Avoid holiday faux paws with earth- and animal-friendly presents.
Common sense suggests we steer clear of bacon-of-the-month clubs for animal lovers, yet in today’s world of confusing labeling, questionable marketing tactics, and greenwashing, there’s a lot to keep in mind when picking meaningful gifts for people who care about the earth and its many creatures.
If you’re struggling and running behind—with shipping cut-off dates looming—here are some helpful tips.
Affirming (and Sometimes Hilarious) Gifts for Animal Lovers
You know that feeling you get when a gift signals that someone really gets you?
When friends and family acknowledge that animal advocacy is an important part of my life—and not just something to tip-toe around uncomfortably—I smile from head to toe. Case in point: I recently was gifted a sweatshirt that exclaims: “I Want TOFU on the Holiday Table.” The ‘T’ and ‘O’ are cleverly stacked over the ‘F’ and ‘U’ and… well, I expect you can surmise why I guffawed when opening the box.
Humor can help bridge any tension you feel or perceive when it comes to the earth warriors, vegans, and other social justice advocates in your life. Thoughtful gift-giving acknowledges that these causes are important to loved ones. And, sometimes, doing a little extra research can also help you better understand the advocacy in which they are involved.
Help nourish human bodies in ways that are compassionate to animal bodies and the earth.
- Frankie & Jos Pint Club will send delicious plant-based ice cream directly to your friend’s door.
- Srimu subscriptions can help people kicking troublesome dairy out of their diet for ethical or health reasons.
- And check out the Earthlove eco wellness subscription box which helps people connect to (and support) the natural world.
For Book Addicts:
Gift a printed book, ebook, or audiobook to acknowledge and celebrate the wisdom of other species. Top picks include:
- What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe
- Bird: Exploring the Winged World by Phaidon Editors
- Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World by Emma Marris
- The Atlas of a Changing Climate: Our Evolving Planet Visualized by Brian Buma
If your friend or family member volunteers with a particular organization, consider donating to it to let them know you support them in their advocacy. Or donate to a group that helps support their favorite animal. For example, this year I asked my family to help squirrels, manatees, and former lab animals. Or check out this list of amazing social justice and environmental justice organizations.
Furthermore, this gift can provide an opportunity to have a conversation with your loved one about why their work is so important. The gift of listening is perhaps the most important one we can give someone.
Watch Out for Hidden “Faux Paws”
I recently received five delicious bars of hand-crafted, fair-trade, animal-free chocolate…in a leather box. The gift-giver exclaimed, “They’re vegan!” Yet, my heart sank. I appreciated their knowingness that I don’t eat animals. But I was also reminded how often people don’t realize I also avoid animal skins.
I’m not alone. One poll suggests that 23 percent of people in the US (and 37 percent in the UK) think leather is inappropriate for clothing. Many fashion companies have been ditching leather for alternatives made from plants and food waste. Likewise, car companies including Volvo, Audi, BMW, Land Rover, and Tesla now offer leather-free and sustainable interiors.
Choose Animal-Free Fabrics
Many animal lovers avoid wearing other fabrics created by exploiting animals, such as wool, cashmere, angora, mohair, and silk. Exciting plant-based fabrics are readily available here too. But, of course, some of those also have environmentally not-so-friendly impacts. The devil is in the details, so to speak. How do we choose ethical, sustainable clothing that doesn’t exploit human workers or treat animals as mere products? #itsmessy. Start with this Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Fashion.
Skip Feathers, Animal-Based Wax, and Palo Santo
It’s a paradox that many animal statues or critter-based decorations for the home include animal parts. At first, this seems quite natural. But in most cases, feathers are not collected from free-living beings who shed them, but rather birds in captivity who are not treated well and may be live-plucked.
We also need to critique candles (often made from animal fat) and soaps (ditto). Skip any products that contain stearic acid (which is usually fat from pigs, cows, sheep). Who wants to burn pig wax in their living room? Or rub it on their face? Beeswax can likewise be problematic for some animal lovers, as can palm oil due to its role in deforestation and endangering orangutans. Instead, look for soy, rapeseed, or coconut.
[Read: “Going Vegan After 50.”]
Palo santo wood is also questionable, as it is often overharvested from countries like Peru and Ecuador, affecting indigenous communities for whom these trees are sacred and endangering forests as well as the animals living in them.
‘Tis the Season
Admittedly, it may seem that taking all these factors into account is just too much work. Yet, if we look at gifting as an extension of the practice of generosity, doing a little work makes sense. And if we seek to get to the “Peace on Earth” many holiday cards proclaim, it’s likely a necessary step.
Want more holiday wisdom? Here are 20 Mental Health Mantras to Keep Top-of-Mind.