Whatever the season, there’s always the opportunity to do a little giving! The trick is to make that giving extra thoughtful…
So, we’ve pulled together some zero waste gift ideas to give to loved ones without giving to landfills.
WHY ZERO WASTE GIFTS?
If you’ve visited Sustainable Jungle before, you’ll know we’re on a sustainable living journey.
A big part of that is waste management! We’ve set ourselves up with a zero waste plan which we share here and the holidays (birthdays, etc.) are no exception.
This may be a useful time to give a short intro to the goal of zero waste living. Which is to live in a way that sends no trash to landfills or incinerators. Instead minimizing toxic impact by using biodegradable, compostable, or reusable products (or reusable gifts in this case)!
So that’s what we’ve tried to shoot for in this list.
But if you can re-gift things or buy second-hand, that is always preferred – the world has enough stuff. Though, if you do need to buy, we’ve also tried to make local(ish) product suggestions to minimize on carbon-heavy travel miles.
We hope this is a helpful holiday / birthday / whatever the occasion resource! If you have any other eco friendly or zero waste gift ideas, let us know.
QUICK LINKS – ZERO WASTE GIFTS FOR HIM AND HER
1. ZERO WASTE STARTER KIT
Zero Waste Starter Kit
What better zero-waste gift than the gift of zero waste itself?! Zero Waste Starter Kits typically include a bunch of different waste saving solutions.
For eating, drinking while out and about:
- reusable water bottle – we personally love S’well, they’ve got a great story behind their much loved and beautifully designed plastic free water bottles. Thankfully they’re available in most countries: USA, UK and Australia.
- reusable cutlery and straw (for when eating and drinking out and about). Again, something you can pick up just about anywhere: USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia
- cotton napkins (to replace single-use napkins). This is a really easy hack. Just leave a reusable napkin in your bag and you’ll never need to waste another single use napkin again. These are available on Etsy at a local supplier near you 🙂 USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia.
Shopping & home:
- reusable cotton shopping bags (to replace single use plastic bags given at the counter). More and more supermarkets are now doing away with plastic bags. So buy your bestie a long lasting solution for their shopping needs alternative that will last for ages: USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia.
- produce bags (to replace single use plastic bags for fresh produce). These come in different sizes depending on the fruit or veg your buying: USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia.
- beeswax wraps (to wrap up food for the fridge or for on the go) – we love these and now all our lunchtime snacks are safely and sustainably packaged USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia.
Here are some product ideas if you don’t have a local, convenient spot to buy all this good stuff.
All in one Zero Waste Starter Kit:
2. ZERO WASTE PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS
Zero Waste Personal Care Products
An old time gifting favorite: sustainable beauty products!
Why not opt for thoughtfully chosen items for your loved one?
Thankfully, there are quite a few zero waste beauty and zero waste personal care product options out there. Although, for us, it can be tough finding ones that match all our criteria.
Here are a few ideas that might help.
Give them as gifts individually or create a kit as lavish as you like:
- Zero Waste Cosmetics: Anything from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics Range (amazing and also cruelty-free, vegan and palm oil free) – they have a handful of gift pack options at the moment.
- Zero Waste Sunscreen: For those of you who think your loved one needs a little time in the sun why not an eco-friendly Empire Squid Zinc Sunscreen? It comes in a glass jar so be sure to re-use it!
- Zero Waste Shampoo and Conditioner: How about a selection of great smelling shampoo and conditioner bars from Ethique. You can pick them up on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Nourished Life or Ethique. Or perhaps check out this article for more zero-waste shampoo options. You can make a basket of zero waste goodies
- Bamboo Toothbrush: A key part of a zero waste beauty and personal care routine is a compostable bamboo toothbrush (sadly only the wooden handles are compostable). This is a good option: Brush with Bamboo Toothbrush which is available on Amazon or Brush with Bamboo.
- Zero Waste Deodorant: Friends don’t let friends smell bad and pollute the environment. A zero waste deodorant stick from Meow Meow Tweet will help you be that friend, pick up a bar or two from Amazon,V-Spot Australia, Meow Meow Tweet. Alternatively, you can go the extra mile and make this yourself.
- Zero Waste Makeup Pads: Another sustainable beauty staple. If you’re building a package, you might want to add a few handmade zero waste makeup removal pads, which you can easily find locally in any country around the world on Etsy: USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia.
3. BAKE/MAKE THEM SOMETHING DELICIOUS
Zero Waste Baking
Classic, low-cost, and delicious, you can’t go wrong. Try baking or making some yummy food, delivered in a reusable (preferable second hand) tin or jar, for example:
- Vegan zero-waste chocolate cake
- Vegan banana bread (also gluten free) – we actually make this once a month and it goes down a treat. There are a lot of banana bread recipes out there but we can definitely vouch for this one. It is delicious!
- So many great ideas from the Zero Waste Chef in her “gifts in jars” article.
4. DONATE TO CHARITY ON THEIR BEHALF
The Gift of Charitable Giving
Maybe your loved one lives minimally and may not want anything.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate you contributing to something they care about. Here are some great options:
- Oxfam gifts – a really well known charity that do a world of good for the environment and much more.
- Flexible donation platforms where the recipient can decide for themselves: MyCause Australia, Global Giving, Daymaker (great for kids!).
Personally, we are animal people so we like to give to small charities that are protecting endangered species. Here are a couple of our faves that we’ve supported in the past:
- The Owl Rescue Center and Sanctuary in Johannesburg – these guys are the real deal. You won’t find a more dedicated and passionate owl rehab centre. See our podcast with founder Danelle Murray here
- You can buy a Digital Download of the STROOP Documentary Film (Journey into the Rhino Horn War) – see our podcast with filmmaker Bonne de Bod here. Proceeds go towards helping the plight of endangered rhinos.
5. TICKETS TO SOMETHING FUN
Experiences over Stuff
Whether a movie buff, music lover, or sport super fan, consider getting two tickets to whatever gets their goat: ski lift tix, yoga class, dance lesson, just to name a few.
Opt for digital tickets for true zero-waste goodness.
Life is truly about experience not about stuff. The best part about this is you can do it together, so in that sense it’s a double gift!
6. INDOOR COMPOST BIN
Indoor Compost Bin
For a life changing gift that keeps on giving, consider a food scrap collection bin or, if you’re looking to give a big-ticket item, a full on compost bin.
There are tons of different bins out there, we put together an article on some bins we’ve tried and tested and can recommend.
If you’re on a lower budget, consider a simple compost collection bin for the kitchen counter. A great start to any composting lifestyle.
Zero Waste Plants
House plants, perennial shrubs, succulents, veggies, you name it: nothing says sustainability like plants.
They create oxygen and look pretty at the same time. Plus, the provide great opportunities to upcycle glass and metal containers.
For my birthday recently, I received a beautiful philodendron in a gorgeous ceramic planter, it was one of the best, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. It now sits proudly on our kitchen counter.
8. NON-TOXIC ZERO WASTE CANDLES
What better way to brighten up someone’s home than with a wonderfully scented candle?
You can make your own in recycled jars or tins using organic soy wax, essential oils, and organic cotton yarn. Alternatively, you can order handmade candles, like The Candle Chemist’s natural soy wax scented candles.
Best of all, once the candle has been used, you can send the tin back as many times as you like for refills at 50% the original price!
Here is another good option where the Etsy shop accepts jar returns for empty jars (this option uses beeswax though so is not vegan friendly): Organic beeswax candle infused with Lavender.
9. ZERO WASTE COFFEE KIT
Zero Waste Coffee Makers
Think about the waste coffee habits create: single-use cardboard cups with plastic lids, plastic cans, coffee filters, coffee pods… yikes!
Not to mention the money that goes into getting coffee out.
Instead, create a zero waste coffee kit perfect for the coffee lover in your life.
Or a stovetop espresso maker. It has to be Bialetti, the original stovetop. We’ve used ours for years (as you can see above) and it has never let us down 🙂 Again, these are available all over in the USA / Canada and UK / Europe.
Both these options make GREAT waste-free coffee!
Zero Waste Coffee Cups
Or, how about a cute ceramic mug for slow mornings at home.
But to be honest our recent favorite are the Frank Green Reusable Coffee Cups. We interviewed the founder on our podcast and he’s creating a truly sustainable alternative to fight the coffee waste problem.
To keep all that coffee fresh for your friend, buy zero waste, fairtrade coffee in an upcycled jar from your closest bulk foods store (or in a reusable cotton coffee storage bag). PS: Each day, they can put those coffee grounds into their compost bin!
10. AN AUDIBLE MEMBERSHIP
Give the gift of reading without the risk of one day having it end up in a landfill.
Perhaps, the first book they can download is the well known and highly recommended Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste
Reusable Water Bottle
As we mentioned already, a reusable water bottle is the easiest, no-brainer way to reduce waste (and stay healthy and hydrated!).
Why not apply the same logic to other food and beverage options?
We like Hydroflask because they offer tons both food and beverage containers that can be used to replace plastic water bottles, to-go coffee cups, and take-out food containers. You can choose from a variety of options on Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon AU.
Plus the leak-proof vacuum insulated stainless steel design keeps colds things cold all day and hot things hot for hours.
We have one of these and use it to death. It’s stainless steel inside which is also a lot safer!
Just be sure to check your loved one doesn’t already have one of these, they’re really good quality and we’d hate for them to go to waste!
12. SOMETHING HANDMADE
Bring back the art of handmade gifts.
For example, create a compostable personalized coupon book (e.g. “Good for one movie date”). It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Or of course, there’s always knitting a scarf – nothing says “I love you” more than a knitted scarf!
13. ZERO WASTE GIFTS FOR TODDLERS AND KIDS
Buying for kids can be tricky, especially when a quick walk down the toy aisle will leave you feeling a little suffocated by plastic.
But, fear not, there are plenty of zero waste gifts for kids, too.
Here are a handful of things off the top of our heads (with a bit of research too, of course).
Let us know if you have anycadditional ideas to add to the list!
14. WOODEN TOYS
Since many toys these days are made of plastic, it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t have to be that way.
A collection of natural wood and tree pieces can be as good as lego. Some come in abstract shapes which will help exercise the kiddo’s imagination.
Here are some beautifully handmade options available on Etsy.
14. TOY LIBRARY SUBSCRIPTION
You don’t need to own to enjoy.
Rather than clutter the world with toys that will likely be thrown away in a few months or years (if lucky), get them a subscription to a Toy Library.
It’s a system of borrowing toys specially designed for certain age groups to help develop children’s physical and intellectual capabilities. These programs help child development and the planet!
There are many local councils who also offer cost effective options (try googling toy libraries in your area).
15. HOMEMADE NON-TOXIC PLAYDOUGH
Every kid loves Playdough and they love getting a little messy, so teach them how to make their own colorful putty (using all –natural non-toxic dyes, of course!) with this recipe.
15. WORM FARM
Zero Waste Worm Farms
Okay, so this one is actually great for the whole family, kids and adults.
It’s fun, informative and environmentally friendly, everyone can get behind it!
This handcrafted vermicomposter by Sacred Resources will not only entertain kids, but will also look beautiful in their parent’s home. If it’s not available in your area, there are bound to be other good options with a bit of research.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ZERO WASTE GIFTS
Now that we’ve dealt with gifts for everyone else, what about YOU!?!
How do you subtly ask your loved ones to not get you stuff you don’t need or want?
One final great idea we came across was a gift registry called So Kind. Here you can register requests for gifts that are meaningful to you and share them with your loved ones.
So Kind says their platform: “encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more. Here’s to more fun and less stuff!”
We hope this list has shared some zero waste gifts you’d never thought of. We could go on and on but our biggest advice is this: just be creative!
Zero-waste giving (and living, for that matter) is all about using imagination to defy commercial standards and strive for sustainability.
We’d love to hear from you if you have epic zero waste gift ideas that we should add to the list!
Leave us a comment below or get in touch… Happy Holidays!