Zero Waste Gift Ideas: Reusable, Experience Based, and more!

Gift giving doesn’t have to be stressful. Stop trying to find the “perfect” gift. Stop trying to make your wrapping on par with the quality of the gift. Gifting someone a zero waste gift, whether it be an experience or a material item, will lessen both your stress and your environmental impact!

Quality Reusable Items

Water bottles, tote bags, and eco-friendly lunch containers all fit into this category. Try to avoid plastic by searching for higher quality and recyclable materials (i.e. glass and stainless steel). If they already own basic reusable items, then step up your gift game. Do they enjoy hiking? Buy them a durable backpack. Cooking? Maybe they would like a customized apron. The possibilities are endless.

Restaurant Gift Cards

No, these aren’t zero waste, but you are giving them an experience. (Remember restaurant gift cards, not retail!) If you don’t have any idea what kind of food they like, try to pick a restaurant with a diverse selection of food! Better yet…

Take Them Out!

I think the most special and memorable gifts are the times I’ve spent with my friends and family. This year, two separate friends and I agreed to not exchange material gifts, but instead promised to spend a day with each other. I’ve already gone ice skating and out to dinner with one friend, and plan on visiting a museum with the other. If you still want to treat them, offer to pay for their dinner, museum ticket, ice skating ticket, etc.


If you still want to give them a material gift, consider gifting them a consumable. These gifts include food, soaps, and anything else they will be able to “consume” or use up. Since food suitable for gifting generally does not come without packaging, it is best to make your own. You can bake cookies or brownies and put them in glass jars for gifting. Reuse twine or ribbon for decoration if you want. Soaps are great because you can find them without packaging at so many places. Whole Foods and Lush, for example, sell soap unpackaged. This past Christmas my boyfriend wrapped soap in a letter and tied it up with a hair tie.

Zero Waste Wrapping

The best wrapping is no wrapping. However, I understand that this is not always acceptable. If this is the case, then wrapping should be minimal and recycled. For example, I collected a few newspapers from my college last semester. After reading them, I used them to wrap a few gifts. They will be recycled either way, but in this case they have been reused first. Additionally, you can use nature to aid your wrapping. My roommate used clippings from pine trees to accent her gifts. They were completely unnecessary, of course, but they added a minimalistic and earthy feel to the wrapping. As long as they are not thrown in the garbage after use, I see no problem with it. Remember, gifting experiences doesn’t require wrapping! 😉

If you’re interested in reducing your waste further- check out my blog post 5 Ways to Reduce Household Waste.