Buying gifts for your friends and family can be quite an arduous task. And if you’re living a zero waste lifestyle, you might feel a little horrified by the amount of plastic waste generated by most commercial products today.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of zero waste gift ideas you can explore. And who knows, you might even share the fun and help a friend or relative kickstart their own zero waste journey!
Here is a list of some of our favorite gifts that are totally safe for zero waste living. So when the holiday season rolls around, you won’t feel any of the guilt that comes with so much wrapping paper and plastic!
Mason jars are incredibly versatile, zero waste gifts for your loved ones who love organizing or need new plastic-free packaging for their trips to the bulk store. But the best part about these glass jars is that they’re helpful for such a wide array of things!
We’ve even used them for infused water! You can also use them as containers for any drinks you like making at home, paired with your reusable glass or stainless steel straw.
But their use doesn’t stop with food or drinks. Mason jars are also a great gift for organization and decor and can be used to spruce up a sustainable home.
You can offer it as such, without any packaging, but you could also add some of your favorite flowers or herbs to add a little personal touch to your gift.
Add sisal strings (5 or 6 layers around the middle of each jar), and now, you have created your own customized Zero Waste Gift. It’s simple, zero waste, yet valuable for daily life—the perfect zero waste gift for any season.
Zero Waste Candle
Many of us love the feeling of lightning candles at home for special occasions or simply to relax. Something as simple as a lovely candle at the end of the day can feel the perfect, luxurious way to unwind and cap the night.
However, there are some important considerations to make before buying any candle, such as the following:
- Choose candles made of glass or stainless steel holders and avoid plastic or any other disposable material. You can easily reuse them later on in your garden, as containers for small plants or your wooden clothespins.
- Make sure they are non-toxic and choose paraffin-free wax. Unfortunately, many conventional candles contain toxins and chemicals that are harmful to health,  especially if you suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma. This means that when burning them, they fill the air up with detrimental chemicals.
- Avoid wicks with a metal core (they can provoke ashy residue in surrounding walls) and prefer those made of cotton or wood.
We particularly love candles made of organic soy wax or organic cotton yarn with essential oils.
If you live in the United States, we recommend Brooklyn Candle Studio. Their candles are guaranteed petroleum and phthalate-free, as well as 100% vegan. They use soy wax derived from American-grown soy beans and propose a variety of captivating scents.
However, we strongly recommend buying local whenever possible, so make sure to check out local candle studios in your city or locale.
Personal care items are some of the very first swaps you make on your zero waste journey, and there’s no reason you can’t give them as zero waste Christmas gifts for friends and family!
All-purpose personal care bars are easy to come by and can make great gifts if you want to give to a large group of people. They’re also the perfect zero waste stocking stuffer for your relatives.
Although it’s always better to give thoughtful gifts, there are times when you aren’t really sure what to give, such as when you’re gifting to a team you’re handling or some acquaintances at work.
Zero waste personal care items come in the form of shampoo bars, conditioner bars, body lotion, artisan soaps, and even deodorant sticks! You can even check out some of our zero waste deodorant suggestions here. Although for that last one, we would recommend giving it to someone you know will appreciate it. Choosing a deo can be a very personal choice, and your gift may end up being unused.
Of course, make sure what you’re buying is a cruelty-free product! Animal cruelty is incredibly prevalent in the beauty and personal care industry, as we’ve explored in many of our cruelty-free guides. As such, it’s crucial to stay away from brands and products that are still tested on animals.
Plants or Aromatic Herbs
Whether you are looking for a gift for someone who lives in a house or an apartment, consider buying plants and aromatic herbs such as mint, parsley, thyme, chives, cilantro, or basil.
And no, your recipient doesn’t have to be an expert gardener or green thumb for this gift. Aromatic herbs are incredibly easy to take care of and can be grown even on the windowsill of your apartment. Have a look here for more details.
But if you do have friends who want to get into the plant scene and start collecting indoor (or outdoor) plants for their home, then a little seedling or cut is one of the perfect zero waste gifts you can give.
We particularly love using parsley or oregano to perfume our dishes and mint or dill to add a fresh touch to our cocktails.
Reusable Water Bottle
Reusable water bottles are some of the most popular zero waste gifts you can give your friends and family. If you know someone still stuck buying plastic water bottles, gifting them a quality reusable option is a great gift idea.
And it isn’t just limited to water bottles either! You can also go for a reusable coffee cup or thermos. These things may seem like impersonal gifts to give a person, but some of your loved ones are sure to appreciate them.
Stainless steel is always the best option when buying any reusable water bottle. It can keep liquids hot or cold for long periods of time, especially if you’re buying something that’s insulated. So if you know someone who likes to keep their drinks cold, think about getting them an insulated water bottle.
It should also be just the right size that they won’t have to keep refilling it when it’s inconvenient. A 21 oz. or 600 mL capacity should be just right to get them through gym class or a busy morning at work.
In addition, you should also check for a leak-proof lid. You couldn’t want your zero waste gift to cause such a mess in your friend’s bag or desk!
Reusable Cotton Bags
Food shopping is something all of us do regularly. And if you’re not very conscious of your environmental impact, it can be really easy to accumulate a lot of plastic (and even paper) bags while doing grocery runs.
Mainly for fruits or vegetables, bulk goods such as rice, nuts, and salt. This gift is an excellent eco-conscious alternative to traditional single-use plastic bags when doing groceries.
If you want to promote a more eco friendly life, reusable organic cotton bags make perfect zero waste gifts for practically anybody in your life. You could even find a store that can customize the design for you if you want!
If you can find it, fair trade and organic cotton are generally the best options for any cotton product. Conventional cotton production is very resource-intensive and has a high carbon footprint—not exactly fit for a sustainable lifestyle.
The kitchen is the one room in the house that generates the most waste. From food scraps to sandwich bags, there’s almost always a source of waste from cooking or storing food. One of the best ways you can make a kitchen plastic-free is by making your own beeswax wraps!
If you want to know more about keeping your kitchen zero waste, take a look at our handy guide here.
These little wraps work as excellent food covers or sandwich wrappers for lunch or snacks. You can purchase these in packs of a few each, but you could also make them at home with little fuss. This way, you’re giving your own gift, made also by your own hands.
Here’s how you can easily make DIY beeswax wraps right in your own home.
- Take a piece of cloth or rag (ideally, quite colorful!) that you do not use anymore, preferably made of 100% organic cotton, and cut it, to form a square of 10 X 10 inches. You can also create them in any size you like. You could even create a unique gift set of multiple sizes for various kitchen applications.
- Grab one ounce of beeswax (pellets or wax cut into small pieces is best).
- Place the cloth on a flat dish that can go in the oven and sprinkle the wax equally on the fabric.
- Leave in the oven at 180°F (80C°) for five to seven minutes, allowing the wax to melt.
- Remove from the oven, and with a paintbrush, make sure the wax is equally scattered. For this project, it’s best to use an old brush since the beeswax will stick to the brush, making it difficult to use for other activities.
- Make sure to let it cool down completely before use, and now you have an excellent alternative to plastic wrap!
- Once used, wash it gently with lukewarm water. Never wash it in warm water or the washing machine, as it will remove the wax completely.
Take note that these beeswax wraps, although perfectly zero waste, do not provide an air-tight seal. These are most useful for food items that will be consumed within the next few hours or over the day. And thus, not really suitable for keeping things for longer periods of time.
But that doesn’t mean you have to use plastic wrap to keep your food fresh! If you’re looking for zero waste ways to store food longer, you can simply use a glass jar or container.
Zero Waste Starter Kit
A zero waste starter kit is a useful, sustainable gift for family members and loved ones that still haven’t hopped on the zero waste train but are showing a lot of interest in doing so. It might be the thing to finally push them to become more conscious consumers!
You can easily find many zero waste starter kits online, with many variations and options, and it is generally cheaper to purchase a kit rather than make it your own.
But if you have the budget to do so, picking out individual ones can often turn out to be the more thoughtful option. Here are some things we think should be part of a well-curated zero waste kit:
- Bar soap for everyone in the family to try.
- Glass straws: for everyday use and homemade cocktails!
- Beeswax food wraps to help with better food packaging.
- Reusable cutlery and lunch box, when going out to work or school.
- Cotton bags for food shopping.
- MicroFiber cloth for all-purpose cleaning.
Low Waste Accessories
If your budget allows it, consider buying from eco friendly brands with strong ethical and environmental values (e.g., certified B Corp, Fair Trade, Cruelty-free).
To name just a few original, here are low waste and eco-conscious products that we love at Puratium:
- SOLO Eyewear has developed environmentally responsible sunglasses for an affordable price. They use materials such as repurposed wood, repurposed bamboo, and cellulose acetate. You can also read our article on eco friendly sunglasses here.
- Rescue, transform, and donate have been Elvis & Kresse’s three pillars since their beginning in 2005. Make sure to look at their purses: the recycled, robust textile is made from decommissioned fire-hoses.
- Solar-powered watches like the one from Solios. They use stainless steel and sapphire-coated glass, and their vegan leather straps are free of PU, PVC, and toxic waste. We particularly recommend Solios for its charitable work and their willingness to end fast fashion.
- Eco friendly notebooks, such as Poo Poo Paper’s. Their chemical-free notebook made from animal poo (elephant, cow, horse, and donkey) gives a unique, handcrafted, tree-free paper. Rest assured, though, that this paper is odorless.
Getting creative with gifts for the little ones can feel challenging if you’re doing it zero or low waste.
If you’ve ever browsed the toy aisle lately, you’ll notice that toys are always wrapped in massive amounts of plastic, not to mention what the toys themselves are made of.
Rather than get the latest toy or a gift certificate to the local toy chain, here are some creative zero waste children’s gift ideas for any occasion.
Homemade Modeling Clay
You might be surprised to find that modeling clay is actually pretty easy to make! And completely zero waste, at that! Plus, if stored correctly and hermetically (e.g., in glass jars), you can keep it for months.
However, it is always good to remember that since this is made only of edible items, they might not be as shelf-stable as regular modeling clay.
Here is a great recipe:
- One cup of all-purpose flour
- One cup of warm water
- Half a cup of baking soda
- Half a cup of salt
- One teaspoon of olive oil
- Optional: essential oil drops and food coloring
- Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda.
- Add the water, a few drops of essential oils, and olive oil.
- In a pan, cook the mixture on low heat until the texture becomes thick enough to be removed easily from the pan.
- Let it cool down then, knead the modeling clay ( you can add food coloring, but not necessary).
- Before using it, moisturize your hands first.
- Have fun, and remember to store it accordingly after each use.
Wooden toys are one of the most simple Zero Waste Gifts! Although they are less common now, wooden toys are still great options to go for. Here are some reasons why a wooden toy can be a superior gift for a child (compared to plastic ones).
- They are more solid and can be repaired more easily (Remember the ‘5R’s rules here)
- Wood can be an eco friendly material and is a renewable resource. Make sure to check that the wood comes from sustainable forests, as some products can be made from irresponsibly sourced wood.
- They tend to be locally made (i.e., handcrafted and not mass-produced), which might be why they tend to be more expensive.
- They are usually painted and covered with eco-friendly ingredients: make sure they are covered in lead-free paint, with finishing touches made of beeswax or vegetal oil.
- They are decorative! Wooden toys give a welcoming touch in any kid’s bedroom.
- They make less noise and awaken the child’s sense of touch.
School Supplies and Education
US schools generate, on average, 4.7 pounds of waste per person. Forty percent of that waste is related to paper .
Considering that nearly 900 million trees are cut down to be produce paper each year, switching to recycled paper seems like the least we can do.
Bear in mind that each ton of recycled paper can save the equivalent of 17 trees, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of electricity, and 7,000 gallons of water.
So why hesitate? Here are a few plastic-free gifts for any school-aged child:
- Eco-binders or books made from recycled paper. Even simpler, give audiobooks! An audiobook or ebook isn’t necessarily a zero waste book, but they’re still great alternatives to conventional publishing.
- Book Sox: these are stretchable textbook protection covers. They come in different sizes, are colorful, and washable. Perfect for kids that tend to get a bit messy.
- Metal tins to store pencils (like the ones above!)
- For lunch: reusable bags made out of beeswax, bamboo cutlery, and a metal tin with smart compartments (different sizes to maximize each space depending on the type of food).
An Activity Together
As much as we’d like to give physical presents all the time, one of the best zero waste gift ideas is simply the gift of time.
Children (especially younger children) are highly appreciative of any time you can spend with them, whether it’s just playing their favorite game or getting to try out a new experience together.
Here are some activities you can gift them come Christmas morning or their birthdays:
- Hot-air balloon ride
- Treetop adventure course
- Gardening together: take them to your local gardening store where they can choose the seeds, herbs, or plants they like; then plan an afternoon together to let them learn the ropes.
- DIY workshop with their friends: why not make their own Zero Waste Snacks or Zero Waste Christmas tree bulbs?
Toy Library Subscription
A subscription to a toy library is one gift you don’t have to package in any wrapping paper. Toy libraries are an excellent way to access plenty of toys, especially those fit for a particular age group or geared towards learning goals.
If you have one near you, you might want to consider a subscription as an option.
A Few Reminders - Put Your Eco-Warrior Glasses On!
Whenever you’re shopping for gifts, it can easy to get lost in the tens of thousands of options available.
And looking for the perfect gift isn’t exactly an easy task! With that, here are some things you need to keep in mind whenever you’re looking for zero or low-waste gifts.
Make Sure It’s Useful
There’s nothing more wasteful than trying to give physical gifts that the recipient won’t be using in their life at all. While they might appreciate the effort, you’re not exactly reducing waste by giving them something that’s just going to collect dust in the closet or cupboard.
We recommend giving your friends and family zero waste products they can actually apply and use in their lives. That way, your gift will be much more meaningful and eco friendly.
Check For Sustainable Materials
Looking for sustainable and eco friendly materials is a must when shopping for the best zero waste gifts. Make sure that you are giving family and friends products made only with safe and sustainable components.
Consider Ethical Production
If you are giving gifts that are bought from a business (especially large, multinational corporations), it’s best if you check for what goes on behind the scenes. It won’t be a genuinely sustainable gift if the product is made without the best interest of the workers in mind.
Think About Disposal
We know the last thing on your mind when giving a gift is how they’re going to throw it away. But even the most practical gifts eventually reach the end of their life. As much as we’d like to give gifts that last forever, it simply isn’t realistic most of the time.
With that, try to give items that the recipient can easily place in their compost bin.
And there you have it! A solid list of plastic-free and zero waste gifts for any occasion! Whether it’s the holiday season or the birthday of an important friend or family member, you’ll likely find something to gift them from this list.
And if you don’t, then at least you know where to start! We hope this collection of awesome gift ideas gives you a good headstart on gift-giving.
After all, giving gifts doesn’t have to mean giving up your zero waste lifestyle or sustainable living.