It’s getting close to that time of year when my Mom drinks a lot of peppermint lattes and the snow starts falling (aka the holiday season). For my family, holidays mean giving your loved ones at least one, if not several, physical gifts. These physical gifts are almost always wrapped with bows and new holiday-themed wrapping paper, and the gift itself is often in some kind of additional packaging. Many of the Christmas photos from my childhood show the four kids sitting near the tree, opening presents, while a large overflowing trash bag looms in the corner of the room, full of bows and plastic and packaging. Ugh, the shame!
But gift giving doesn’t have to be this way; it can be waste free, easy, and fun! I’m here to tell you that zero waste gift giving isn’t more expensive and doesn’t necessary require more effort on the givers part, either. Here are some ideas for awesome zero waste gifts.
Go with an experience
Instead of a giving a physical gift, plan an experience for someone. A hike, picnic, trip to a museum, or homemade dinner, can often be more meaningful than a store bought gift. For my Mother’s last birthday, I took her to my favorite spot overlooking the Mississippi River where we enjoyed a picnic lunch. She said that experience was more special to her than any store bought gift as we don’t get to spend that much time together because of our busy schedules. Love ya Mom!
Go with a package free gift
If you like to give physical gifts, try to find one that comes with little to no packaging. There are some amazing shops here in Minneapolis that sell handmade goods that are all package free, including makeup, toys, kitchen knick knacks, candles, etc. Check out Doodle Bird Design + Gifts. If you like to order online for your gifts, check out Zero Waste shops like our own online Sustainability Store or the Tiny Yellow Bungalow online store. If you order online from a non-zero waste store, ask the seller if you can get your package delivered plastic-free. I usually contact the shop before I purchase the product and say something like, “Hello! I am really interested in ordering your fairtrade t-shirt from your clothing line made here in the USA. I have a friend who would love this as a holiday gift. I am trying to decrease my impact on the environment and am shopping plastic-free. Would it be possible for you to ship this t-shirt with little to no excess packaging? And no plastic? Please let me know and thank you in advance!”
Consider a Thrifted Gift
Thrifted gifts are awesome because no new resources went into creating that item. And you are keeping that item out of the landfill by giving it a second home. There are some fantastic thrift stores in the Twin Cities that sell kitchen supplies for that cook in your life, books for the bookworm, clothes for the fashionista, home goods for the interior designer, and more. Two of my favorite second hand stores in Minneapolis are Arlee Park and Junket.
Consider re-using old wrapping paper, bows, etc. and/or using non-traditional wrapping such as a cloth napkin, cloth bag, mason jar, or newspaper. Or try the art of Japanese wrapping called Furoshiki. Avoid the waste of tape by using biodegradable twine.
A few other ideas
- Encourage your loved ones to make a donation in your name, instead of buying you a physical gift (and vice versa).
- Make homemade health and beauty products like lotion, sunscreen, deodorant, and toothpaste.
- Bake breads, cakes, or other goodies as gifts.
- Shop the bulk section and fill a cool thrifted container with bulk candies, coffee, or tea.
- Exchange names with your family members so that you are only responsible for giving a gift to one specific person, instead of many people. Then get creative with one of the recommendations above.