Sustainable and Low Waste Gift Ideas  

That time of the year is here, where overconsumption and trash increase here on planet earth.  I love this time of the year, but the part I don’t like is how materialistic and wasteful the holiday can be. Giving gifts just to give that many times end up in the trash. Or how stressful it becomes for folx to spend money to give those gifts sometimes just to get into debt. And of course, all the wrapping paper, ribbons, décor and plastic that ends up in the trash.

Gifting gifts and decor shouldn’t have to be that way, I think it should be joyful, with intention and always keeping mama earth in mind. Giving gifts doesn’t have to be necessary either (let’s normalize that too!)  With that being said, there are alternatives to gifting unnecessary material gifts. If we choose to gift something material, there are sustainable alternatives and small businesses to support instead.

So, here are some facts I wanted to share with y’all before I share some ideas:

  • In general, the average person in the US, creates about 4.4 lbs. of trash in one single day! For a family of 4 that’s about 6, 424 lbs. But during the holidays, that number increases. From Thanksgiving to New Years, it increases by 25%. An extra 1 million tons per week.
  • According to Sundale Research, in 2017, the US spent about 12.7 billion of gift wrap, bags, tissue and wrapping paper.
  • About 38,000 miles of ribbon are thrown out.
  • If wrapping paper and or ribbon are covered in some glitter, have a shiny coat, or some other texture mixed in, it’s not recyclable, since technically its contaminated with a non-recyclable piece. According to Earth911, 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper, out of 4.6 million pounds produced in one year, ends up going to the landfills. That’s 2.3 million pounds of paper that was used once and then discarded like nothing. 

While it’s the corporations and companies’ fault for making unsustainable stuff and putting a lot of junk out into the world, it’s up to us to break those materialistic values they have pushed into this society. We have the ability to teach future generations to value our earth rather than materialism.  To not support these corporations and companies and instead normalize NOT having to give materialistic gifts or any gift at all, normalize gifting experiences, gifting secondhand and reusing materials during this time! So, here are some ideas to help with that!

An experience gift: My favorite thing to give where wonderful memories can be made! Last year, we gifted my in-laws a “coupon” where we wrote and designed, letting them know we would take them on a camping trip with us when they were ready to redeem the coupon. We cut brown paper bags from a Trader Joes bag we had in the house, used a box from a package we had received, secondhand ribbon, and some pieces of pine. The year before, we did something similar with some friends, where we gave them an option of a camping trip with us, or a national park’s pass. Whether it’s a homemade cooked meal experience, taking them on a camping trip (if they are open to that) , a stay at a cabin or even better, giving them the choice by gifting them a gift card from Hip Camp. Even a National Parks Pass would make a great gift.

Hover over the photos to see descriptions. 

A Learning experience gift: how about gifting a class! A virtual cooking class, a gardening masterclass, ceramic classes, herbalism classes. Hey, how about a garden consultation with me! A dear friend of mine, Nick Hummingbird offers California Native Plant classes and seeds too, through Instagram. 

A consumable gift: baked goods (Knowing their favorite treats and food allergies) wine, coffee beans, cannabis for those that love to smoke (I gifted the hubby a pack of joints one-year), package free bar soaps, salves, chocolate. Even gift certificates to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Maybe herbs you dried yourself for tea or cooking. Veggie seedlings make great gifts if they have the space to plant and grow plants. One thing I did for a gift this past year, was I got a bottle of wine with a few seedling starts (like kale and lettuce) for their garden all in a basket! What about a subscription to a local CSA box for fresh produce (look at this farm box that supports LA Garment Workers)  or a composting service like Compostable LA?

Gifting plants: I love gifting plants! A houseplant in a cute pot, especially if it’s a house plant they have had their eyes on. Or you can gift a pot with 1-3 herbs you know they use for cooking or in teas. Fruit trees are great gifts too (depending on their space). Some more ideas are native plant and wildflower seeds/plants, or veggie seedlings. You can never go wrong with gift cards to a local nurseries, houseplant stores!

Gifting secondhand/vintage: I’m all for gifting secondhand as well! One year I thrifted two ceramic coffee mugs, filled a glass jar with bulk coffee beans and gave that as whole gift! Clothes and accessories are good if you really know that persons style, or even a gift card from one of their favorite vintage/thrift shops. Upcycled/remade/repurposed goodies from awesome places like Suay Sew Shop are great ways to support local businesses too.

Artwork: Gifting artwork from small businesses, photography/paintings/prints with the addition of a thrifted frame!

Gifting what people typically need: I was super excited when we recently received a gift card to one of our favorite zero waste refill stores, Sustain LA, where we were able to stock up on soap, shampoo, dish and laundry soap, all things we actually need! Other things I have personally gifted included bamboo toothbrushes, wax food wrappers, reusable napkins, compostable dish sponges/brushes and even plastic free toilet paper (even a subscription or whole box)!

Getting a native tree planted in honor of the person you are sending the gift to, like the National Forest Foundation Campaign. Or donating to any other organization your person supports.

Gifting for kids: experiences too! I would say, take them to a place like Disneyland or museum but that’s not possible at the moment, so a good alternative would be a camping trip and/or interpretive nature hikes. Interpretive nature hikes are usually very accessible and short, with a little information guide at the trailhead for you to follow along and learn about the original Peoples of that land, animals and plants. Other ideas, thrifted books, vintage wooden toys, natural play dough set or homemade paint set and with a natural paint brush. A little seedling kit: soil in a jar, toilet paper roll or terra cotta pot, with some California Native flower seeds.

At last, I wanted to share ideas on how to keep it low waste with décor and wrapping. Wrapping paper: Just don’t buy it! Use what you have. Brown grocery bags work great, you just need to cut up one side and you are good to go! Using cloth, a reusable napkin, or a cute scarf to wrap up the present gives it a personal touch and no tape is needed. Saving giftbags is something I actually watched my mom do so they would be reused for future gift giving. Using a reusable bag to give the gift is also a good alternative. But what if you don’t have any of these on hand? Then I would recommend buying butcher paper to wrap those gifts. Using ribbon or tape? Look for ribbon made out of natural materials, or use natural twine. For tape, I recommend using washi tape, or even naturally made glue, which I haven’t had the chance to use yet but here’s Zero Waste Chef’s recipe!

Christmas décor, decorating with natural materials and using second hand décor is the way to go. Whether you’re using those famous orange slices as natural décor, branches or salt dough ornaments , your literal home, mama earth home will appreciate it. I always recommend to thrift first, visiting local thrift stores, or looking online like on facebook market because there’s so much out there already! At the same time we can support small secondhand/vintage shops too!

Here are some pics of the two stockings, and a metal deer piece I found at the thrift store last year! The garland is a real one, that I bought at Trader Joes and composted afterwards.

Hope y’all got some great ideas for sustainable gifts this year! MUCHAS GRACIAS!!

1 thought on “Sustainable and Low Waste Gift Ideas  ”

  1. I love these ideas so much. Last year was the first time I gifted thrifted gifts and I’m excited to do it again. This time I’ll add some of these tips. I think I’ll give my mom and her hubby and experience gift too 🤗

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