Seasonal giving can easily conflict with the ethics of those of us trying to waste less.

Striving for a Zero Waste holiday season means thinking carefully about what we give and receive, along with choosing purchases that are useful, long lasting, and compostable or recyclable.

The following gifts help their users achieve less waste by displacing plastic and disposable alternatives. They also help streamline what we tend to accumulate by having a practical, everyday purpose. Now that’s something worth giving.

Zero waste gifts under $12

Sunleaf shampoo and body bar

Luxurious shampoo and body bars to cut container waste.

While many shampoo bottles are recyclable, many never reach the recycling bin. Still others aren’t used more than once before they’re no longer recyclable. Shampoo bars solve this problem by providing a soothing, plastic-free alternative that lathers like regular shampoo but without the waste. Packaged in recycled paper, these bars are free from petrochemicals and artificial fragrances. Paired with handcrafted tin or cedar soap raft to keep them high and dry in the shower, the soaps make a great gift.

reusable drinking straws

Reusable straws for the dedicated sipper.

This year saw plastic straw bans going into effect around the world. From California to the UK, plastic straws are becoming taboo—and it’s no wonder. According to the National Park Service, Americans use 500 million straws ever day. That’s more than one straw every day for every person in the country! For people who love their straws, there are now alternatives. Both stainless steel straws and bamboo straws (short and long) provide a reusable option that doesn’t end up in the landfill. Simply clean with a brush (included with the bamboo straws) and sip away.

Great reviews: “I drink an iced chai every morning, and it’s very much a straw-drink. But I know how bad plastic straws are for the environment. So happy to have found this solution. The bamboo straws are sturdy, have no taste, are easy to keep clean with the little brush, and dry very quickly. Highly recommend!” –Kate M.

beeswax songbird candle with cotton wick

Beeswax songbird candles to light up her life.

Graceful and cute, these naturally scented candles are free from paraffin and metals and they burn soot free. The wicks are 100% cotton, while the candles are 100% pure beeswax. Hand-casted and molded, each candle is 3 inches tall by 4 inches wide and will burn for over 20 hours. They’re also made in the USA.

canning jar drinking lid

A snazzy drinking lid to turn canning jars into instant travel mugs.

Cuppow drinking lids come in two sizes, so you can adapt a wide mouth or standard canning jar in seconds. The lids are BPA-free and made from long lasting recycled plastic. Add a stainless steel straw and presto—a zero waste beverage container is born.

Great reviews: “Love the versatility. It looks cute, saves money at Starbucks, and is multipurpose.” –Nicole A.

canning jar lunchbox adapter

A reusable insert to transform your canning jars into lunchboxes.

From the same company as the drinking lids above, these rigid containers made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic help keep your lunch ingredients from mixing. Insert into a wide-mouth canning jar and you’ve immediately got two compartments, perfect for spreads, dips, salads, snacks, or chopped fruit and veg.

Great reviews: “It’s simplicity is what makes this so perfect—encourages good choices for snacking because it’s fun and everyone can have their own! Love, love love these!!” –Pat H.

reusable compostable Skoy cloths

Reusable, compostable cloths for wiping up spills and stuffing his stocking.

Outlasting your roll of paper towels by 15 times, Skoy cloths are great for quick clean-ups around the house and office. Use, launder, and then use again for several months until they’re ready for the compost pile.

Great reviews: “These towels are great! In the kitchen and bath, wet, squeeze out, use your favorite cleaner. Rinse and microwave. So easy! I’ve saved so much not using paper towels!” –Nancy H.

Zero waste giving from $10-$25

zero waste beeswax wraps

Sweet-smelling beeswax wraps to keep food fresh and delicious everywhere they go.

These versatile replacements for plastic wrap are 100% natural and reusable. They work just as well for storing food in the fridge as they do for wrapping sandwiches, snacks, and other lunch items for school or work—and they’re small enough to stash in your purse or your desk. They also make a great office gift when paired with something inside. Chocolates anyone? Beeswax food wraps are available individually, in a variety pack, or as a complete gift set.

Great reviews: “This is one of those rare products – a ‘where has this been all my life?’ thing – they work, they cling, they clean up easily, and they even smell nice. I wish they were more widely known and in more catalogues.” –Matthew N.

Plastic-free reusable sandwich bags for everyday awesomeness.

These little Stasher bags are the world’s first airtight, self-sealing storage bags made completely without plastic. The 100% pure food-grade platinum silicone can be frozen, boiled, microwaved, and refrigerated without fears of leaching harmful chemicals into your food. And they come in a variety of sizes and colors. Stash your next sandwich or snack plastic free.

zero waste reusable shopping bag

A no-waste shopping kit so there’s no excuse for plastic bags.

If you know someone who is trying to reduce their impact, why not give them a collection of zero waste essentials for their trips to the grocery store? Start with one or more reusable shopping bags in fun prints. Top this off with a set of reusable produce bags so they can purchase fruit and vegetables without waste. These amazing little bags are strong, lightweight, and transparent, so you can always see what’s inside.

Great reviews: “I love them. I can wash my veggies and fruit while in the bag, refrigerate and use as needed. No more plastic bags! I can’t get over how easy it is, and much better for the environment. I can wash, rinse and use these bags over and over. Thank you Eartheasy.” –Carolann S.

JOCO reusable glass coffee cup

Chemical-free, reusable glass coffee cups to stop the single-use madness.

Americans throw away 25 billion coffee cups each year. Can you even picture how many cups that is? While a small percentage of these are compostable, most are not even recyclable due to their plastic lining. And even the cardboard sleeve—which is both compostable and recyclable—rarely gets separated and sorted properly. Most are trashed along with the rest of the cup. So what can you do? Give the gift of a reusable coffee cup—and one that’s likely to get toted everywhere because it’s so easy to use and clean. This version by JOCO is made from non-porous borosilicate glass. It’s microwave and dishwasher safe and modelled after standard disposable cup sizes. (It also comes in a 12-ounce model.)

reusable bamboo travel utensil

A ‘to-go’ travel kit to eliminate takeaway trash.

How many times have you been caught out, wanting to pick up some food-to-go but not having any containers to put them in? Give the gift of ease so that friends and family can takeaway without the trash. Start with a stylish travel napkin, then add a set of bamboo travel utensils. (These also come with hemp denim and organic cotton covers). Package them together for a zero waste dream gift.

Great reviews: “Way better than a plastic utensil. [The bamboo travel set] is really stiff and strong, so it lasts way longer and it just feels better to use in your mouth and hand. It’s really a great product.” –Sandra M.

Zero waste gifts from $25-$50

energy efficient wool dryer balls

Wool dryer balls for energy efficiency and zero waste giving—all in one.

We love our dryer balls! Not only do they eliminate the need for disposable dryer sheets, they save on energy costs. Reduce your drying time by 30-50% using these little wonders, and experience soft-to-the-touch clothing, towels, bedding, linens, and more. One set of three dryer balls lasts over 100 loads. You can also spice up your laundry by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto the balls before using. Dryer ball sets are available with or without essential oils, and you can choose your own color or go with natural gray.

Great reviews: “These wool dryer balls really do reduce drying time! Especially good for heavy loads like towels and bedding. Plus they help remove wrinkles. Costs less over time and works much better than dryer sheets!” –Casey M.

sustainable bamboo bread cutting board

Sustainable bamboo cutting board for the bread lover.

Enjoy a crusty loaf without the mess of cleaning up. This two-piece design includes a slotted, removable cutting surface that traps crumbs and other food bits for later removal. It’s also fully reversible, so you can use both sides. Made from sustainably harvested, handcrafted bamboo, this bread board doesn’t absorb flavors and dries quickly. Use for cutting and serving.

candle and flowersBurn, plant and grow! This candle converts into a flower pot. Once the candle has burned away completely, use the ceramic pot to grow daisy flowers from seed. It’s the perfect gift for a plant lover who also loves candles!

$50 or more

organic wool pillow

Organic wool pillows for the sweetest of dreams.

These handmade pillows will help whoever receives them avoid the petrochemicals and industry-intensive processes that go into synthetic fill. Covered with organic cotton and made in the USA, they come in three thicknesses so you can select by comfort level.

Great reviews: “This is my second wool pillow. It’s just the right size, the fill is even and it is well made. I would buy another.” –Nancy H.

native organic cotton blanket Native organic cotton blanket, with comfort-inducing waffle-weave. Snuggle up with this throw, made from 100% USA-grown organic cotton. Available in three beautiful earth tones.

Great reviews: “These throw blankets are massive and a great addition to the end of your couch or bed.” –Ashley-Belle B.

All American pressure canner

For the dedicated zero waster, a pressure canner to reduce store-bought canned foods.

Stop the waste completely with the ultimate zero waste gift: an All American pressure canner to help preserve food at home. I’ve had one of these for over 20 years and it’s still working like the day I took it out of the box. Every year we use it to preserve our year’s supply of fish and winter vegetables. I’ve lost count of how many cans (or dollars) I’ve saved. And it’s available in three sizes.

Great reviews: “Absolutely the most awesome pressure canner I have ever seen, this is huge and saves a ton of time canning so much at one time. Absolutely awesome. Thumbs up!!!!!!” –Aaron C.

Waste-free holidays and beyond

Streamlining the stuff that comes into our lives is a process that includes examining our priorities and communicating with those around us about our goals. Giving a zero waste gift means sharing your knowledge about less harmful ways to subsist and learning along the way. For more information about waste-free living, read Zero Waste: A Beginner’s Guide.

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