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The holiday season is peak time for consumerism and can create pressure for those of us attempting to live more minimally and sustainably.  With society’s expectations and marketing ads at every turn, scroll and in every story, it’s easy to buy more than we need and feel stressed about the gift giving (and receiving) process.  

As hard as I try, I’m not immune to it all, but I feel good about how far my responsible shopping has come and the impact I’m making in my own home (and anyone else I can project my ideas onto).  Every single day I’m asked at least once what I’m getting Patrick for Christmas and my response is always the same: we don’t exchange gifts.  

In lieu of giving gifts, whether it be for a holiday, birthday or anniversary-we spend money on an experience. We’ll plan a getaway or mini vacation, a nice dinner, or a fun event out.  Occasionally, we like to invest in home repairs and new tires, which are equivalent to a birthday, Christmas AND anniversary gift combined. (Adulting-ughhhh!!)

Research has shown over and over that we’ll forget the presents and the things, but memories we create with loved ones last forever.  

Experiences are just one example of zero waste gift giving, but I’m sharing other ideas below to help you start the zero waste conversation in your own giving.  

Experiences: The average American household contains over 300,000 items AND there are over 50,000 storage facilities nationwide.  Landfills are overflowing and carbon emissions from excessive consumption habits are wreaking havoc on the environment. Gifting experiences vs things is a no brainer.

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  • Weekend getaway or staycation vouchers
  • Concert/Movie/Tour tickets
  • Museum or science center memberships
  • Spa day
  • Shooting range passes 
  • Activity passes: Escape Game, paintball, zipline, rock climbing, etc.

Food and Food-inspired gifts:  Food is a universal gift that’s appropriate in nearly any situation.  Seriously, can you think of any celebration or event that doesn’t involve food or eating in some way? One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received recently is a container of loose leaf lemongrass and mint tea leaves, harvested and dried from a local, nonprofit urban garden that I actually helped plant and care for this year.  

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  • Homemade baked goods and granola 
  • DIY seasonings and spice mixes
  • Eco-friendly food storage containers and cutlery (ex: ChicoBag)
  • Reusable beverage containers (Klean Kanteen)
  • Locally made honey and jams
  • Subscription meal services
  • CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership

Gift Cards: The jury is still out on whether gift cards make great gifts or they’re thoughtless presents only procrastinator give.  I personally prefer a gift card over an item that would sit in storage unused, but some individuals I polled love the thrill of physically unwrapping a gift. There truly is a science in selecting a thoughtful gift card.


  • Airfare gift card (hint, hint)
  • Favorite store or restaurant gift card
  • Theater gift card
  • Subscription service membership (ex-Grove Collaborative)
  • Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime gift cards
  • Natural foods store gift card

Donation to a nonprofit organization: After all is said and done, the best gifts are those that support and give back to those less fortunate.  Whether it’s a donation of your time or a financial gift, there are plenty of organizations and individuals in our communities and across the world that need assistance. Consider making a donation in your loved one’s name to an organization they support as a gift.  

Lastly, as you finish out your holiday Christmas shopping and moving forward, I encourage you to support B Certified Corporations.  B Certified Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.  Basically, B Corps companies ensure that their business serves a purpose, pays producers fair wages, benefits the consumer, and ensures socially responsible practices, all while minimizing environmental impact. Learn more here and search for B Certified Corporations in your area.

PS-all companies linked in this post are B Certified and no-this post is not sponsored! 

Next, look forward to a post on zero waste gift wrapping ideas!

Zero Waste Gift Ideas


December 10, 2017


share this post:

  1. Rusty

    December 10th, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    This is so slow! Well written! Truly amazing work!

  2. Erin Hendrickson, The Minimalist RD

    December 12th, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Thanks Rusty!

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