Eco-Friendly and Thoughtful Teacher Gifts They Will Absolutely Love (And Use)

by - Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Eco-Friendly and Thoughtful Teacher Gifts They Will Absolutely Love (And Use)

So your kid has a teacher you really love, and now is the time of year to show your appreciation. That's awesome! Now, repeat after me "I will not buy this poor soul yet another mug..."

There is so much EPICALLY bad advice out there for teacher's gifts. Most teachers do not need a cutesy mason jar to put their pens in. Or another mug with their name on it. Or candy dressed up in some sort of extra cutesy packaging (that in the end is just extra waste). They are out of room for Knick Knacks, and they don't need something else with an apple on it. I love that people want to do something kind, but these are probably all options worth skipping.

You can give your kid's teacher a gift that they will actually love AND it will be better for the environment. More stuff is just more waste, so when you approach gifts, think about it this way:

Buy Less Stuff- We tend to pick gifts with lots of parts- a gift card! And a mug! With some candy in it! And maybe some pencils or something! At some point, we all internalized this idea that what we are giving isn't enough, so we sprinkle extras on everything. That is a waste! I have seen my dad's wife, an elementary school teacher, come home with gobs of these ribbons and candies and bows- what an they do with all of that? Instead, think simple and useful.

This means that experience gifts and gift cards might be the best thing you can offer. Maybe your help fixing something could be the best gift! It may not make a flashy display, but it means something to them. That's a successful gift.

Buy Secondhand- If you are going to go for classroom supplies to help this teacher out, check out eBay, secondhand stores, and creative reuse stores (there are more out there than you think). You can buy them heaping piles of markers or construction paper for a few dollars, and it will last them much longer.

Buy American- If you want to help the environment, buy things from companies that still manufacture in the US. The further items travel, the higher their carbon footprint, and the more waste they make. You can read more about this on the Green School Shopping list, but by simply buying American-made Crayolas over other crayons, you can have a positive impact.

Buy to Help

Being a teacher is an epically difficult and undersupported job- your support, from a thoughtful letter to a donation to an underserved classroom will be the most powerful gift you can give. Stop thinking about impressing people or keeping up with the Joneses, and think about support instead.

Alright, it's gift idea time! Let's do this.

A Kind Note or Picture

No matter what you decide to gift your kid's teacher, a word of encouragement will be the thing they remember most. Just write them a note to say thank you. Have your kid write a list about their favorite parts of class. Have them draw a picture. Work together with your kid and be specific!

That teacher needs that encouragement, and too often we mask our appreciation in general gifting instead of being specific and vulnerable. If you don't want to be too doting (afraid it looks like you are sucking up), you can still gift a homemade picture or card and save the serious praise for the end of the year.

A Homemade Ornament

Ok, this can be perfect if you don't have a ton of money or if you want to pair something with a (less personal) gift card. Make a small ornament with your kiddo, and put their name and year on it. This can make for a really sweet gift without taking up a ton of room. I have read a lot of teachers love to see how they add up over decades of teaching.

THAT SAID, know your audience. Some teachers love this sort of thing, and some hate it. Easiest way to find out which you are getting a gift for? Just ask! You won't ruin any surprise.

Grocery Cards

So many teachers are struggling to get by, so rather than another cutesy mug, getting them something completely practical like a gift card for groceries. This can help them get through the month of December OR have their own extra spending money for gifts. Just think, if your kid's whole class bought grocery cards as the gift, you could keep that teacher fed for quite a while!

Supplies (or a Gift Card for Supplies)

We all know that many (most) teachers are investing a lot of their own money into their classrooms and supplies, because they don't have the funding they need. You could help by buying bulk sets of crayons (do Crayola, who at least is still made in the US), tissue boxes, or just ask them what they need/want! For eco-friendly and American-made school supplies, check out this list. Soap and/or hand-sanitizer can also be big wins for them.

Also, a really nice set of sharpies or pens can be a big treat. Those things have a way of sneaking off. And who doesn't love the feeling of an excellent pen? My favorite are these recycled plastic ones from Pilot.

If that feels like a big leap, gift cards to teacher supply stores or bookstores can be a really sweet gift as well.


Movie tickets, gift cards, concert tickets, restaurant gift certificates. They can't always treat themselves, but these experience gifts take care of them in a really fun and positive way. Want to really make their day? Find out where they go out for drinks or coffee with their coworkers, and get a gift card to treat them to a few drinks (alcohol or otherwise). For a whole host of experience gift ideas, check out this list.

Use your Skills

Have you noticed something that the teacher might need in the room? Things that need fixed or laminated or built? This may seem crazy, but offer to fix it. Sometimes they don't have even have the time to address little problems like these, but maybe you do. Another great one might be to take all those crayon nubbins they have sitting around and melt them down into new crayons for them! It is good for the Earth, and it saves money for the future.

Every teacher can use some sort of help- you can totally volunteer!

A Donation

Have a teacher that is passionate about the environment? Or other cultures? Or has everything for their classroom (but knows other teachers aren't so lucky)? Instead of giving them another gift or tchochky, give a donation in their honor. It could be to an organization you know they care about or to another teacher who is struggling through Donors Choose.

The best teachers tend to be really caring people, so I guarantee you, they are passionate about something. It will feel good for them to know you are helping the world in their honor. You can help in their mission to make the world a little bit better.

Want more ideas for donation gifts? Check out this list of ideas.

Car Wash or Gas Station Gift Cards

I cannot think of anything more practical, but they need this stuff! Treat them to something they need, and they can treat themselves to something they want.

Something to Eat (or Coffee to Drink)

If you want to give them a treat, ask around about their favorites, and actually make something. I know that bag of candy is easier, but all of that individually wrapped goodness creates a lot of waste. Better to make your own truffles or cookies or fudge and cut down on the plastic.

That said, it also doesn't have to be baked! One of my teacher friends says she is already feeling oversugared. Something else to share in the lounge will be a welcome break from the cookies. Want to be just as popular without the work? Buy some ethical coffee for the teachers to share in the lounge- they move right through it!

A Plant

We know that indoor plants can improve the air quality and mental health of everyone in the room. A simple potted plant (maybe with the note "thanks for helping me grow") could be an excellent gift for a teacher and their classroom.

Ok teachers, what am I missing off of this list? What is your favorite gift you ever gave a teacher?

Eco-Friendly and Thoughtful Teacher Gifts They Will Absolutely Love (And Use)

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