Green Graduation Gifts

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which helps fund our Recycling Directory, the most comprehensive in North America.

With graduation season rapidly approaching, many parents are racking their brains to find a gift for the happy grads in their life. Something a little more than “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” but a little less than a brand-new car.

The options can be overwhelming, and often it’s tempting to get something just for the sake of getting it, but we all know that the best gifts are the ones that mean something — for the giver and the recipient. Likewise, gifts that take an environmental toll seem antithetical to the concept of graduation — these grads are our future, so why would we celebrate their achievements with gifts that destroy the very world they’re about to enter as adults?

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! We’ve put together five suggestions for green graduation gifts that are meaningful, eco-friendly and sure to send your not-so-little one out into the world on the right foot.

1. Donate to Kiva in their name

Kiva is one of many microloan organizations changing the face of charity work around the globe. Rather than simply donating funds to those in impoverished regions, which many argue fosters a culture of dependency and helplessness, Kiva empowers its recipients by matching donors with individuals hoping to pay for education, purchase supplies to sell or buy the equipment needed to begin their own business.

Loan amounts start at just $25, and borrowers currently have a repayment rate of over 97 percent. Best of all, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Once the initial loan is repaid, lenders get to choose a new recipient and lend again! Way better than a manicure, right?

2. Travel

Whether you choose to contribute to an already-planned trip or give them the gift of travel as a nudge out of the nest; whether they’re going to the other side of the globe or just to see a little more of their own country, traveling truly is one of the best ways to spend your money. Research has long confirmed the positive value of experiences rather than things, and encouraging your grad to get out of their comfort zone to see just how big the world really is is an invaluable experience.

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of that flight to South America or train trip across Europe, you can purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the impact of the flight while still giving your grad the chance to see a world outside of their own. Regardless of how they get there, exploring different countries and experiencing other cultures is an incredible way to expand one’s mind, appreciate differences and bear witness to the stunning beauty of our planet.

3. A good backpack or briefcase

If your grad is headed to college or off to their first job after college, upgrading their worn-out backpack to a grown-up bag makes a great gift.

Buy Me Once, a site devoted to featuring products made to last (and often with lifetime guarantees) has a page filled with gorgeous backpacks, laptop bags and satchels perfect for any new grad. It’s a great way to begin a tradition of disrupting our planned-obsolescence consumer culture and investing in things that will stand the test of time.

4. Words of wisdom from loved ones

Often the most memorable gifts aren’t the most expensive or the most flashy, but those with the most meaning to the recipient. To send your grad into the world knowing their full worth and capability, ask for letters from the grad’s friends, relatives and teachers. The letters can be filled with advice, shared memories, the grad’s strongest traits or characteristics, or even best wishes for their future plans. Whatever words they hold, the letters will be something they treasure forever.

5. A zero-waste kit

Whether your grad is heading off to college or joining the work force, a zero-waste kit ensures that they’ll be starting off on a green foot and without excess garbage. Some great ideas to include in an on-the-go kit are:

Equipped with these essentials, your grad will be able to drastically cut down on the amount of packaging waste and garbage generated throughout their day. Living a zero-waste (or waste-reduced) life is just a matter of creating good habits, so the sooner you start, the better!

Our grads have traveled a long road to get to this point — endless hours spent sitting in classrooms, taking tests, writing papers and stressing about final exams. This moment marks the culmination of years of effort, and they deserve to be recognized for that commitment. Choosing gifts with meaning, gifts that will last, and gifts that help others is an incredible way to celebrate the past efforts and future endeavors of the special grad in your life.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
Commence the Graduation Gown Recycling
Green Your Dorm: 7 Tricks to Sleep & Study Toxin-Free
50 DIY Natural Handmade Beauty Products That Make Great Gifts

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.