DIY Projects

15 Eco-Friendly Gifts for Any Occasion

repurposed bottles hanging as vases for floral bouquets
Written by Carolyn Albee

Ever thought you could save the planet every time you gave a gift? Eco-friendly gifts keep on giving—by sharing memories and helping the environment. Friends and family will love them, and you'll love making them. It's a win for you and for the earth. So dig into your storage unit or garage and see what you can find. All these sustainable gift ideas are made from upcycled goods—and prove why your stuff is Made to Keep (or at least made to save, upcycle, and give as an awesome gift).

Personalized Ornaments

Image via Dhinal Chheda/Flickr

Clear ornaments can be filled with just about anything, so get upcycling! For a wedding gift, place important pieces of the invitation inside. You can do the same with baby shower, wedding shower, or even birthday invitations. Small items like seashells from your friend's favorite beach or cut-outs of a map of your favorite places also create memorable ornaments.

Wine Cork Décor

Close-up photo of wine corks
Image via Scott Akerman/Flickr

If you've been saving wine corks, you can use them to create all kinds of green gifts. Make a Valentine's Day gift, Christmas tree, or wedding gift. Your wine cork collection lends itself to making bulletin boards, of course, but also placemats, stamps, and coasters.

Wine Bottle Gifts

wine bottles turned into hanging lights
Image via Ivan Radic/Flickr

What is it about wine bottles that makes them so perfect for gifts made out of recycled materials? They're easy to save and their shape and material makes them ideal to turn into many different items. We've written an entire blog about things you can make, from vases to bird feeders.

Decoupaged Mason Jars

Decoupaged mason jar
Image via Sean and Lauren/Flickr

"Decoupage" is a fancy word, and your friends will definitely be impressed when you make them these crafty mason jars. You can use a tattered copy of your BFF's favorite book, a map of their favorite places, or even napkins or party supplies from their baby shower or wedding shower. Reuse jam or sauce jars for the ultimate recycled gifts.

Matchbook Notepads

DIY matchbook notepads
Image via amy gizienski/Flickr

Need a sentimental wedding gift that won't break your budget? Plan ahead and save matchbooks from places like the bachelor/bachelorette party, wedding shower venue, or the hotel that wedding guests will be staying at. Then turn them into these adorable matchbook notepads!

Street Sign Art

A decorated street sign
Image via danielle_blue/Flickr

Everyone has places that mean something to them, and a sign like this one captures that sentimental feeling—while also being an artsy centerpiece. Dig out old license plates and found road signs and embellish them with markers or spray paint and stencils. It's the perfect meaningful décor for a patio, porch, or man cave.

Comic Book Table

End table covered in comics
Image via Selena N. B. H./Flickr

If you've saved old comic books, this end table is a great upcycled gift idea for the nerd in your life. (And if you've got an old table in your storage unit, even better!) Just saturate your cut-outs in water and varnish them to the table. Voila!

Ticket Stub Wall Art  

Ticket stub collage
Image via Kiley/Flickr

Looking for gift ideas for eco-conscious music lovers? Lots of people save old ticket stubs, and you can easily turn them into wall art that the concert fan in your life will love. Just buy a poster frame and get to work! Not enough ticket stubs for a collage? You can turn them into magnets instead. Simply cover the tickets in paper glaze and super glue them onto magnets.

Upcycled Gifts Made from Records

Record upcycled into a clock
Image via Around Claremont/Flickr

Dig into your old vinyl collection, because there are tons of upcycled gifts you can make from records. Two of our favorites are coasters and clocks. Record coasters are easier to make, while record clocks are for advanced DIYers, as you'll need a drill, among other tools.  

Photo Coasters

Photo coasters
Image via Michael Lehet/Flickr

Photos are the perfect meaningful gift for just about anyone on your list. Turn them into coasters and your lucky friend can have a drink and enjoy a walk down memory lane. The coasters in this photo are made from a frame kit, but you can also make your own on ceramic tiles.

Upcycled Pot Holders

Star Trek pot holder
Image via anneheathen/Flickr

Upcycle baby blankets or your outgrown Star Trek T-shirt into an eco-friendly gift with a memorable twist. Pot holders are easy to make, as long as you have a sewing machine and an iron. Your friend will think of you every time they bake—maybe they'll bring you some cookies, too!

Sweater Bag

Sweater upcycled into a tote bag
Image via egle/Flickr

There are many different ways to make sweater bags—just search the internet and you'll find it's one of the most popular sustainable gifts out there. Make it meaningful by using an old college sweatshirt, sports jersey, or baby blankets. It's a gift that's sentimental and useful.

No time to DIY? Try these super-creative eco-friendly gifts:

T-Shirt Quilt

T-shirt quilt
Image via Rachel Booth/Flickr

You don't have to be an expert quilter to give this fun and memorable gift. Project Repat will make one for you. Just choose your quilt, ship your T-shirts, and give your friends and family a gift they'll always remember.

Upcycled Accessories

Rolled orange fire hoses
Image via Azami Adiputera/Shutterstock.com

Looking for eco-friendly gifts for him or her? Recycled Firefighter makes wallets, belts, and accessories that have been upcycled from fire hoses, military boots, and other materials. There are also heavy-duty duffel bags, tool pouches, and backpacks—although they're not entirely upcycled, they are made in the USA.

Products for the Pet Lover

Two upcycled dog leashes
Image courtesy of Just Pet Products

Pet lovers are sure to appreciate gifts that help the environment, and there are tons of organic, eco-friendly toys and treats out there. Just Pet Products takes it a step further by using upcycled products. They make leashes and collars from climbing rope, so you know they're beautiful and sturdy.

No matter the gift-giving occasion or the person on your list, there's an eco-friendly gift that suits their style. Check out more DIY projects in our blog and let us know what you're making in the comments!

Header image via DmitryCh/Shutterstock.com

About the author

Carolyn Albee

Carolyn is a writer, editor, and fan of the Chicago Manual of Style. She's based in Southern California (the greatest place on earth), but she lives by the belief that every city, and every person, has a story to tell. When she's not telling those stories, you'll find her visiting craft breweries and exploring new hikes with her best friend—her dog, of course.

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