Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Gifting a zero-waste gift is easier than you think! We’ve compiled and tested out some great strategies for zero-waste gift-giving to make your spirits bright while incorporating zero-waste habits.


Cute wrapping paper and fancy bows are often all too tempting at the store. However, going more sustainable with your wrapping can help you personalize your gifts and save money. These are just a few alternative materials that you can use during the holidays to replace single-use wrapping:

  • Fabric Scraps. For smaller gifts, use fabric scraps from an old sewing project like t-shirts, tablecloths, sheets, or curtains, and turn them into something useful. All you need to do is simply cut a square piece, gather it at the top of the box and tie it together.
  • Newspaper. Newspapers make wonderful wrapping paper. Comic pages are especially fun for kids (and adults)!
  • Paper bags (for those times you forget your reusable grocery bags). Many people reuse their paper bags as book covers or trash bags but they also make for great gift-wrapping material. You can get creative and draw on them for an added look!
  • Reusable bags. Utilize a reusable bag to wrap your gift. Many reusable bags are sold at grocery stores or thrift stores. Wrapping only lasts a few days but reusable bags can last a lifetime!
  • Cloth, scarf, or handkerchief. Wrap your gift in a vintage handkerchief, cloth napkin, or scarf for two gifts in one!
  • Reused gift bags or gift wrap. Keep all gift bags you receive and reuse them when needed!
  • Or just skip the wrapping! What matters is on the inside, right? 😉 

Be sure to decorate and personalize your gifts once they’re wrapped. Use twine instead of bows and make your own cards or tags out of scratch paper, old tags, scraps, or business cards. You can even add leaves and pine cones that you pick up on your walks!

For more zero-waste gift wrap ideas, check out our past blog on Sustainable Gift Wrap Solutions.


Zero Waste Gift Ideas

There are many directions you can go to incorporate zero-waste practices into your gift-giving and bring even more meaning to your gifts. In general, look for gifts with minimal or no packaging and figure out what your family and friends really want and need. Sometimes the best zero-waste gift is the one that the recipient will enjoy for years to come!

  • Eco-friendly items. Help friends and family be more sustainable with gifts like reusable cups, stainless steel straws, or travel utensil sets.
  • Shop local. Buy locally roasted coffee, find unique gifts at farmers’ markets and support local boutiques. Often, local companies are more sustainable with packaging and materials.
  • Purchase repurposed items such as glass cups made from beer bottles.
  • Shop at thrift or second-hand stores. Games, books, and kitchen items are great categories to find secondhand to prevent consumer waste and save some money.
  • Support a nonprofit. Give a gift to an organization making a difference in your community on behalf of a friend or family member.
  • Make DIY Gifts such as beeswax candles, bird feeders, scarves, or make your own handmade soap.
  • Invest in an experience. Purchase a cooking lesson, schedule a tour pass to discover a new part of San Diego, or book tickets for a theater show. Giving the gift of an experience can also be a great way to share time together!
  • Share your Favorite Food. Share your latest baking creation! Make cake pops, truffles, or gummy bears. Be sure to think of zero-waste-friendly packaging options such as cloth napkins, beeswax saran wrap, Mason jars, or reusable tins.
  • Buy a membership. Art lover? Give them a museum membership. Surfer? Purchase a membership for an organization like Surfrider Foundation. Foodie? Get a membership that supports an organization AND gives discounts to local restaurants like Slow Food Urban San Diego.

The best gifts are always the ones well thought out. Although the holidays are challenging to be zero waste, it gives an extra push to get creative and find environmentally friendly items that will truly be used by the person receiving the gift. We hope you consider these zero-waste practices when finding gifts for your special ones this holiday.

Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for family, being grateful, and… lots of food! If you are starting to plan your Thanksgiving meals for the holiday, consider these zero-waste tips to keep our landfills from getting stuffed!

Buy Local

Visit your local farmer’s market or grocery store instead of big chain supermarkets to buy the produce and poultry you need for your Thanksgiving meal. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but supports local farmers and agriculture. The money you spend will be put back into the local economy and used to invest in better farming equipment and practices, resulting in better yield and fresher foods.

Buy in Bulk

Consider bulk buying some of your products to reduce plastic packaging and save some money! Bulk buying doesn’t mean you need to buy family-sized bags of produce, you can just bring your own containers to designated stores and fill them based on your needs. For Thanksgiving, items to bulk buy include rice, potatoes, pasta, honey, spices, herbs, and vegetables. Check out this resource on How to Bulk Buy for more tips or type in “refill stores” on to find a bulk store near you! 


Avoid using single-use plastic. Instead, use plates, bowls, and cutlery already at home. If you don’t have enough, ask a friend or family member to bring their own. For larger parties, consider purchasing compostable dinnerware made from natural plant-based materials, which are biodegradable and a more sustainable option.

Make Turkey Broth

Did you know that turkey broth is beneficial for the bones and digestive system, and contains nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals essential to the body? Instead of throwing out the carcass and innards as you would normally, add them all into a large pot along with some onions, carrots, and celery, then cover everything with water and let it simmer for 4-6 hours. You can also find other recipes and ideas here on how to use the entire turkey and not waste a single part.


No matter how carefully you plan, you’re bound to have some leftovers. Make sure you make space in the fridge beforehand and use a vacuum sealer so the food stays fresher for longer periods of time. You can also use leftovers to make new recipes such as Thanksgiving leftover casserole using mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. Discover more delicious recipes here.

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are able to put into practice at least some of our Zero Waste Thanksgiving tips! For tips and tricks on sustainability visit our blog at WasteFreeSD