Green Christmas: A Traveler's Wishlist

by - Saturday, December 16, 2017

Our generation is getting a reputation for being all about experiences (and posting them on social media, but experiences just the same). We are a generation who loves adventures, who all have bucket lists, who want to travel. If you have a friend or family member with wanderlust, why wouldn't you want to support such a thing? 

A few years ago, my cousin Paige wrote me a list of travel-related gifts that would be perfect for the person on your list who is way more into adventure than things. She is now such a seasoned travel (jetting off to Chicago seeming once a month for her job) that I would be curious to see how her answer changed. 

But a person who wants to see the world is probably also invested in protecting it. Travel already comes at a high environmental cost (thanks, jet fuel and airport pop), that travelers really have to work hard to maintain a positive overall impact. Paige described it this way- 

"I realized that when I travel, I am basically an eco-terrorist. My goal is always to take things with me that I can throw away or leave behind so I have more space in my suitcase; hopefully on my next trip I can avoid that practice and just learn to use the space I have."

This blog is all about finding ways to gift while doing good.  We take three key steps to doing this-

1. Buy Less- Instead of buying your traveler 6 little things, why not buy one awesome toiletry case that will last them for years? Buying less, but with higher quality, cuts down on waste. We worry that giving one small gift isn't "enough" but have faith your awesome idea is awesome. You can also buy less by MAKING something instead. You can even consider non-physical gifts like tickets! A dinner at their next destination! Can you get gift cards for Uber? So many options that they will LOVE and will fit in ANY bag. 

2. Buy Secondhand- Have you been to your local consignment shops lately? You might be surprised at what you can find, from perfectly great luggage tags to a cool world map to even suitcases that are way cheaper and keep more objects out of landfills. Or check secondhand sites like Thred Up for good walking shoes or a multi-functional scarf!

3. Buy Local- I love this one. Most of my readers are in the US, so local means made in USA, but really, whereever you are is where your stuff should be made. We only buy our souvenirs made where we are traveling to now. It feels crazy at first, but it actually is a really fun challenge. But you can find things on your traveler's list near you- don't get tricked into feeling like Made in China is inevitable! Unless you are in China, that's a different story... 

So here is her list- 

Re-useable Travel Bottles
Packing Cubes
Luggage Tags
Walking Shoes
Ostrich Pillow

I love her ideas, and I think a lot of these suggestions would make perfect Christmas gifts that the receiver can enjoy over and over again. As per usual, Paige will do a good chunk of the talking, and I will chime in.

Bottles for Shampoo, Body Wash, Etc.

"Usually I end up buying cheap plastic ones at a dollar store (almost always made in China) and then I throw them away at the end of my trip. I know there are some silicon ones out there that look pretty nice. The cuter the better, because if they’re actually worth something than I won’t feel like I need to throw it away! Bonus points if I can put them in the dish washer."

My Ideas- First of all, Paige, I have obsessed over this same issue! I get why we use tiny bottles when we travel, but those tiny bottles create so much pointless waste. Why not get something refillable and just put in the shampoo you already like and use? And why don't hotels put in the pumps rather than those tiny obnoxious bottles? We can do better!

from amazon

There are plenty of great options- these ones look the cutest to me. I love the colored lids (that can help keep the different contents straight) and the wide openings, so no one has to waste bunch of time trying to get the shampoo back out. These are the only ones that I can find made in America, but you can find other as well. This one is called a Vital Travel Buddy, and they come in cooler colors.

We actually got a set of these last year for Christmas (as did Paige) and they have turned out pretty handy? We brought them with us on a big trip, and it was too long for them to last the whole time. I would recommend traveling with them inside a bag (we use biobags) in case the hard top pops off the soft body. It happened to us once, so learn for our foolishness.

Eco Tools makes travel bottles out of recycled plastic, which makes a lot of good sense to me, though they would be harder to squeeze, and how would you differentiate one from another? When you gift these, maybe do it with some stickers to add on! The Boy bought me these for my stocking last year, and they are pretty awesome.

If you use hard soaps and shampoos (way better for the environment), you can also get Go Tubbs which are completely recyclable and hopefully keeps you from the tiny dove soaps and all that packaging.

house of marley headphones
from amazon


"This is more an ethical issue I have than an environmental one. I would like a nice, sturdy pair of headphones that can cancel jet-noise (I am somehow always right by the engine). Who is making American-made headphones that aren’t ridiculously overpriced?"

My Ideas- I recently bought 2 different pairs of headphones that use less plastic and more Earth-friendly materials. The big winners turned out to be House of Marley headphones, which are made of FSC wood, recycled plastic, and recyclable materials. They even come with really smart storage pockets (especially for travel). They are pretty dodgy about where they are manufactured (it looks like China?), so I am not super optimistic about that, but they seem to me to be the best of a bunch of junky options. The on-ear option is also gorgeous to look at, and they make it with eco-friendly materials.

We also tried Symphonized NRG headphones as well, but I thought House of Marley came out as the winner.

For long flights, SleepPhones look like the most comfortable option for headphones, and they consist of all recycled materials!

Packing Cubes

"Because an organized traveler is a happy traveler. Plus, this is one more tool to help avoid the end-of-trip-purge."

etsy packing cubes
from Ouch Pouch Shoppe
My Ideas- I honestly had pretty bad luck trying to find packing cubes made of recycled material or even made in the US, but I am not giving up! Blue Ridge Overland Gear sells eco-friendly packing cubes all made in the US, so they are the big winner! Beckel Canvas Products makes some luggage pieces that I think would work well for this purpose as well.

I did find tons of great travel pouches, which I think could definitely make a traveler both happy and organized. I would suggest Ouch Pouch Shoppe as a first stop, because you can get tons of variation in size to find what works for you. The other really great place to start looking is Maptote, who has pouches in all sorts of sizes. Some are pretty sweet and cute, like this floral pouch.

I also found these Meebands packing bands that might be helpful? Depends on what kind of packer they are.

off chutes etsy luggage tag colorful and recycled parachutes
from Off Chutes

Luggage Tags

"To replace the cheap plastic ones the study abroad office hands out to freshmen." 

My Ideas- This is such a fun Christmas gift, because you can find any luggage tag out there! Small, practical, and you can find one that perfectly fits the traveler in your life that you love. I have two I love so much (and are both recycled!) that I can't decide which I would pick- this glamorous Michael Bolton tag (I can hear him singing about Captain Jack Sparrow) from rockcycleonline and these bright, eye-catching (which is important!) geometric tags from Off Chutes. We have these and they are the BEST- they have held up through so many travel days and they catch our eye every time at baggage claim.

wanderlust wood works etsy luggage tag made of wood "and so the adventure begins"
from Wanderlust Woodworks

You can also buy leather tags from RSVP Handcrafted, Holtz Leather, and Wanderlust Woodworks (this one reminds me of Paige). This one is made of recycled wood. You can even get tags made out of sailboat sails! Don't see one that fits? No problem! There are tons on Etsy to browse through.


"Toms are great, but they don’t have a lot of support. I need something that doesn’t scream “tourist” but still has the comfort of a tennis shoe."

My Ideas- I feel like a good walking shoe that doesn't look like a tennis shoe is a pretty wide category (especially when you bring in the secondhand options on ThredUp), and it can be tough, but I did find a few options. I can't vouch for the long term comfort of these beyond the reviews, but you know what works for you (or you can ask the traveler in your life).

Toms are beloved by people who have them, and their one for one arrangement is pretty cool, but they are criticized for not using fair trade labor practices. If you want some casual shoes with more developed and ethical approaches to their factories, I would suggest Oliberte. I have a pair of simple lace up flats from them that I love and travel well again and again.

If you think tennis shoe but stylish would work, I highly recommend Veja, who are really at the front of the pack for environmental practices. Not perfect, but way better is still way better, and they just look gorgeous.
from SAS Shoes- but there are so many, go look.

Another possibility is SAS Shoes. Not every pair is totally stylish (some feel a little old) but some really look great. All Sas shoes are made in America, and they are a great company. I got a pair of SAS sandals this summer, and they are really pretty and stood up to being worn everyday (and I walk my 10,000 steps most days according to that Fit Bit).

munro american shoes tennis shoes
from zappos
The Munro American is mostly a work shoe, and I think the black looks that way, but I like the maroon color. If it can stand up to a long work day, it can probably stand up to a long walking tour too!

Frye's American-made shoes are mostly known for their boots, but they do sell a few designs of lace up leather shoes that might be a grown up alternative to the Chucks for a grown man to wear all the time. Still has a slightly playful feel, but a little more mature for sure. For women, they really only manufacture boots domestically.  None of these are cheap, but they are leather not canvas, so they will probably last a lot longer

As a side note, if you are the kind of person who wants some straight up walking or tennis shoes, shop New Balance! They are the only athletic shoe company that still manufactures in the United States, so the shoes haven't traveled long distances. They have had some weird moments politically lately, so I feel a little split, but if you believe in American manufacturing, they are your shoe. These ones are so ugly I find it endearing. I imagine them with a 1980's power suit.

Ostrich Pillow- "I can’t believe there isn’t someone on etsy making these! I don’t care how dorky they look. If I’m on a red eye, I will do whatever it takes to get some sleep."

ostrich pillow
My Ideas- Whoa, Paige. You actually use this? I had to look it up, and I feel I am appropriately horrified/ filled with awe and respect. You do you. I also don't understand how the hand part helps. But I also agree, sleep is always worth silliness. That being said, I can't find anything like this on etsy (or anywhere else for that matter), but I did find one gem of a travel pillow.

woman sleeping with a biomed design travel pillow
from biomed design
This biomed design travel pillow doesn't have the pizzazz of an Ostrich pillow, but it does promise cervical support, and whose cervix couldn't use a little more support? Bonus points for weirdness. It also does look pretty comfy and might support your head a few different ways because of its shape, so it has some flexibility depending on how your traveler likes to sleep.

A Few More Gift Ideas for the Traveler in your Life


You can get gift cards (1 dollar to a thousand) for airlines like Southwest, so if you love someone who loves travel, why not just contribute to future adventures? If that seems like a little too much, you could buy tickets for a thing on their bucket list for their next trip (like a city pass or museum tickets). You could also do it for something near where they live, because an adventure is an adventure. Or write them a check intended ONLY for travel use.

push pin travel map from etsy
from Push Pin Travel Maps

Travel Maps

I think this gift idea kicks ass. When you love to travel, you are always plotting your next trip and reminiscing about trips before. I love these pushpin maps, that a traveler can put up on their wall to track where they've been and dream of where they will go next. If you have a traveler, domestic or international, I think this is a perfect gift for them. My favorite are Kristin Douglas Art maps, which are fun to scratch off and look absolutely beautiful. She is one of my Etsy favorites.

I bought my husband this scratch off map for our first wedding anniversary, and it remains a favorite object in our house. Might be the perfect option for your loved one too.

This map, from Push Pin Travel Maps, has that super fun side, but it also comes in more subdued, adult colors. I think it might make a perfect combination to have up on a wall. I also LOVE this flat, graphic version from Rasure Prints LLC in black and an "adventure awaits" white version from Paper Planes Prints. Map Republic sells a brighter, more playful version. JW Designs has a really wide variety to choose from too.


 Yes, It's perhaps on the obvious side, but if the person you love has a bag on its last legs, you might be able to ease it into retirement. Luggage, as a rule, is crazy expensive, but it is also almost always in thrift shops. You might be able to find a bag that only needs a teeny bit of coaxing to be awesome.
tough traveler luggage rolling bag
from Tough Traveler

If you can't find anything on that level used (or you are looking for a big spender type gift), you can also find every option you would need made in the US. For large duffels and rolly bags, you can get great options from Tough Traveler (I bought one of these bags as a gift a few years ago, and I think it went over pretty well). Filson sells all sorts of American-made bags (roller and duffle) at a higher price point. If you want to have a heart attack or you discovered gold in your backyard, check out the rolling luggage from Ghurka.

For travel bags and duffle bags (like a carry on), Equinox sells sportier eco-friendly duffles between 40 and 100 dollars. Duluth Pack also sells  gorgeous duffel travel bags and garment bags. Wood and Faulk makes leather and canvas duffle bags and totes- on the steep side, but they might be great if you just want one very reliable bag to keep forever. 
Mill Canvas flight bags
From millscanvas

For travel backpacks and small totes  (a personal item), I love these "flight bags" from Wm J Mills Canvas. It's 140, so not cheap, but you can poke around and find some other bags as well. Backpacks from Topo Designs in Denver, Colorado come in around the same price point, but it might be just what your seasoned traveler needs. I also love the Chester Wallace backpacks and totes, which are handmade in Portland, Oregon and look tough enough to withstand lots of travel. Duluth Pack sells travel packs as well.

Lens Sleeves

 If someone travels with a nice camera, this gift could help them keep their lenses clean while in transit. Simple idea, but it makes a big difference! 

eco-friendly gift list for travelers

Want even more eco-friendly and local shopping inspiration? Check out my Giant List of Ethical and Eco-Friendly Shopping Lists

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