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  • Writer's pictureMaria Karagiannis

Zero-Waste Gifting: Adults & Teens

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

As mentioned in my post about holidays and zero-waste living, holidays and gift-giving creates a lot of waste. In a three-part series of posts (Kids, Adults & Teens, and Wrapping), I talk about gifting with minimalism and waste reduction in mind.

I think it's fair to say that children should be the ones who most benefit from holiday gifting. I used to be a big believer in exchanging with everyone, but, in addition to the obvious, we live in a society of instant-gratification - most of us just buy what we need when we need it (or want); you don't want to buy someone something they already have, can't or won't use, or don't like, and you don't want to add clutter to their home. If you're environmentally conscious, you don't want to give someone something that is ultimately wasteful. With that said, there are absolutely adults in our lives with whom we wish to exchange holiday gifts!

There is a plethora of options for zero-waste gift-giving. The least wasteful option is, as I suggested for kids, the gift of experience. Buy your niece tickets to see her favorite artist in concert, pay for your brother to have an opportunity to drive an expensive sports car around a track, give your sister a voucher for a painting class, get your mom a few dance classes, your dad a flying lesson... there are so many cool things to do! If you are exchanging with someone who travels from out of town or state for the holidays, get to know which places they like to frequent or visit during their stay!

I know that whenever I travel back home, I spend most of my time eating out and grabbing coffee to catch up with friends and family, so if you know which places someone likes to go to and support, gifting them a gift certificate, or taking them out to eat, would surely be an appreciated and thoughtful gift.

In some cases, however, experience gifts can be more costly, so they aren't always a viable option. That's where the DIY-approach comes in. Think about something you can make or buy that will encourage the recipient to be less wasteful and/or something that will be useful and/or enjoyed. Try to incorporate recycled/reused materials, like using old curtains or clothes.

For Christmas one year, I made wool dryer balls for my family to replace wasteful dryer sheets. I bought minimally packaged wool, which was all I needed to make them (aside from an old nylon stocking for the felting process). I packaged the balls in tins I purchased at the thrift store, tied a fabric bow on the top, and made tags out of recycled cardboard. I've also gifted zero-waste lunch kits: I purchased few sets of stainless steel camping utensils and made a few fabric cases to store them in, as well as a cloth napkin, and added stainless steel Klean Kanteens to each set.

Reusable bags are another great gift option. You can make your own out of old clothes, or buy. My favorites are

BagPodz and ChicoBags. Although I don't love that they're made of polyester (a plastic-based material), they're pretty durable and reusable. ChicoBags is also very aware of the microplastic pollution problem, and is actively working toward keeping their products' shedding to a minimum and exploring other materials. What I love the most about ChicoBags is that they fold up really tiny, to about the size of my fist, and clip onto my purse or keys. BagPodz are great for going food shopping, as they're a convenient pouch containing 10 bags and has a large clip for hanging. Giving someone a reusable bag that's really convenient to remember and take with you is a great way to encourage them to avoid plastic!

Maybe you aren't crafty, or maybe your recipients just won't really appreciate homemade or zero-waste-geared items (or maybe they even have some already). You could opt to give cash or a gift card, but consumables, or edible items, are generally a well-received go-to gift idea! Before gifting food, though, find out whether or not they have any dietary restrictions or allergy concerns to take into account when deciding what to give them or if food is a good idea. There are lots of cool ideas involving dry mixes in jars available online; I have made hot cocoa mixes, and placed cookies in jars - just tie a bow around the top and voila! Fill jars with coffee beans or treats from the bulk section, bake pie, seasonal bread, cookies, orcupcakes... get creative!


- theater tickets

- concert tickets

- rock climbing pass

- movie pass

- museum pass

- painting class

- flying lesson

-dance lessons

- cooking class

- drive a sportscar

- theater tickets

- a trip or vacation

- gift certificate (e.g. restaurant or coffee)

- edible treats (e.g. sweets, baked goods, coffee beans, wine,beer, tea)

- reusable bags

- travel cutlery

- wool dryer balls

- locally made and/or sustainable items

- secondhand or sustainable clothing


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