Eco-Friendly White Elephant and Secret Santa Gift Ideas For Under $30

Are you struggling to come up with ideas of what to buy friends or co-workers for that upcoming Secret Santa gift exchange or White Elephant party? Here are some ideas for eco-friendly Christmas gifts that are under $30 that people will fight over receiving at this year’s holiday party.

Give Green Gifts. If you like to give a physical gift over an experience, here are a few ideas of gifts that will enable people to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

  • Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle with Stainless Steel & Bamboo Lid: $29.99. Drinking water is more essential than food for staying alive, and we all need to do it multiple times a day in order to be comfortable and stay in good health. One of the single most impactful things that a person can do for the environment is to carry a refillable water bottle when they leave the house so they don’t end up having to buy bottled water to stay hydrated. Over the years, I’ve tried many different types of reusable water bottles and none can compete with stainless steel. Aluminum bottles have plastic lining on the inside; glass bottles will break if they fall out of your bag. Stainless steel is non-reactive and thus does not require a plastic liner like aluminum. You can drop it and the worst thing that happens is your bottle will get a small dent. However, people lose water bottles often (I personally have left a few in airplane seat pockets over the years) and so even if they already have one, getting a new one can be a welcome gift. This one has a clean, modern design and looks classy, because unlike most of their bottles, the lid is made from metal and bamboo. If you are price sensitive, you can pay $10 less for a Kleen Kanteen water bottle with a plastic lid.
  • Contigo Autoseal Coffee Mug: $24.99. A friend gifted my husband a Contigo mug a few years back because they were convinced was the best commuter mug ever and they were right. Why? It keeps your drink hot for hours, won’t spill if tossed in a bag thanks to the auto-locking feature, and is easy to drink from if you are driving. You easily can open the hole and sip from it using just one hand, and it auto-locks when you are done. I also like the Kleen Kanteen insulated bottle for transporting a cup of coffee to the office and drinking upon arrival since its tight seal won’t leak, but it is terrible if you are going to drink the coffee in transit because of its wide mouth (one bump and the coffee will be all over your lap). I wish the lid was not plastic, but I don’t know of any models allow you to sip on-the-go without it, because plastic does not get hot and thus is an ideal material for this style of lid. This gift will help people stop getting single use coffee cups and can often save them money when they buy coffee out, since most coffee shops offer some kind of discount for bringing your own container.
  • Bento Box: $22.95. A few years back, my husband and I bought two different types of glass Tupperware, trying to get away from plastic, Pyrex and Snapware. Both worked great for storing food at home, but when you needed to pack a lunch for work or a hike, it added a several pounds to an already heavy backpack and it can be a bit fragile. This is where a stainless steel bento box shines; it is lighter than glass and if you drop your bag, the worst that will happen is that it will dent a bit. This style of stackable metal lunchbox is very popular in Asia, but for whatever reason, it isn’t that popular in the United States yet, so chances are that whoever your Secret Santa is will not have this yet.
  • Organic Cotton Cloth Napkins: Price varies. Disposable napkins not only look cheap, but they also aren’t great for the environment. Growing up, we only used cloth napkins on major holidays and I thought they were for special occasions only. Then, I went to study abroad in France and my host mom used exclusively cloth napkins. I was taught that at the end of the meal, to indicate that I planned on dining there again the next day, I was to fold up the napkin for reuse the next day. About once a week, my host mom would wash the napkins with the rest of the laundry. It was a great system and one that I adopted when I got home; my friends are always impressed when they come over for dinner and get a cloth napkin. It also saves money because the cost of buying a set of napkins over the years that they last is definitely less than buying “cheap” disposable napkins. Cotton is heavily sprayed with harmful chemicals that may not impact you personally, but will impact farm workers and the health of people living near the fields, so it’s worth seeking out organic cotton if you can find it. Etsy has a ton of cute handmade ones for under $30.

Give Experiences. Some people love getting stuff, some people love getting experiences. I personally love getting experiences, because they don’t add clutter to my home and encourage me to do things that I would not usually do, like go out for a movie night with my husband.

  • Two movie tickets to your local theatre: Price varies. Who doesn’t like going out to a movie every now and then? This is a gift that is sure to please and get used. Depending on where you live, you might also be able to get tickets to a local music venue, community theatre, museum, etc. within your gift budget.
  • Gift Certificate to a local coffee shop. If you know that your Secret Santa is a fan of coffee and already has a reusable coffee mug, try getting them a gift certificate to a local coffee shop, especially one that will give them a discount for bringing their own mug!
  • Subscription to Spotify Premium. $30 for 3-month subscription. I use Spotify Premium to give me access to all of the music I could ever want to listen to like I own it. I can build playlists and download those to my phone for offline use (which is extremely useful on plane rides or road trips where cell phone coverage is spotty), all with no commercials. I was initially gifted the paid plan by a family member and then ended up signing up for it on my own because I liked it so much. There are other services like Apple Music (3-months for $29.99) and Amazon Music that might be good options as well (e.g. If you know that your Secret Santa has an Amazon Echo, Amazon Music is probably the best service to gift them), but I haven’t tried either because I’ve personally been so happy with Spotify, so I can’t speak to the pros and cons of the other services.

Do you have more thoughts around what make great eco-friendly Christmas gifts? Please add them in the comments!

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