Americans buy more consumer goods ahead of Christmas than any other time of year, and although there’s nothing nicer than receiving a well-chosen gift, there’s also an extra 25% of waste sent to landfill during the holidays. This tells us that not every gift has been chosen as carefully as it ought to be, and that the amount of waste associated with gift giving has a long-lasting impact.
A zero-waste gift can be many different things but the idea of choosing a zero-waste gift for Christmas is simply to find something that results in no extra waste being sent to landfill. This could mean a home knitted scarf, an experience, sustainably produced goods, or a voucher for a digital service. Our focus here is on zero-waste gifts that, as well as creating little impact themselves, will prompt us to think more holistically about reducing waste elsewhere in our lives.
Homemade Food or Spice Mix
In the era of ultra-convenient mobile takeout apps, a home cooked meal or a helping hand towards it has become a truly novel thing. For someone who is constantly talking about cooking more but can never find the time, a homemade spice set is the ideal nudge in the right direction.
Whether you are a competent kitchen hand yourself or not, you can easily dig up a few spice mix recipes and use your time to save on theirs. Think Mexican taco mix, Indian curry, Moroccan couscous. And if they don’t already have some, you can gift your spice mixes within a set of stainless-steel containers or glass jars.
Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Single-use plastics are the scourge of landfill and the source of many of our plastic problems. The individual shift from constantly picking up a fresh plastic bottlefrom the store to carrying the same stainless steel water bottle everywhere, is a simple but effective step on any zero-waste journey.
With the range of options on the market, a stainless-steel water bottle is an infinitely customizable gift—making it the perfect zero-waste Christmas gift for kids and adults alike. As an added bonus, among adults it’s going to prompt the giftee to consider other areas in which they can cut down on single-use plastics.
Growing in popularity in recent years (and not only among zero-waste devotees), the idea of giving someone an experience, instead of a product, ticks all our zero-waste boxes. It allows for the ultimate tailoring to the recipient’s interests and preferences and when chosen right is sure fire way to reduce waste.
To get the ideas flowing, consider theatre tickets or gallery visits for a culture vulture, a top restaurant’s tasting menu for a foodie, or create your own customized gift experience such as a sourdough bread making tutorial for a group of friends.
Subscription to an Online Magazine
Digital zero-waste gifts are the perfect way to reduce waste and signing up a friend or family member to their favorite online magazine that only offers five free articles a month is sure to enrich their life.
With many prestigious publications behind an online paywall these days, there are a number of great options out there for every taste. This idea can also gently and unobtrusively encourage someone to phase out a paper subscription too.
A subscription to a local movie theatre is an astute Christmas gift for zero-waste inclined film buffs and regular cinema goers alike. It also functions as a direct substitute for environmentally unfriendly plastic-clad DVDs and blu-rays.
It’s a scalable Christmas present too because most smaller cinemas offer a good range of membership options, from year-round unlimited access to a movie with a guest once a month. You may even have secured yourself an invite.
There are those of us who are duty bound by tradition to give a specific genre of gift at this time of year, usually parents and grandparents. However, there are many zero-waste equivalents for the perennial stocking fillers like makeup and toiletries.
Seek out a reputable brand that uses natural materials, extracted from the earth in a sustainable way, and you can keep up tradition without compromising on quality. Start with Balmies from Axiology for a little gift that goes a long way to cutting out plastic in consumer cosmetics.
Zero-Waste Shaving Kit
A steel razor set is the truly multi-generational zero-waste gift this Christmas. For your older relatives a stainless-steel razor will call back to the more durable products of their youth, before the plastic revolution took over. For the younger ones, it’s a gift that will last a lifetime and become a treasured personal possession in place of a disposable consumer product. Best of all, our stainless-steel razor set from Albatross includes 10 returnable blades which the company takes back and reuses.
Do-It-Yourself Scented Candles
Whether you want to get fully hands on or not, going for candles as a zero-waste Christmas gift can be as much or as little work as you like. For those with more time, homemade candles are a joy to produce, and if you find beeswax locally or online you can avoid all the carcinogens from paraffin candles to create a beautifully scented and natural product at home.
You can even make a large batch and tick off your entire Christmas list in one fell swoop. Just customize each candle with the giftee’s favorite essential oil for a truly unique zero-waste gift—and if you don’t have time, there are a range of sustainably made candles on Etsy or from companies like Nightshift Wax Co.
Stainless-Steel Lunch Box
Staying with our theme of gifts that avoid waste but also work to change our outlook, broader lifestyle, and modes of consumption, stainless-steel lunch boxes are another zero-waste no brainer.
Reusable plastic kitchen storage solutions (e.g. Tupperware) are not the boon to the kitchen we once thought, and today, Americans throw out 80 millions tons of the stuff each year. Even once these plastic storage containers reach the end of their useful lives, they are more likely to end up in landfill than be recycled, and in any case, they can only be recycled a limited number of times. On top of all this, stainless-steel doesn’t suffer from chemical leaching in the way that plastic does.
A Homegrown Plant Seedling
A wonderful way to manage overgrown house plants is to make cut-offs and create new plants. But had you ever thought of using these new plants as Christmas gifts for friends and family?
All you need to buy is a plant pot if you don’t have any spares lying around, and these you can almost always find second hand locally. The bonus here is that you can pot the seedling yourself and avoid the plastic pots that come with a store-bought plant. If you’re strapped for time before the holidays, keep the seedling for yourself and gift the parent plant instead.
Check out the zero-waste online shop for a curated range of zero-waste Christmas gift ideas, and sign up to our blog for tips and guides to going zero waste in the new year.