The Ultimate Gift Guide for a Zero Waste Christmas

Christmas lights and ornaments

Who doesn't love Christmas?  It's the time of year when the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, and we snuggle up by fires with warm blankets and a cup of something festive.  It's a merry respite from the sometimes bleak winter months, and a prelude to the fresh start the new year brings.   

Unfortunately, it's also a time of year when we create a lot of waste.  We buy disposable decorations, wrapping paper, and novelty gifts for holiday parties, most of which end up going to a landfill in the new year.  

I propose that this year, instead of giving gifts that the recipient may or may not keep for more than six months, let's give gifts that provide true fulfillment.  What's one experience or creature comfort that you love but very rarely buy for yourself?  A massage?  A ticket to town hall?  A decadent bottle of wine?  Why not give these sorts of gifts to the people you love?

I've broken down my six favorite gift categories below with some specific ideas, and enough variety to suit everyone on your shopping list this year.    

1. Tickets

Treat your loved ones to a night out at the theater to take in a new play or their favorite old musical.  Give your brother and sister-in-law two tickets to a new release at the cinema and offer to babysit the kids so they can have a date night.  Give your best friend tickets to see her favorite rock band.  Treat your neighbor to a night at the ballet or opera.  Give your dad tickets to see his football team play, or give your mom passes to the special exhibit at your local art museum

2. Classes

Give your niece a month’s worth of the tap dance classes she’s been begging for, or give your parents ballroom dance classes to help keep the romance alive.  Give your husband the sushi making course he’s been curious about.  Your grandma has been talking about brushing up on her piano technique, so give her the gift of some lessons.  Give your auntie some yoga classes to help her find her balance; surprise your father-in-law with an online masterclass in chess strategy.

3. Gift Cards

Everyone loves music, so why not give iTunes or Google Play gift cards.  Give gift cards to your girlfriends for their favorite natural makeup or skincare brands, or for ethical and organic clothing brands.  Want to give a gift that’s unique and hand-made but in keeping with the recipient’s tastes?  An Etsy gift card could be the perfect solution.  For your friends who love to travel, how about vouchers for train travel or AirBnB?  Give gift cards for experiences people rarely buy for themselves, like massages and facials.

4. Consumables

Everyone loves edible gifts at Christmas time, and they’re fun to make!  Dedicate a day to getting creative in the kitchen.  Give homemade desserts and candies, jams and preserves, or freshly baked bread. Infused alcohols (like coffee-infused whiskey!) make special giftS and can be easy to make.  Pick up a bottle of vodka and some lemons and make homemade limoncello.  Not in a creative mood?  Nothing wrong with picking up a nice bottle of wine or local honey in a jar, and giving that instead. 

5. Plants

In the cold winter months, it can be a comfort to be surrounded by things that grow.  Potted plants make perfect gifts at Christmas time.  Give a tree seedling that can be transplanted to the garden in the spring.  Have friends that love to cook?  Give potted herbs that can survive indoors so they’ll always have fresh herbs on hand.  Know someone who’d be up for a little horticulture experiment?  Give seed packets and a terra cotta pot and let them sow their own!  And of course, you can never go wrong with fresh flowers any time of year.

6. Charitable Donations

If we're honest with ourselves, most of us don't really need anything at Christmas time.  We give gifts because giving is a love language, and it gives us a feeling of well-being.  In my opinion, one of the best gifts you can give is a donation to a charitable organization in the name of a friend or family member.  Choose an organization that holds special meaning for the recipient, and make a donation through their website.  When it's time to unwrap presents, simply let the recipient know that funds have been given to a charitable organization in their honor.  You may be pleasantly surprised by your recipient's response.  

Hold the Wrapping Paper

Contrary to popular opinion, there's no rule that says you must wrap gifts before you give them.  If you're willing to go rogue, give your gifts with no wrapping at all.  But if you feel you must wrap your gifts in something, try to recycle materials you already have.  Save wrapping from a gift you receive and re-use it for another gift.  Find a graphically pleasing spread in an old newspaper or magazine and wrap a gift with it, securing with paper tape rather than plastic tape. Wrap packages with remnant fabric, clothing, or a spare cloth or brown paper bag.   Tie some jute twine or cotton string around the package, and stick a sprig of rosemary in it.  See what happens when you set your mind to finding creative, waste-free solutions.  Your package will be more unique than the average cookie-cutter glossy paper Christmas gift. 

What are your favorite zero waste Christmas gifts?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! 


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