Eco- and Socially sustainable gift ideas | Hostelling International USA

7 Sustainable Holiday Gifts Perfect for Travelers

06 December 2019

Need a holiday gift for your favorite traveler? There are plenty of tried-and-true staples out there, but this year, why not put a sustainable spin on your holiday shopping? Think eco-friendly materials, reusable products that keep single-use plastics out of the landfill, and experiences and handcrafted goods that turn your holiday spending into social impact at home and abroad. Here are a few of our favorite sustainable gifts for travelers this holiday season.

wrapped holiday gifts

Biodegradable travel neck pillow

Travel neck pillows can be lifesavers on long plane, train, or bus trips, and can even add extra support if your traveler’s next accommodation is a little lacking in the comfort department. For an eco-friendly alternative to traditional travel pillows, which are usually filled with latex or polystyrene that will eventually end up in a landfill, turn to an unexpected material: buckwheat hulls. Sure, they may sound more like a health food than a comfy place to rest your head, but when stuffed inside an organic cotton pillowcase, they make for a crazy-supportive pillow. Plus, they’re biodegradable, so they’re both better for naps and better for the planet.

Purifying water bottle

pool of water

By now, most savvy travelers know that carrying a reusable water bottle will lighten their environmental footprint by keeping extra single-use plastic bottles out of the landfill. But many intrepid travelers will head to far-off lands where the local water can contain bacteria and viruses their bodies just aren’t accustomed to. When visiting these countries, bottled water can be the only safe choice – unless you’re traveling with your own purifying water bottle. If water safety is a concern, make sure you opt for a bottle that doesn’t just filter but also purifies, like this one.

Eco-friendly travel yoga mat

travel yoga mat

If you’ve got a serious yogi on your list, chances are they’d prefer to travel with their own mat instead of relying on whatever’s lying around at their hostel or the next yoga studio they visit. Weighing in at just over two pounds, this is one of the lightest on the market, and it’s super-grippy for all kinds of practices. Best of all, it’s made of sustainably harvested natural rubber.

Handmade travel journal

travel journal

We are big believers in keeping a travel journal. Help your favorite traveler keep track of their memories while also helping artisans in developing countries make their way out of poverty by buying a journal from a fair-trade store that supports socially sustainable work in countries around the world.

Artisan-crafted travel bags

Whether it’s backpacks, duffels, or toiletry bags, any seasoned traveler will tell you that sturdy carriers are the MVPs of their gear collection. But that doesn’t mean they can’t look nice. Buy your favorite stylish traveler an over-the-shoulder bag made of recycled saris from India that benefits victims of human trafficking, or a multi-colored zip pouch that will keep their toiletries organized while supporting women artisans in at-risk communities.

Ethical adventures

travelers eating at food trucks

Urban Adventures is seriously committed to responsible travel, and they’ve got your favorite jet-setter covered no matter which city or country they end up in next. Get them a gift certificate online and they can enjoy anything from a cooking class in Marrakech to a walking tour of Tokyo. The tours and activities are always designed and led by locals with a focus on sustainability, so your purchase makes a real impact on whichever community your traveler chooses. Urban Adventures also offers a 25% discount to HI USA members, so your gift can go that much further.

HI USA membership

lobby at HI Chicago hostel

One of the best ways to travel sustainably – both in terms of your environmental footprint and your social impact – is to stay in a hostel. Across the country, HI USA hostels focus on green energy, socially conscious local tours and activities, and community education to empower travelers and locals to build a better world. HI USA memberships are valid for a full year (or a lifetime!) and will save your favorite traveler money on Hostelling International accommodations all over the world, plus, they’ll get great discounts from some awesome partners. Best of all, when you purchase a membership, you help support HI USA’s education and scholarship programs, green initiatives, and more.


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