At CleverHiker, we try to point people in the right direction of products and gear we believe in. But as the holidays get closer, we find ourselves reflecting on just how stuff-centric and wasteful our culture can be. We enjoy giving and receiving gifts like most people, but as nature lovers, we feel great responsibility to keep our impact on the environment as minimal as possible.
Instead of adding to the mountain of garbage the holidays create, let’s look for ways to show some real kindness and connection to those closest to us. Be an inspiration to your family and community this year by joining us in promoting sustainable gifting and taking action in caring for the places you love.
This post has been sponsored by REI, but as always, our opinions and reviews are completely independent and unbiased.
20 Sustainable Gifts for Outdoor Lovers
Need gift recommendations for someone who enjoys backpacking, hiking, and camping? They probably also care deeply for the environment. Here are some ideas for gifts that they’ll love and you can feel great about giving. If you’re looking for a more substantial list, check out our comprehensive CleverHiker Gift Guide.
The Utensil Case by United By Blue
Equip your loved one to make sure they’re always ready to enjoy delicious food and drinks on the go without relying on single-use plastic products. The Utensil Case Set includes 2 stainless steel straws, 1 silicone straw tip, 1 straw cleaner, 1 stainless steel spork, 1 pair of stainless steel chopsticks, and a stylish case to keep it all together. For every item sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways!
Beeswax Food Wraps by Bee’s Wrap
This natural alternative to plastic wrap is made of beeswax, organic cotton, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. You can wash Bee’s Wrap and use it again and again to cover containers, wrap sandwiches, or snacks. Then, at the end of its life it can be composted or used as a natural fire starter. Bee’s Wrap supports healthy bee populations and fights plastic pollution.
Reusable Straw Case by United By Blue
For those who regularly use straws in their beverages, the compact Straw Case is perfect to stash in a purse or bag for travel and everyday use. The kit includes 2 stainless steel straws, 1 straw cleaner, 1 silicone straw tip, and a case that can hold up to 10 straws. Just like the Utensil Case above, the Straw Case reduces waste from single-use products and helps beautify the planet.
Spork Original BIO – by Light My Fire
The Spork Original Bio is lightweight, versatile, and durable, making them a classic in a camp kitchen, but also great in lunch boxes. Want a little something more? Check out the nesting MessKit BIO. Light My Fire uses bio-plastic derived from renewable crops to make their BIO line, bypassing the destructive mineral oil industry.
Reusable Silicone Bags by Stasher
These soft silicone containers by Stasher are a long-lasting alternative to Ziploc baggies, something outdoor adventurers use a lot of. They’re heat-proof, dishwasher-safe, and healthier than plastic for food storage. Silicone is derived from silica, a natural resource, and is 100% recyclable at select locations. Also, Stasher is a leader in the plastic-free movement and is a member of 1% for the Planet.
Packable Tote Bag by United By Blue
These attractive reusable totes come in handy for all kinds of situations from shopping to the beach. They’re made with recycled ripstop nylon which is lightweight, strong, and comfortable over your shoulder. When not in use, the totes pack down into tiny bags and have clips to hang them from so you won’t forget them when you head to the market. Click here to see all the colors available.
Upcycled Eyewear Retainer by Chums
Keep eyewear secure with this comfortable, lightweight, and easily-adjustable sunglasses strap by Chums. It’s made from upcycled cotton and post-consumer recycled PET bottles.
Crunchit Recycling Tool by Jetboil
This cool gadget is a practical gift for all the backpacking stove users in your life. The Crunchit Tool allows you to release remaining fuel in empty Jetboil canister or other isobutane canisters. The tool also punctures each canister which marks them as safe to recycle for your local facility. As an added bonus, the Crunchit can also be used as a handy bottle opener.
Beer Blanket by Rumpl
Like a synthetic jacket for your beer, this compressible cozy keeps a beverage chilled and your hands warm and dry. It packs down into a tiny stuff sack you could slip to a keychain for brews all year-round. The Beer Blanket is made with post-consumer recycled polyester. Rumpl also makes puffy blankets for people! See how many plastic bottles it takes to make each of their products here.
SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion by All Good
This all-natural sunscreen keeps harmful chemicals off your skin and out of natural waterways so you can swim without worry. All Good works to help save ocean reefs from sunscreen pollution and creates alternative products that are healthy for people and watery ecosystems.
A few drops of Campsuds biodegradable soap is all you need to wash dishes, your hands, body, or clothes in camp. Scroll down to the ‘Soaps and Lotions’ section of this Leave No Trace guide for more info about using Campsuds properly in the backcountry. The 4 oz. size comes in a in a leak-proof, reusable Nalgene bottle.
This DEET-free bug spray is made with all natural ingredients that are safe for your skin, dog, gear, and the environment. It has a pleasant cinnamon-peppermint scent and keeps mosquitoes and biting insects at bay when you’re outdoors.
Essential Oil Roll-Ons – Package of 4 by Rinse Bath & Body
Bring the benefits of aromatherapy with you on your next adventure to uplift your senses and soothe minor ails. Rinse Bath & Body products are made with all-natural Fairtrade ingredients.
A nice wide-mouth stainless water bottle is a gift anyone on your list will appreciate and use constantly. The We Are All United bottle features beautiful artwork and spreads a hopeful message while keeping you hydrated. This bottle is also BPA-free, double-insulated to keep drinks cold, and has a removable paracord handle that makes it convenient to carry.
Ultimate Bison Socks by United by Blue
The perfect gift for that person in your life that always seems to have cold feet. These socks are so thick, you can wear them as house slippers, reviewers say. The stylish Ultimate Bison Socks are made with a blend of bison down, merino wool, and synthetic fibers to make them warm, non-itchy, stretchy, and comfortable. As always, for every item purchased, United by Blue will remove one pound of trash from our oceans and waterways.
We now know that when we wash synthetic clothing, microplastics are released and can end up in wastewater, with plastic fibers making their way into the bellies of ocean creatures, and eventually into our food supply chain. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution that’s good for your clothing and the fish: the Guppyfriend. Just toss synthetic clothes into the bag and wash as usual. The Guppyfriend filters out all the microfibers, which can then be collected for easy disposal. Click here to learn more.
BIG TICKET GIFTS
These cozy blankets from REI made with RDS Certified down are great for camping and traveling. The Camp Blanket is super lightweight and compressible so it won’t take up much room when it’s packed. But since it’s made with real 600-fill-power down it’s extremely efficient at retaining warmth. The best part is that the Camp Blanket is machine-washable so you can easily freshen it up if it gets dirty or smoky. The Down Camp Blanket is available in 1-person and 2-person sizes in solid and print colors.
Arbor Classic 25L Pack by Patagonia
The attractive Arbor Pack comes in 5 classic colors both men and women will love. It’s made with recycled materials and is a versatile size for traveling, day hikes, and everyday use. While the Arbor was designed to be simple with just one main compartment, it has pockets in all the right places to keep frequently needed items conveniently at hand. Patagonia adheres to the highest eco-standards in the clothing industry, striving to recycle fibers and conserve virgin materials as much as possible.
These stylish minimalist sunglasses have an elastic cord that keeps them secure instead of side arms. Because of this, they’re more durable, comfortable, secure, and packable than typical glasses. The lenses are polarized, which is preferable on outdoor adventures. These shades are made with recycled plastic and Ombraz plants 20 trees for every pair sold. They’re available in several colors in Regular and Narrow.
Synthetic jackets are excellent for those that like to stay active in cold and damp conditions. They breathe well and insulate even when wet. REI’s Ground Breaker series of jackets and vests are made with bluesign®-approved recycled polyester and recycled ocean plastic zipper pulls. Jackets and vests are available in a variety of sizes and models.
Down jackets are very warm while being lightweight and compressible, which makes them excellent for traveling and outdoor adventures. REI’s popular 650 Down 2.0 series has been updated with a recycled shell and continues to use RSD Certified responsible down. Jackets are available in a variety of styles and models.
sustainable clothing 101
For more information and gift ideas, REI has a whole page dedicated to clothing with sustainable features: Gear For The Greater Good. Learn more about sustainable features of clothing here or scroll down for a brief summary.
Sustainable Features to Look for In Clothing and Gear
Animal welfare – Ensures that the animals are well-treated and/or raised in a way that sustains a healthy environment. Look for clothing and gear with Responsible Down Standard (RDS),Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), Leather Working Group (LWG), Vegan and Organic on the labels.
Fair Trade – Promotes sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions for farmers and workers. Also promotes environmental protection and community empowerment.
Organically grown cotton – These farms tend to have a far lighter environmental footprint by practicing water/energy conservation and promoting healthy soil and water.
Bluesign® – Operates at every step in the supply chain to prevent harmful substances from entering the manufacturing process.
Recycled materials – Using recycled materials lessens our need for raw materials, often requires less energy and water than extracting virgin materials, and helps cut down on the amount of plastic and other materials that end up in landfills.
Forest Stewardship Council™ – The FSC certification tells you that wood and wood-based products were produced by following rigorous standards of responsible forest management.
More Tips for Sustainable Holidays
Buy a Real Tree instead of a fake one and get it from an organic or low-pesticide farm in your area. Both real and fake trees grown for the holidays create emissions and take up resources, but fake trees have a much heavier impact overall. They’re made with plastic and steel in China and are then packaged and shipped overseas. Fake trees can be reused, but some experts estimate that a fake tree would have to be reused for twenty years before it could be considered greener than a real tree.
Compost or Recycle Your Tree. Many cities offer recycling programs for the first couple weeks of the New Year. If you’re not sure about how to recycle a tree (or anything else) in your area, this tool will be a big help. Be sure to remove all the decorations before you put it out on the curb. Here are some great tips for composting or reusing parts of your spent tree.
Do Lights Right. Putting lights on your house is fun and festive, but they consume about 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. If you want to put up lights, don’t attempt to outdo the neighbors; less is more. There are also a couple ways to reduce your energy use while using holiday lights: replace incandescent lights with LEDs, and using a timer to control the amount of time the lights are on, with both your house and tree lights.
Don’t Choose 2-Day Shipping. Choosing 2-day shipping is tempting, but if we plan ahead a little more, we can drastically reduce the impact of online shopping. Vox produced a video explaining the environmental cost of two-day shipping. Basically, if you allow more time for carriers to fill your orders, they’ll be less likely to send out half-empty trucks and more likely to wait until they have jam-packed trucks they can send on efficient routes.
Combine Shipments Whenever Possible. People often buy spontaneously online, which results in multiple packages being shipped over the course of a few days or weeks instead of just one. Write a list of people or things you’re shopping for and save items to your virtual shopping cart until you’re ready to pay for multiple items at once. This will give you the chance to combine shipments from the same seller or facility, which lessens the amount of packaging and transportation it takes to fill your order.
Make the Wrapping Part of the Gift. A reusable tote or beach bag is a great replacement for a disposable gift bag and adds some extra goodness for the recipient. Consider bags with natural fibers or those made with recycled materials. Mason jars or reusable containers are great for small gifts. Get creative.
Recycle or Upcycle. Reduce waste by reusing and recycling materials you already have. Carefully fold and save gift bags or paper that’s given to you and use them for future occasions. Newspaper and natural brown kraft paper are also great for wrapping gifts. Dress up your packages with twine or add some original artwork for some extra flair.
Non-Physical Gift Ideas
Give an experience instead of a physical gift. Find out what the recipient enjoys and go from there. Plan a day hike with a picnic, buy a pair of concert tickets, go to a sporting event, take them to dinner, or even volunteer to volunteer together! You’ll make memories that will far outlast a physical gift.
Gift Your Skills. There are many ways to show you care without spending a dime. Your time and attention are likely more valuable than any gift you could come up with anyway. Take inventory of your skills and offer to help the gift recipient with something they need or want. Fix their broken faucet, spend a day cleaning up yard debris with them, or teach them something they’ve been wanting to learn.
Donate or Volunteer. Give some time or money to a charity or organization that supports a cause the gift recipient cares about. Doing this is not only meaningful, but also inspirational and memorable.
REI Initiatives: how to get involved
REI is a key player in the outdoor retail industry and they continually make huge efforts to establish sustainability standards across the clothing and outdoor gear industry. They’re a positive force in the world and we’re proud to be members of their community of outdoor enthusiasts. Below are some ways you can get involved and make a difference this year.
Participating in REI’s #OptOutside cleanup event
Since 2015, REI has closed their doors on Black Friday to both make a statement and get people outdoors. This year, REI is paying their employees to go outside with family and friends to lead the charge on their nationwide day of clean-up, which will kick off a year of change. Participate in one of the 80 cleanups around the country hosted by REI partners like United By Blue and Leave No Trace or grab a Cleanup Kit and DIY in your local area.
Challenge yourself in 2019 to #OpttoAct
Part of REI’s 2019 campaign involves encouraging people to complete one simple challenge per week in 2019 with REI’s #OpttoAct campaign. Download the 52-week action plan calendar or sign up for weekly calendar notifications for ongoing inspiration to level-up your household’s sustainability throughout the year. The prompts are simple to do, take reasonable amounts of time, and will help declutter/improve your life as you go.
Utilize REI’s Used Gear Program
Keep outdoor gear where it belongs: in use. REI recently launched their Used Gear Program that buys back used gear from members in exchange for gift cards. Cool, right!? It keeps perfectly functional gear out of the landfills, reduces waste, and conserves natural resources. Not only that, but it helps lower the cost barrier of acquiring outdoor gear and enables more people to equip themselves properly for recreation.
We hope this guide was helpful in finding the perfect sustainable gift for the outdoor enthusiast in your life!For more information on our trail-tested recommendations, check out the following:
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