Low Waste Gift Ideas for the Holidays

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Whether you want to reduce your holiday waste or you’re shopping for someone who tries to be low waste, these low waste gift ideas for the holidays will help you find the right gift!

What does it mean to be low waste?

If someone is trying to be low waste, they are trying to stop buying new and disposable products. They are most likely avoiding plastic packaging, trying to buy items that are made to last, and sourcing products sustainably.

Low waste gift ideas may or may not include any actual purchases. Whether your desire to be low waste is financial or environmental, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your gifts are any less special than before. In fact, many of these low waste gifts will help show your recipient you truly care about them!

Managing holiday spending

Especially since the average American spends $688 on holiday gifts every year, we can definitely benefit from spending less!

Although low waste gifts are not necessarily less expensive than storebought ones, they can be a great way to reduce expenses. As a frugal person who loves to budget, I actually created a guide to help you save up for your holiday spending no matter what your budget!

My Favorite Low Waste Gift Ideas

1. Nothing

Many people dislike this idea because they see the holidays as a time to share generously with loved ones. I appreciate both sides of the situation. In America especially, we are so driven by consumer culture that we constantly buy things. Many of those things are not made to last and end up being donated or trashed quickly on.

Just because you don’t buy or make any items for the holidays doesn’t mean you’re giving “nothing,” though. You can give your time instead, offering to take a drive to a favorite lookout or hiking a beloved trail.

2. Books

I love to read, but was reluctant to buy books for myself for years. I always had way too many on my shelf that I never opened and I liked supporting my local library.

This year, I really wanted to start reading more and I thought about how I could do that in a way that guaranteed I’d find great books.

You certainly can buy used books and hunt for your favorites. However, I made the personal decision to subscribe to Book of the Month Club. I kept hearing rave reviews about the books and wanted to try myself!

Although the books do cost more than buying them used, I don’t mind this expense because the books have been so good. I feel like my subscription is a self-care expense as these books bring me so much joy and pleasure. They’d make a wonderful gift!

You can gift a subscription to Book of the Month to a reader in your life or you could check their website for some of the most popular texts and order used copies.

3. Gift Cards

People often think gift cards are impersonal, but they don’t have to be. I don’t want to buy people things they will not like or use. I really like gift cards as low waste gifts because they allow me to buy things at places I already love that maybe wouldn’t fit in the budget otherwise.

For example, I love gardening and look forward to ordering seeds each year. For the holidays, I like to ask for gift cards to my favorite seed stores so I can think of my loved one when I order seeds and plant them.

I also love to shop at my local thrift stores and farm stand, so gift cards for those places show my gift giver knows my personality and supports me in my buying choices.

Especially if you know your family will buy you something no matter what, be specific and name exactly what you want.

4. Pass on heirlooms

If your recipient is a family member, they may love an item you’ve been holding onto for years. Old canning jars, embroided linens, family pictures, etc…These can make extra special gifts!

For my wedding last year, my aunt passed onto me a series of cross-stitched pictures my grandma made for her years ago. I was very close to my grandma and I felt very special to receive these sweet items my aunt no longer needed.

5. Handmade Gifts

Personally, I love handmade gifts. I have an aunt who is a basket maker who sometimes gifts me the most beautiful baskets. My sister-in-law and her husband make beautiful home decor pieces using wood and their Cricut.

My husband loves to build, so he’d gladly put together raised beds or planter boxes as a gift.

I love to bake and preserve foods. I often put together gift boxes with preserves, cookies, and other DIY goodies! My homemade vanilla extract recipe makes great gifts packaged in mini bottles!

If you’re going to buy new items, be sure to check out Etsy for handmade items from small businesses!

6. Craft or Project Supplies

If someone is getting into candle making, fermenting, or any other project, you can help them keep up their passion with some supplies! I recommend only buying supplies you know they will love.

Ask about their latest project or favorite place to find supplies. You also want to know their level of experience.

You can also help them learn about sourcing products sustainably! Maybe they don’t know they can find used glass jars in local marketplaces or that there are better quality oils for body care.

7. Durable, Made-to-Last Items

In my family, we often pool money together to buy someone a more expensive gift that is made to last. This is a nice way to get something they really want that will last a long time without buying junk they won’t use.

Some great made-to-last items include:

8. Home supplies

Especially since we bought our first home in 2020, I’ve often asked for basic home supplies. On our list this year, we’ll be asking for a ladder! We can buy one on our own, but we know our families like to give gifts. This will be something they will be glad to buy us and that will benefit us.

Great low waste gift ideas for the home:

We’ve also been wanting to buy a water filter, and are planning on a Berkey or something similar. We’re still deciding exactly which one we want, but we could ask for funds to go towards whichever we choose.

Normalize giving used gifts. Talk to your family about their take on used items. At the very least, let them know you would enjoy or even prefer used items over new ones.

9. Eco-friendly Cleaning Supplies

If you know your gift recipient is trying to simplify their cleaning routine, you could definitely help them with a gift set!

We really love flour sack towels for pretty much all hand and dish drying. We use microfiber window cleaning cloths around the whole house: mirrors, windows, appliances, and more.

We generally use just a few cleaning products through the whole house: Sal Suds, Norwex Cleaning Paste, and Bar Keeeper’s Friend.

We do use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for body wash, hand soap, and more.

A set of castile soap, Sal Suds, and some great cleaning cloths would be a great way to start someone on their eco-friendly cleaning habit!

10. Gift experiences

Give a gift your recipient will remember forever! I love to gift experiences like massages, walking tours, concert tickets, etc. Even better if you can go, too!

I like to check out Groupon for different holiday specials, like tasting flights at local wineries and other activities.

low waste holiday gift ideas

11. Spend the day together

Time is the most precious gift we can give! I love gifts like spending a day together, going to dinner, or other activities. Especially as I get older and busier, it’s harder to find time for those special times together.

Since I love antiques and thrift stores, I’ve gone on thrifting days before where we drive to a town with lots of shops and explore together.

If you have a special skill, you can offer to teach it to your friend! If you like to can or make pickles and your recipient has been wanting to learn, show them what to do! We are all skilled in different ways and can share that knowledge with others.

12. Get outside

Find a nice way to spend together outdoors! Go hiking, kayaking, driving, etc. Every area has different outdoor activities you can do together. I have a trail I like to do near me that takes us from one body of water to another. It’s a six mile trail each way and is an all-day affair. This is such a special way to spend time with the people I love!

13. Take a mini trip

Especially with the rise in vacation rentals, I love taking mini trips around my local area! This still fits in the “time together” category and is probably my favorite.

My husband and I have found the cutest little airbnb properties nearby. Once, we stayed in a tiny, one-room cabin on a hillside looking out over the foggy and misty country. We stopped at my favorite farm store for snacks on our way up and we had breakfast at a local diner in the morning.

We also like to camp, and gifting each other the time to do something together is extra special. You can even split the expenses and have the travel cost be part of the gift. For example, maybe one person pays for gas and the other person pays for food. The breakdown will depend on the trip and your expenses.

14. Gift credit to a local farm

Whether you help a loved one pay for a CSA or give them credit for a local farm, local food is a great gift! Generally, a CSA is a weekly produce box. There are variations on how they are assembled (you shop for a number of items or get a pre-packaged box, etc) and the length of the season. There are even flower CSAs, egg CSAs, dairy CSAs, etc.

Think of it like a Fruit of the Month Club, but local! I’d gladly give someone a case of fresh local pears or credit for pastured eggs.

15. Make a donation in their name

If your recipient is really passionate about a cause, they may prefer to gift generously to that cause instead of receiving physical gifts themselves.

Many people do this on Facebook using the donation tool or they may share a link to a specific cause. We actually did this for our wedding favors. We didn’t want to send home inexpensive items that people wouldn’t keep, so we made seed packs and donated to Trillion Trees on behalf of all our guests.

16. Specialty foods

My favorite low waste gift ideas are all food! Especially if I know my recipient is learning a skill, like baking bread, I can give them high-quality ingredients. Maybe I’ll get an assortment of locally milled flours or some freshly pressed olive oils. If they love to bake, I may make them a bottle of vanilla extract and give them a block of really nice chocolate.

One of my favorite gifts to give is flavored roasted pistachios and pecans from southern New Mexico! I lived in Albuquerque for 6 years and my dad and I loved getting roasted pistachios when we visited the southern part of the state. I often ship him big bags of green chile roasted pistachios for the holidays and he loves them!

I also include alcohol in this category. I’d gladly receive some nice wine as a gift or even bottles of high-proof alcohol for making extracts and tinctures!

low waste holiday gift ideas
What are your low waste gift ideas?

What do you like to give for low waste gifts? What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Tell us below!

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  3. I love all of these ideas, especially shopping on Etsy to support small businesses. The gift of time is also so important to elderly family members. Thank you so much for sharing again this week. #HomeMattersParty

  4. Rachael, these are all excellent ideas. Its a shame that as a society, we have drifted from value based traditions to consumer based celebrations. When we were younger, a gift- any gift made us feel special – when my kids were growing ups – remote controlled toys were highly appreciated but I’ve noticed in the past decade or so, parents are so focused on “brands” and the children have obviously taken the brand consciousness from them.
    A hoodie is not “cool” unless it is associated to a fancy brand !!
    90% of all my crafts and DIY are dedicated to recyling, upcycling and reusing household goods – it gives me immense joy that I have made 0.0000001 % contribution in saving our landfills – but it really breaks my heart – when I see how the next generation has drifted in a very materialistic realm.
    Your ideas are fantastic and I really appreciate it.
    We’d love for you to join us at Meraki Link Party at https://doodlebuddies.net/2020/10/12/meraki-link-party-9/
    The party is from Monday thru till Thursday. Pop by and link your post 🙂
    Much love

  5. These are great ideas. You hit on some very important concepts. Time together is such a great memory and gift. Thanks for sharing with us on the Homestead Blog Hop.

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