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.

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Zero Waste Shopping Tips During a Pandemic [or other Emergencies]

First and foremost YOUR safety is the most important thing.
Not only your physical health, but also your mental health.
Online strangers in Zero Waste groups may say differently.
Rest assured, compassionate people will understand that some people may face challenges.

Shopping Bags and Checking Out
I personally prefer self checkouts.
I always preferred to use self check out as I hate small talk and I like to pack my own groceries. All those years of Tetris have paid off.
Right now, it limits how close and how long I need to be around people.
It allows me to use my own bags as some stores aren’t allowing you to use your own shopping bags. The ones that do let you use them at a regular check out make you pack your own bags. I prefer to save my time and just use the self checkout.
When I get home, I wipe off and clean my bags.
An alternative… they may even just let you put all the items back in your cart without a bag. This would require showing a receipt, which many people are saying not to accept.

shopping bags

If you end up with having to use plastic bags… Don’t feel too bad.
You can use them as trash bags around the house.
Use them to collect your dog’s poop on walks, or give them to someone with a dog. Take them on your nature walks to collect litter. Use them to stuff your shoes when you store them.
When the world gets back to normal you can go back to refusing the bags.
In my city, shopping bags are recyclable.

Grocery Items
Items in the grocery store can be limited right now.
I know we have had to make last minute changes to our meal plans and shopping lists. Some bigger stores that offer bulk items are not allowing you to use your own containers. Bulk Barn is not allowing your personal containers, and for safety reasons are only allowing associates to get your items. This means you end up with plastic bags. These bags could be reused and repurposed. One local store, MultiServices Vert (which I call the milk store) still allows your personal containers. If you can, check out businesses online. Call or email them to see what their polices are. It’s always better to choose local stores over large national chain stores. But at this time, YOUR survival and mental well being is the most important!

As you’re selecting items go for those with the least packaging.
Choose glass or cardboard over plastic.
If you have to get plastic, try to make sure it’s recyclable in your area or try to reuse it.
Feeding your family is the goal.

Learn How To Make It
If you’re having trouble finding items you want, in the packing you want … you can always try and make it yourself! Recipes can be found for almost everything online.
Since we’re all supposed to be staying at home, take the time to learn how to make your favourite items. Have some fruit that isn’t going to be eaten in a timely manner? Look up a recipe for a cobbler or bread.
Some basics to try and keep on hand:
– all purpose flour
– baking powder
– salt
– sugar
– eggs or applesauce to replace the eggs
– vanilla

Don’t beat yourself up.
No one is perfect.
Do the best you can and keep trying to reduce your impact!