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a zero waste guide to gift giving

The holiday season can be stressful for those who spend their whole year trying to keep their waste production down. The pressure is on to buy and receive gifts for friends, family, coworkers, the postman, the schoolteacher….and it’s a potential recipe for waste and stress.

But a wasteful, consumerism driven holiday isn’t a foregone conclusion! There are options available to us all that can help keep waste low, spirits at high, and grinchiness at bay.

There are a few things you can do to pre-empt the gift madness.

For families or friend groups, for example, you can push for a Secret Santa, thus reducing the number of presents that are being bought in the first place.

You can do research and give yourself time before purchasing a present, making sure it’s something that the recipient really wants or needs, and mitigating the chance that whatever you buy will either end up in the back of the wardrobe somewhere, or worse, in landfill.

Still need to go the “real present” route? Here are some ideas to keep it zero waste when it comes to gift giving this Christmas (or any holiday, really):


A weekend getaway (or even just a night), tickets to the theatre or a concert, a meal at a fancy or much loved restaurant, a massage or facial, a course (baking, pottery, jewelry making, fermentation, mushroom hunting, candle making, spoon carving etc), the list goes on!  Buy something that the gift recipient will get to do. Gift certificates also fall under this - tattoo artists, your local independent book shop, your favourite independent illustrator, etc.


Cinema membership (an independent cinema like the Duke of Yorks in Brighton or any number of indies in London), gym membership, pilates classes. Also you could include subscriptions in this area - a subscription to a local veg box scheme or

Go digital

Pay for someone’s Netflix subscription, ebook vouchers, audiobooks, music memberships (Spotify or Google play), an online subscription for Playstation or a magazine they enjoy.

Reusables for the win

Reusable coffee cups, water bottles, a zero waste to go kit or bathroom kit, wax wraps, a safety razor kit (complete with soap and refillable blades). It’s a sneaky way of getting your giftee on board with lower waste living!


Some people might think you can’t do gift shopping secondhand, but I just don’t think that’s true. Books, toys and puzzles are easily found in fantastic condition in charity shops. And here’s my tip - make a special trip to a fancier neighbourhood charity shop for fancier goods! This is how I got a mint condition secondhand Longchamp bag that retails for £100 at a third of the price. Go where the rich folks are! Digital goods can also be bought secondhand or refurbished, like DSLR cameras and laptops. Facebook Marketplace is also an option for finding secondhand goods, and you can look for specific things in your area (black boots, a bookshelf, a bomber jacket….). Sometimes you can even arrange in person exchanges, which is nice!

Bake or Make

A full post on this will hopefully be coming soon, but there are so many lovely options for creating your own gifts for people. A jar of homemade cookies (or nicely presented dry ingredients for homemade cookies) never goes amiss. You can make your own infused gin. Homemade granola, chutneys, jams, caramel sauce….you can even make your own wax wraps! Bath salts and lip balms can also be a cheap and simple DIY option. Let google be your guide!

Knitting and crocheting are also a fantastic, heartfelt way to show someone you love them but be warned - only gift your creations to someone who will really appreciate the hours of work that’s gone into their gift!

Go green

Potted plants, while being so hot right now, are also just all around fantastic gifts. Of course not easy to wrap (haha) but a nice twine bow around a gorgeous monstera, or a happy little aloe plant (perhaps propagated from a plant of your own) is a thoughtful and truly eco gift.

Don’t overlook the cash option

Look, it might seem crass, but most people could use money. Don’t be afraid to go green - the old fashioned way. You can present it in a cute way if you want! Origami folded, inside a heartfelt card - try something new.

When buying new, use a checklist

Still set on buying new? Think about a few things before handing over your hard earned money. Is the company sustainable? Do they use as little packaging as possible? Do they have responsible working practices? Where do their products come from, and are the people who make them in safe working conditions and paid a living wage? Can you buy the product locally and support a local small business - and therefore your local economy?

Wrap it up

Ready to wrap it up? I’ve got a whole article about sustainable alternatives to wrapping paper this holiday!

Share your tips for keeping your Christmas as zero waste as possible in the comments! I’d love love love to read them.

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