Every year we learn more about the toll that humans take on our land, our oceans and our wildlife. A lot of that harm comes from everyday products. And many of those products are purchased during the holidays.
Make a stand this year by gifting responsibly. Your friends, family and worldwide neighbors will thank you for it.
Or, if you really want to be a winner for the environment this year, gift a donation to a worthy nonprofit. Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace and Ocean Conservancy are all examples of amazing organizations doing important work for our planet, and one-time donations can be big or small. You can even adopt a coral from Coral Gardeners and name it after your loved one!
But if you’re looking for traditional gifts that you can wrap up with a bow, we have a list of some of the best and most sustainable options, from $2.99.
$30 | Buy at Dolphins and You
According to statistics from Ocean Conservancy, plastic water bottles and their caps are both in the top five most littered items worldwide.
Those littered water bottles are wreaking havoc on ocean wildlife by leaking harmful chemicals into the sea as they decompose – a process that can take up to 1,000 years!
The beautiful thing about plastic bottles? We never need to use them. Give the gift of a reusable water bottle. This one keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and is adorned with local Hawaiian art!
From $10.95 | Buy at Lush
Almost all toiletries – from deodorant to toothpaste tubes to shampoo – come packaged in plastic. And less than 50 percent of people in the U.S. recycle those items. That could lead to more than 552 million plastic packings dumped in U.S. landfills every year, according to Johnson & Johnson.
Lush has a solution: colorful hair care and body wash bars that smell delicious and are made from natural ingredients. You might be surprised to learn it, but these little bars can last more than twice as long as the liquid washes you’re used to!
From $7 | Buy at Dolphins and You
Most commercial sunscreens contain a chemical called “oxybenzone,” which is usually listed under Active Ingredients. In 2015, a study by a team of international scientists found that oxybenzone and other chemicals in sunscreen can “bleach” coral. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. As coral loses nutrients, it turns white and then dies.
National Geographic reported that 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year. More than one-quarter of the world’s live coral cover has been lost in the last three decades, according to NOAA. That’s scary because large numbers of marine species depend on coral for their habitats. So if we lose coral, we might risk losing other ocean life.
The bright side is that we can help reduce the risk of coral bleaching simply by choosing reef-safe sunscreen. But since there is no regulation on who can slap ‘reef-safe’ onto their labels, you have to read the ingredients to avoid all of the bad chemicals. Or you can go with our recommendation above!
From $13.12 | Buy at Amazon
In the United States alone, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year, according to Ocean Conservancy. Our dependence on paper towels to keep our homes and workplaces clean has a double-whammy impact on the environment: Both deforestation and plastic pollution from the wrapping.
Apparently, the Swedes invented a good eco-friendly alternative, which is a dishcloth that is made of plant material (70% cellulose and 30% cotton). They’re just as absorbent as regular paper towels, but you can use them several times. To clean them, you can wash them in a dishwasher or washing machine.
And with tons of cute designs to choose from, there’s a style to fit everyone’s kitchen.
$22 | Buy at Dolphins and You
Single-use plastic straws have probably gotten the most attention in 2019, thanks to a viral video of a sea turtle with one lodged in its nostril. Lots of food drink sellers, like Starbucks, are trying to change their image by offering alternatives. But most places are still offering the dreaded and unnecessary plastic tubes that we’ve grown used to.
To combat the slow rate of corporate change, purchase a stylish and reusable option instead. We love these handcrafted glass straws by local Hawaiian artist Arlie Trowbridge. Other options include bamboo, metal or compostable.
From $7.99 | Buy at Stasher
Encourage your loved ones to do away with plastic wrap, plastic bags and styrofoam takeout containers by gifting reusable silicone dishware.
Plastics hurt the oceans because they break down over hundreds or thousands of years into ‘micro-plastics’, which can then be mistaken for food and eaten by ocean creatures. Then those plastics can travel through the food chain and build up in bigger ocean animals, like whales, or even make their way into our foods.
Silicone is a good alternative because silicone doesn’t break down into micro-fragments. And it is safe to incinerate without polluting the atmosphere.
From $2.99 | Buy at Amazon
Replacing a product with a more eco-friendly version is one thing, but making lifestyle changes that will have an impact over time is an even more powerful way to help protect the environment.
We’re not trying to sell you on veganism because it’s trendy or healthy. The fact is that a vegan diet is better for the planet. Growing livestock takes a lot of land and a lot of water, and it leads to a lot of pollution. One Green Planet estimates that 70% of Amazon Rainforest deforestation is due to cattle farming. And The Guardian reported last year that ‘Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’.
A cookbook could be the start of an eco-friendly lifestyle!
From $30.00 | Buy at Wolven Threads
With the popularity of yoga, lots of people are buying activewear or swimsuits. Most of those sweat- and water-resistant fabrics are synthetic, meaning they are partially made up of plastic. Those non-PET synthetic fibers can take more than 200 years to decompose, and may even wind up in the ocean.
For the yogi in your family, encourage sustainability by wearing environmentally-friendly fabrics and look fashionable while doing it!
$25.00 | Buy at Dolphins and You
According to National Geographic, the average American uses 365 plastic grocery bags per year – more than one bag used every day! Since plastic bags are difficult and costly to recycle, the vast majority end up in landfills or oceans.
On our swimming with dolphins tours, we’ve seen wild dolphins with plastic bags wrapped around their fins or tails. So trust us when we say that reducing the use of plastic bags will have an impact!
Remind your friend of the dolphins or other marine wildlife they’re helping to keep safe by getting them a Dolphins and You reusable tote.
$12.95 | Buy at Earth Hero
The Ocean Conservancy ranks plastic cutlery as one of the “most deadly” items to sea turtles, birds, and mammals. They take hundreds of years to decompose and are usually used only once.
If everyone used a reusable cutlery set could really make a dent in single-use plastic pollution. So give your friend the gift that keeps on giving – and protecting our environment.
Other great eco-friendly gifts would be a bike or public transportation pass, solar panels, reusable razor, toothpaste tablets or more! Try to limit your gifts this year to only a few per person, and make sure it’s something they’ll actually use. The process of mass production and mass consumption is part of why our Earth needs help.
And remember to reuse gift wrap!
Swimming with wild dolphins is the best gift of all! For anyone planning to visit Hawaii, a Dolphins and You tour is the memory of a lifetime!