Updated: Jun 24, 2019
The holiday season is here and with it comes the inevitable question of gifts. What are you going to offer your loved ones this year? With all the high street brands competing to lure you in with glittery adverts and attractive bargains, it is easy to fall for the Christmas consumerist craze and turn a blind eye to the mountain of waste we accumulate during the festive weeks.
We created this list to inspire you to find gift ideas that will benefit the planet as well as the recipients and encourage you to have a more sustainable Christmas. Zero Waste gifts can not only be more meaningful and personal, they can also inspire people around you, help you stay true to your values and let your relatives know about your waste-reduction efforts.
Our Golden Rules: keep it simple and personal, shop locally, make it yourself if you can!
#1 Second Hand
Choose charity shops, car boot sales, vintage shops, eBay, Gumtree or even your own home over big shopping centres and high street stores. These are all great places to find quirky items for your loved ones. From books to board games and kitchen utensils, you are guaranteed to find something for everyone. Shopping the local second-hand market will not only save you time and money it will also save precious resources by giving those pre-loved items a chance for a second life!
#2 Golden Tickets
This is our personal favourite. The promise of some quality time spent together. Something to experience with your loved ones at Christmas or later during the year.
This could be tickets for a show, a gig, an exhibition or a sporting event. Or it could be related to travelling: plane, train or ferry tickets. The options are endless, a few more examples might be pampering, wine tasting, helicopter flights, indoor skydiving…
It could even be a homemade gift certificate on which you write down the activity or event it gives access to. For instance “This Golden Ticket ensures admittance to a dinner for 2 at…”
If you tailor it to their taste, people will always appreciate the personal touch!
Chocolates are always a safe choice! With a bonus point if you made them yourself!
Other ideas for original edible Christmas gifts could be homemade cookies, toffee, nougat, a bag of mulling spices, some liqueurs, a hot chocolate mix, or even a hamper of local products (honey, wine, cheese, oils…) that you selected yourself at the farmers market!
If you are a little arty, you can easily make people happy with something you made yourself. This could be a jar of homemade jam for example or a pair of socks and a woolly hat you knitted, some candles, or homemade jewellery… don’t hesitate to use and share your skills!
#5 Plants and Seeds
Numerous scientific studies have proven the benefits of having more greenery in and around your house. Plants can cleanse the air, they can help reduce stress, they are a great decorative addition to any room and some studies even show that plants can boost creativity! There are so many types to choose from, even if your friends and family members do not have green fingers you can find some that are really easy to take care of, just ask for advice at your local garden centre.
#6 Zero Waste alternative products
You can introduce your loved ones to Zero Waste beauty products like solid tooth paste, solid shampoo, soap and conditioner, homemade body scrub, bulk clay powder to make a mask, bath salts, bath bombs, massage oils… Your relatives will love trying something new and might even adopt these alternatives!
#7 Embrace the Digital Revolution
“When used wisely, digital gifts can reduce waste, keep safe priceless memories, and facilitate long-distance communication” – Bea Johnson.
Although we all love the excitement of unwrapping a gift and finally finding out what that big red box contained, more often than not physical presents can be a bit disappointing and will end up forgotten at the bottom of a drawer after one use…
Why not offer an online subscription to games, magazines, meditation applications, video streaming services (Netflix, Amazon primes) or music streaming (Spotify, iTunes)? These are all examples of gifts that will most certainly be used throughout the year and will not end up catching dust at the back of a shelf!
This type of present might be less personal, but it will always be appreciated, and it is definitely reusable!
Offer some of your time and /or expertise. Think of a domain you are good at and spare some of your time to help people. A photographer could offer to do a photoshoot, an artist to decorate someone’s office or living room, a musician can give piano lessons, and even if you are not a professional you can still help out with manual labour in the garden, in the house, or offer your services as a babysitter or pet sitter…
#10 Charity Donations
Charity gift vouchers are on the rise! The principle is simple: you purchase a gift card of a chosen amount and the recipient can donate the value of the voucher to a charity of their choice. Easy. This is a great feelgood solution for a selfless Christmas.
Bonus: Furoshiki Squares
No gift would be complete without a nice wrapping! Furoshiki (風呂敷) are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that embrace the philosophy of eco-friendly living by encouraging us to reuse the same object an infinite number of times. They make a perfect, colourful alternative to common wrapping paper with no ribbons or tape required! All you need to do is follow the instructions to fold the cloth in the right way. Easy-to-follow instructions can be found here or even on YouTube here and here.
You can purchase the traditional squares or make them yourself using old sheets, curtains, saris, scarfs, etc. One piece of fabric can be used to wrap different size items and can then be reused by the recipient of the gift for other purposes such as:
wrapping another gift
use it as a bag for shopping
as a tablecloth
a scarf, a belt or a shawl
Not only will your gifts stand out and look beautiful wrapped in fabric, but the Furoshiki itself can become part of the gift!