Sustainable + Vegan Holiday Gift Guide

It’s finally the holidays, and I’ve been burning my Trader Joe’s Gingerbread candle and jamming to Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande for a week straight now—and I couldn’t be more excited. While I love spending time with family (and my cat “brother,” Oscar) and walking around Downtown Chicago and my hometown’s downtown area, there’s nothing better than giving the perfect gift to someone. In lieu of my love for a more sustainable lifestyle and my passion for veganism, I have decided to create a gift guide to serve as your one-stop-shop to the best sustainable and vegan holiday gifts.

gift guide 1.png
gift guide 2.png

1 // stasher bag:

Stasher Bags are the coolest things since plastic baggies. Sure, everyone and their mom was amazed when they had something besides paper towels to wrap their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in. But, we all know how bad throwing away plastic is for the environment, which is why Stasher Bag nails it with their product. Made from BPA, lead, latex, and phthalate-free silicone, Stasher Bags make packing lunches, snacks, and even reheating food safe and sustainable.

You can purchase Stasher Bags here, here, and here!

2 // bee’s wrap:

I fell in love with Bee’s Wrap’s products after my sister gifted me them last Christmas. Instead of using plastic wrap (or cling wrap or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays), Bee’s Wrap can be used over-and-over again to keep food safe for travel or preserve leftovers inside of your fridge. I find myself wrapping apples or celery in them to bring with me to school, sometimes I cover the tops of Tupperware containers or half-eaten coconut yogurt containers with them, as well. These genius wraps are made from certified organic cotton and jojoba oil, sustainably sourced beeswax, and tree resin.

You can purchase Bee’s Wrap here!

3 // pela phone case:

Everyone needs a phone case, and someone who thinks otherwise is either wrong or delusional because a phone without a case is risky business. Pela makes it easy to protect your phone with style while still helping the planet. Pela phone cases are made from their signature “Flaxstic” which is starch and other natural fibers that are compostable and don’t include BPA or lead—that’s right, you can compost your Pela phone case when you no longer want it. Additionally, Pela has partnered with three different causes to make your phone case purchases even more worth it.

You can purchase Pela cases here!


When I was in Texas a few months ago, I stumbled upon these amazing pencils inside of a gift shop in Dallas. Pencils, in-and-of-themselves, are practical. But, when filled with seeds to be planted after the pencil is too short to be used is brilliant and even more practical. Sprout Pencils are 100 percent sustainable and non-toxic (made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood), and the little capsule that holds the plant seeds are made with natural clay.

You can purchase Sprout Pencils here, here, and here!

5 // hu chocolate

Would this gift guide really be complete without my favorite chocolate of all time? Obviously not. Hu Kitchen’s chocolate has been a long-time favorite of mine ever since I took a bite of their glorious hazelnut-filled bar 2-years-ago. Since then, I’ve tried almost all of their flavors with the cashew butter-filled bar being my favorite. While their bars not only taste delicious, they’re made out of organic cacao and are gluten-free, paleo, and vegan—what a win. Plus, all of their chocolate bars (and other new chocolatey treats) are made without dairy, GMOs, soy, refined sugars, and sugar alcohols. Bottom line: Hu Chocolate makes great-tasting desserts that are a healthy alternative to run-of-the-mill chocolate bars.

You can purchase Hu Kitchen Chocolate here, here, and here!

6 // homesick candles

I can honestly say I have never met a person who doesn’t like candles. And when the candle is scented after their hometown/college town/or favorite place, chances are they will love the candle even more. Homesick Candles are the perfect gift for out-of-town friends and relatives, recently graduated students, or anyone who loves vacationing. Homesick candles are scented after different places in the world, and the brand’s “Chicago” candle is scented to smell like the Windy City by capturing the “complex scent of rich chocolate carried by bursts of Great Lake air.” Sounds delicious, right? The best part of these candles is that they’re made from natural soy wax and high-quality cotton wicks that are free from lead and plastic. Plus, they’re made paragon, petroleum, and phthalate-free, and their jars can be washed and reused even after the candle is done burning.

You can purchase Homesick Candles here, here, and here!

Let me know which sustainable + vegan gift you would like to give and receive from my list above. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate!

with love & light, Amanda

When Your Burger Tastes Like An Animal

I love a good veggie burger. And by veggie burger, I mean packed with beans, veggies, and some sort of grain, not stuffed with wheat proteins, soy, or any artificial flavors or additives. When a few of my favorite restaurants featuring delicious veggie burgers switched from house-made, plant-loaded patties to the Impossible Burger, I was disappointed. However, when me and my parents visited Old Town Pour House in the Chicago suburbs last Spring, I decided that I would give it a try in lieu of not having anything else to eat for dinner.

I was hopeful. I had heard great things about this burger. It has over 10 grams of plant-based protein and is a proclaimed great alternative for consumers transitioning into a vegan diet, need a low cholesterol alterative to an animal burger, or just want something more similar to the “real deal.”  

The base of the Impossible Burger is water and wheat protein (clearly not one of my favorite ingredients, per my explanation above), along with coconut oil, “natural flavors,” and other ingredients that are most certainty not whole foods—I’m looking at you konjac and xanthan gum. However, I can’t totally discredit the Impossible Burger for having a base of wheat protein, as most plant-based burger consumers are looking for great taste and a high number of grams of protein—the Impossible Burger comes in at 20 grams of protein per patty.

While I was not thrilled with the ingredients in the Impossible Burger, I nonetheless decided to take a bite. My first reaction was the texture. It’s been a few years—over 4, to be exact—since I’ve eaten a McDonald’s single patty burger, but boy, did the Impossible Burger flash me back to my McDonald’s-eating days. To say I was grossed out is putting it nicely. The texture of the Impossible Burger was grainy and rubbery, like real meat is.

Next, I noticed the flavor. Weirdly gamey and strangely meat-flavored—I hated it. I was so taken aback by the fact that the burger tasted like meat (and I was almost convinced that the Impossible Burger was lying about its vegan claims) that I did some research right there and then in the restaurant to reassure myself that the patty I had just bitten into was animal-free. One word: heme. The Impossible Burger uses a molecule called heme that is found in mostly everything. From people to plants, heme is a protein molecule that tastes like meat, yet is 100-percent free of animals.

My vegan patty of choice: made with 11 vegetables & free of heme protein. Photograph by Monica Kaplan

My vegan patty of choice: made with 11 vegetables & free of heme protein. Photograph by Monica Kaplan

When I’m eating a vegan burger, I don’t want it to taste like an animal. I want it to taste like plants and the goodness that they offer. Bring on the beans, bring on the vegetables, and bring on the non-animal-tasting flavor. I do believe that this burger is great for people transitioning off meat and towards plants, but for us longtime vegans, we can do without the Impossible Burger. 

What’s your favorite veggie burger that you’ve bought in-store and tasted out at a restaurant? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love some inspiration!

with love & light, Amanda