The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Gift Guide for 2018

 

Are you like me — haunted by nightmares of Black Friday stampedes? Dreading contributing to the rampant consumerism that plagues this time of the year? Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year but it’s also the most wasteful.

I’m here to tell you that you actually can do good this year without being a total scrooge. I’ve put together a list of gifts you can give that actually help save the planet.

I separated the list into different categories so you can be shop by interest. Either scroll through or click to jump to the section you need:

The Eco-Traveler

The Sustainable Fashionista

The Eco Skincare Junkie

The Everyday Earth Lover

The Eco-Traveler

 
 

Samsonite Eco-Glide

All the fabric on this suitcase — including the lining — is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic water bottles. Now you can save the earth while running through the airport in your socks trying to get to your gate on time.

 
 

Fjallraven Re-Kanken

Meet the super-stylish eco-friendly Re-Kanken Mini. Same design as the original backpack, but made from 100 percent recycled material. This special edition pack is made entirely from polyester recycled from plastic bottles. It's dyed with SpinDye technology that reduces the amount of water, energy, and chemicals used.

 
 

Osprey Backpacks

Osprey is a company with a conscious. Their products are made without BPA, PVC/phthalates and triclosan. They ship all their products in recycled cardboard shipping boxes and are committed to limiting waste in production. What makes Osprey truly stand out in my mind is their All Mighty Guarantee. Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If they are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, they will happily replace it. This keeps their backpacks out of landfills and prevents waste.

 
 

Nomadix Towels

Is it a towel? Is it a yoga mat? Yes and yes. Their goal was to make a towel that works for EVERY activity — camping, swimming, backpacking, yoga, etc. The towel is two sided with prints inspired by travel and adventure and is made from recycled material. Their motto — which I love — is #ownlessdomore.

 
 

Bamboo Cutlery

You eat out a LOT when you travel. I’ll admit that most nights during my semester in Thailand I would buy a meal from a street food stand and bring it back to my apartment. That’s four months of styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery that will haunt me forever. Cut down on plastic waste with this bamboo utensil set. They’ll last forever and when you’re done with them you can just throw them in a compost bin!

 
 

Lifestraw Water Bottle

Another big wasteful habit when traveling — especially to more rural areas — is buying plastic water bottles. If your loved one is traveling to a developed country with clean water supplies, grab a cute metal or glass water bottle and send them on their way. If clean water access is an issue, enter the LIfestraw Bottle. This bottle has a built-in filtration system to filter out harmful bacteria and microorganisms. Perfect for rural travel or backpacking!

 
 

Solar Power Bank

Renewable and readily available resources like solar power are great alternatives to traditional power sources. A solar power bank is a great gift for someone who is really into camping, takes frequent long bus rides or flights, or who is traveling to places with frequent power outages (I’m thinking about you Thai Islands).

Travel Experiences & Causes

Giving a gift doesn’t always have to be about unwrapping a physical present. Donate to a cause that your recipient is passionate about or book them an eco-conscious trip that supports a local economy. One great company that gives back is Responsible Travel. If you opt into their Trip for a Trip program, they provide a day trip for a disadvantaged child in a developing country for each trip purchased. Lokal Travel is another great company that curate unique, sustainable tours that benefit the local community.

The Sustainable Fashionista

 
 

Girlfriend Leggings

My absolute favorite company for leggings is Girlfriend Collective. Their leggings and activewear are not only unbelievably high quality — I’ve had mine for three or four years and they still look new — but they’re also made from recycled water bottles and fishing nets. They produce their apparel in sustainable factories that use innovative wastewater recycling technologies and provide above-average wages for their workers. I’ve been a huge fan of Girlfriend since their launch and I tell people about them on a weekly basis.

Love Your Melon Eco-Friendly Beanies

One of my favorite brands that gives back. Love Your Melon just dropped a line of eco-friendly lightweight beanies made entirely out of recycled plastic water bottles. LYM is already a super awesome company that donates 50% of their proceeds to the fight against pediatric cancer.

Klow

Klow curates products from brands committed to the health of the earth and garment workers, as well as the people wearing their wearing their clothing—you. Each brand is carefully selected based on a set of sustainability and transparency standards in addition to quality and aesthetic.

Thinking Mu

Thinking Mu uses materials like organic cotton, organic merino wool, banana fabric, and eco vero to make their sustainable chic pieces. Their factories don’t participate in any child labor, forced labor, extended working hours, or discrimination. They’re also trying to change the fast fashion culture by opting out of doing sales.

The Eco Skincare Junkie

 
 

Ethique Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Sampler

I’ve been using these shampoos for a couple of months now and they are a total game changer. No wasteful packaging, no yucky chemicals, no problem. I’ve tried solid shampoos from other brands (ahem Lush) and these blow them out of the water. They don’t leave any residue and my hair feels just like it does after regular shampoo.

 
 

Melvita Skincare

Melvita was founded in 1983 by a biologist and beekeeper in France. They were one of the first brands to be granted the ECOCERT label for their eco-friendly packaging and factory.

 
 

Rahua Skincare

Rahua is a natural haircare brand dedicated to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people who live there. Rahua’s rainforest-cultivated ingredients, grown in symbiosis with the wild, rely on healthy, virgin forests and are made in accordance with traditional methods and rituals that have been passed down for generations.

The Everyday Earth Lover

 
 

GreenUp Box

GreenUp Box is a monthly subscription box that includes practical items to help you make switches to a more zero-waste lifestyle. For example, the workday box that I received included a metal and silicone lunchbox, bamboo utensils, a cotton snack bag, a silicone food storage bag, and a cap that converts a mason jar into a coffee cup. Each box contains 4-6 artfully crafted, sustainable, and eco-friendly items that are curated around a theme and valued at $70+!

 
 

Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are a berry shell that naturally contain a soap called saponin. Saponin is a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains from the fabric, and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away. Soap nuts are gentle on clothes can extend the life of your apparel and textiles.

 
 

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are a zero-waste alternative to dryer sheets. They naturally reduce static in laundry and can be reused again and again. Perfect gift for mom or anyone who wants to make laundry a little bit easier.

 
 

Bee’s Wrap

From the Bee’s Wrap website:

“Wrap cheese, half a lemon, a crusty loaf of bread, and fruits and vegetables. Cover a bowl, or pack a snack for your next adventure. Made with organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. Bee’s Wrap is washable, reusable and compostable.”

 
 

Compost Bin

The food that we throw away releases a lot of methane into the earth because it doesn’t properly break down at the dump. Composting at home can save tons of harmful gases from being released into the atmosphere. Additionally, if you have a garden, composting returns valuable nutrients to the soil to help maintain soil quality and fertility.

Happy (green) shopping!

 

Hiking Through Taiwan's Toroko Gorge

 

Taiwan was never a bucket list destination for me. In fact it wasn’t even on my radar when I was researching places to travel while studying in Asia. So when my friend Adam invited me along on a trip there I had to do some serious research. This little island country took me by surprise. I scoured the internet and found incredible black sand beaches, breathtaking national parks, and vibrant city life. Taroko Gorge quickly made it to the top of my list of things to do in Taiwan. I was drawn to the stunning marble mountains and rushing waterfalls.

Taroko Gorge Park was declared a national park in 1986. The park spans an impressive 920 square kilometers and includes some incredible natural beauty. Besides the gorge itself, the park consists of twisting hiking trails, beautiful cascades, tunnels, shrines, and a huge suspension bridge.

Taroko Gorge is actually really easy to get to. There’s a bus from Hualien that leaves daily from 6:30am to 1:50pm. The bus is a very reasonable NT250 ($8) for unlimited hop on/hop off throughout the day of purchase. The bus takes about an hour to get from Hualien to the park headquarters. There is no fee to enter the park, although some areas require a special permit to hike in.

Adam and I sat next to a group of German travelers on the bus ride there. One of the guys in their group was an English teacher in Hualien and had been to the park several times. Their group had dedicated several days to exploring the park because of how vast it is. Adam and I only had a day to hike so we wanted to make the most of it but had no idea where to start. Luckily they allowed us to tag along with them on the trail.

There are a ton of trails throughout the national park. Every one of them will blow you away. We walked along the edge of the river, passing under tunnels and up and down through the gorge.

We saw several places to stop and get a snack. At the end of our trail there was a local vendor selling grilled meats wrapped in leaves. My stomach was growling but being vegetarian I couldn’t indulge, so I bought a fruity milk drink.

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We stopped about a million times to take pictures and got some cool shots beyond a “do not pass” sign that we took as a suggestion. At the very end of the trail there’s a large river bank with plenty of boulders to sit on. The area was fairly crowded with picnicking locals. We managed to find a pretty secluded spot and stopped to rest and enjoy the view. The Germans had with them some local flavored grain alcohol. We took turns drinking and sharing stories. Some of the guys went out into the river and balanced rocks on the boulders jutting out.

I don’t remember any of their names or stories but I’ll never forget the little moments we all shared that day.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Surfing in Taiwan

 

Taiwan is one of my favorite countries I have ever visited. This little island nation is the perfect mixture of bustling cities, mouthwatering local cuisine, and incredible natural beauty. During my short visit I explored the capital Taipei, hiked the marble mountains of Taroko Gorge, climbed Elephant Mountain to get the best view of Taipei 101, and soaked in healing hot springs. Read on to find out about my experience surfing in Taiwan with Rising Sun Surf Inn.

Unless falling on my ass in various Pilates classes counts as a sport, I won’t be winning any Olympic medals anytime soon. I spent years trying to do a cartwheel and never succeeded. The one time I went skiing I got too scared to jump off the ski lift. They had to stop the whole thing and send someone to get me off. I never went out for any sports in high school. I could keep going but I’m sure you didn’t come here to read about my athletic failures. My point is that I’m not the sportiest traveler.

Naturally, when my travel companion mentioned he wanted to try surfing in Taiwan I was a bit hesitant. I honestly didn’t even know you could surf in Taiwan.

Surfing in Taiwan

Surprisingly, Taiwan is known for some world-class waves. One article actually called it the “New Hawaii”. There are tons of little towns dotted across the coastline that are year-round surf destinations. The three main spots on the East coast to shred some gnar are Yilan, Dulan, and Kenting. We only had one day free so we chose Yilan which is the closest to Taipei. It’s easy to reach by public transport because the train station is right in front of the beach.

Rising Sun Surf Inn

Neither of us had ever surfed before so we were on the lookout for some beginner lessons. Rising Sun Surf Inn was the easiest to find from the train and also offered lessons for newbies. The vibe is very chilled out. The lobby area is a small room with beanbag chairs and a counter where you can order food and sign up for surf lessons. We chatted with the owner a little bit and it turns out she doesn’t surf or even know how to swim! Luckily their instructors are much more experienced and made us feel super safe and prepared the whole time.

Included in the price for a lesson is the board rental, rash guard rental, and photos of your lesson. The instructor swims out with you and will even hold your board for you while you flop around like an idiot trying to get on it.

The Inn is located on the beautiful black sand Wai’ow beach. There are incredible rock formations just off the coast but the area you surf in is far enough away to not send you hurling into the boulders. The scenery was so picturesque I would visit just for the views.

My Experience

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So how did I do? Safe to say I lived up to expectations. I did not get up on both feet a single time that day. My friend Adam had a sprained ankle and hopped on both feet within minutes of getting out onto the water. If that doesn’t sum up my athletic career perfectly I don’t know what does. Despite my absolute failure I felt incredible the whole time. The adrenaline rush pushed me to keep trying again and again and I was proud of myself for not giving up.

I probably swallowed twice my weight in fish pee and the salt stung my eyes but I had the time of my life.

I walked away from the experience vowing that I would surf again. Or for the first time since I don’t think I ever technically surfed. But hey — I have a picture standing next to a surfboard now. Close enough.

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More Information

Getting to Rising Sun Surf Inn is incredibly easy. You take the local train from Taipei to Wai’ao station. When you get off the train you walk across the road and turn left at the boardwalk. That’s it.

We chose the 1 Day Surf School package and loved it. For one person the price of this package is NT 1500 ($50 USD) but if you go with a friend you will only pay NT 1400 ($46 USD). This package includes:

  • 2-hour instruction and all day surfboard rental

  • Full day rental of a rash guard or wetsuit

  • Photos taken during your lesson

  • Free use of the common areas – toilet, changing facilities, etc.

This post was not sponsored by Rising Sun Surf Inn — although they did give me two free stickers when I was there. I genuinely enjoyed my experience and wanted to share it with my readers. All opinions and athletic failures are completely my own.



 

Visiting Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

 
suspension-bridge

I’m always on the hunt for the ‘free or cheap version’ of popular attractions. I had visions of mountain views and the perfect suspension bridge Instagram picture (judge me I don’t even care) for my trip to Vancouver this Spring. The most popular suspension bridge in Vancouver costs about $30 for one person. Lynn Canyon Park is a great free alternative and the perfect half-day trip to add to any Vancouver trip. The park consists of a gorgeous canyon, numerous hiking trails, and an incredible suspension bridge.

Park History

The park opened to the public in 1912 and spans 617 acres in the Vancouver area. Most of the trees are 80 to 100 years old. The park offers free historical story walks and tours throughout the summer months.

The park looks beautiful year-round but in the Spring when we visited everything was lush and green. This also meant the water levels were higher and the waterfalls were raging.

The Suspension Bridge

The biggest draw to the park is the large suspension bridge only a short walk from the parking lot. The bridge hangs 50 meters above the canyon. Raging waters, deep pools, and rushing waterfalls are visible from every angle. Standing in the middle of the bridge gives you views of the entire canyon.

Hiking in Lynn Canyon Park

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After fighting for a solo shot on the bridge, cross over and choose one of the many hiking trails running through the park. There are trails to the suspension bridge, Twin Falls, a 30-foot swimming hole, and a bridge built over a pipe that runs across the canyon.

We chose to walk towards the viewpoint to the Twin Falls. The path ran along the canyon and was lined with giant mossy trees. We passed many lookout points and impressive waterfalls. All of the trails are very well maintained with wooden boardwalks on most parts.

Getting There

We rented a car for our time in Vancouver. If you choose to do the same you can follow these easy driving directions:

  • Take Highway 1 out of downtown Vancouver to exit 19

  • Follow Lynn Valley Road northeast past the Mountain Highway intersection

  • Watch for the Ecology Centre sign and turn into the parking lot

There were plenty of signs pointing us to the park, which was good because neither of us have international phone plans to use GPS. You can also get to the park using public transportation.

There was ample free parking when we went at about 9am in April. However, in the summer months it is said to fill up extremely fast.

Lynn Canyon Park is open daily all year. The ecology center is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

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Lost in the Land of Smiles — Motorbiking in Krabi

 

Motorbiking in Krabi was one of the highlights of my four months in Southeast Asia. Krabi is the kind of place I can’t stay away from. I first visited on a weekend trip from Bangkok with some friends. We had an incredible time despite the fact that it was raining the whole weekend. When my dad came and visited me towards the end of my semester I knew I needed to take him to Krabi.

Rather than make a beeline for the beach, we decided to stick around town and explore for the first day. We forked over about $7 to rent a motorbike for the day and set off without a destination in mind.

My whole life I’ve had a healthy fear of motorcycles. When I was really young, my uncle let me sit on the seat of his motorcycle before it had cooled down and I burned my leg on the side of it. When my dad bought an old Honda motorcycle a few years ago I gathered enough courage to take a ride on it. With the memory of my burned leg still fresh in my mind, I carefully sat on the seat and the bike immediately tipped over, trapping me against the curb. Needless to say I preferred just about any other method of transportation.

But with travel comes newfound courage.

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I had spent four months watching babies, kids, and animals strapped into motorbikes zipping through Thailand. I thought if they could do it so could I. We made our way out of the main part of town, zipping through traffic as I held on to my dad with a death grip.

Motorbiking in Krabi is safer than two-wheel trips in other parts of the country. The traffic is pretty much nonexistant once you get out of the center. There were a few potholes in the roads but easily avoided. Not many tourists venture out of the beach-y areas of Krabi so as soon as you get away from the coast you get a glimpse of local life.

We had no map or itinerary in mind. Just a full tank of gas and our cameras.

A short while later, a golden Buddha peeking out of a limestone cave caught our eye. We turned our little bike on to a gravel road and were greeted by some friendly chickens. A Thai man came out to greet us and offered to show us around the cave. After a short tour, we left a small donation in the box and hit the open road again.

Krabi is famous for its steep limestone cliffs jutting out of the landscape. We had beautiful mountain views on one side and endless lush rainforest on the other. We passed through farmlands and local villages.

The sun was beating down pretty hard that day so our next stop was a tiny local market to get some iced tea — or cha yen. They must not get a lot of lost tourists at this little strip of vendors because we got a lot of crazy looks. I was very proud when I ordered my drink using my very limited Thai knowledge and I got exactly what I wanted.

This little pit stop cost us a total of $0.50 for two iced teas.

Our final stop of the day was a spontaneous visit to Huai To (Huay Toh) Waterfall. We were actually getting pretty tired at this point and about to head back when we saw a sign for the falls. Huay Toh is actually a national park just northeast of Krabi town. They charged us a 200 baht entrance fee (about $6) which turned out to be well worth it.

There’s a short walk through the rainforest to the waterfalls. The path is pretty wide and the walk isn’t too treacherous. When we were there we didn’t see another person the entire time. The falls are beautiful and a lot of fun to climb around on. We splashed our faces with water and just enjoyed the unspoiled beauty.

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We returned to town just before sunset and got some dinner. After a full day of cave exploring, chasing waterfalls, and facing my fears I was getting hangry. Motorbiking in Krabi is an experience I will never forget. If you want to get off the beach and go off the beaten path for a day I highly recommend exploring on two wheels.

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