How to have a zero waste Christmas, when every man and his dog wants to buy you something

Filed in Blog by on November 8, 2015 14 Comments
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zero waste christmas gift ideasAmanda shared a query on Facebook I’m sure many of us zero wasters can relate to.

She wrote,

The time has come for me to write a list of the things I would like for Christmas but I don’t really want anything!

I know that many of my family will absolutely not buy me second hand gifts or shop in charity shops and just want to pick something up online or in a supermarket.

Can anyone think of any zero waste things I could ask for? I’ve already got quite a lot of kit, including things like a flask, hot water bottle, cloth menstrual pads and hankies, and a kit to brew my own wine, but I’d really like to suggest people get me zero waste things if they have to get me anything at all…

Our fantastic community of Zero Heroes came up with loads of ideas, which I’m sharing here:

Zero Waste Christmas Gift ideas

Zero Waste Kit

You could choose items that help you live a more zero waste lifestyle such as stainless steel lunch boxes, glass straws or a fountain pen.

Zero Waste toiletries

Lush sell a good range of packaging free toiletries and in some cases you can return packaging to be recycled, plus you get a free sample or money off your next purchase – you could make a specific list or ask for vouchers to choose your own.


E-Books don’t create any waste and can be downloaded onto a kindle or smartphone. Alternatively you could ask for a digital magazine subscription for a year-long gift. If you’re giver is in a position to splash out, and you don’t already have one, you could request the Kindle.


Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn such as cookery, permaculture or sewing. Vouchers for a course could be a fun and empowering way to learn new skills.


If you really don’t want anything, suggest that people buy a charity gift – either a donation to a charity you are particularly supportive of or from a company such as Good Gifts where you can fund projects from a weeks hot dinners for a pensioner to training an African eye surgeon.


Think about it – you’re more likely to remember a great experience than a ‘thing’ by the time next Christmas comes around. What about a massage or theatre tickets? Vouchers to your favourite restaurant or tickets to an upcoming event or festival? A spa weekend can be a wonderful experience or long weekend in your favourite hotel, if your giver isn’t short of cash. Membership to the National Trust or English Heritage would be a 365 day present.

Hobbies and interests

Something that helps you adopt a ‘make do and mend’ approach can be useful – anything from some knitting needles and wool to a sewing machine. If you’re a gardener, you could ask for supplies such as garden tools. If you’re an avid cyclist, supplies for your bike would be fantastic. Music buffs could request downloads.

Acts of service

This is one of my favourites! Instead of things I like people to do things for me. One year my husband promised me a monthly full body massage – Mmmmm. My daughter put together a little book of vouchers that I could cash in throughout the year with things like “I’ll do the washing up” “I’ll vacuum the house” – these were wonderful to use when I was having a lazy day.


Indoor or outdoor plants make a great present. From a selection of herbs to grow on your kitchen windowsill to fruit trees, there’s something to help you be a little more self sufficient and reduce food waste.

In the kitchen

Can’t stand food waste or food packaging? Kilner jars make a great gift that can be used again and again. You might like a dehydrator, slow cooker or selection of plastic-free containers for batch freezing meals.


Asking for things that get eaten is a great way to avoid waste this Christmas – the Gifter might be happy to get you luxury versions of things you normally enjoy or they may let their creativity flourish and send you a hamper of home-made goodies.

Home Made

Asking people to buy from WAHM (work at home Mums) or Etsy is a great way to vote with your money. If the giver has skills and talents of their own, tell them you’d love a home-made gift; after all you’ll get something unique and it’s the thought that counts.

What about you – how do you enjoy a zero waste Christmas?

I was thrilled to find Rosie’s Going Green Linky and I’ve submitted this post to it. Find the linky by clicking on the badge below or follow the hashtag #GoingGreenLinky.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (14)

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  1. Vicky Myers says:

    What a fabulous list of ideas:) With youngish children seasonal passes are always a great win with us – affordable days out throughout the year. If you are buying an ebook for someone can I suggest you read up on a compatible model with your local library service (when I received mine a few years ago kindle was not).

    • Mrs Green says:

      Love the idea of seasonal passes that end up being a year-long gift; especially for families where trips out can be so expensive. Great tip about the ebook compatibility Vicky – thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Heather A says:

    What fab ideas. I think I’ll try and use some of these.

  3. Sandy says:

    I always ask for lush vouchers

  4. GreenerDaddy says:

    Hi Rachel
    We are thinking about it 🙂 Zero Waste kit is a good idea to spread this way of thinking. Here, DIY Bags for bulk shopping are ongoing as a gift 😉
    Thanks for all these ideas

    • Mrs Green says:

      You’re welcome, Julien – thanks for dropping buy. Loving the idea of those bags; especially as now in England we have the plastic bag tax 🙂

  5. Christine says:

    I think Amanda has hit the nail on the head with saying she doesn’t want anything. That’s the trouble with Christmas – it’s become the feast of the patron saint of shopping. The idea of it being a religious festival has long since gone and sheer consumerism has taken over. It would be nice to be able to make it a festival of time spent with family and friends, no great pressure to produce a perfect feast but time to enjoy company over simple things. Hmm – can’t see it happening though.

    • Mrs Green says:

      I’m with you; and I think many more people are feeling this way. Whether or not they take action on it is another thing. We’ve moved our ‘Christmas’ celebration to the shortest day because for me, personally, that day has more meaning and is a cause for me to celebrate 🙂

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks for this post,my daughter has just bought me 25 kilner bottles for Christmas from Gumtree. Thanks for the ideas

  7. These are fabulous ideas. We have greatly cut down on presents this year anyway and are giving things like tickets to sports events and bought sweets are getting ditched for home-made. We need to get back to a time when a few presents was the norm, not the mountain on often unwanted gifts that are given these days.

    Thank you so much for joining in with the #GoingGreenLinky and I hope to see you there in the next one in January!

  8. My mum keeps asking me what I want to be bought for Christmas but doesn’t seem to get that what I really want is some time to myself and help around the house!

  9. Gina Caro @ Gypsy Soul says:

    I love this post! I have started buying ‘experience’ gifts for our family instead of random presents. I find Groupon is really good for this as they have some fantastic deals on days out and courses etc.
    I found the perfect one for my nephew this year, it’s a session of virtual reality gaming which I think he’s going to love!

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