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Sustainable Holiday Gift Guide

Cornelia Poku
Cornelia Poku
December 8, 2020

It’s that time of year again—the holidays. And whether you’re celebrating Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or another celebration there is usually some exchange of gifts and tokens of appreciation.

Unfortunately, the holidays also bring an increase in plastic waste. And with an estimated 30% increase in plastic usage since the start of the pandemic this year, sustainability should be on everyone’s mind, but we know with the weird shopping frenzy, that is easier said than done. So, as we close out the year and look to emerge from the tragedy, we developed this sustainable holiday gift guide to help you shop around and protect the planet.

Practical gifts

We all know someone who would rather be gifted something they can use daily than something a bit more indulgent and there’s opportunity to gift practical, sustainable gifts.

Every year, more and more plastic items are being replaced by bioplastics. While utensils may not be the best holiday gift, I’m sure that someone special in your life would appreciate a sustainable drink after the year it has been. Be on the lookout for more everyday items made from bioplastics including cups, toothbrushes, trash bags, soap dishes, piercing studs, and more. These items are renewable and recyclable or biodegradable.

For anything that is not yet made from bioplastics, consider gifting a reusable or semi-permanent alternative like a silicone set of resealable food storage bags that are easy to clean or a set of glass or aluminum straws.

Truly sustainable fashion

Fashion and…biotech? Covalent is an awesome brand from biotech company Newlight Technologies. Covalent takes the carbon from greenhouse gasses and turns it into—well, fashion. They make sunglasses, purses, wallets, and phone cases. This innovative method cuts the need to source virgin materials such as oil for plastic and actually helps remove pollution from the atmosphere!

“The company has just the one facility, which makes enough AirCarbon products to remove the equivalent of 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year — which [CEO Mark] Herrema says is roughly equivalent to taking 6,000 cars off the road,” wrote Rishi Iyengar for CNN Business.

Other companies take existing materials that would normally head to landfill and repurpose them for brand new uses. Take for instance, these headphones that use reclaimed wood to create something stylish and modern, or this sturdy bag made from repurposed billboard vinyl.

A simple search will turn up all kinds of gorgeous long-lasting gifts that put trash back in your house – on purpose!

Beauty products

Thankfully, cosmetics, perfumes, moisturizers, and even shampoos can be made with sustainable ingredients thanks to advances in biotechnology. That means they’re often less toxic and carry a smaller environmental footprint than their traditional counterparts.

Many lotions, for example, use an ingredient called squalene. Squalene is an excellent moisturizer and helps balance skin’s oils. The beauty industry has commonly relied on shark livers to develop the chemical compound. Through new understandings in biotechnology, however, companies like Amyris are developing biobased lotions that use sugarcane-derived squalene. In addition to saving shark populations, squalene derived from sugarcane provides companies a reliable source for a key ingredient needed to make their products.

Image result for usda certified biobased productsConversely, some personal care products have a significant environmental impact for the waste they leave behind. Exfoliating microbeads, for example, were banned in the United States and across much of Europe because they were made of plastics and began showing up in our oceans – and even in the stomachs of some fish. But microbeads made with sugar from corn are biodegradable, dissolving before they can leave an environmental footprint.

It’s super easy to identify biobased products. Check for the USDA Certified Biobased Products label or check the online USDA catalogue before you go to the store.

With so many sustainable options to choose from, it will be easy to show love to family and friends this holiday season while showing love to the planet. Happy shopping!