colors. In 2014, LifeStraw created the "Follow the Litre" campaign, ensuring that a portion of all consumer “sales goes toward the purchase of LifeStraw Community purifiers, which are distributed to schools in developing communities.” As a result, each consumer purchase provides one school child in a developing community with safe water for an entire school year. Lest we forget, with LifeStraw Carbon Credits, one credit equals a one-ton reduction in CO2 emissions.

Sprout Plantable Pencils

Sprout is working on its “corporate social responsibility,” and for us consumers, that means a chance to turn our cute little pencils into even cuter, handy plants! The Sprout Pencil Mix 1 Edition features a pack of three pencils that, once stubs, can be planted in soil to become cherry tomato, sunflower and mint plants!

Lotto for Love

Everyone loves a good lotto scratchcard, and for those who have all of the things, consider the Give Lotto Love option. Each pack comes with two lotto cards, and winning gifts include clean water, solar light, literacy tools and nutritious meals for those who need them most. Beyond sparing your recipient from more unnecessary stuff, the paper used to make these lotto cards is responsibly sourced from the world’s forests, certified by The Forest Stewardship Council.


Recycled Fishing Wire Products

With fishing wire making up 10% of the plastic in our oceans, Bureo’s recycling and education efforts make their products that much cooler. From skateboards to sunglasses to clothing, every product sold through Bureo helps keep plastic out of our oceans, while educating Chilean and North American youths in sustainable practices. As of today, Bureo’s recycling plant in Chile has helped removed over 80,000kg of trash from our seas.

Mini Kane Backpack from State Bags

For each Mini Kane backpack you buy, State Bags will hand-deliver a bag full of crucial supplies “for success to an American child in need.” This pink/mint option is pretty damn adorable, and for just $20.00 extra you can add your own personalization. Take that, Aunt Sheryl: I am, too, a thoughtful gift-giver.

Fair Trade Bags that Give Back

Maybe a backpack isn’t their thing, and that's where Joggo comes in. On a “Journey to Greater Good,” their fair trade bags give back to displaced children. They've teamed up with an all-women co-op factory, and with every bag sold, Joggo offers refugee children the chance to continue their education, offering the building blocks to a better life for many. Check out the work they've been doing with the Care Organization, it's an important effort to which we must attend.

eBay Gives Back

If you’re a one-stop-shop kind of gift-giver (or human person), check out Ebay’s Gifts that Give Back. This list offers symbolic gifts in the form of charitable donations, sending you a digital certificate for your donation, based on the featured charity of your choice. Once you find the right option for you or your recipient, make your donation in their name, and print out the certificate—one and done!


Give Life Meaning Print

For the (literal and figurative) kids in your life, Benedict the Bunny’s Give Life Meaning print is an endearing reminder that rabbits are universally adorable, and of the time-old mantra that life is really what you make it. The piece comes unframed and has the important perk of giving five meals to undernourished children of the world. This sort of print not your thing? Cuddle & Kind has all kinds of ethically-made gifts that offer underprivileged kids access to food and education, all while boasting a minimum of 30% recycled paper for products like this ‘Give Life Meaning’ Print. To date they've contributed over 628,000 meals (and counting)!

Conscious Step Socks

For sock-lovers (and predictable gift-givers—it’s okay, we’ve all been there), the next step just became effortlessly more ethical. With the Conscious Step Sock Collection you can send anyone a box of three different socks, each of which were made in fair trade conditions by a well-paid, zero-child-labor staff. Made of organic cotton grown to the “Global Organic Textile Standard,” all revenue made from the sales of these socks help donate school books and safe water to those in need. Not in the mood to buy a whole box? Take a look at the individual packs—they’re still very exciting.

THRIVE: A guide to living better


Sometimes all you need is a good book, and sometimes that book can actually help push you towards the goals you’ve set for your life. *gasp*. Enter THRIVE: An environmentally conscious lifestyle guide to better health and true wealth. This little paperback offers exercises and suggestions for scientifically-backed ways to change how you live, all aimed towards more sustainable living for you and the world you inhabit. Think of THRIVE as the more thorough and motivating to-do list you made in your “Consuming Ethically” college class.


Solar Dogger

Everyone loves a hot dog. And for those who don’t, sometimes you just find yourself by a lake with nothing to eat but, well, hot dogs. Rather than start a fire just to fry up an ol’ weenie, check out this awesome new Solar Dogger. Now available for pre-order (and on sale!) Go Sun Stove’s newest innovation is a “mini-tube” that’s “mega-fun,” cooking your dogs in 10 minutes flat, without needing direct, or even much, sunlight at all.

Tushy’s Thoughtful Toilet Attachments

Remember those Charmin commercials where the mother bear scolds the baby bear for unspooling too much toilet paper? Tushy’s Bidet Attachments are sort of the like the IRL version of mama bear (keyword being ‘sort of’). These add-ons turn any toilet into a bidet, and while it may seem like a waste of water, we can assure you that it’s not. Over 37 gallons of water goes into making one single toilet paper roll, and the average American uses 57 sheets of TP in a day! (And let’s not forget the 15 million trees that die each year for this purpose.) Tushy uses about 1.3 gallons of water per week versus the standard 18 gallons (NOT counting the H2O that goes into each roll), and it even helps with health problems like hemorrhoids, UTIs, and yeast infections. Pairing with the non-profit Samagra, each Tushy sold means “one family gains access to clean community toilets in developing countries,” helping stop a sanitation crises that result in one child’s death every 17 seconds.


Ruby Cup

Since we’re onto bathroom-themed gifts, might we suggest the Ruby Cup. Many ladies prefer to use a menstruation cup during their cycle, and Ruby Cup is offering a “buy one, give one” option. Aside from minimizing your own waste with products like tampons and pads—the average woman uses about 12,000 tampons in her lifetime—with each cup purchased, a cup and sterilizer will be donated to a schoolgirl in need. They’re fully biodegradable and come in different sizes, so check out the site to find the perfect fit!

Gift Box Subscription

Image courtesy CauseBox

For most gift givers and receivers, any “of-the-month” subscription gift is not entirely new (though it is a surprise each month when the doorbell rings… Oooh! Is that my possibly chipotle habañero, possibly cilantro-jalapeño lime pico de gallo salsa arriving?!) Keep your recipient in suspense with the Cause Box, a seasonally selected gift box that is delivered each quarter. Every product comes from a socially-conscious company, all aimed at providing “jobs, meals, education, clean water, and more to countless women, men and children around the world.” This winter’s box features hand cream, a calendar, and a handmade leather clutch, among other goodies.

Adult Coloring Books

While it may seem silly, adult coloring books have been proven to ease stress and promote better mental health—something we could all use as 2016 comes to a close. Fuel your inner child (and your inner peace), with this Calm the F*ck Down coloring book. Let’s be honest, the idea that coloring books are just for kids is ageist anyway, so f*ck that, too!


Sense with Voice Sleep Tracker

We all could use a good night’s sleep, and some of us want to know if we’re well rested without being reminded of how many steps we (didn’t) take that day. Enter Hello’s Sense with Voice, a bedside sleep tracker that responds to your vocal commands and remains to be one of the few things that won't feel creepy as it watches you sleep. Sense with Voice helps you fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve your actual sleep patterns, so if anyone you know needs an extra push towards true nighttime bliss, Sense may be the perfect gift.

Now that your holiday shopping is done, relax and scroll through The Creators Project's Instagram feed. You've earned it.


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