Graduation Day: Sustainable Gift Ideas

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May is the beginning of graduation season so now is the time to start thinking about how to treat the young people in your life as they complete their school careers. Whether it’s a graduation from high school or college, successfully finishing any level of education is cause for celebration.

But it can be a difficult balance between buying gifts for someone and avoiding unnecessary purchases that can be harmful to the environment. Of course, the main reason for gift-giving is to show your love and appreciation towards someone but Americans are expected to spend almost $8.3 billion on unwanted presents during the holidays alone.

With such a poor track record for gift-giving, a new approach is needed, which is where sustainable presents come to the fore. If you are thinking about treating a member of your family as they finish high school or college, consider these eco-friendly graduation gifts for minimum impact and maximum satisfaction.

National Park passes

Many people find when they are wrapping things up at college that they are struck by an intense feeling of wanderlust. But, jetting around the world takes its toll on the planet. Perhaps you can encourage the recent graduate in your life to embark on a staycation instead with National Park Passes.

You can not only help them reduce their screen time on laptops or smartphones but also allow them to enjoy the mental health benefits of being in the great outdoors, such as reduced feelings of anxiety and stress.

Eco-friendly reusable water bottles

We all need water but there has to be a continued attitude change toward the billions of single-use bottles we drink each year. One trend that is helping to reduce our carbon footprints is reusable bottles, also helping to decrease the burden on landfills and protecting marine life that would otherwise ingest microplastics.

We can go one step further and purchase eco-friendly reusable water bottles made of stainless steel that allow your chosen recipient to avoid buying plastic water bottles for the rest of their lives. Instead, all they need is a water source and the insulating nature of these reusable bottles ensures it stays cold for hours.

Preloved articles and equipment

Whether it’s photography, music, snowboarding, or anything in-between, there is no shortage of new equipment available for whichever activity your loved one has a passion for. 

However, we can buy more sustainably if we purchase these items as used or pre-loved.

Not only does it reduce the need for more stuff to be made but buying this way also reduces the amount of waste that finds its way into landfill each year. 

For example, MPB specializes as an online marketplace for the buying and selling of used cameras and equipment. Similarly, services such as Reverb are great for used musical instruments, or Depop, which is great for buying clothes and reducing the impact of the fashion industry. A well chosen more retro / vintage item can often hold a lot more individual and personal value when given with meaning too.  


A plant is a great way to symbolize the next chapter in a graduate’s life. Gone are the carefree college days and in their place comes the responsibility and obligation to find work and progress their careers.

To make the impact of your plant gift lower, consider an eco-friendly potted plant from a local store rather than an exotic flower that requires way more energy to transport and keep alive. Alternatively, consider a unique tree gift from Forest Nation that not only allows the recipient to grow their own tree but we will plant 10 trees for you in a developing country.

A low-maintenance plant could be the first thing your son, daughter, nephew, or niece has ever had to be responsible for. As they continue on their journey into adulthood they can bring their plant with them and learn to nurture their little green friend.

Eco-friendly toiletries

Good quality soap is a great graduation gift as it’s relatively inexpensive and because it’s an essential home product, it’s going to get used. There is now a wide range of plastic and cruelty-free toiletries that allow for low-impact gift baskets without the guilt.

The great thing about sustainable toiletries is that they put the environment first, typically meaning they are made using local and natural ingredients. Often available at independent shops, eco-friendly toiletries are a great way to lower the carbon footprint of your purchases, from the miles traveled to production methods.

Examples of sustainable and cruelty-free toiletries include:

  • Bath oils
  • Bath soaks
  • Body wash
  • Hair care
  • Soaps and scrubs
  • Wellness products
  • Hand washing
  • Beard care

Vegan recipe book

This sustainable graduation gift is of a similar ilk to the old saying, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime’. In today’s society, this might not quite ring true but a good alternative is to buy a vegan recipe book.

With the impact of the meat and dairy industry well reported as a significant contributor to global emissions, helping the younger generation reduce their animal product consumption is a great route for a gift. Not only will you help them to eat more plant-based foods but it can also help them find recipes they will cherish and reuse for years to come.

Sustainable jewelry

Jewelry is one of the most common types of gifts given between adults and it is a lovely way to commemorate your loved one’s graduation with a timeless piece. However, in the interest of sustainability, jewelry isn’t the most environmentally friendly way of gift giving.

So why have we suggested it? There are now many brands specializing in sustainable jewelry made from responsibly sourced and recycled precious metals.

We can also replace mined diamonds with lab-grown versions, ensuring modern slavery and horrific working conditions are not part of the supply chain. An alternative to buying new sustainable jewelry is to repurpose an existing piece, perhaps an heirloom, to give it a new lease of life and purpose within your family.

Low-impact graduation celebrations

Graduation is a special time in anyone’s life and it’s a time for celebration and reflection on a job well done. If you are looking to reward your loved one with a special graduation gift, consider these sustainable ideas to show how much you care. 

An appropriate graduation gift depends on the individual’s interests and needs. Some popular options include personalized items, tech gadgets, books, travel accessories, or practical items for their next phase of life.

Yes, a gift card can be a great option for graduation, especially if you’re not sure what the graduate would like. ForestNation offers gift cards that allow the recipient to plant trees in areas that need reforestation.

Yes, gift cards can be appropriate for graduation, especially if the recipient can use them towards something meaningful or helpful for their future.

The purpose of a graduation gift is to celebrate the graduate’s achievements and to help them transition into the next phase of their life.

The most common graduation gifts are money, tech gadgets, and gift cards. However, personalized and practical gifts are also becoming more popular.

It is not rude to attend a graduation party without bringing a gift, as your presence and support are already appreciated. However, if you do want to bring a gift, it can be a nice gesture to show your congratulations and support.

It is customary to give graduation gifts after the ceremony, as it allows the graduate to celebrate their achievement and receive gifts in a more personal setting. However, there is no strict rule about when to give a graduation gift.

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