Each year, our staff and contributors round up their best gift ideas for cooks, eaters, and the kitchen curious. Read on for our favorite sustainable gifts.
The holidays are all about generosity and goodwill, and what better way to celebrate the season than with sustainable gifts that also give back to the planet? While the impending climate crisis isn’t the cheeriest holiday party conversation starter, the fact of the matter is that Americans annually produce over 25 million tons of extra trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. We all have a responsibility to look after our planet, so we’re helping you give the green way with this lineup of 15 waste-saving, tree-planting, eco-friendly gift ideas. For extra credit, try popping your presents into reusable tote bags rather than swaddling them in gift wrap and swapping out plastic-coated ribbons for biodegradable cotton string. For stocking stuffers, bundle small items into decorative beeswax food wrap, which can be used again and again in the kitchen in place of plastic wrap. Whatever you decide to do, eco-friendly packaging is only as good as the contents inside—so here are our picks for the best sustainable gifts for an Earth-friendly holiday season.
Reducing plastic use is a crucial step in creating a sustainable kitchen, and—stay with us—this plastic cutting board can actually help. Each lightweight, BPA-free board is made of plastic scraps from kitchen tool manufacturing and renewable sugarcane, which keeps virgin plastic out of the waste stream. Bonus: The boards come in stunning colors—coral, mustard, a heady teal called Deep—which will only add to your kitchen counter appeal.
Save your leftovers from an untimely end with this handy vacuum-sealing system. This starter set comes with an adorable mini-vacuum pump, reusable zip bags, and dishwasher-safe storage containers designed to slow spoilage and keep food fresh up to five times longer. Contributor Alex Beggs even swears it keeps her avocado halves from turning brown. It’s a great gift for every kind of cook, from bread bros who can’t bear to toss another stale sourdough to meal-prepping parents who want Thursday’s apple slices to be just as crisp as they were on Monday.
This set of seven bowls has all the benefits of plastic—fun colors, durability, no chance of metallic flavoring—without the planet-destroying downsides. They’re made from upcycled bamboo fibers bound together with 15% melamine (a food-safe organic compound), and they’ll degrade in a landfill in 22 years. The baker in your life will adore that they’re deeper than the average mixing bowl, which makes for both aesthetic appeal and splash-free whisking.
These gorgeous drinking glasses aren’t just green in hue. Each tumbler is hand-blown from 100% recycled materials, and Oaxaca-based glass studio Xaquixe uses renewable energy sources—namely, burnt cooking oil salvaged from local hotels and restaurants—to power up its furnaces, reducing its carbon footprint. Even if you choose to gift them in turquoise, fuchsia, or saffron, these glasses are as green as can be.
Nylon tea bags are notoriously nonrecyclable and release microplastics right into your teacup, so help your loved one make the switch to loose leaf with this teapot with a built-in stainless-steel steeping tube. It makes better tea in addition to being more sustainable. (Green not your color? See our full list of the best teapots.) Vahdam is a plastic- and carbon-neutral company and invests in the communities where its teas are produced.
Made for aspiring green thumbs without garden access, this compact countertop planter is fitted with built-in grow lights and a self-watering tank, taking the guesswork out of growing fresh herbs and veggies at home. Watching little leaves of basil and lettuce sprout from their pods makes us feel more connected to the earth, even from our cramped Brooklyn apartments. It’s perfect for keeping single-use plastic clamshells of wilted herbs out of your kitchen and, subsequently, out of our oceans.
Give the gift of good eating with this curated box of certified sustainable seafood. Featuring only wild-caught fish processed near the source to reduce emissions, Vital Choice subscription boxes are a great choice for high-quality wild salmon, halibut, and tuna, and more. Each box also includes three seasoning blends and a beautifully light fish broth for spectacular soups and stews.
A statement tote is a terrific gift for the friend who’s all about sustainable fashion, and this one is ideal for a day in the park or a trip to the farmers market. She’s got pockets, which means you can safely tuck away a (reusable) water bottle or silicone coffee cup and keep your phone, keys, and wallet easily accessible. Junes’ special Bio-Knit fabric is produced with post-consumer plastic bottles and an innovative material called CiCLO, which makes plastic fibers biodegradable with a little help from naturally occurring microbes.
The Swedes know a thing or two about furniture (IKEA), music (ABBA), and, apparently, dishcloths. Skip the roll of single-use paper towels in favor of these charming cellulose and cotton towels. They’re machine-washable, so you can throw them into a washing machine or dishwasher to give ’em a little refresh after they’re done wiping up messes. Contributor Alex Beggs warns that the pivot into reusable towel life is a bit of an adjustment, because the dishcloths will likely get stained and stay a bit damp from constant use. But that’s a small price to pay to kick that paper towel habit for good.
This cute and compact compost bin is a good way to keep kitchen scraps out of sight while easing the eco-conscious mind. Fitted with an easy-to-clean removable liner and odor-eating carbon filters, this sleek coated-steel bin is as discreet as it is durable, blending in with most kitchen decor. Just make sure the kids don’t mistake it for the cookie jar.
If you’re looking for a low-cost stocking stuffer or a unique gift for all your work friends, the answer is beans. Dried beans reign supreme for experienced chefs, and newbies will get the extra gift of learning how to cook them. Tepary beans have been grown for generations by Indigenous Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham people in the Sonoran Desert, and for good reason—they’re extremely drought- and heat-tolerant, which means they’re a low-impact crop able to survive climbing temperatures. Supporting Indigenous land stewardship is one of the best (and most sustainable) ways to spend your money, and on a culinary note, we can confirm that these beans are creamy and delicious, great for everything from a summery bean salad to a warming autumnal chili.
Before we tested out Vejibags, we thought reusable produce bags were a slightly splurgy kitchen luxury. However, we’ve upgraded them to kitchen necessity. A head of Boston lettuce—which normally wilts in the fridge within days—stayed nice and crisp even after a week and a half inside the Vejibag, which is made from nontoxic organic cotton that is free of dyes. Never again will your chosen recipient dejectedly compost their slimy or dried-out cilantro.
Society has advanced past the need for sponges, which harbor so much bacteria that they need to be replaced every other week and can take hundreds of years to decompose. It’s time to ditch those dingy dish sponges and grab this stunning five-piece gift set of kitchen brushes. It includes a long handled dish brush, a pot and pan scrubber, a dish scrubber, a dish brush, and a produce cleaning brush—all of which are made of wood, coconut, or plant fibers that are entirely compostable (while any metal is recyclable).
What sustainable gift guide would be complete without a set of Stasher bags? These colorful silicone bags have long been a BA staff favorite—thank you, next, single-use plastic bags—and will cheer up any friends who have had to return to the office. They’re perfect for toting snacks or reheating leftovers in the microwave. Can plastic bags do that?
Hand soap by the kitchen sink is a must, especially if you handle raw fish and poultry, but it doesn’t have to come in a single-use plastic bottle. This five-pack of bar soap from Public Goods is cruelty free and crafted with natural ingredients—no synthetic fragrances here, just citrusy, woody essential oils.