Zero waste gift ideas (when you can’t say no)

No matter how hard you may push to say “no gifts” or “experiences over things”, gifts still come your way. I’m sure we can all think of those lovely people in our lives who feel like not giving physical gifts is the ultimate offense.

Keep pushing for those experience gifts, but sometimes it’s just not happening.

For those of you dealing with folks who love giving stuff, I present to you some zero waste gift ideas. (Bonus points if you can convince them to source your zero waste gifts second hand! I’ve included links to second-hand online options when possible.)

NB: some of these items are affiliate links. That means Green Indy will earn a small commission if you purchase through them – at no cost to you. No worries, all the money goes back into running the site and holding local workshops!

On-the-go zero waste kit

Don’t know what a zero waste kit is? Want to know what’s in mine? Check out my zero waste kit here.

  • A cool reusable travel mug. Something small and on-the-go is a great gift if you don’t yet have one. I highly recommend either the Stojo (collapsible silicone – lifesaver!) or the glass KeepCup.
  • Cloth napkins. Endlessly customizeable and useful in many different ways, vintage napkins are easy to find in thrift stores or you can even make your own napkins! Etsy also has plenty of gorgeous cloth napkins in all sorts of patterns.
  • Bamboo cutlery. Again, one of those products that is totally ToGo Ware bamboo cutlery set – unnecessary but so useful when received as a gift. As someone who walks or bikes daily, this is so helpful to toss into whatever bag I have. Mine is the .
  • A stainless steel tiffin. I love mine – I lugged around glass for ages and am so happy to have made the switch. I got mine second-hand from this stainless steel tiffin eBay search for under $20!
  • A reusable wax wrap. Kick plastic wrap to the curb and have an on-the-go plate or container at all times. They’re available for purchase through many sellers on Etsy or you can even make your own beeswax or vegan wrap in just a few minutes!
In the kitchen

You don’t need stuff to start reducing your kitchen waste – try some simple zero waste kitchen swaps!

  • House plants. What kitchen isn’t improved by a hardy little house plant? Share one you’ve grown or support a local nursery by picking one up on the way to the party!
  • Le Parfait jars. The creme-de-la-creme of glass jars, I have a small collection of these flip top jars I absolutely adore. You can find some reasonably priced ones in thrift stores occasionally, otherwise there’s a thriving second-hand market of Le Parfait jars on eBay.
  • A food processor. Food processors are amazing at creating the sauces, soups, and other blends that would otherwise be found in packaging. Mine is a lifesaver! The perk of this is that nice food processors tend to be expensive – so encourage your gift-giver to source one on the Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, or even through the returns of Amazon Warehouse.
  • A bento bag. I adore my bento bags and have switched over to using them almost exclusively over traditional totes. You can buy a linen bento bag, go for a slightly cheaper cotton bento bag, or even make your own like I do!
  • Block soap. Both beautiful and very long-lasting, ask for a Savon de Marseille or Aleppo soap block. Just be certain to get one without palm oil! (Bonus points if a bamboo scrubber for dishes is included!)

No matter how hard you may push to say "no gifts" or "experiences over things", gifts still come your way. For those of you dealing with folks who love giving stuff, I present to you some practical zero waste gift ideas.

In the bathroom

Get started today – make zero waste changes in your bathroom!

  • DIY pampering products. I wrote a whole post on DIY consumable gift ideas – creating a unique lotion, bath soak, or perfume is a relatively low-waste, low-cost way to give a gift.
  • Unpackaged soaps. There are so many places to get beautiful, hand-crafted soaps, no matter where you live. Perfect for daily use or saving for special guests!
  • Linen towels. I made my mom get these linen towels for my birthday and they are awesome! They’re much bigger than standard towels and, despite being super thin, are absorbent and warm even in Indiana winters!
  • Bamboo toothbrushes and tooth powder. Who would have thought – pre-zero waste – that you one day might be excited to receive a toothbrush as a gift?! I use The Green Root toothbrushes and a DIY tooth powder recipe from Going Zero Waste. A perfect gift pair!
  • Reusable cotton rounds. Perfect for removing makeup or smearing on lotion. You can DIY them easily or purchase a pack of reusable cotton rounds from Etsy sellers.
In your closet

It can be really hard to buy clothing for other people, but a careful suggestion can get you a staple piece you otherwise wouldn’t invest in. 

  • Everlane. For everything. While I do think Everlane is really over-hyped, I also love every piece of clothing I’ve bought. I’ve had a cashmere sweater for over four years and t-shirts for four or five that still function wonderfully.
  • FLAX linen. For comfy clothes, vintage FLAX linen dresses can’t be beat. It’s a little hippy-dippy (think good vibes messages on the label and comfortable drapes), but I absolutely adore the three pieces I have in my closet.

Have you succeeded in avoiding physical gifts or are you still fighting that fight? Do you have any other great zero waste gift ideas?