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Stressing about the amount of waste and plastic that the festive period and birthday parties bring? You’ve come to the right place. This zero-waste gift guide shares ideas for everyone in the family from the workaholic to those with wanderlust, without shoving your environmental agenda down their throat (too much). Let’s help create a band of ‘progress not perfection’ single-use plastic-free fans for 2019.
Zero Waste Gift Ideas
For The Office Worker
Assuming the worker in your life is a savvy saver and takes their own lunch to work, a vintage-looking tin packed lunch box is a really nice alternative to a plastic box.
Dump the clingfilm/Saran wrap in exchange for these reusable sandwich bags US / UK.
Cute designs and eco-friendly. The Boc n’ Roll spreads out, you wrap the food around it and close it with the velcro tab. Easy.
For The Coffee Lover
Stylish yet plastic-free, the KeepCup US / UK is one of the most popular zero-waste items on the internet.
The KeepCup was created by coffee shop owners in Austalia who wanted a more sustainable solution to disposable cups.
The cup itself is made from tempered soda lime glass with a silicone or cork band to avoid burnt fingers.
The plastic lid is BPA/BPS-free. It kind of feels like a kid’s sippy cup but in a cool way.
For The Party Goer
Did you know that over 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the USA alone?
Although many companies like McDonalds and bars like Wetherspoons are moving towards paper straw use there is no guarantee that everyone is doing so.
An alternative is a steel straw like this collapsible one US / UK which folds away into a small box. It comes with a cleaning stick too.
Warning: people have a habit of taking your eco straws when you are not looking *heavy eye roll*.
Glitter looks awesome as part of a party outfit and all the rage at beach parties but it is awful for marine life if the party moves to the sea.
There is a variety of ethical glitter such as Minke US / UK.
For The Hiker
Hands down one of the best bottles on the market for hikers is the Tree Tribe water bottle.
What’s the appeal? It not only keeps water cool for a day but also hot liquids hot for six hours.
Sure, many bottles do this but what makes it so useful for hikers is that there is a hook which you can attach to a bag.
There is no plastic on the bottle, the lid is made from bamboo. The packaging is also paper-based.
If travelling abroad to countries with dodgy tap water, consider a filtering and purification bottle like Water To Go (claim 15% off, quote TSA15 at checkout).
» » Read next: our travel water bottle review « «
For The Travel Lover
The travel fans will appreciate any of the items listed which are light to carry and save cash.
A space saver option is a solid shampoo and a tin.
I’ve used a variety of these while on the road and at home.
The extra bonus is that solid toiletries are spill-free so no chance of liquids exploding in your bag.
Solid toiletries do need some time to dry so leave the lid off overnight when you can to prevent them from going gloopy.
Getting personal, the female traveller in your life might be interested in a sanitary cup like the Diva Cup US or similar.
The cup is entered after folding it into a C shape then allowing it to unfold once up there.
Not going to lie, it is tricky to insert but you get used to it.
The best practice is to do it in the shower in a squatting position.
After 10-12 hours, pinch the bottom, breaking the seal suction and then pour the contents down the loo, give it a clean and insert again. Saves a lot of money, space, and is zero waste.
Alternatively, try period pants. I wear Cheeky Wipes, here’s 15% off orders of £40 for UK readers
» » You may also like: 10 unique travel gifts under $20 « «
For The Festival Goer
At some point throughout the event, gig-goers have to eat and unfortunately, at festivals the food is fast and the cutlery is plastic.
A workaround is to carry this light bamboo kit US / UK which includes a fork, knife, spoon, straw and cleaner. It comes wrapped in a cloth with a button. My only gripe is the inability to clean it unless you carry washing up liquid too (doubtful).
The committed might also consider a collapsible cup, although some bars might not let you refill though. One out of six bar staff refused me at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in comparison to the Vegan Beer Festival who gave attendees cups to refill.
For The Shopper
This is not revolutionary in any way but you can’t go wrong with a zero-waste bag!
Choose from a novelty design like NASA tote.
Yup, this is what I got Craig for his birthday.
Or make a statement with a tote with a message or slogan.
Plastic bags cost at least 5p in many Europeans countries to encourage shoppers to bring their own. Maybe they’ll use their tote bag when they do their zero waste shopping!
For The Beauty Queen
Where do I even start? So many options in the zero waste beauty range.
Ditch the wet wipes for face wash. Terrible for your skin and even the ‘flushable‘ ones end up blocking sewers.
I love Lush’s Ultrabland cleanser which you can team up with a washable muslin cloth or washable pads.
Lush lead the way when it comes to zero waste skincare because you can return five of your empty ‘not virgin’ tubs and claim your free face mask at Lush stores.
There is now a wide range of zero waste makeup companies such as Clean Faced Cosmetics [USA] and BandSApothecary [UK]. I’m bought the mascara in the tin as a gift.
For The Beach Goer
Genius alert! Reusable beach cups US / UK which have triangular bottoms so you dig them into the sand to stop them falling over reusable beach cup.
They are referred to as beach spikers. They even come in Mr & Mrs wedding gift form.
For The Cook
The kitchen is actually one of the easiest places to start going single-use plastic-free but not necessarily a great area for gifts! Thinking outside of the box (boom boom) you could create hampers without the shrink wrap. Ideas include hampers for soup fans, tea lovers or even gin connoisseur!
For example, a tea-rific hamper could include:
- Loose tea leaves
- Tea strainer
- A nice mug or two
- Fun teaspoons
- Quality boxed biscuits, without a plastic film where possible
I’m a big fan of hampers! I like to be creative with gifts.
Alternatively, if you know that your loved one would like some of the more general plastic-free options you could consider the following.
For storage, you could purchase mason jars. Why not film them with something quirky like glass drink miniatures and make a ‘bar in a jar’?
Or zero waste beauty products for a ‘spa in a jar’? This is what we made our friends to say thanks for helping us with our wedding party (we eloped then partied at home in Scotland). The bar in a jar went down well (full of the jokes today!)
My new go-to breakfast is overnight oats. Bang oats, milk and fruit (some peanut butter if feeling wild) into a small mason jar, clip closed and fridge it.
Gorgeously gooey oats in the morning.
Anything and everything can be stored in mason jars and they come in a variety of sizes
Not into jars?
Beeswax sheets are another alternative to clingfilm/saran wrap.
You place them over the dish and heat them up with your hands to mould them. Rinse under cold water and clean with a small amount of soap. The sheets have nice designs on them too.
For The Clean Freaks
So this is not gift-worthy but worth discussing.
For cleaning, vinegar in glass bottles makes the perfect cleaner when mixed with water.
You can avoid the chippy smell by adding a few drops of essential oils.
I know this goes against the ‘Hinching’ craze but let’s be honest – as impressive as it is to watch one woman create an engaged community on Instagram Stories, hoard buying plastic bottles is awful for the environment.
I hope to see the zero waste/plastic free charities work with Mrs Hinch’s Home in the near future.
She has a captive audience and her influencer could be used for something positive (to borrow actress Jameela Jamil from Netflix’s The Good Place thoughts on Instagram influence).
After you’ve finished your next plastic disinfectant bottle, keep it and add the zero waste remedy to it.
Ask your grandparents about the use of vinegar for cleaning, it’s not a new concept.
For cleaning cloth, hold on to old clothes and create rags or invest in reusable sponges.
Wooden brushes with coconut fibres US / UK are also available and last for an age.
→ You may also like | Our beginner’s guide to zero waste
For The Kids
OK, maybe this is a little preachy but there is a beautiful book called Duffy’s Lucky Escape US / UK which details the challenge of the plastic tide for marine life in story form.
It is based on a true story. What better time to help them consider their choices than when they are wee?
These tiny zero waste toothbrushes US / UK are also cute.
I’m also throwing in some child-friendly bath bombs.
For The Parents To Be
So much waste comes with having kids – baby showers, baby wipes, outsized clothing but regardless of this one aspect of baby life trumps everything – nappies/diapers.
Newborns go through 6-12 nappies per day (so I’m told) and disposable nappies take up to 500 years to decompose!
Cloth nappies/diapers US / UK.
Naturally, continual machine wash of cloth nappies/diapers will have an impact on the environment through electricity, drying outside and not via tumble drier is recommended where possible.
For The Bride To Be
An appreciated wedding present is a framed poster of some kind. In the past, we’ve framed first dance lyrics and creative couple portraits like this one by Claire Barclay Draws.
Get personal on paper! Below is an example we commissioned Claire to do. It’s my brother-in-law, Kyle and his wife, Ashley. Ashley said it was the best wedding gift they received (and she had no idea it was zero waste!)
Screw stuff altogether and create a day out for you and your loved ones. Gigs, holidays, spas or sporting events, booking a ticket and creating a themed card to go with it is often the best zero waste gift you can buy, whether you are going to cramp style or not!
Also, I am in love with these ‘scratch and reveal’ gift cards. A perfect way to share the ‘experience’ gift.
Alternatively, give to charity.
Many non-profits offer certificates for packages such as education packs or clean water. My Mum always contributes to charity on our behalf as part of our Christmas gift.
I’ve bought a refugee survival kit from Choose Love for a wee member of the family.
Zero Waste Gift Wrapping
There’s a new wave in wrapping called furoshiki. Not new to Japan, this cloth-based wrapping technique is super popular amongst young folks today. The beauty of it is you can’t go wrong because there are lots of different ways to wrap with fabric.
Alternatively, brown paper makes a really nice base then use twine, scraps of fabric or leather cord to tie it up. Paper tape can be used to close the gift, it’s ridiculously expensive though and impossible to find in local shops.
This guide to zero waste presents for every member of the family should help you in your quest to get the team onboard the single-use plastic-free campaign without them knowing it! High five to plastic freedom and one step closer to a greener life.
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What’s your favourite zero waste gift to give?
Tell us in the comments below.
→ Read next | Easy yet fun homemade gifts