Practical Zero Waste Gift Ideas

I have a love/hate relation ship with gift giving.
I love giving gifts and making people happy.
What I hate about gift giving is the general focus on just buying more stuff that may not even be used or wanted creating more waste. I am going to try and focus on a few practical zero waste gift ideas to spark the recipients interest in reducing their impact on the planet.

Gift Experiences – a Practical Zero Waste Gift Idea

I wish I could get my family behind this one.
Instead of gifting items, gift experiences.
Memberships to local zoos, museums, aquariums. Maybe even just tickets for the whole family for a day. Although in my experience, a year membership for a family of four is almost the cost of a year’s membership.
Massages, concert tickets…

DIY Food and Drink Mixes

This has been a life saver with family many times.
I have been known to whip up a cookie mix in a jar, or make hot cocoa mix and send it out in cute little jars. I have seen people online make soup and chilli mixes too. As a picky eater, I recommend sticking to something basic like chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or hot cocoa … something that most people like.
If you have the ingredients and some jars on hand, “cookies in a jar” and “soups in a jar” make a great zero waste gift that also doubles as a last minute gift.

Zero Waste Gift Idea jar mix

What to consider

Be cautious of food allergies.
Make sure to list the ingredients for the recipient as either a cute tag or a card that also has the directions on it.

Glass or Metal Food Containers

Always welcomed in my home. Glass or metal food containers make a very practical zero waste gift. It would help to replace plastic containers in people’s lives and acts as a great housewarming gift. There are so many sizes and options available. For a more personal vs family touch, reusable lunch containers or bento boxes are a great idea.

Dryer Balls as a Practical Zero Waste Gift

It’s pretty much assumed that everyone does laundry…
As much as I love to hang my clothes to dry, these Canadian winters make it a little bit hard. Add to the fact that I live in an apartment so I have limited space and a family of four. I use dryer balls to help reduce the amount of time (saving money) that it takes to dry my clothes and avoid using fabric softener sheets. I personally like to add a few drops of essential oils to my dryer balls to help add a little bit of scent that is all natural, as well as act like a diffuser spreading the wonderful benefits of the oils through my laundry area while I am drying the clothes.

zero waste gifts wool dryer balls

What to look for

100 % wool works best, especially if you are planning on adding any oils.
Support your local farmers markets, health food, bulk and zero waste stores as they usually carry 100% wool dryer balls from local farmers and artisans.

Travel Mugs and Water Bottles

A good starter zero waste gift, also great for basic zero waste starter kits. A travel mug or reusable water bottle is great gift to get people to switch from using disposable cups and single use water bottles.

Stainless Steel Wine Glasses

This is kind of a “want” on my list.
According to what I have read about stainless steel wine glasses, they can keep your drinks cooler longer than glass.

Gift Cards to Local Zero Waste or Bulk Stores

A gift card to a local zero waste, bulk or natural health food store could possibly be one of the most practical zero waste gift. The recipient can pick out items that they would prefer and you are supporting a local business at the same time. When the recipient goes into the store, they will be exposed to so many items and the people at the stores can help guide them on their zero waste journey.

Local zero waste shop

The Best Advice for Giving Zero Waste Gifts

Know the person that you are shopping for.
Listen for items that they may have mentioned wanting to try out but wouldn’t normally splurge on. If you’re crafty, you can try your hand at making some items that the recipient may want or need. Check out second hand shops for items instead of buying new ones.

Reusable Gift Bags

Wrap up your gift in a cloth gift bag to ensure that it will be reused.
I happen to keep all gift bags, my family members even gather them at holidays and give me them to take home. They also call me up if they need any on a short notice.

Pin for Later

Is it time to Rethink “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”?

We can thank the environmental movements of the 1970s for the catchy “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan. It is important to realize that while these events led to the creation of the EPA in the United States, and the founding of Earth Day, society has remained in the cycle of consumerism.

Reduce Reuse Recycle for a sustainable future

The following concepts can be applied to almost any type of item that creates waste from textiles to electronics, food to paper.


The first step is to stop and rethink.
Do you really need it that item?
Can you change the way you shop in an effort to reduce waste?
Can you borrow the item?
Have you thought about the whole life cycle of the product?
What goes into making the item?
Where does the item end up in the world?


Avoid buying products like single use plastic and that use excessive packaging.


If you are not able to refuse, reducing your usage of waste-producing goods is the next step. This is the first “R” in the traditional “reduce, reuse, recycle” model.

Reuse and Repair

Simply stated, when you reuse or repair item for it’s intended purpose instead of rushing out to replace it you avoid the waste of the original product and the waste generated from obtaining the replacement.

Some of the most well known reusable items include shopping bags, cloth napkins and paper towels, reusable coffee pods … just a few of the numerous items that can replace single-use and disposable items.


Similar to reusing, re-purposing uses the item for a different purpose. It can be something as simple as using an old metal bucket for a flower pot. The possibilities are endless!


If possible, compost organic matter as it creates methane gas in landfills. In my city, we are fortunate enough to have a city-wide composting program available. However, apartment complex landlords are not required to offer this service, especially when they opt for the dumpster instead of the bins.


Check with your municipality, town or city for your specific regulations. Many retailers offer basic e-waste recycling. Be careful when buying items that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because something is recyclable that it’s free of consequences. While it’s great that an item can be diverted from the landfill, it doesn’t always end up being recycled. As consumers, we get tricked into buying more of an item and made not to feel bad because we think once it hits the recycling bin that the story is over.

In conclusion, the bottom line is that recycling should be the last step.
When teaching and talking about the three basic R’s, the other R’s -to rethink, to refuse, to re-purpose, to repair, and to rot – are important additions to the standard Reduce, Reuse, Recycle everyone knows.

It starts with rethinking your habits and considering the whole life cycle of the product.

reduce reuse recycle can we do more to be sustainable