Zero Waste Gift Guide

Gifts should be given spontaneously, from the heart. We never celebrated holidays growing up, but my family had parties and gave throughout the year, so I never felt I was missing out on anything. Today, I love giving gifts Leslie Knope-style and at weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, graduation parties, etc. Here are zero waste, plastic free, and homemade gift ideas for every occasion this coming year (check out this zero waste master list for more). Full disclosure, I tend not to bother making stuff and just give money most of the time. I think cash is much more personal.

for the beauty fanatic

Reusable cotton or hemp rounds MAKE / BUY
Knitted hemp washcloths MAKE
Plastic-free, refillable, or eco friendly cosmetics MAKE / MAKE / BUYBUY
DIY beauty / bath teas made with dried flower petals and herbs
Vintage or reusable compact
Homemade body scrub
Bulk body or face oils in pretty glass
Shampoo bars or a Plaine Products subscription
Bulk clays
DIY body balms / mango butter
Homemade bath salts
Upcycled hair ties
Plastic-free nail brush
Homegrown natural sponges

for the hostess

Homemade or bulk soaps
Crocheted, linen, vintage, or embroidered tea towels, handkerchiefs, and cloth napkins
Crocheted or upcycled kitchen scrubs MAKE / MAKE
Knit or crochet blanket or quilt
Homemade potpourri, candles, sachets, bulk incense
DIY, vintage, or wicker baskets and market carts
Plants and crocheted plant hanger
DIY pillows, mats, rugs, or weavings
Ceramics (Heath and Colleen Hennessy ship plastic free), artwork, or photography
Crocheted or homemade book cover- once a friend gave me a handstitched leather book cover that she cut from an old worn bookbag... I still have it today
Memberships (to co-op, museum, botanical society, etc.)
Wooden ironing board
Bamboo or wood and tampico brushes
Homemade sachets

for foodies

Homemade baking mixes in mason or Weck jars
Homemade granola
Gourmet bulk foods, such as honey, charcuterie, artisan chocolate, etc.
Stainless steel ice cube tray
Homemade cider or kombucha
Homemade canned goods (jams, curry pastes, pickles, fancy condiments)
Baked goods
Bread box or basket
A growler or glass bottle of bulk / homemade craft beer, wine, or liquor
A case of Toast ale
Fancy bulk olive oils, like Cedric Casanova's
Mortar and pestle or plastic free food processor

for the burgeoning zero-waster

Klean Kanteen
Drawstring, crocheted, or upcycled produce bags
Reusable shopping bags 
Reusable thrifted, bamboo, or stainless steel utensils
Cutlery wrap, homemade or purchased
Stainless tiffin
Knitted or crocheted cup cozy
Stainless (DIY or buy) or bamboo straws
Bamboo toothbrushes
Shave kit with stainless steel razor, brush, and soap
Plastic free hairbrush or comb
Bamboo / wooden / tampico household brushes
Plastic free snow or toilet brush
Carnuba or beeswax blocks
Reusable pads or cup

for travelers 

Zero waste toiletry set: Shampoo bar in case (vintage or purchased), or Plaine Products sample size bottles, DIY or zero waste toothpaste / deodorant, bamboo toothbrush, wooden comb or brush
Canteen and utensil set
Decomposition book
Plastic-free picnic or camp set
Handmade or (secondhand, designer) shawl
Crocheted or knitted socks
Sew a Dopp kit or toiletry bag
Linen towels (lightweight and easy to pack)
Natural rubber flip flops 
DIY felt, knitted, crocheted, upcycled slippers

for parents and kids

Experiences- concert or theatre tickets, art or ceramics class, dancing, babysitting, b&b, spa day, brunch
Cloth diapers, wool mattress pad, knitted / crocheted socks, booties, blankets, sweaters, toys
Wooden toys (plastic-free wooden bikes seem popular here in Paris)
Secondhand (preferably designer with tags) kids' clothes
Homemade crayons
Stainless steel popsicle molds
Vintage vinyl, for hipster parents and teens
A science/ art / knitting / sewing / crocheting kit
E-books or beautiful secondhand books
Library membership

for the style conscious 

Knit or crochet a hat, scarf, sweater, mittens, socks, clutch, turban, headband, vest... the possibilities are endless (bonus points if you use upcycled wool)
Upcycle or sew something
DIY jewelry
Diy espadrilles
DIY Mark Eden Schooley lamp, boucherouite or kilim or rag / knit rugs
Swedish Stockings
Gift certificate to The Real Real :) They are just the best and never use plastic tape on my packages (update- I no longer like them, I prefer Reformation instead)

for pet owners

Wooden upholstery brush
Wood pet brush (such as Tender Care)
Knitted, upcycled, or crocheted pet toys and beds
Homemade pet treats
Bamboo and stainless steel pet feeder or wooden puzzle feeder

gift wrap / card alternatives

Cloth, scarves
Old newspaper or magazines (Wasteland Rebel just posted a gift basket with origami cranes made with misprints from the recycling bin instead of tissue paper or confetti- so beautiful and original)
Reused gift bags
Compostable paper
Fabric drawstring or bento bags

Upcycled, homemade, or plantable cards and gift tags 
Wooden cards
Fabric or homemade money rolls
DIY folded envelopes 
Organic flowers, sprigs of lavender, rosemary, or other greenery instead of bows
Usable gift carriers- baskets, reusable shopping bags, etc.

Paris to Go


  1. Love your blog, great list too. Another idea: I often give houseplants I grow myself, either from clippings or seeds (which admittedly creates a little paper envelope to recycle).

    1. That's a great idea, Jenna, it is so much more loving and special to give something you've grown and cared for. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This Xmas we dispensed with the presents and made donations to our friends' chosen charities. It's a great way to get back to the true meaning of the holidays without encouraging our kids to commercialism. We took them to the zoo, made cookies together and went to a party after where our friends agreedc not to exchange gifts but focus on spending time together. This turned out to be one of the least stressful holidays we've had in forever.

    1. Glad to hear it Samantha, your kids must have had so much fun! I don't remember many of the toys I had growing up, but I do remember my parents reading to me and spending time with me in the backyard, at the zoo, to museums, etc.

  3. Thank you for this list. I didnt know all these things could be DIY-ed. Espadrilles for example. I always knew they were not worth the 800$ that Chanel charges for them but most of those tutorials mades some state of the art ones !

    Spa gift cards are my fav. Coffee shop gift cards are popular in my friend circle. And candles in reusable containers.

    I was chatting about weddings with my grandma. She told me about how weddings in the olden days were zero waste. As a kid, if she attended a wedding, she would carry her own plate and a glass. They would rinse it after the meal, pack some dessert from the feast in the glass and go home. Everybody apparently did that. I can not imagine guests coming with their own utensils today.

    1. I didn't know that about espadrilles until I realized I was never going to find the kind I wanted (wedge heel, ribbon tied, without some weird label stitched into the side, but wide enough for my Fred Flintstone feet). I'm not crazy about the Chanel espadrilles and didn't want to risk spending the money on a secondhand pair that wouldn't last very long, so I watched this video:

      There is a Spanish supplier on Etsy who makes the wedge heels herself too, and sells just that component so you can sew whatever fabric you'd like on top.

  4. This is a great list. Thank you for taking the time to put it together. Where was this two weeks ago when I was last minute shopping for presents? :-P One idea for a future post perhaps would be zero waste holiday decorations. The crayons you linked to are a great idea but I can't see a way to reuse the Christmas tree, except maybe for firewood. Somewhere you wrote about using pine needles for oils and ice cream but I can't find the post now. Besides that, I'm unsure of whether our tree has some kind of nasty chemicals on the branches and needles that could be released into the air. Our community doesn't have a tree recycling program yet, despite years of petitions. It seems everyone else jumped on that bandwagon decades ago.

    1. Hahah I purposely delayed it, I didn't want to stress anyone out! I deleted that post, but I'm not sure what to do with the trees either, I see so many in the garbage here now :( Some people use potted trees from an organic nursery so they can plant them in their backyards after.

  5. I used the Amazon gift card I received for Christmas and finally bought a stainless steel safety razor. My fears about the learning curve were completely unfounded! I love it! Thanks so much for the recommendation! Now if only I could find a bamboo or stainless eyeliner brush. All I've found come in sets and I don't need a set. I'll keep looking!

    1. Yay! I'm so happy you like it! Everything I read about safety razor shaving freaked me out. Then when I actually tried it, I realized, it's exactly the same only better. And you're right, I've only seen sets too, let me know when you find one please, I will link to it on here with a credit it to you, in case somebody else has the same problem!

    2. Ecotools also sells one individually

  6. Amazing list, great ideas. My husband and I talked this year about how we want the holidays to be less about expensive gifts. It's been hard to get family on board though.

    As an aside, this site inspires me so much!

  7. I love this. So many great ideas! One question though, why do you specify that secondhand clothing items should be designer items? x