The holidays have a reputation for being a particularly wasteful time of year, but they don’t have to be. This year, I plan to give small but thoughtful gifts that gently encourage or enable more sustainable habits.

During times like these, when the challenges facing us as a nation seem overwhelming at best, it’s important to remember that change can, and must, begin at home. The world still turns, we all still eat, do laundry, wash dishes, and putter in the yard—why not do those things with attention and care for the planet that sustains us?

And so I offer you this simple, sustainable gift guide*. (Where possible we’ve included links to both Amazon and smaller retailers.) There are items here that I use and appreciate every single day. There are also items that are on my own Christmas list, places where I could use a little nudge myself.

Hint, hint, Santa.

Gift Guide: Simple Shifts

Clockwise from left: wool dryer balls, stainless steel straws, beeswax candles, reusable beverage container, cloth napkins.
Clockwise from left: wool dryer balls, stainless steel straws, beeswax candles, reusable beverage container, cloth napkins.

Wool dryer balls: Ditch the fabric softener and reduce your electricity costs! These woolen balls separate clothing to help warm air circulate better and dry your load faster. The felted wool fibers also help soften your clothes. Amazon | Etsy

Stainless steel straws: A cheap way to make every drink feel fabulous and nix the plastic. Pop one in your purse for use on the go. Amazon | Food52

Beeswax candles: Nothing says cozy like a candlelit room in winter. Beeswax candles are clean-burning, smell delicious, and help support honeybee farmers. AmazonKaufmann Mercantile

Reusable beverage container: No more paper cups, plastic lids, and cardboard sleeve protectors. There are a million reusable mugs out there; I like this one because it can double as a water bottle. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your waste. Amazon

Cloth napkins: An easy and elegant way to make every meal feel special, while reducing your reliance on scummy old paper towels. I’m partial to linen because it gets softer and more rumpled with every use. Etsy | Everyday Napkin Co.

Clockwise from left: linen bowl covers, reusable produce/bulk bags, Silpat liner, beeswax wrap.
Clockwise from left: linen bowl covers, reusable produce/bulk bags, Silpat liner, beeswax wrap.

Bowl covers: Who needs plastic wrap or aluminum foil when you can have these reusable bowl covers? Use silicone for things that need to be kept airtight, linen for foods that need to breathe.  Amazon (silicone) | Quitokeeto (linen)

Produce/bulk bags: Buying in bulk is a great way to save money and cut down on packaging. Unfortunately, it requires the use of yet another plastic bag…until now! Silk or nylon bags are reusable and washable, and weigh the same as plastic. Stock up! Amazon | Etsy

Silpat: A must-have for any baker in your life. This tray liner can replace parchment paper, which must be thrown away after use, and makes any surface non-stick without toxic Teflon. Amazon

Beeswax wrap: Made from organic muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin, these plastic wrap-alternatives are airtight, waterproof, and flexible. Wrap up the other half of your avocado or make a pouch to store your sandwich, and say goodbye to plastic wrap. Bee’s Wrap | Abeego

Clockwise from left: insect hotel, herb planter, window bird feeder.

Insect hotel: Invite a few friends over…of the insect variety! These striking structures are designed to provide food, shelter, and nesting space to all manner of beneficial Brooklyn bugs: think honey bees, butterflies, beetles, and ladybugs. Install one in your backyard and watch your garden benefit. Amazon | Etsy

Herb garden: No more single-serve, plastic packs of herbs! This spring, grow your own! All you need is a little space with sunlight—a balcony, a fire-escape (technically not legal in NYC, just FYI), or a window sill will do. Tuck your rosemary and basil into a nice little planter and let them do their thing. Amazon | Gardener’s Supply Co.

Window bird feeder: New York City is a favorite stop on the migration path for many fascinating species of birds. Try setting up a little feeding station on your balcony to see who could use a snack! The Cornell Lab actually recommends suction cup feeders that can be set right on the glass, noting that “you dramatically reduce the likelihood of local birds colliding with glass when the feeders are on the glass or set up within just 3 feet of the window.”  Amazon | Wild About Birds



*The Amazon links used within this post are affiliates. This means that NYER may earn a small commission on items that have been purchased through those links. Please know that we only suggest products that we use or feel strongly about. Your support keeps NYER afloat. Thank you!