Gifts including sustainable backpacks | water containers | shoes and sandals | inner and outer-wear

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency
Taking the Kids

Thinking about Mother’s Day yet? Think beyond getting their favorite moms, grandmas, godmothers, and aunts flowers or candy this upcoming Mother’s Day (May 12, in case you have forgotten).

Instead, shop for something they can use on their next trip. All the better if the brand focuses on sustainability, using recycled materials.

Besides helping the planet (in a small way) you can avoid over packing because so many of these shirts, tees, pants, dresses, jackets, and skirts pack small and don’t wrinkle. You will also find they are versatile enough to go from day to evening so you can pack less, whether you are camping or going on a cruise.

Plenty of sustainable travel gifts at REI
Plenty of sustainable travel gifts at REI

One of my favorite brands, Eileen Fisher, for example, buys back its garments from customers at $5 each, resells some and reworks some into new merchandise as part of its Renew program.

NAOT, the brand known for comfortable but stylish shoes with uniquely designed insoles that offer support, shock absorption, as well as style (I’m a fan of their sandals) gives back by donating hundreds of shoes each week to those in need. From a one-room workshop on the Israeli Kibbutz Naot Mordechai, to a worldwide brand and a way of life – NAOT first started in 1942, when the members of a small collective farming community in Israel’s Hula Valley began making shoes.

The company uses eco-friendly materials, including plant- based leather and recycled components. You can design to donate with #NAOTGIVESBACK by using this template to design your own sandal. Post your design on social media with#NAOTGIVESBACK@naot.northamerica and the company will donate a pair of shoes to someone in need. Anyone who travels knows comfortable shoes are key to a good experience and worth paying more for.

I take my Very Bradley sling backpack and crossbody bag everywhere I travel. Their Featherweight Collection is made with 100 percent pre-consumer recycled nylon and the ReActive fabrication’s exterior fabric is made with 50 percent recycled plastic (Find many options on sale.)

Vera Bradley Featherweight collection
Vera Bradley Featherweight collection

Royal Robbins, founded by climbers Royal and Liz Robbins in 1968 for adventurers and travelers, selects lower impact fibers that help reduce waste, chemical and water use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to protect those who make their products. For travel, I especially like that their clothes don’t wrinkle and can be worn again and again as many repel moisture, odor and even bugs. Their Spotless Collection technology helps spills, drips, and dirt wash away easily. For spring this year, 90 percent of the company’s poly-based styles are made with recycled polyester and 64 percent of their nylon-based styles are made with recycled nylon. (I love the go anywhere women’s spotless traveler cargo pants and the women’s spotless evolution dress (each $100).

Patagonia is another brand that is fighting against the fast-fashion trend, noting that consumers buy 60 percent more clothing and keep them for about half as long as they did 15 years ago. The clothing industry contributes up to 10 percent of the pollution driving the climate crisis with apparel workers among the lowest-paid laborers in the world. For s pring 2024, 98 percent of their styles use recycled materials; They use recycled cotton and what they grow is made without harmful chemicals. Over 85 percent of their product line is made in a Fair-Trade Certified factory, impacting more than 75,000 workers. That should make you feel good when you shop Patagonia (including their Worn Wear program.)

Patagonia clothes look good too, whether you are hiking, camping, fishing, or exploring a new city. Check out the new Classic Microdini jackets ($119) and vests ($99) that are made of 100 percent recycled polyester fleece. Their Outdoor Everyday Pants ($99) are made with 100 percent recycled nylon faille and repel water. I also love their Responsibili-Tees ($45) built with fabric scraps and recycled bottles.

REI is another of my go-to brands and one that takes sustainability seriously and offers plenty of affordable options. REI stores and distribution centers use 100 percent renewable energy, reducing the company’s climate impact, as well as providing a platform for THEIR employees, members, and customers to advocate for policies that tackle the climate crisis through the Cooperative Action Network, a grassroots advocacy platform.

Check out their Co-op Trailmade dress ($74.95) made from a climate neutral certified brand and complete with a hidden zippered security pocket. It wicks moisture, dries fast and offers UPF 50+ protection. To determine what sustainable attribute a piece of clothing at the co-op has, customers can review the product page technical specs where “sustainability” is added at the bottom. Recycled materials are used when possible, and down is sourced from birds that are treated according to animal welfare standards. (A great gift is always a new puffy vest or jacket – you will find many on sale now!) For the women hikers in your life, consider a new backpack complete with a rain cover and hydration-compatible sleeve (using one changed my life!) It’s made with recycled materials and comes in pretty colors. (A smaller REI Day pack is $59.95) How about new trekking poles?

Of course, you can always give Mom a gift card for one of these brands or for Thredup, which my daughters introduced me to. It’s a huge online consignment and thrift store (there are plenty of brand-new items). Sadly, the vast majority of clothes that are discarded and sent to landfills could be reused or recycled.

Happy Mother’s Day!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2024 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.