Holiday gifts revisited

It’s been a couple of weeks since we started brainstorming ideas for holiday gifts — and I decided an update was in order because wow, we are geniuses when it comes to planning. (It’s not bragging if it’s true.) Thanks to the comments, we have the following list of zero waste or low waste gift ideas:



Infused oils and vinegars

Vanilla extract

Candy cane vodka

Hot chocolate mix

Pancake mix

Spice rubs

It'll be December before we know it.

It’ll be December before we know it.


Snack mix



Vanilla coffee syrup

Dried fruit


Body lotion

Lip balm in recycled containers

Sugar scrubs


Knitted socks

Knitted scarves — for warmth and fashion

Knitted hats

Dish cloths or scrubbies

Fleece blankets


Gift wrapping kits of reusables

Wooden cutout decorations

Experience gifts

Gift certificates loaded directly to a smartphone

Use old holiday cards for gift tags, inside jar lids or to decorate bags

Visit craft fairs for unwrapped, handmade items

(Anyone think of anything else to add to the list?)


Here’s an idea that might be interesting if you have a friend of family member who’s shown interest in zero waste — although I should probably mention that I’m stealing borrowing this idea from a board I follow (someone got a similar gift as a door prize at a grocery store and everyone went wild):

The zero waste shopping starter kit.

Look, I even made one so you can see what I’m talking about:


Step 1: In a quart jar, add a (foldable) grocery sack and a couple of produce bags, then a small jar.


Place the lid for the small jar upside down in the rim or you’ll never get it back out again. Then add top lid. BOOM.

This is totally a reenactment using my own stuff, but I think this has the potential to be cute and functional and not too obnoxiously in-your-face-zero-waste. You could get pretty clever with the wrapping — I’d probably just toss it in some newspaper and tie a ribbon around it, though, to be honest (I’m not crafty). Oh, FINE, let me wrap it because we’ve come this far:

In my defense, I did this in 10 seconds. I could make it cuter ... maybe.

In my defense, I did this in 10 seconds. Eh, you get the idea.

I suppose you could also make other kits using the same idea — a kitchen kit with a jar of bulk dish soap, if you’re lucky enough to have that option, and a dish cloth or a couple scrubbies, maybe a small bamboo brush … a stack of beauty products in small jars, like scrub and lotion … or, if you want to be my best friend, a jar of coffee beans and an IV. 😉



We haven’t really talked about kid gifts yet, and I’m hoping we can come up with a decent list on this front. I like the idea of experience gifts — my mother-in-law and parents have given the girls a variety of outings, which are always a Big Hit. (And they don’t even have to be creative or expensive. Lunch out and an ice cream cone, that’s basically Johanna’s perfect day.)

I’m sitting here trying to think of zero waste and low waste kid gifts, and I’m kind of coming up blank. We have one bookstore in town that still gives out paper gift certificates, and I love giving those to the girls because it’s an outing AND a gift. (And they’re book fiends.) They also can’t get enough new art supplies, and it’s relatively easy to find recycled sketching pads and colored/regular pencils (either packaged in cardboard or individually). I’m not above writing “Go download 10 new songs” on a piece of paper and letting them go nuts on iTunes.

Hmm. What else? I’ve seen wooden and cloth toys at craft fairs — for younger kids, maybe? Our town is lucky enough to have a community education program, so a fun class might be interesting (write the various needed info in a card? But if it’s not your kid, definitely check schedules with the parents first). Um … Abby used to get a magazine subscription from my parents every year; it came unwrapped. I don’t know how you’d figure out which ones come without plastic all over them, but she loved getting mail every month.

Yeah, I definitely need help on this front. Whatcha got?


I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our previous brainstorm, and thank you in advance for commenting this time. I think it’s awesome that we have each other as resources. What in the world did people do before the internet? I have no idea.

Next up: I recently made crock pot apple butter and am hoping to try it with pears over the weekend. I’ll tell you how it went — and how you can make your own batch.

13 Responses to Holiday gifts revisited

  1. For zero waste kid gifts just buy at a thrift or consignment or antique store. You can get almost anything there unwrapped and then when the kids are done you can donate it back!

    • Great idea! And you could get dress up clothes, or items for pretend cooking or pretend camping. (My girls did a lot of pretend everything, usually in the middle of the kitchen while I was trying to cook dinner. I kind of miss that.) And I like the part where you donate everything back!

  2. A few ideas to add:

    Bath salts in bulk – our Whole Foods has these in different scents
    Make your own bath ‘tea’ (a herbal infusion meant to soak in the tub) from bulk tea, bulk lavender, etc. and package in bits of cloth

    For kids:
    If you can sew, a wonderful world of cloth dolls with clothes is open to you – or make clothes for an existing doll (like an American Girl doll) – better yet, get the child to pick out styles and fabrics and you can make something on commission
    You can also sew baby books out of fabric, appliqueing shapes onto cloth pages and stitching the pages together

    My daughter is just 15 months, but at her age I’ve noticed that the most fun toys for her are just real household items: a little zipper bag of clothespins (this was a big hit), a box with a lid, a magazine to tear up, a bundle of socks in a basket, a handbag with lots of zippers and pockets… maybe not what you’d give a friend’s child, but for your own young child or a close relative, this kind of gift might work, and it might be something the parent could repurpose for practical use after the child tires of it.

    • This reminded me that my girls, for all their toys, just liked to open up the tupperware drawer and go to town when they were little — that was their favorite! Babies and toddlers definitely love real-life items, probably because they’re sponges mimicking everything around them. (15 months is such a great age!) Wonderful ideas!

      Ditto on the doll clothes — that would be so fun! — and the bath items. Thank you!

  3. I haven’t done this, but I think it’s a neat idea – DIY fort in a bag. A pillow case with a big flat sheet, wooden clothespins, maybe include a flashlight and a bag of homemade trailmix.

  4. I know the Cricket magazines come unwrapped. My (teenage) son requested the STEM one for his birthday,and loves it. Older kids are often involved in an activity, so things that go along with that are often appreciated (did you know the running store sells special running socks for $10 a pair?! They come with a paper tag,and are minimally packaged, and the only way I’m spending that sort of money on socks for a kid who still loses them.) I’ll try to brainstorm some others later.

    • Great ideas for a teenager — they’re into everything full-force and getting something to support that would not only show you’re paying attention (they won’t acknowledge that matters, but it does), but help them along, too. Brilliant!

      Teenage girl idea: Abby LOVES wacky socks. She has a pair with blocks of cheese on them … that she wore with her homecoming dress. It might depend on the kid, but that could be fun. (She also likes fuzzy socks because she’s stuck in her room studying a lot and gets cold.)

  5. We have given handmade coupon books to kids and adults. For example: movie night, fishing, walk in the forest, day at the zoo, picnic in a park, nail painting, batch of homemade cookies, night of baby sitting, sleepover, etc. Thoughout the year, therecipient presents their coupon for redemption. Seems to be well received. Last Mother’s Day, the kids gave me a coupon book! Their book included a hug, a no fighting with each other day and kid prepared dinner.

    Care package items like cookie mix in a jar, hot chocolate kit or mug cake (ingredients plus a mug from thrift store) seem to over well with older kids/teens.

    • That sounds fun! College-aged kids might also like care package coupons for each month — not that they’d have to redeem them, just that you’d commit to sending a package each month.

      One year I gave all my cousins a selection of homemade cookies — I was practically a teenager myself — my mother noted that with all the food around, and all the other gifts, THAT is what they were most excited about. (Well, kids and cookies. DUH.) I would assume hot chocolate or cookie mix would be a hit too.

      I really like that care package idea, can you tell? 🙂

      • My MIL gives us either hand knitted dish cloths or a box of home made holiday treats each year. The holiday treats are a huge hit with the family.

        Will keep the monthly care package idea as the eldest will go off to university in a couple of more years. Back in the day when I was in school, I used to love receiving a care package from mom with homemade treats.

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