eco-friendly birthday gift

9 Thoughtful Eco-Friendly Birthday Gifts They’ll Actually Want

6 mins

Nothing shows just how much you care for your loved one and the planet than an eco-friendly birthday gift on their special day

Everybody loves a birthday – unless you were born in January! After the chaos of the holidays and keeping dear old Santa in business, the thought of gifts and celebrations can make us want to crawl under a duvet rather than dance the night away. It’s understandable. You might have over-indulged in more ways than one. Your bank balance is no longer your friend. The beginning of the year can be low key and reflective, but still, birthdays can’t just be cancelled. If anything, we should shower our January friends and family with love, especially if we can do it in a way that’s kind to the planet, too. That’s where the eco-friendly birthday gift comes in.

Planting more trees is essential for the planet. So, what could be a better eco-friendly gift idea than to make a donation for trees to be planted on the birthday pal’s behalf?

The ultimate goal of giving a gift is to put a smile on someone’s face. But at what cost –  by adding more junk to landfills? So always ask yourself these questions before you buy; is it locally sourced, sustainably produced, long-lasting? And Is it low (or no) waste and reusable? Finding a gift that ticks every box can be tricky, but it’s useful to keep each of these qualities in mind. Fancy a helping hand? Here are The Ethicalist’s eco-friendly birthday gift ideas to make everyone’s birthday extra special. 

Potted Plants

woman packing up potted plant as an eco-friendly birthday gift

Plants are like friends. You love, support and nourish their growth – and they thank you for it. Giving a plant as a present is much better for the environment than cut flowers, which can be carbon-intensive to grow, package and transport. Potted plants are the most eco-friendly birthday gift, and to minimise transportation, look for plants in local garden centres and markets. Have fun with your friend naming the plant, too! Welcome to the world…Peter!

Adopt An Animal

baby panda resting on a branch. Adopting an animal is a thoughtful eco-friendly birthday gift

No, we’re not talking about arriving at their home unannounced with a puppy or kitten in your arms (even though they’re adorable!). But you could save endangered wildlife and protect habitats with an adoption through an organisation such as WWF who help penguins, orangutans, turtles and rhinos. What could be more exiting to tell your loved one they’re now the proud mum or dad of an elephant or giant panda? 

Books About Sustainable Living…

Books look beautiful, on the shelf, on a bedside table and if your friend cares about environmental issues, why not enhance their knowledge and passion? 365 Ways to Save the Planet: A Day-by-day Guide to Sustainable Living by Georgina Wilson-Powell is an illustrated guide designed to demonstrate the positive impacts of making environmentally friendly changes to your life in real time. The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac received overwhelmingly positive reviews from inspirational climate activists including Jane Goodall, Yuval Noah Harari, Richard Branson and Stella McCartney. This book employs unwavering optimism and practical solutions for readers to come together and take collective action. Author and mental health speaker Matt Haig said: ‘Everyone should read this book.’

…Or a Second-hand Book Stack

stack of second-hand books make a thoughtful eco-friendly birthday gift

Choose a stack of five books your friend will devour from charity shops, pre-loved online stores or from your own collection of books you’ve finished reading as an intelligent yet eco-friendly birthday gift. Books are the most beautiful item to share and pass on, keeping stories circular. Wrap an environmentally-friendly ribbon around the book stack and arrange a coffee date to discuss the books in delicious detail. 

Plant a Birthday Tree

plant a tree

Planting more trees is essential for the planet. So, what could be a better eco-friendly gift idea than to make a donation for trees to be planted on the birthday pal’s behalf? Dubai-based The Storey Group’s One Billion Trees Planting Initiative is a global initiative that aims to plant one billion trees by 2025. The initiative is committed to working with local communities and organisations to ensure the trees are planted in areas where they will have the greatest impact. Joining this effort will contribute to a healthier planet and a more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Eco Chocolates

As much as a box of chocs is the ultimate treat, the global chocolate industry is jam-packed with issues including modern slavery, child labour and deforestation. Thankfully, there are several chocolate brands such as Tony’s Chocolonely and Co Chocolat that campaign for change within the industry. They work hard to ensure their chocolate is made ethically and sustainably. When searching for sustainable chocolate brands, it helps to look for ones with Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certifications. These indicate they’re following ethical and sustainable practices. You can find these brands on and

Practically Perfect

If you’re looking for a gift that will get everyday, long-lasting use, why not buy a takeaway coffee cup or reusable water bottle? Both come in an array of trendy designs so you’re sure to find the perfect one to suit. Bamboo gifts can be celebrated as a versatile sustainable material, particularly as it grows very quickly. Be sure to look for bamboo-focused brands and products that are FSC-certified. From notebooks to cutlery to lunchboxes to home decor, bamboo birthday surprises can bring practical joy to all earth-lovers. 

Vegan Recipe Book

Plant-based food creativity has come to the fore, and rightly so. Even if somebody’s not fully vegan, there’s still a good chance they’ll enjoy cooking and eating vegan meals. Newly released is Veganuary’s Official Veganuary Cookbook: 100 amazing vegan recipesVeganuary is a non-profit organisation and has helped guide and support more than two million people trying Vegan lifestyles, with over 700,000 people officially taking part in 2023.

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Birthday Gift: Cash

For an eco-friendly gift, you can’t go wrong with cash. Maybe it doesn’t feel thoughtful, but it’s much less restricting than a gift voucher and you could make a card, suggesting the money is spent on some self-care at a spa of their choice. By giving someone money, you can be confident that it won’t end up in a landfill.

Newsletter signup