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How is December always so short? I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking “Uh oh! I haven’t gotten gifts yet!” But before you buy a bunch of things for your friends and family in a panic, things that will end up in a polluting landfill or incinerator down the line, check out our guide to zero waste gifts, and celebrate sustainably.

  1. Cookies! Cookies are fun to make, and fun to receive! If you make a few varieties, you can mix and match them in a reusable container to give the gift of sugary joy. (I use take out containers I’ve washed and saved.) This super easy sugar cookie recipe can be easily dressed up with different colored sprinkles to make your gift shine.
  2. Experiences. Does your niece need swim lessons? Could your grandkids use a family membership to a local aquarium? Kids really want tickets to see Olivia Rodrigo's 2024 Tour? (Ask your tweens.) Experience gifts are an opportunity to make memories all year long! And I can guarantee that parents will appreciate the help paying for lessons, sports teams, and activities.
  3. Gifts of Service. On a budget? Experience gifts don’t have to cost money. Make a homemade gift card good for a gift of service. Consider giving a night of babysitting, so busy parents can have a date night, or maybe a relative needs your help solving a tech problem on their computer or phone. Give your grandkids a coupon good for a movie night sleepover party, or give your own kids a card good for breakfast for dinner. Get creative!
  4. Reuse! Second-hand (pre-loved) gifts show the recipent that you care about them AND you care about the planet. Shop at your local used book store or thrift shop, and keep items out of landfills and incinerators. Or, even better, see if there is a free-swap group in your community. The Buy Nothing Project, for example, is an international community of folks giving freely to each other within their local neighborhoods. Often, the perfect gift for someone you love is an item that a neighbor no longer needs and is ready to part with. Children’s clothes and toys (looking at you, giant plastic play structures) are great items to look for secondhand as they are often only used for a short time. Filling up a bag with art materials for kids can let their creativity flow - think of a theme like bracelet making, painting, or scrapbook making. And of course, remember to give away your useful items that you no longer need, too!
  5. Make a donation in someone’s name. Obviously, I’m biased, and my recommendation is to give everyone on your list the gift of Clean Water. But there are lots of phenomenal non-profits out there from local animal shelters to amazing environmental organizations. (Hint hint!) Make a donation in your loved one’s name to an organization that means a lot to them. 

Gift giving can be stressful, but a zero waste gift shows your friend and family member that not only were you thinking of them - you were thinking of the planet. Happy holidays!