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Sustainable Living and Eco-friendly Gifts – Your most common questions answered

Working in the sustainability sector for over a decade, I have come across this discussion several times on what are the top changes we need to work on to ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and our coming generations. Personally, I have always preached that there is no silver bullet, and a sustainable future requires a consistent effort on several fronts such as increasing awareness, binding legislation, and by promoting sustainable products as a classy and stylish option. Below diagram shows why.

Sustainable Living and Eco-friendly Gifts – Your most common questions answered

Pathway options to Sustainable Future

With that said, I would still like to answer some of the most common questions I have come across so I can help people make conscious choices when they are looking at their options for a sustainable living.

Sustainable LivingSustainable Kitchen and HomeEco friendly Gifts

What are some examples of sustainable products?

The most common examples of sustainable products are the products that are based on natural materials and are chemical free. Sustainable products are at least recyclable, if not biodegradable. Some products are not made from sustainable materials but can help in promoting sustainability, such as solar panels are made using chemicals and other non-natural materials but they help in sourcing sustainable energy from sun thus replacing the burning of fossil fuels. In food items, for example, an apple tree that you may find by the street that hasn’t been treated with chemical fertilisers may offer you the most sustainable food you can enjoy. There are also products based on organic cotton, natural bamboo wood etc that are sustainable as these materials are grown chemical free.

What are the best eco-friendly products?

In my view, the best eco-friendly products are the ones which are ideally produced from sustainable materials or from recycled materials otherwise. For the best of such products, people would normally consider how stylish and classy these products are whether choosing it for themselves or for somebody else as a gift. I would give examples of some very stylish products such as these mini gift bags, 3D wooden puzzle or girls bags made from straw.

What is the most sustainable product?

The most sustainable products are free! Yes, the most sustainable products are what you already have. Use them, re-use them and keep using them until these are not usable anymore by yourself or anybody else, at which stage you should discard them in an eco-friendly manner, for example in a recycling facility if possible. You can also help the environment by purchasing second-hand products where it is safe to do so. With Covid-19, there is now an even greater focus on healing the world and recovering Green by choosing sustainable products and eco-friendly lifestyle. When choosing a new or used product, you should consider its eco-friendly credentials. You may make use of below Sustainable Buying decision-tree / flow-chart to help decide your purchasing decision.
Sustainable Living and Eco-friendly Gifts – Your most common questions answered

Sustainable Buying Decision Tree

How can I be eco-friendly while living in the UK?

You may follow our sustainable buying decision tree presented above to become eco friendly and make purchasing decisions for any product based on its sustainability / Green credentials. Most of the supermarkets and large stores now have sections that offer products that are eco-friendly to some extent. You may consider making your own products such as sewing your own eco-friendly gift bags, home-made soap, or home-made decoration products. There are several e-stores and marketplaces as well that sell good quality eco-friendly and sustainable products such as AAU Style.

How can Christmas be sustainable?

Christmas is a special time of the year. My favourite parts of it are family time and gifts. For a sustainable Green Christmas, you may consider eco friendly gifts such as DIY 3D wooden puzzle, solar car toy, stainless steel multi-tool bracelet, straw-based girls shoulder bag, and also consider giving your gifts in eco friendly gift bags such as using mini cloth-based gift bags.

Sustainable Kitchen and Home

How can I make my kitchen sustainable?

Kitchen is one of the most used parts of your house and using eco-friendly products in your kitchen is fundamental to a green lifestyle. You may start with a little ‘change of habits’, such as

  • Filling up your kettle with only as much water as you need
  • Use dishwasher to its maximum possible capacity
  • Segregate your waste so recyclable waste can be recycled
  • If you have a garden, consider a composting bin to benefit from a free natural, local compost and less load on council’s waste management system

With these changes in place, you may consider several eco-friendly options when it comes to purchasing necessary stuff for your kitchen.

You should try to avoid products based on single-use materials such as plastic cups and cutlery or non-recyclable materials such as Styrofoam; and consider natural material based products such as bamboo / wicker based food baskets; or long life and recyclable materials such as stainless steel straws, insulated steel cups etc. You can choose energy efficient electrical equipment such as A+++ rated fridges, freezers and dishwashers; and LED Christmas lights.

What household products are eco-friendly?

You can consider biodegradable, recyclable, and resource-efficient (such as energy-efficient lights, water-efficient dishwater) products to be most eco-friendly. As a purchasing guide, you may follow our sustainable buying decision-tree presented above in this article to buy household products that are eco-friendly. You may also choose to make your own eco-friendly products for home such as sewing your own eco-friendly gift bags, home-made soap, or home-made decoration products. There are several e-stores and marketplaces as well that sell good quality eco-friendly and sustainable products such as AAU Style.

Some common examples of eco-friendly household products that can be purchased online include stainless steel drinking straws, insulated water bottle, insulated stainless steel espresso cups, mini burlap bags, eco shopping bags or you can explore more ideas at Home Collection of

For appliances, you can identify energy efficient electrical equipment by their energy ratings such as A+++ rated fridges, freezers and dishwashers, and LED lights.

For clothing, there are environmentally friendly options such as clothes made from bamboo fibre, hemp fibre, organic cotton, or linen. Bamboo is super sustainable due to its fast growth rates, whereas linen is a good option as it requires even lesser water to grow than cotton.

Eco friendly Gifts

What are ethical gifts, sometimes also known as green gifts?

Ethical gifts are gift items that are either made from sustainable materials (e.g. organic cotton), long-life recyclable materials (e.g. stainless steel) or they are resource efficient (e.g. solar powered). Ethical gifts mean that these gift items are made from ethical means and not made using unethical labour (e.g. child labour, forced labour, unpaid / under-paid labour), unethical resources (e.g. deforestation, endangered species, unlawful resources) or any other socially, legally and environmentally non-compliant methods. The term ‘green gifts’ is sometimes used in the same sense as ‘ethical gifts’, or sometimes only focused on gifts that meet sustainability and eco friendly product criteria.

Eco-friendly Gifts for HimEco-friendly Gifts for KidsEco-friendly Gifts for Her

What do you get someone who is environmentally friendly, or someone who loves the environment?

You can use our Sustainable Buying Decision Tree to decide on an eco-friendly gift for a person who is environmentally friendly and / or a person who loves the environment. As an idea, you may consider gifts such as the examples presented in the table below.

What do you buy an eco-friendly person (sometimes known as an eco-warrior) for Christmas?

As an eco-friendly gift, you may consider our Sustainable Buying Decision Tree and benefit from the ideas presented in the above section. As a special occasion of the year, you may also replace plastic wrapping for your gifts with eco-friendly burlap bags, and consider kraft-paper based eco packaging tape.

About the author: S Ali is a senior consultant with over a decade of experience in the Sustainability sector.

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