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.
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. 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!
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, seriously. 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!
What better zero-waste gift than the gift of zero-waste itself?!
A Zero Waste starter kit typically includes a reusable water bottle (no more plastic bottles), reusable cutlery and straw (for when eating and drinking out and about), cotton napkins (to replace single-use napkins), reusable shopping bag (to replace single use plastic bags given at the counter), produce bags (to replace single use plastic bags for fresh produce) and beeswax wraps (to wrap up food for the fridge or for on the go).
Here are some product ideas if you don’t have a local, convenient spot to buy all this good stuff.
Eating, drinking while out and about:
- Stainless steel water bottle: USA / Canada | UK / Europe | Australia
- Cutlery/utensils + Straw sets : USA | Canada | UK / Europe | Australia
- Cotton Napkins: USA | Canada | UK | Europe | Australia
Shopping & Home:
- Reusable String Cotton shopping Bags: USA | Canada | UK | Europe | Australia
- Produce bags: USA | Canada | UK | Europe | Australia
- Beeswax wraps : USA | Canada | UK | Europe | Australia
An old time gifting favorite: beauty products! Why not opt for thoughtfully chosen items for your loved one?
Thankfully, there are quite a few zero waste natural beauty/personal care product options out there. Although, for us, it can be tough finding ones that match our other criteria, here are a few ideas that might help.
Give them as gifts individually or create a kit as lavish as you like:
- 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.
- 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!
- A great smelling shampoo bar! How about an Ethique Shampoo Bar and conditioner (available from Amazon US | Amazon UK | Nourished Life | Ethique) or perhaps check out this article for more zero-waste shampoo options. You can make a basket of zero waste goodies 🙂
- A key part of a zero waste beauty and personal care routine is a compostable toothbrush (sadly only the wooden handles are compostable). This is a good option: Brush with Bamboo Toothbrush (available at Amazon US | Brush with Bamboo).
- Friends don’t let friends smell bad and pollute the environment. A zero waste deodorant stick from Meow Meow Tweet won’t let you down (Amazon | V-Spot Australia | Naturismo UK | Meow Meow Tweet) (Alternatively, you can go the extra mile and make this yourself).
- If you’re building a package, you might want to add a few handmade zero waste makeup removal pads: USA | Canada | UK | Europe | Australia.
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:
Maybe your loved one lives minimally and may not personally want anything. Show you care by contributing to something they care about. Here are some great options:
- Oxfam gifts
- 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’re supported in the past:
Whether a movie buff, music lover, or sport super fan, consider getting two tickets to whatever gets their goat: ski lift ticket, 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!
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, so have a look at this article on some bins we’ve tried 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. Ideas:
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 plant in a gorgeous ceramic planter, it was one of the best, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.
Here are some beautiful Ceramic Planters we found on Etsy. They really add a nice touch if you don’t have an up-cycled vessel!
- Handmade Ceramic planter in desert hues (Etsy USA)
- Handmade Ceramic Stoneware planter (Etsy Canada)
- Handmade Ceramic Planter for medium sized plants (Etsy UK)
- Set of Three Handmade Ceramic Blue and Cream Speckled Planters (Etsy Aus)
- Rags Reloved Basket: upcycled material woven baskets – Choose between the Tesco Basket (made of recycled plastic Tesco bags) and Blue Jeans Basket! Love this!
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 which is not vegan): Organic beeswax candle infused with Lavender
Think about the waste coffee habits produce: 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. You could include a filterless french press or a stovetop espresso maker (yum!) – we own both of these and they make GREAT waste-free coffee!
Or, how about az cute ceramic mug for slow mornings at home, an insulated to-go mug (like a Hydroflask) and zero waste, fairtrade coffee in an upcycled jar you’re 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!
Give the gift of reading without the risk of one day having it end up in a landfill. Audible offers hundred of thousands of easily downloadable audiobooks with no monthly limit. Available: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU
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 🙂
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. 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!
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!
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 options 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 any additional ideas to add to the list!
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.
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, get them a subscription to a Toy Library. Say what?
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!
Okay, so this one is actually great for the whole family, kids and adults.
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.
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 is a useful list. 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!