23 Gift Ideas for Outdoor Lovers That Reduce Waste

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Combining gift-giving with sustainability, this holiday gift guide features 5 different ways to reduce our impact. From products that reduce waste to products made from recycled materials, there are lots of environmentally responsible ways to celebrate the holidays.

Two boxes wrapped in white paper with red ribbons and holly branches.

We were really inspired by REI’s #OptToAct campaign this year, which hopes to raise awareness among consumers about the impact their everyday purchases make on the environment. They have a really powerful video you can watch here.

So to help carry that message forward, we partnered with REI to create this holiday gift guide. Our goal here isn’t to achieve 100% zero impact. We’ve never been a fan of absolutes.

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Rather, it’s about being more aware and trying to make better and more responsible purchasing decisions. Nobody needs to be perfect, but we can all do a little better.

Here are some holiday gift ideas to consider to reduce waste and minimize our environmental impact.

1.) Gifts to Reduce Waste

There are a variety of products designed to help you reduce everyday waste. Whether it’s bringing your own mug to the coffee shop, getting a growler fill instead of picking up a 6-pack or carrying your own washable utensils instead of using disposables. We’ve rounded up a bunch of gift ideas to help cut out everyday waste.

Blue Stasher Bag
Stasher Bag

A reusable, dishwasher safe, alternative to ziplock bags, Stasher Bags are a great way to store just about any type of food. Sandwiches, trail mix, veggies – anything you’d put in a ziplock, you can pack in a Stasher.

Bee's Wrap
Bee’s Wrap

A reusable, all-natural alternative to the ubiquitous saran wrap, Bee’s Wax Wraps are great for covering leftovers, wrapping cheeses, fruits, or anything else you want to store for later. Easy to manipulate, clean, and reuse – we have started using Bee’s Wraps for everything.

Teal Drinktank Growler
DrinkTank Insulated Growler

Check your state’s local liquor laws, but here in Oregon, it is unbelievably easy to get a growler filled up: at a brewery, growler fill-station, even most of the grocery stores here in town. It’s as easy as picking up a 6-pack, but without the bottles and cans. Sure, cans are recyclable, but wouldn’t it be better to not use them at all? Plus, fresher beer!

Red Hydroflask Coffee Mug
HydroFlask Coffee Mug

If you want to get coffee to go, we really recommend using your own insulated mug. Now nearly every coffee shop is on-board with the practice. Plus an insulated mug is way nicer to drink out of than a whatever paper-cup plastic-lid situation they are going to hand you anyways.

Blue Hydroflask Food Flask
HydroFlask Food Flask

Want to enjoy some hot soup on the slopes? Bring hot curry and rice with you on a day hike? An insulated food flask allows you to take a warm meal with you wherever you go.

Red utensils
humangear GoBites Quattro Utensil Set

A portable set of washable utensils are great to have on hand. Especially if you like to frequent food trucks and taco carts as often as we do.

Chopsticks and red case
Snow Peak Chopsticks

Nothing like a pair of “investment” chopsticks to motivate you to bring them along. They are the nicest set of chopsticks we’ve ever seen – perfect for the trail or around town. Plus the come with a nice carrying case.

Silver utensils and case
United by Blue Utensil Kit

Wrapping everything into a single kit, the United by Blue Utensil Kit contains 2 stainless steel straws, 2 silicone strew tops, 1 spork, 1 set of chopsticks.

three gotoobs
Humangear GoToobs

Coming in a variety of different sizes, these silicone squeeze tubes are perfect for small amounts of liquids. Use them for oils and sauces on backpacking trips instead of single-use packets. Or fill them with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap from the bulk section of your natural grocery store. We use these to bring shampoo & conditioner on trips so we don’t have to buy “travel size” versions. They’re very versatile and can be used to cut out a lot of single-use packaging.

2.) Gifts Using Recycled Materials

Sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for in the pre-owned section. If so, the next best thing is to look for products that are made using a sizable amount of recycled materials. This is a list of some of our favorite REI gear made with over 50% recycled materials.

Orange fleece blanket
REI Co-op Norwell Fleece Blanket

With a water-repellent recycled polyester side and super cozy, microfleece on the other, this is one of the softest blankets we’ve felt. This would be a great gift for someone who’s winter strategy involves piling on all the blankets until spring.

Purple tote with backpack straps
Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote Pack

There’s no shortage of reusable grocery bags, but it would be nice to have something a little more versatile. As grocery shoppers whose eyes are often bigger than our bags, we would definitely appreciate the backpack straps on this tote. Did we mention it’s made from 100% recycled material?

multicolored backpack
Cotopaxi Luzon 24L DayPack

Another lightweight daypack bag that is made from recycled fabric strips. We love the fun color combinations!

Green rumpl blanket product image
Rumpl Recycled Blanket

Featuring 100% post-consumer recycled materials, this Rumpl blanket uses the same fabrics and insulating fibers as sleeping bags and insulated puffy jackets

beanie with pom pom
PowderTown Beanie

With 96% recycled polyester / 4% spandex, PowderTown Beanie is a great choice for skiers and boarders.

Grey beanie
Better Sweater Beanie

With 100% recycled polyester fleece, the Better Sweater Beanie is a great all-around winter cap.


Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Patagonia Nano Puff

This jacket looks just as good around town as it does in the mountains. For someone who wants to keep a minimalist wardrobe, it’s an excellent jacket that can be worn just about anywhere.

75% recycled materials

Half zip patagonia sweater
Patagonia Better Sweater

A new fleece sweater line Patagonia is rolling out this year, the Better Sweater is perfect for watching the snowfall with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.

100% recycled materials


Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Patagonia Nano Puff

This jacket looks just as good around town as it does in the mountains. For someone who wants to keep a minimalist wardrobe, it’s an excellent jacket that can be worn just about anywhere.

75% recycled materials

Green zipper patagonia sweater
Patagonia Better Sweater

A new fleece sweater line Patagonia is rolling out this year, the Better Sweater is perfect for relaxing, inside, next to a fire, with a whiskey cocktail in hand.

100% recycled materials

Black and white patterned sweater
Patagonia Recycled Wool Sweater

Another excellent around-town sweater option.

70% recycled wool

3.) Used Gear

REI offers the ability to purchase used gear online. How it works is pretty simple: They inspect gently used gear that has been returned, select the best items, and list them online for sale at a pretty steep discount. This helps get more people outdoors while keeping less product out of a landfill.

We own a lot of used and second-hand gear. We’re are always happy when we can give something a second life.

* Just in case you were wondering, REI offers a 30-day return policy on any piece of USED gear they sell online. (Which is what other retailers give you on NEW items.)

4.) The Gift of Experience

We’re big fans of shifting holiday expectations away from material things and onto a more experiential level. Buying somebody the perfect gift will never have the emotional resonance as sharing a meaningful experience with them. So if possible, consider giving the gift of an experience.

National Parks Pass
America the Beautiful National Parks Pass

Purchase a National Parks Pass and go on an adventure you’ll remember. Just one pass gets you into every National Park & Monument, as well as National Forests, Grasslands, and plenty of other recreation sites across the country for an entire year.

Screenshot of REI Adventures website
REI Adventures

Did you know that REI leads guided trips all over the world? While these trips run the gamut in terms of pricing, there are some fairly reasonable regional trips that would be a spectacular gift to a special loved one.

5.) Gift Card

There is a strong environmental case to be made for buying a gift card over an actual physical product.

Unless you know the person really, really well, there’s a chance the product you select won’t be exactly what they need in their life. Sure, they could always return the item, but we know from experience that a mixture of appreciation/guilt often prevents us from making the return. So the gift goes quietly unused for years before ultimately being tossed or donated.

So wouldn’t it be better to let that person select something that will really fit into their life and enhance it? A gift card is perfect for this.

REI Gift Card
Gift Card

If you want to go full-green, you can have the gift card emailed instead of having a physical card. However, REI uses a biodegradable corn-based material for their physical gift cards, so it’s not as bad as you might think.

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  1. Omg I absolutely love this list, thank you for all the wonderful ideas 🙂

    1. Thanks! Finding smart and strategic ways to reduce our everyday waste is going to be a major priority for us in 2020.