Re/Up-cycled Gift Guide

by Meg Caccavale

Note: This post reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of Cocoburg LLC as a whole. I did my best research and fact-checking for accuracy. For more information, please read our full disclaimer.

To help you survive this holiday season I put together this Re/Up-cycled Gift Guide which features a bunch of up-cycled and/or recycled gift ideas focused on sustainability to make you feel GOOD about spending your $$$ for a change (pun totally intended). While searching for gift ideas, I was confronted with a question, "what's the difference between up-cycling and recycling?" So I thought I'd start there - Up-cycling is the use of ordinary waste to create something extraordinary. For example, we upcycle a byproduct of coconut water production (young coconut meat) to make our awesome coconut jerky... aka the PERFECT last minute stocking stuffer, order now! Recycling breaks down waste before creating something new, such as yoga mats or phone cases made from recycled water bottles. Up-cycling is more energy efficient than recycling, however both are kick a$$, good for environmental sustainability and can reduce your carbon footprint! These neat-o gift ideas will impress even the most difficult scrooges on your list!


1. Coconut Bowls

This first one is very on-brand for us. Companies like Coconut Bowl and Buddha Bowl purchase coconut shells (by-products of the coconut water/meat industry) from farmers that would have otherwise spent time, money and resources on discarding them as waste! The shells are then cut, sanded and polished into beautiful bowls that are reusable and safe to eat out of. These fair trade brands employ local craftsmen in Vietnam and Indonesia at ethical manufacturing sites (well above fair trade standards). Other products boasting sustainability from these brands include wooden forks/spoons and bamboo straws.

2. Sari Table Linen Collection

Step aside basic tablecloths, and make room for these gorgeous table linens made from up-cycled saris! This collection from VivaTerra consists of place mats and table runners. Each piece is unique and carefully crafted by artists in India that hand sew vibrant scraps that were leftover during the sari making process making the perfect personalized gift for the home.

3. Proof Sunglasses

Stuck searching for "gifts for him"?! We've got you covered, Proof was launched back in 2010 by 3 brothers with family roots in the sawmill industry. The Skate collection of sunglasses features frames made from up-cycled skateboards while the frames in the Aluminum collection are made using, you guessed it, recycled aluminum.

4. Mother Erth Handbags

Who knew discarded plastic laminated foil could look so designer chic? Tons of this foil is typically tossed due to errors that occur during the manufacturing printing process. The material usually ends up in the environment, or in landfills which spill out into the ocean. Mother Erth gathers the otherwise discarded material, cleans it, cuts it and revives it into something new and useful! Artisan moms in the Philippines are responsible for the beautiful hand woven patterns and are paid fair-wages over 3x the community average. The result is your very own one-of-a-kind handbag, the perfect gifts for her! Who wants to blend in anyway...


5. Pine Mountain Java Logs

One of my favorite holiday memories is warming up with family and friends by the fire, so naturally I had to include this gift idea. Pine Mountain is fighting environmental pollution by transforming waste coffee grounds into coffee LOGS, giving your mocha-no-foam-extra-whip Pumpkin Spice Latte a meaningful extra life! Inspired by nature with a commitment to sustainability, each log is made from recycled coffee grounds. These green logs burn cleaner than ordinary cordwood, emit up to 78% less carbon monoxide and up to 66% less creosote than cordwood fires, helping combat environmental pollution. Check their website for a retailer near you! "PSST, Dad! Run out to the store to buy the logs you forget to get that Mom definitely put on the list."


6. Girlfriend Collective Leggings

After stumbling upon Girlfriend Collective I personally am excited to give these leggings a try. The Compression collection (recycled polyester) is made using PET water bottles and the Lite Collection (recycled nylon) is made using fishing nets and other materials that would otherwise pollute our ocean.

7. Toast Ale

Toast Ale takes leftover bread from local bakeries (okay not just leftover bread, but the bread that remains AFTER they've donated all the loaves they can to shelters etc.) and transforms it into liquid gold - IPAs and Pale Ales. Through this process, Toast reduces the amount of food waste being sent to the landfill and the grains needed to brew beer. Let's get this bread, literally.

8. Stocking Stuffer Gift Ideas

Obviously coconut jerky ;) Barnana takes the flawed, imperfect, sad, rejected bananas that typically go to waste and turn them into super delicious snacks (banana bites, brittle and chips). Regrained creates protein bars using the leftover grain produced during the beer manufacturing process (HOW COOL?!) When beer is being brewed the sugar is processed out of the grain; what remains is protein, fiber and a bunch of other micro-nutrients. This leftover grain is then up-cycled into SuperGrain+ flour which is then used in all Regrained products. Who Gives a Crap?! We do! No trees were harmed in the making of this toilet paper. Instead,  recycled products like bamboo blended together with sugarcane are used to make these paper goods (toilet paper, towel paper and tissues). They donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need and come on the packaging is super cute! No wrapping paper needed here.


9. Honorable Mention

Etsy upcycle Kinkajou Bottle Cutter Onya Life - Reusable sandwich wraps made from recycled PET bottles Rubies in the Rubble - Jams and sauces made from produce food waste Agraloop - turns food crop waste, such as sugar cane bark, pineapple leaves, and hemp stalks, into low-cost natural fibers. scale up its operations and is in the midst of developing partnerships with global brands like H&M and Levis.