Give Gifts that Give Back to the Environment

Sometimes the best (and greenest) gift is no gift at all.

Most of us have far more than we need, and more “wants” collecting dust in the closet than we could ever possibly use. So why not get into gifts that give back by checking out some of these environmentally — and socially — minded gift giving ideas.

Better World Books

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If you’re a fellow reader, you’ll love this gift option. Better World Books is a social enterprise that lets you get involved in many ways. First, you can put your used books up for sale on the website – that’s green because used books don’t need to trees to be made. You can also simply donate used books which will either be resold or donated to communities overseas. Every shipment (which is always free) comes with carbon offsets to balance the transportation via 3Degrees.

You can make your gift giving greener by purchasing used books through the site and supporting the cause. Better yet, host a book-giving party that collects used books and donates them to the organization. So far, the organization has helped redistribute more than 53 million books and kept 26,000 tons of books from ending up in landfills. It’s green and it’s educational!


Create your own giving campaign for your next green event by setting up a donation option for guests on This platform works by letting you choose your favorite environmental charity and setting up a project to raise money for it through your friends, family, and colleagues. You can start by browsing through the existing campaigns and joining one that’s already started, or by starting one of your own. Just outline a tangible outcome and then encourage everyone you know to pitch in.

Changing the Present

Browse through the long list of environmental and social causes on Changing the Present and learn how you can facilitate giving to a good cause through donations rather than gifts. Buy something meaningful for your loved ones that will help someone else. You can also purchase gift certificates, add charities to your wishlist, or network with others with like-minded green giving goals.

Network for Good

Instead of conventional giftcards, choose a green gift through the Network for Good that will help your gift recipient make a difference for the planet. Network for Good offers unique Good Cards (like giftcards, only better), which can be “redeemed” on the site for donations made to the recipient’s chosen environmental charity. They’re perfect for Christmas, birthdays, graduations, weddings, baby showers, and more.

Fair Trade Gifts

If you can’t live without a tangible gift for your next green gift giving experience, then go with something like a gift certified by Fair Trade USA. These gifts literally give back by ensuring the communities making your gifts are treated fairly and have a healthy environment in which to life.

Fair Trade items are bought from small makers at fair prices where labor laws are enforced and environmental considerations are taken into consideration. They certify all manner of gifts, including chocolate, coffee, tea, fruit, nuts, flowers, beans and grains, and herbs and spices, spirits, sports balls, sugar, wine, body care products, as well as apparel and linens.

Celebrity-Inspired Gifts

It’s no secret we live in a celeb-obsessed culture.  Brilliantly enough, some of those famous faces have turned their own spotlight on worthwhile charitable and environmental causes.  My current favorite is Ian Somerhalder’s ISFoundation.  If you follow @iansomerhalder on Twitter, you’ll know he does more than rant about animal cruelty and the still devastated Gulf of Mexico.  Just last week, he testified before Congress on behalf of marine turtles and other endangered animals under the Multinational Species Coalition.

If there’s a “Lost” or “The Vampire Diaries” fan on your gift list, surprise her with a donation to Ian’s foundation, and she might just get a Twitter shout out from the blue-eyed conservationist himself.  Donations support habitat conservation, species protection, and clean energy initiatives.

We always love hearing how you give gifts that give back.  Tell us about your favorite cause or charity in the comments, or stop by and say hi on Facebook.

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  • Nancy

    You always find the greatest green stuff! And socially conscious on many levels. Thank you.

  • Denny

    Fabulous ideas and all so doable. You inspire me to do more! :)

  • Solvita

    This is great! It is such a great feeling when we can give gifts that give back to the environment! Thanks for sharing!

  • Carla

    Amity these tips are awesome. You are right on when you say we have too much stuff and more wants sitting on the shelf. Gift giving should come from the heart, inspired by our love for that person. Too many times I’ve watched gifts I’ve given someone, that I put a lot of thought into, be sold in a yard sale. It hurts…so, instead now I give gifts that they use daily. One great gift my mother loves is her favorite fragranced body wash, cream and body spray. No longer do I find those in a yard sale…my feelings aren’t hurt and neither is my pocketbook.

  • Beth Heilman

    Amity, what a great list of resources! Now I know where to get gifts that will give back. Thanks so much!

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