Great Gifts for Sustainability-Minded People, According to Lauren Singer

The zero waste advocate offers some excellent eco-conscious gift options to consider this year.

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For any sustainability-minded person, gifting season can be a little bit of a nightmare, but that doesn’t mean they want to be excluded. There are many ways to show your appreciation for someone while being mindful about the environment. Zero waste advocate and founder of Package Free Shop, Lauren Singer, has done it for years. So, we asked her for some tips on how to pick the perfect gift for anyone who takes great care to be as eco-conscious as possible.

It may seem cheesy, but what matters most is that you’re thinking of them and that you made an effort to impress them with a special detail––whether it be material or simply a gesture. To do it right, though, Singer recommends asking people what they need. “I don't try to change people but work with them to make it easy to do something nice for you in a way that aligns with my values,” she says, “Something I'll do is tell people exactly what I want. Like, "Oh, I'm actually needing socks right now" or "I really wanted to go to this restaurant, is there a way you can give me a gift certificate?"

To ensure your gift can make a positive impact on both its recipient and the planet, take notes on Singer’s recommendations below.

Get creative

“DIY is one of my favorite gifts,” says Singer. Taking the time to craft something for a friend really shows how much you appreciate them. Singer recommends taking a look at recipes she publishes in her blog Trash is For Tossers or getting them a practical gift like The Simply Co. Laundry Detergent from Package Free Shop. “I'm a big fan of practical gift giving because it's more likely to be used. Something like hand making a candle or making dog treats if the person that you're giving a gift to has a pet.”

Eco-friendly product picks

If you choose to buy something, make sure the brand aligns with the person’s values. Singer points out that, when it comes to clothing, making sure they’re made with natural fibers is a good way to start. However, her favorite thing to do is to source gifts second hand. “I think it’s even more thoughtful because it shows that you took the time to go somewhere and source something special for them,” she says. “If you're looking to get someone like a tech present, refurbished tech from Back Market is a good option.”

“If there are people that are starting their sustainability journey, we sell zero waste boxes at Package Free. We always suggest those as a really good gift as well, or a gift card to a company like Package Free.”

For a good cause

Embrace the gift of charitable giving by supporting a cause that is near and dear to them. “I love the gift of donating in someone's name. Usually, for birthday presents for friends, I'll donate a certain amount of money to organizations that I know align with their values,” she shared. “For my friends that love animals, I'll donate to animal shelters. If they're into sustainability, I'll donate to one of their favorite local nonprofits around sustainability. It's a great way to be thoughtful because you're donating to a charity that is a cause that they believe in, but you're also doing greater good with your dollars.”

For meal preppers and food-lovers

Singer believes that you can never go wrong with the stainless steel containers from Package Free. “[That’s] actually the present my family and friends ask for every single year. They're oven safe, freezer safe, and airtight, which means they won't spill food. It's been the most sought after gift from all of my friends, and my family steal them from each other. They love them so much.”

Another great idea Singer suggests for people who love to cook is to bundle ingredients for a delicious recipe. “[Think] dry ingredients, something for a cake, or oils and spices. That could be a really thoughtful gift,” she says. She also points out that “If they love to cook, they probably love to eat so bringing them to a restaurant that they like a lot or supporting a restaurant that they really like through a gift card is really thoughtful. The holidays are a great opportunity to stimulate the local economy and try to use your money to do something in your community.”

The gift of making memories together

Gifting someone an experience is one of the most thoughtful things you can do to show your appreciation, and it allows you the chance to get really creative. It all depends on the person of course, but Singer recommends taking your friend who loves nature for a hike. “For instance, it was just one of my friend's birthdays and it could be a holiday, whatever, but we got a group together and we all went Upstate. And that's a good way to build memories while also giving a gift. Everyone could chip in, or everyone pays their own way. So it feels like a gift, but you're also involved in it.”

Gift wrapping

One of the most wasteful parts of the holidays is gift wrapping. Singer doesn’t believe in wrapping presents. However, if you do like wrapping, she encourages you to do it with reusable or recyclable materials. “You can reuse something like a newspaper, a paper bag... If you live in an apartment or a place with a recycling room, you can use something that somebody was already recycling,” she suggests. “You can also use a reusable tote bag or you can put a present in another present, like the stainless steel containers from Package Free.” If you choose to use wrapping paper make sure it can be recycled. Singer always reminds people to use plastic free tape. “Also, I encourage people if you do [get gifted something with] wrapping paper, make sure you collect it, remove the tape, properly recycle it and/or compost.”

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