Last-minute zero-waste gift ideas

December is already in full-swing, and between school and work, I haven’t had a second to think about Christmas shopping. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also wait until a week before the 25th to do anything about the encroaching holiday. Even though I may be a last-minute shopper, I still believe in the importance of ethical gift giving. In an effort to cut down on waste this holiday season, I’m committing to giving eco-friendly presents.

So, what does it mean to be eco-friendly in gift giving? Let’s begin with the obvious thing: wrapping. I’m sure this is a scene you’ll recognize from Christmas morning:

After sleeping in from a late Christmas Eve full of travel and reuniting with family, you wake up to a snow-dusted, sunshiny Christmas morning. Everyone rushes downstairs to open their presents and begin the festivities. Your parents, siblings or kids find a comfortable spot on the ground beside the tree to start tearing apart their gifts. One box at a time, they reveal a set of pyjamas, a pair of winter boots, shiny new electronics and more. As the morning continues, the living room becomes more and more littered with bows, ribbon and paper. Before dinner, all of it is gathered into a big plastic bag and left out with the trash for pick-up later that week…

Sound familiar? Seems like a waste, doesn’t it? That plastic and paper, having only been used for one purpose, is discarded and off to the landfill along with all the other bags of plastic and paper from your neighbours’ houses. Whoa. Maybe we should rethink this wrapping deal, eh? Here are some other great ways to wrap a gift:


  • Wrap a present in another present. Gifts like books or anything that can go in a box can be easily wrapped in a garment like a shirt or a scarf. Alternatively, you can wrap gifts in bed linens, dishcloths or plain old fabric from your crafty relatives.
  • Raid the blue bin. Nice-looking wrapping comes in all forms. Personally, I love the look of newsprint or magazine paper as wrapping paper. 
  • Use biodegradable decorations. No need for a plastic bow. To decorate gifts, why not pick a sprig of your favourite evergreen tree? Straw can make beautiful ribbon to secure a package. Birch bark is great for gift tags. 
  • Use a bag. Everyone gets a drawstring bag of presents, and each year the bags get reused. Instead of buying a new bag, up-cycle an old pillowcase!

I love these wrapping ideas most of all because they’re all free! And we all know wrapping paper can get a little pricey if you get the good stuff.

If you absolutely must use traditional gift-wrapping, please consider using recyclable paper!



I like this chart cause it puts buying at bottom priority. Truly, the best gifts I have ever received have been things up at the top of the pyramid. For example, I absolutely love going to concerts. It’s my raison d’être. Often these days, you can buy concert tickets without even printing a single piece of paper. That would fall into the “give memories” rung. Bonus: get two tickets and go together!

You don’t need to hit the mall for a great gift.

One of the ways my family stays zero-waste for the holidays is by giving the gift of food. Everyone’s gotta eat, right? Giving the gift of food and other consumables is a great way to go waste-free, plus you probably should leave it until the very last second to keep things fresh, or if you’re prone to procrastination like me. Going to farmers’ markets and bakeries can be helpful when eliminating waste because often their products are unpackaged. Bring a reusable grocery bag, and you’re good to go! 

But if you have a day to spare, get to baking! There’s nothing better than baked goods on holidays. It’s the one time of year that calories don’t matter. My favourite baked present is bread: the gift that keeps giving! Since I was a teen, a loaf of bread was at the top of my wish-list (my aunt had a bread maker and knew her way around the kitchen). Bread is great because it can last for days, if not weeks, when stored properly.

If you don’t want to bake, another idea I love is cookie-mix-in-a-jar (some assembly required). Another great consumable which requires very minimal effort (but a little more time) is gut-healthy fermented food (like kimchi or kombucha). Again, some assembly required, but fermentation is a mostly passive process. Be sure to check out my post on how to make kombucha.

I love the idea of giving the gift of a membership. Things like subscriptions to Netflix, Apple music, Spotify, yoga lessons, a gym membership, massages or even a Costco card all make amazing gifts and are generally shareable and affordable! I could personally use all of the above, if any of my loved ones are reading, wink-wink

Other ideas for consumable gifts: 


This is when things get a little tricky, and I would recommend against these gifts when trying to adhere to zero-waste gifting. The best way to stay zero-waste when gifting non-consumables is by ensuring landfill diversion

If you want to get your loved one an article of clothing, for example, getting a second-hand piece is best. Check you local thrift store before you head to the mall. The great thing about thrifted clothing, is that you’re more likely to find something unique. Plus, you’re bound to save money since most second-hand stores sell clothing at a discount compared to mall prices.

If you want something brand new, try giving something that encourages environmentally friendly habits, like:

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