15 gifts that will help eco-conscious consumers cut waste around the house and while they’re on to go
The holidays are quickly approaching. For most of us, that brings things we love into our homes: family, holiday decoration, good food, and a chance to relax before the first of the year.
The other thing we tend to bring into our homes this year is stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Holiday gifts, hostess gifts, white elephant gifts, well-intentioned gifts from bosses and co-workers and clients… you name it, it’s flooding our homes and kitchens this time of year.
If you’re looking to cut waste this holiday season, the best thing you can do is give the gift of experiences. A trip with family members, membership to a museum, or tickets to a play or concert may be just as well-received as a gift. Experiences like these are a wonderful way to form memories with people we hold dear.
But let’s be real: Our culture is still largely focused on material goods, and there are times when it’s hard to get out of the habit of giving a physical gift. And we at BRING understand and appreciate that there’s a beautiful motive behind the desire to give gifts to the important people in our lives this time of year.
So why not give the people who need a physical gift something that will help them cut waste all year long? Thanks to our amazing Facebook followers, we gathered a full list of reusable products that make great gifts. They are broken down into three broad categories: Kitchen and Household Items, Personal Items, and On-The-Go Items.
Kitchen and Household Items
Bag dryer. How many of you have washed-out plastic bags propped on various dishes, pots or dishracks right now? It’s hard to get the inside of sandwich bags, produce bags and other bags truly dry unless you use a bag dryer. These deceptively simple contraptions make a world of difference for people who like the cost and environmental savings of reusing plastic bags. (See photo at right)
Silicone baking mats. Instead of putting down parchment paper or aluminum foil the next time you bake a cake or roast veggies, use a silicone mat instead. Be sure and pay attention to the washing instructions: Some products discourage the use of soap, which can be challenging to fully remove.
Cloth napkins. Cloth napkins look elegant, save money over buying paper ones, and are much better for the environment. Buy fabric from MECCA to make your own cloth napkins as gifts.
Silicone or fabric storage bags. Pack school lunches or hiking snacks in reusable silicone or fabric bags instead of plastic ones. Silicone bags have the added advantage of being partially see-through. Make fabric storage bags yourself, or buy them on a website such as Etsy. (See photo below)
Clothes drying rack. Clothes dryers eat up an enormous amount of energy. An indoor drying rack makes it easier to hang clothes to dry even during Oregon’s wet winters.
Clothespin bag. For people who hang their clothes on a clothesline the rest of the year, a clothespin bag can make a huge difference. These little containers hang the clothesline so pins stay within reach, rather than having to make multiple trips to a table or other resting place. Here is a pattern for making a clothespin bag with scrap fabric and a wooden hanger.
Cloth paper towels. Like the convenience of having a roll of paper towels on your countertop, but not the waste associated with them? Reusable paper towels are cloth cleaning rags that attach together with snaps or other fixtures so you can still have them in a roll. They come in plain fabric or pretty patterns so they’ll even look nice in your kitchen.
Silicone bowl covers. Rather than covering bowls with aluminum foil or plastic wrap before sticking them in the fridge or toting them to a picnic, cover them with a silicone cover instead. Most packages come with covers in multiple sizes. They can be washed and reused over and over again. (See photo below)
Bite toothpaste tablets. Toothbrushing is a personal hygiene necessity where it’s hard to go zero waste. But you can get closer with Bite toothpaste tablets, which come in a reusable glass jar. That means no plastic tube to throw away when you’re done. Even the refill tables are packaged in a paper envelope with recycled paper padding when they come in the mail, so there’s zero plastic in the shipping materials.
Handkerchiefs. Here is another great project for you D-I-Yers out there: Buy some fabric, embroider it or add some lace around the edge, and you have a beautiful and meaningful gift for men and women on your list. Say goodbye to Kleenex!
Reusable makeup remover pads. These little round fabric sponges (available in bamboo, cotton, and other fabrics) simulate the look and feel of disposable makeup remover pads. The difference is that when you’re done with them, they can go in the washing machine instead of the trash can. Make sure to wash them together in a mesh bag so they don’t get lost in the machine.
Reusable takeout containers. There are some restaurants and grocery stores that will put takeout in a reusable container you bring from home or put your food on a plate so you can box it up yourself. Plastic cottage cheese tubs or similar containers are a great and affordable way to do that. But for people who want something nice, there are plenty of options. Look for reusable lunch boxes, bento boxes, plastic takeout boxes, Corningware bowls with lids, glass storage containers, and anything else big enough to fit a whole meal.
Cutlery in a case. To ensure you can eat that takeout food without plastic utensils, carry cutlery set in a small case that will keep it clean. You can also find cute fabric rolls with enough space for cutlery, a cloth napkin, reusable straw, and straw cleaner. Look for them on Etsy or make one yourself.
Collapsible metal straw. If you like to use a straw at restaurants but don’t like throwing it away when you’re done with it, try carrying a collapsible straw on your keychain. Look for a straw that comes in a small case so it stays clean, and one with a cleaning brush so you can thoroughly wash it after each use.
Reusable produce or bulk bags. Cut way back on your consumption of plastic by using mesh or fabric bags in the produce and bulk section of the grocery store. One important note: Grocers will greatly appreciate it if you wash these bags after every use to cut down on the chances of cross-contamination, mold, bugs, and hygiene problems for their staff.
One final word of advice: While many of these items make great gifts or stocking stuffers, they’re best purchased for people who you believe will actually use them. New items do nothing to lower a person’s carbon footprint if they end up in the trash along with wrapping paper and Styrofoam packing.
Bring Recycling is a fantastic organization, go check them out!