It’s the time of year again and bank accounts everywhere are quaking in fear. Christmas is the biggest spending holiday of the entire year. Americans drop several hundreds of dollars in gifts alone. On average, we spend over $400 in gifts just for our family. Sometimes the gifts we give are a hit and sometimes … not so much. Why risk giving a gift that will be buried within the depths of your favorite aunt’s closet, when you can give your loved ones zero waste gifts that will have a real impact?
Zero waste gifts don’t have to be as complicated as they may sound. Simply put, they are meant to come in the most recyclable packaging possible. That also includes the packaging for ingredients used in any handmade gifts. The purpose of zero waste gifts is shed light on material waste during the holidays (or any time of year) and limit how much you contribute to that waste.
Gift Experiences for Zero Waste
One of the easiest ways to go zero waste is to “give” experiences rather than objects. Several psychological studies have shown that people having experiences with loved ones are happier than receiving material items. Packaging an experience is almost as close to zero waste as you can get, since you don’t need an abundance of wrapping paper or boxes.
Tickets: Buying tickets to a lecture or skill building classes can be great gifts for kids and adults who like learning new things.
Book Signings: Any book lover will be excited to get the opportunity to meet one of their favorite authors and have a book signed. It will be an experience they can hold on to all year.
Membership/Season Passes: You can find membership passes to fit anyone’s interests. Passes to an art gallery, museum, gym, planetarium, or even a science center all offer fulfilling experiences.
Volunteer Together: One of the most satisfying things you can do is contributing to someone else’s. Volunteering with family and friends can be both a bonding and a learning experience.
Subscriptions: More people are giving cable the boot, so why not get them a few months or a year subscription to Amazon Prime, Netflix, or HBO Go. Letting your loved ones catch up on Game of Thrones or another guilty pleasure will be the gift that keeps on giving.
Still giving material gifts is not a bad thing when you are being mindful of what is needed and what is wasted. There are plenty of items you can give to your loved ones that are still zero waste. Upcycled, eco-friendly, or handmade gifts are perfect for this.
Handmade gifts are great because you can customize them to fit whomever you’re making them for. They are also a great way to recycle other materials, which means you don’t have to buy and worry about packaging waste.
Coffee Lover Candle: Mix some used coffee ground with some wax, and you have the perfect gift for any coffee lover in your life. Not only are you reusing coffee grounds, but you can also reuse old candle wax from other candles you may have lying around.
Directions for this craft can be found here. Tip: instead of using a paper cup as a mould (which could still be recycled) you can remove labels from old candle jars or any other glass jar you have around and use those!
You can do this craft with so many different things, such as herbs, roses, essential oil or anything else you can imagine.
Salt Scrubs: Salt and sugar can be bought in bulk in recyclable containers if you don’t already have what you need on hand. Mixed with fruit juices and essential oils in a recycled jar and you have a quick, all-natural scrub to pamper anyone in your family. Here is a nice recipe for a citrus body scrub that will surely be a hit.
Shaving Cream/Soap: Homemade shaving cream or soap is a great gift to give because it is free of chemical additives, can be put in recycled jars, and shaves a pretty penny. It is also a great gift to give for men who have a 5 o’clock shadow before noon. Wellness Mama has a set of recipes for shaving cream and soap. If you must buy ingredients that you don’t have or can’t recycle from scraps, make sure the packaging is 100% recyclable or reusable to make them zero waste.
Soap: Soap is a great gift for anyone because everyone needs it and it is so customizable that you can make scents that will appeal to the men or women in your life. Tip: you can use fun shaped moulds to make these gifts fun for kids.
Eco-friendly, waste reducing purchases
Safety Razors: About 2 billion razors are thrown away each year and are very difficult to recycle, so why not spend a little bit more for a safety razor that can last a long time. The blades are stainless steel and recyclable, so your throw away razors will not end up in landfills. Here’s one we recommend – OUI Shave is eco-friendly and 1% of their annual profit goes toward their mission to end human trafficking around the world.
Reusable Water Bottle: Reusable water bottles can be a pretty neat gift for anyone, but especially for active people. They are great for hikes, and you can get them in almost any size, style, or design. EarthLust water bottles are made from recycled food grade stainless steel. LifeFactory Glass Water Bottles are BPA-free and allows no chemical leaching.
Reusable Snack Bags: This is a cool gift for people who take their lunch to work or those who have kids. Reusable snack bags save money, and some brands are compostable or made from recycled materials. Reuseit.com offers several different types of bags.
One part of zero waste gifting is the wrapping. You could always just hand a gift to someone, but that isn’t as fun as the suspense of not knowing. I personally find that handing someone a present sans wrapping can kind of kill the holiday wonder. However, you don’t have to deal with that mess when you go zero waste.
Reuse: Reusing wrapping paper or other similar materials from gifts you’ve received in the past is one way to cut down on paper waste. Instead of buying more, use what you have. Some bags you get from stores or other packaging can be pretty neat and is sturdy enough for use year after year.
Recycle: Wrapping paper is difficult to recycle. In some places, you can’t recycle it at all because of the films and other additives mixed with it. If you want to wrap your gifts in the traditional style, stick to papers that are completely recyclable. You can even decorate them with stamps and doodles, to still maintain some of the charm of old wrapping paper.
Upcycle: Upcycling other materials for wrapping purposes is a neat way to give zero waste gifts. You can use newspaper as a 100% recyclable material, for instance. Of course, your “wrapping paper” doesn’t have to be a type of paper. You can always use scraps of cloth or old shirts and sheets to wrap gifts. When you don’t need them anymore, you can repurpose them for rags or various DIY projects.
Zero waste can be a new tradition
Giving experiences instead of gifts, handmade over bought, and recycling over waste can be the new theme of your holidays. A zero waste holiday season can be a family affair. The more people you get involved, the more fun and creative it can be.
Think outside of the box this holiday season while going for zero waste!
And if you have other ideas we should append to this list, please let us know in the comments below.