A zero waste lifestyle doesn’t mean avoiding gifts all together. Whilst I’m lucky that my family are all pretty chill when it comes to giving gifts, I know my Mum will really appreciate a jar of epsom salts (from bulk!), a bottle of delicious organic olive oil (refill!) and a good book (kindle voucher!) come Christmas morning. Mum if you’re reading this, try to act surprised, ok?
Here are some refill / zero waste gift ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
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Experiences gift ideas: music lessons, dance classes, weekend away together, meal out at a swanky restaurant (try Silo – zero waste restaurant in Brighton or Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub in London), massage/facial, gym subscription, spoon carving, bread baking course, camping, hiking, foraging… the list is endless.
Digital gifts: audio books*, online subscriptions to games or magazines, streaming services such as Netflix, e-book voucher, music downloads
Subscription service to help them reduce waste: have a box of 48 tree-free 100% bamboo or recycled loo rolls wrapped in paper instead of plastic arrive at your friend’s house. A simple, and effective way to encourage them to quit toilet paper made from virgin trees and who doesn’t love loo roll? Maybe an organic veg box* (which often come with less plastic packaging)?
Buy second hand: think books, clothes, toys, electronic equipment such as a digital camera (pre owned, refurbished items) preferably without plastic. Try local charity shops or online at eBay or Etsy*. Oxfam* even have their own online shop*. Vestiaire Collective* has second hand designer clothing and accessories. online.
Choose refillable gifts: there are now many places (and more popping up all over the place – see where I buy bulk in London here) where you can take a bottle and refill with beer/wine/olive oil etc. Once your friend or family member has the bottle, they are more likely to pop back and get a refill (which, btw, is often more waaaaaaaay affordable!). Lots of nuts, sweets, dried fruits and chocolate covered raisins (!) can be found sold from bulk in a lot of stores. Take along some small cloth bags and fill up with treats and then dispense into smaller glass jars at home as gifts. Epsom salts if found in bulk can make a great gift, simply add in some dried lavender for an extra touch (Lavender and herbs available at Neal’s Yard Remedies* – they’ll arrive packaged in plastic if you order online so instead just take a jar in store – they are based all over the UK and ask them to put the lavender/herbs straight in!). Loose leaf tea, coffee beans or cocoa powder (also available from Neal’s Yard Remedies*) bought from bulk and placed in a jar would also make a great gift for the hot beverage lovers out there. Choose organic as much as possible. The wider environmental benefits are enormous and it’s better all round to avoid exposing ourselves to synthetic pesticide residue in our food and drinks.
Bake/Make/Grow: homemade ginger beer is super easy to make, takes just over a week and tastes delicious! A jar of homemade cookies? DIY lavender bath salts or lip balm? Seed bombs make cute stocking fillers too. If you’re the creative kind, then let your imagination run wild!
Buy unpackaged: a collection of 3 natural handmade soaps from a local stall is a useful and adorable gift that can be bought unpackaged. How about a potted plant or beeswax candles from a local store? Even buying a display item from a store means I can save on packaging and sometimes get a discount!
Gift reusables: a reusable coffee cup, reusable water bottle, zero waste starter kit*, reusable beeswax wrap * (to replace cling film). A safety razor* makes a really beautiful gift for both men and women.
Zero Waste alternative to….: gift a solid shampoo bar* (preferably one you’ve tried and tested yourself, as we know they can be bit hit and miss!) and show your friends how to use it for best results. A bamboo toothbrush* makes an easy stocking filler and could be the enough to make someone switch out their plastic one for good. Zero waste mascara in a tin? Lip to cheek tint in a biodegradable tube*? I tend to think if I love a certain zero waste alternative then it’s likely others will too…. they just don’t know it yet.
Show me the money: honestly, it might seem a bit boring, but it’s always well received and the recipient can choose to buy something they really want, put it into the travel fund, donate it or simply save it. The beauty is, it’s up to them and will be spent on something they truly want or need.
If buying new, try supporting a company that has sustainable practises, minimal packaging and that the gift item is truly wanted, otherwise it will simply become clutter. I try to find items that use recycled content, for example if I’m buying a piece of jewellery, I’ll choose something made from recycled silver*.
Often smaller companies are more than happy to send an item without plastic packaging if I simply email them and ask. Some of my favourite online stores for gifts are: The Future Kept, Etsy*, Life Without Plastic*, Package Free Shop, Such & Such, Kauffman Mercantile*, Greenfibres and Celtic & Co*. Look for items that are packaged in paper, glass, metal or wood instead of plastic as all of these can be recycled many times over (unlike plastic which gets down cycled) and a reminder – always follow up with a request for no plastic packaging please! ALWAYS! It may not be possible, but the more people ask, the more the company is likely to make changes to their packaging.
And if you really need to wrap the gift, I got you covered right here in this post.