Zero Waste Gift Guide Pt. 1

While our holiday traditions may differ between religions, cultures, and countries, one common factor for most of us, is gift giving. Giving gifts can be stressful, expensive, and extremely wasteful. But it is also a way to show people we care about them, especially for people who’s love language is gift giving. The holidays are a great time to talk about zero waste with your loved ones, tell them you’d rather not receive wasteful items or plastic and instead give them ideas of things that you would be grateful to receive without guilt. I’ve come up with 10 things (or categories of things) that you can give your loved ones without straying too far from your zero waste values.

1: Shop at nonprofit holiday events 

Many nonprofit organizations rely on the holiday season for the majority of their annual fundraising, which means a lot of them hold events to sell goods and raise funds. Look at events hosted by nonprofits in your area and stock up on presents that benefit a great cause. Empty Bowls is a charitable event hosted by nonprofits around the world (including the one I work at). While each event is different, the general structure involves purchasing a bowl and receiving a bowl of soup. You could also look for Holiday Markets, like the one hosted by my local YWCA, where you buy directly from local artists but a portion of the proceeds benefit the nonprofit.

2: Quality time

Now that I live far away from home, I particularly appreciate the time I get to spend with my parents and childhood friends. These gifts could range from buying plane tickets for someone, cooking them a nice dinner, concert tickets, or a class. If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea, check sites like Groupon to see if there are any classes you could take together (or to get a good deal on tickets for venues in your town). You could even do a throwback to DIY gifts from childhood and make a coupon book of things to do together, like a dinner out, a movie of their choice or other activities they enjoy. As a kid, I equated the quality of my Christmas presents with the number of boxes under the tree. But now, I would rather get to do something meaningful with someone.

3: Gently used items for their favorite activities 

Ok, so buying a used item for someone could definitely offend some people, but in so many cases gently used items are just as good as the stuff you can get brand new. Ever since I got my record player, my dad has been sending me used records to add to my collection. It is meaningful to me because I know that he is putting time into considering his favorite records and sharing them with me. Now, when I see those records I think of my dad and the conversations we’ve had about music over the years. If there is a chef or baker in your life, check your local thrift or consignment shop for vintage Pyrex mixing bowls or Fiestaware. Because vintage products were built to last (unlike most of the things you’d find at Target today), you can find a present that the recipient can use for years and that will be a unique addition to their home.


Some of the used records my dad has gifted me. They’re not only great because I get to enjoy the music and bond with my dad over music we both love.


4: Practical items they would not buy themselves 

Now that I’ve moved out and moved in and out of a few apartments, I appreciate all of the cooking gadgets and home goods that my parents have available in their home. Like many of us, moving into my current apartment meant a trip to IKEA where I bought the cheapest mixing bowls, knives, and measuring cups that they had available. All of these things still function, but it is pretty obvious that I am using a $7 knife set. Giving someone a quality knife set, bag for work, or nice coat is a great way to treat them to something they may not treat themselves to but will use more than a DVD.

5: Consumables

Treat someone to things like a nice bottle of wine or their favorite liquor, or coffee beans from your favorite roaster. This type of gift would be particularly appropriate for any minimalists in your life as it doesn’t leave them with an item they may not want to add to their home. Pinterest is full of recipes for soup and baked goods in a jar, just layer the dry ingredients in a mason jar (packaging zero wasters will love to receive). Or give them the mixings for their favorite cocktail with some thrifted bar cart accessories (a cool cocktail shaker, strainer, and bar spoon that they can use for a special occasion.


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