Nov 5, 2016

Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Most people think that it is hardest to go zero waste during the holidays, but that doesn't have to be the case! There are a number of ways to reduce waste while still celebrating the season.

First, look long and hard at your list and decide if you need to give that person a gift at all. If it is an acquaintance who you are no longer close to maybe it would be OK to just get them a card or cookies rather than a present. If it's someone you've been trading cookies with for a while, maybe you can have a talk about waist lines and decide to forgo cookies this year.

If there is a large group of people who you get gifts for (a large family or office for example), perhaps rather than all trading presents you could a draw names. For years one side of my family would buy gifts for all of the aunts and uncles. It got to be a little overwhelming so they went to drawing names, it went from 5 people to buy for to one. Eventually they even gave up on drawing names and decided to only give presents to the grandparents (usually pictures of grandkids) and the children. Everyone ended up far happier not having the stress of buying presents or ending up with something they didn't like. Finally it brought it a little closer to being about simply spending time together rather than presents.

At an office or work party you could do a white elephant or ornament exchange instead. A white elephant is where everyone participating brings a single wrapped gift under a specific dollar amount (say $20). Numbers are drawn and the first person takes a gift and unwraps it. The second person either takes an already unwrapped gift or selects a new gift. If they choose an unwrapped gift the person the gift was taken from can now select an unwrapped gift (but not the one that was just stolen from them!) or a new gift. I've found limiting a present to only 3 steals helps move the game along. The game continues until everyone has a gift. Some variations on this are to give humor gifts, or to give ornaments.

If you have gone zero waste be sure to let gift givers know your wishes. For example bags can be easily reused so maybe you request that over wrapping paper. However, even if someone doesn't follow your wishes be respectful and gracious and say thank you. Remember, you can always recycle or donate the item later if it doesn't meet your needs.

I've found the best way to reduce waste is to given an experience rather than an item. Here are some examples of experience gifts:
  • Museums
  • National Parks
  • Zoo
  • Plays
  • Movies
  • Babysitting for date night
  • Spa Day
  • Manicure
  • Trip to the Gun range
  • Dinner at a nice restaurant
  • Go to a favorite park or a new park
  • Tickets to a local festival

The next way to  help minimize waste is by giving something useful or consumable.
  • Dried fruit
  • Cookies
  • Homemade Vanilla
  • Jam
  • Homemade liquors
  • Floral arrangement
  • Fruit Basket
  • Freezer Meals
  • Fermented food (Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled jalapenos)
  • Homemade bath scrubs
  • Homemade soap
Some other ideas:
  • One year we did a book exchange, we gave the person a copy of the book we had read during the year that we thought they would enjoy.
  • Give a magazine subscription
  • Donate to charity
Some gift ideas if the person is starting their own zero waste journey:
  • Compost bin
  • Reusable napkins
  • Reusable sanitary napkins, or menstrual cup
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Shampoo bar
  • Straight razor
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Reusable produce bags
  • Water bottle
  • Glass food storage

Want to some other ideas? Check out these from other bloggers:

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Shared on: Waste Less Wednesday


  1. Great ideas! I love these! :)

  2. Love these ideas! There are some ways to reduce waste, but still give great gifts! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Cute animals. I feel like I know them well. I have 2 cats. Cooper, my 16 lb. orange tabby, thinks he is the ruler of the house. Maisy, solid black long hair, is 8lbs. of mischief. While only half his size, she keeps up with Cooper. They romp around the house playing tag. Both are rescue cats. I love your blog, Katy

    1. Thanks! I bet Callie would love to play with them.

  4. So many inventive ideas. We prefer experiences to more stuff too.

    1. Thank you! I think experiences are a better gift.

  5. Experience vs gift, that's what we did for our kids this year. Concert even if it's not exactly the same date :)

  6. I Love this - It's funny even though we abide by many of these ideas already it is nice to have a reminder of all the options out there! For Christmas we are giving an experience to our children - so much more memorable than a gift!

  7. I loved how you mentioned talking with your neighbor about not giving cookies to reduce you waste lines! :) It made me laugh! I have been doing a lot of these things for Christmas and they aren't as hard as some people think! I made bath bombs last year for everyone in my family and they loved them! They were also easy and affordable to make!

    1. Bath bombs are a great idea! I made sugar scrub one year. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Love it. I LOVE DIY gifts, or food gifts, but the best ones are experience gifts or simply NO gifts. I have started a no-gift Christmas movement in my little family and so far quite a few have agreed, which is awesome! We have realized we do not need or want anything, so until something breaks or something... no gifts necessary. Last year I did some DIY gifts for my family and they loved them:

    1. It's so nice that your family wants to participate in a no-gift Christmas! I'll check out those DIY gifts!

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