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Forget a white Christmas, I want a green one! I have been thinking about some of the best zero waste Christmas gifts and why they are worthy of our consideration if we care about the environment.
Even if you don’t buy them for others, you can request them as gifts for yourself.
A low waste Christmas
We hear a lot about the problem of plastic waste pollution these days. Most people say they would like to reduce the amount of plastic that they consume. If you are one of them, the festive season is likely to be a frustrating and alarming period. There is so much waste!
However, you don’t have to be part of the problem. How about using the power of your wallet to support businesses producing items that are more eco-friendly? You could consider giving presents to your loved ones that help to promote a low waste lifestyle rather than add to the 8.3 billion tons of plastic that has been produced since 1950.
Reducing your waste
There are lots of ways that you can reduce your waste this Christmas, actually. For example, you could join the #cutthewrap campaign and pledge to ditch single use wrapping paper. You could send emails and e-cards instead of actual Christmas cards that are destined for the recycling or, worse still, the bin.
Christmas food seems to be a waste trigger point too. Many of us simply buy too much and don’t consider how leftovers will be used or stored. I have been on a mission to reduce food waste for a while, and I don’t want to spoil that because of a few days in December. I also don’t want to bust the budget buying food that won’t get eaten.
But back to gift giving. We have reduced the number of presents we give overall these days. However, there are likely to be people you really want to buy for. Here are some ideas for the best zero waste gifts around.
The best zero waste gifts to give this Christmas
Buy second hand
The best zero waste gift will always be something second hand! When my daughters were little I almost always bought them used toys and books. This was mainly to save money, but actually it meant far less packaging coming into the house.
Now I frequently buy second hand clothing, books and bric-a-brac to give as gifts and I’m really happy to receive something pre-loved as well.
Buy an experience
Most people don’t need more stuff and might appreciate an experience instead. For example, Buy a Gift and Groupon do a good range of vouchers that make lovely presents, from spa days, adventure experiences, days out or afternoon tea for two.
Alternatively, see if local attractions have annual pass cards that you can purchase or consider a membership to the National Trust or English Heritage for a low waste gift that lasts all year.
A digital subscription
You can buy magazine subscriptions you can read online nowadays so that you can have your favourite magazine with you wherever you are. If you do an internet search you will find an array of options.
Books can also be purchased as a download through Kindle, of course. (You can get a 30-day free trial of Kindle here*). However, if your recipient doesn’t use Kindle, you could buy them one of the following as an actual paper book:
Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life* by Bea Johnson (I love this book and reviewed it here).
F**k Plastic: 101 ways to free yourself from plastic and save the world*, a great book for someone just starting to reduce their plastic waste.
Real books tend to be a good low waste gift option as they will usually be read, re-read and then passed on. You won’t get any packaging in a book shop (as long as you refuse the bag they offer). Amazon send them out in recyclable and, better still, reusable cardboard, so are a reasonably low waste option.
Another possibility is to buy a subscription to an audio book service such as Audible. I absolutely love audio books these days. They are great for long journeys. However, they do tend to send me to sleep at bedtime and I lose the plot! You can get a free Audible book here*, after which it costs £7.99 per month unless you cancel.
Books are something I frequently buy second hand as gifts – I have some ready in my gift box for my lot this Christmas.
Zero waste gifts for the bathroom
Christmas must be the busiest time of the year for retailers of smellies! But they don’t have to be triple packaged in plastic and card. There are lots of nice alternatives now.
For example, shampoo bars. I ditched plastic shampoo bottles ages ago in favour of these, which generally arrive in cardboard or paper.
I love Lush’s range of shampoo bars and have asked Santa to get me a selection. However, there are some others online that look promising.
Not all of the ones I have tried have been nice. One made my hair so dry and another left a layer of something on it that I had to wash out again. Fairly pointless. If you buy online, check out the reviews. These Ucradle ones* seem good value and have nice reviews too. They even come in their own tins.
A selection of solid soaps can be a good gift too to negate the need for hand and body wash in plastic containers. I found a gift pack of nine Cath Kidston ones in the charity shop for £2.50! Keeping these for myself…
I received a Bambaw Safety Razor* a few years ago, which has been great! No more buying plastic disposable ones. I think one of these makes a lovely present for a man or a woman. You could also throw in some solid shaving soap and a bamboo brush maybe.
Bamboo toothbrushes and Reusable Bamboo Makeup Remover Pads* also make, nice zero waste gifts and stocking fillers.
Best zero waste gifts for the kitchen
I have been using the beeswax wraps I was gifted several months ago, and they have dramatically cut the amount of cling film we use.
I think this plastic free Beeswax Food Wrap Kit* would be a great present for someone concerned about their impact on the environment. You can now also buy Beeswax Food Wrap as a roll* and cut to the size you want it, which is a brilliant idea.
If I didn’t have most of the contents already, I would definitely be putting this Ultimate Eco Friendly Kitchen Set* on my wish list this year.
It contains three beeswax wraps, 4 reusable produce bags, 2 reusable silicone bags, 2 bamboo utensils, 2 wooden dish brushes and 1 roll of reusable bamboo kitchen towels.
Best gifts for when you are on the move
These are often the first things that people think about purchasing when they are trying to reduce their waste, but nevertheless are really useful and make great stocking fillers.
My reusable coffee mug lives in my handbag, as do a couple of cloth shopping bags. We rarely leave the house without our glass water bottles either. I really prefer these to plastic bottles as they don’t taint the water. It tastes so much better.
You could go a stage further with a water bottle and buy one with a built in filter* for those people who insist that tap water isn’t good enough to drink!
A bamboo or metal lunchbox is also useful for taking lunch out. I have both and prefer the bamboo one. This kit* is great because it contains a lunchbox, coffee cup, reusable cutlery and bamboo straws.
This idea is a bit off the wall, but for someone trying to cut their car journeys, an old-fashioned granny trolley is so useful! I bought mine second hand for when I go to boot sales, but recently it has come into its own for trudging to the post office with my eBay parcels or for a trip to the local shops.
It is worth buying a fairly substantial one like this MFAVOUR one* I think. A few of the cheaper versions I have come across recently don’t look as if they would last very long with loads of heavy shopping in them.
Other ideas for zero waste Christmas gifts
Edible consumables are always good, like hand made sweets and chocolates, home baked cakes or a selection of nice teas such as this plastic free Pukka Tea Selection Box*.
The Ethical Superstore is a great place to look for foodie and plastic free gifts and have a lovely range of sustainable hampers.
If you want to give a gardener zero waste Christmas gifts, you can easily pull together a nice gardening kit containing seeds, a woven trug* and some metal trowels. Plants make great zero waste gifts too, either for indoors or the garden (especially if you grow them yourself, but it’s a bit late this year!). In addition, every keen gardener will appreciate a garden voucher.
Every effort is worthwhile
I have to admit that it’s very hard to find completely zero waste Christmas gifts. Most will have some kind of packaging. However, you can make sure it’s in recyclable/reusable paper and card at least. All we can do is make an good effort and hope to bring our friends and family along with us. Hopefully you will raise awareness and show people how easy it is to reduce their waste into 2020.
Think about what you wrap your gifts in as well. I use fancy old scarves and bits of fabric and reuse gift bags others have given to me. In addition, this year I have purchased these reusable present bags*, which will be good for smaller gifts. Obviously, if you make your own from scraps of fabric, that would be even better.
I’m not sending Christmas cards this year at all. Now that I’m not at work I won’t feel obliged to give them to all my colleagues! I have a few left over that I will give to the neighbours but everyone else will get an email version.
I would love to hear your ideas for giving sustainable eco-friendly presents and what you would like to receive this year. Let me know in the comments!