It’s the most wonderful (and wasteful) time of the year! Right now, retailers are flooding our inboxes with holiday bargains, deals, and promotions. Their goal? To make us feel as though we can’t miss out on the biggest sales of the year – and it works.
Thanks to the frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, holiday spending in the U.S. has increased drastically over the years. In fact, average holiday spending has gone from $831 per person in 2010 to $998 per person in 2020 – a 20% increase.
Unfortunately, as holiday spending rises, so does the waste we generate. A new study found that the average American throws out an extra 30 pounds of trash during the season. And the top five items we throw away? Wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, food, and the plastic or cardboard packaging that our presents come in.
So, as retailers bombard your inbox this holiday season, we challenge you to think outside the box – literally. To help you out, we’ve crafted a list of our top Zero Waste gifts to give this year.
The Zero Waste Gift of Experience
What’s better than gifting overly packaged products (that have a high chance of being returned)? Gifting experiences! Here are some of our favorite Zero Waste ideas for the adventurer in your life:
- Hotel gift cards – Who doesn’t love traveling with the comforts of home at hand? Putting money towards a loved one’s next big trip is the perfect Zero Waste gift!
- Museum passes – If someone in your life is interested in history, fine art, science, music, or all of the above, get them passes or a membership to a nearby museum.
- Tickets to a show – Be it a concert with their favorite band, a theatrical show full of drama, or a big-screen movie event, entertainment is always a great Zero Waste gift!
- A cooking workshop – Sushi-making, anyone? For the loved one who loves to try new recipes, you can search for in-person or online workshops they might enjoy!
- A digital course – Udemy, Masterclass, and Creative Live are all great platforms offering a large selection of online courses.
- A gift card to their favorite restaurant – Everyone loves a night out on the town. So, this year, give a nice dinner out with family or friends.
- A massage – Know someone who is stressed out? Gift them a little rest and relaxation with a massage. Better yet, book them an entire spa day!
- Plan a family outing – Does your family like skiing or ice skating? If so, give the Zero Waste gift of a winter outing! Your family will (hopefully) appreciate the time together!
The Gift of Zero Waste Products
Not sure if an experience is the right gift? We’ve got you covered! Here are some great picks for low-waste products that make wonderful Zero Waste gifts:
- Reusable safety razor – Billions of disposable plastic razors end up in landfills each year. Help flip the script by stuffing your family’s stockings with reusable metal safety razors!
- Curbside compost subscription – The U.S. wastes an estimated 125 to 160 billion pounds of food each year. Consider giving your loved one a curbside compost subscription to help keep food waste out of landfills.
- Used books or audiobooks – You know the bookworm in your life always wants new reading materials. Gift them gently used! And if they prefer a digital format, give e-books or audiobooks instead.
- Unpackaged soaps and shampoo bars – Not all cosmetics are wrapped in toxic plastic. Many soaps, shampoos, and cleansers come in bar form. They make for wonderful Zero Waste gifts (or stocking stuffers).
- Bidets – Who doesn’t want a clean bum? If you or a loved one haven’t had the pleasure of using a bidet, now’s the time. Not only will you waste less toilet paper, but it’s also more hygienic.
- Live plants – Liven up one’s living space with the greenest gifts: indoor plants! They’re proven to reduce stress levels, sharpen attention, and improve air quality.
- Reusable napkins – Why waste money on single-use napkins? When reusable napkins get dirty, you can just throw them in the wash and voila – they’re like new again!
- Bees wax wraps – Plastic wrap is terrible for our health and the planet. Encourage your loved ones to swap out toxic plastic wrap by gifting them biodegradable bees wax wraps.
Wrapping Your Zero Waste Gifts
Our Zero Waste gifting journey doesn’t end with presents. Four of the most wasted holiday items are wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, and boxes. So, before you start wrapping, consider sustainable alternatives.
Traditional holiday wrapping paper always ends up in a landfill or incinerator. Instead, use a roll of 100% recyclable brown paper. And every time you receive a gift bag, save it! They can be reused for your own gift-giving. If you want to be even more sustainable, wrap your Zero Waste gifts in reusable cloth bags. Speaking of cloth, invest in some large sheets of fabric. This is a great alternative to single-use wrapping paper!
Last, but not least, instead of using tape to hold your cloth wrappings together, try tying them up with twine.
What to Remember this Holiday Season
Holidays are a time for families, friends, and loved ones to come together and celebrate. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for our trash generation to spike. By being conscious about what we’re gifting during the holidays, we can make a difference. So, this year, I challenge you to turn towards Zero Waste gifts and wrappings. Once you do, you won’t look back.
Happy holidays, everyone!
BONUS: We saved the best gift idea for last, because the best Zero Waste gift is one that gives back. Donate money towards a charity or nonprofit organization that aligns with your loved one’s values. And make the donation in their name!