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Zero Waste Gifts for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

If you stop to think about it for a minute, the holiday season can result in a lot of needless garbage and waste. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and have been determined to find more zero waste gifts and sustainable gift ideas.


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Getting Rid of Wrapping

Let’s talk about wrapping gifts. Most people hate it, let’s be honest. I certainly do. I lose the tape, I lose the scissors, I end up with pieces that don’t even fit the present I’m wrapping (how?!) and I end up with a pile of scrap paper.

The wrapping paper is then ripped open on Christmas morning and then tossed in the trash.

What. A. Waste.

Last year, I decided that instead of buying wrapping paper, I would find something else to wrap my gifts in. I looked through my crafts and found I had a few rolls of brown craft paper. I decided to use that, I added some scrap ribbon and made a bow, and then used a metallic sharpie and wrote names right on the paper so I didn’t need any tags. The presents looked really pretty and the paper was all recycled.

This year, I’m not wrapping presents at all. Instead, I am putting whatever items need to be wrapped into boxes I have laying around (shoe boxes or amazon boxes work great!) or I am using reusable bags.

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Making Gifts Meaningful

One way I have decided to cut down on waste is by making sure I am giving something useful, or something the person really wants or needs. This can be kind of tricky because some people are a little bit shy about telling you what they want or need. But I was just honest… “I’m getting you a gift and I would rather give you something you need, instead of giving you something that will be tossed in a closet never to be seen from again.”

If they are still not open to the idea of telling me what they want, they get gift cards. Gift cards are easy and everyone can use a gift card to Walmart or their local grocery store, so it’s useful. They are also recyclable, and many stores will take them back to be reused.

Gift cards are one of the most sustainable gift ideas. I’ve come to learn and accept that something useful and needed is a way better and more sustainable idea.

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Zero Waste Gifts

Gift giving shouldn’t end up with a ton of trash or waste. Giving zero waste gifts help keep junk out of out landfills and, to be honest, helps me keep a clear conscious!

Here are a few sustainable gift ideas:

  • Gift cards. Like I mentioned above, gift cards are recyclable and are really useful. Even a gift card to the grocery store or gas station is something everyone can use.
  • Give a gift that will help create less waste. For example, a tofu press. You can check out this post for more ideas.
  • Make a Zero Waste gift basket. You can add products that create very little to no waste, you could add things like shampoo bars or conditioner bars, detergent sheets, dryer balls, a bamboo toothbrush… You get the idea! Regular, everyday items that also happen to be zero waste gifts!
  • Gift an Experience. You could give something like a ticket to the theater or a museum, a race entry, entrance fee to a local national park… Whatever they are interested in!
  • Charitable Donation. You could donate to the local food bank, women’s or men’s shelter, soup kitchen in someones name. You could also symbolically adopt an endangered animal or give gifts to people in need through in someones name.
  • Gift a Service. If you are a hairdresser, you could gift a haircut. If you can do nails, you could gift a manicure. Even cleaning someones house would make a nice gift!

What to do With Unwanted Waste and Gifts

You can only do and say so much to convince others that you actually want less gifts, and less waste, for the holidays. Even though you may have convinced people to give gift cards instead of a sweater you will never wear, well-meaning family and friends may still give you gifts. So what can you do with the unwanted gifts and waste?

Let’s start with gifts. In no way am I trying to be ungrateful! But let’s be honest, we have all received a gift that we don’t want or need. There are a few options you have when this happens:

  • Donate. Around the holidays there are plenty of places you can donate items to. Nursing homes, food banks, shelters, etc. They are always in need of items.
  • Re-Gift. If you have a brand new item, even if it was a gift, and you are never going to use it but know someone who absolutely will, there is no shame in re-gifting! Someone may as well get some use out of the item.
  • Return. If you were given a receipt with the purchase, don’t feel bad for returning it so you can get something you will use and love. In some cases, even without the receipt, you can return the item for it’s value on a gift card.

What to do with waste.

  • Items like boxes, bows, gift bags, and gently opened wrapping paper, can be saved and reused for the next time you need to give a gift. My mother has gift bags that are several years old and she just keeps reusing them.
  • Boxes can also be broken down and used as compost, or put in the recycling bin. (FYI: Most wrapping paper that is heavy on color and dyes cannot be recycled!)
  • You can also donate items like ribbons, gift bags or any craft items to second hand stores.
  • If you can’t find some way to use items like plastic and wrapping paper that’s very colorful or laminated, it needs to go in the trash unfortunately.

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Sticking to Your Guns

Remember that it may take some time to convince your family and friends that you really don’t want or need anything for the holidays. Sustainable gift ideas are not always the first thing on peoples minds. Gift giving is so ingrained in us that it’s hard to actually stop yourself from giving something. A lot of us will actually have a lot of guilt if we don’t have a present for someone!

Please also be kind to yourself, you can only do so much. If you are trying your best and still end up with more holiday waste then you had hoped for, you are still doing awesome for trying!

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