Sustainable Christmas Gifts – 20 Zero Waste Ideas

Sustainable Christmas gifts are a present to the environment and your loved ones. Every year we buy each other millions of presents that end up in landfill, whether it’s a forgotten plastic toy, unwanted set of teacups, or a jumper that doesn’t fit. There are better ways to recycle and reuse unwanted gifts, but buying environmentally friendly Christmas presents in the first place can help.

But what makes a Christmas gift sustainable? It needs to be something you can reuse, which creates little or zero waste, and that’s biodegradable or compostable. Eco-friendly Christmas gifts are simply those that have barely any environmental impact during their life – from production to their use and disposal.

Protect the planet when planning presents this year with these zero waste Christmas gift ideas.

christmas present in hands with candles in background.

Eco-friendly clothing

For the fashionista in your life there are plenty of great sustainable Christmas presents you can buy – just check what materials any clothing is made from. Purchasing second hand clothes is one of the most eco-friendly choices, but if you want to give something brand new that’s still sustainable, consider the following options:

  • Mahabis slippers – a mixture of sustainable, recycled, organic, and responsibly sourced materials are used to make Mahabis slippers. Plus, for each pair you buy a new tree is planted.
  • Eco-friendly merino wool scarves – Sheep Inc produce naturally carbon negative scarves from merino wool. This wool is sourced from regenerative farms in New Zealand that use solar-powered, zero-waste Wholegarment® machines.
  • Finisterre beanie – Finisterre is a sustainable fashion label that uses natural fibres to make its merino wool beanies. These are soft and warm, while also being renewable, so the fibres can be recycled time and again.
  • Organic kids’ clothing – various brands make children’s clothes from organic cotton and other sustainably sourced materials, including Noble, Frugi, and Duns.
  • Patagonia – buying clothing gifts from Patagonia helps the planet in various ways as the brand supports environmental non-profit organisations, uses recycled and sustainable materials, and offers a repair and reuse program.

Environmentally friendly 
food Christmas presents

Food is a big part of Christmas and makes a great gift. Aside from the packaging, it shouldn’t create much (if any) waste if your recipient enjoys the tasty treats. However, every year we create mountains of food waste over the festive period, so picking out some environmentally friendly Christmas gifts based around food can help. Consider these choices:

  • Chocolate – there are many brands producing sustainable chocolate these days from organic and natural ingredients, such as Beyond Good, Motif, and Tony’s. Most also come in recyclable packaging.
  • Citizens of Soil olive oil – all the Citizens of Soil olive oil bottles look classy and come in sizes up to 1.5 litres with refill pouches so you can reuse the bottle. The olive oil they contain is sourced from female-led regenerative olive groves and they donate 1% of profits to regeneration projects.
  • Seeds gift pack – grow-you-own seeds kits are ideal for that foodie friend with green fingers. You can find kits to use on balconies, in gardens, and even inside to suit all homes.
  • Zero waste cookbooks – help your friends and family make their food go further while reducing food waste with one of the various zero waste cookbooks out there. Everything from zero waste meaty meals to vegan dishes, baking, and more are available.
  • Beeswax food wraps cling film is commonly used in the kitchen but problematic as a single-use plastic. These beeswax wraps are a great alternative for that eco-conscious friend who loves to get creative in the kitchen – ideal for wrapping up leftover turkey sandwiches too!

Sustainable Christmas presents 
for the home

Environmentally friendly Christmas gifts add a festive feel to any home, while some can be used all year round. Most use natural and sustainable materials rather than plastics that are harder to recycle to create an eco-friendly home. Some of the best sustainable Christmas gifts for the home include:

  • Candles – light up a loved one’s home with sustainable candles, such as those from Siblings – non-toxic coconut oil wax in a compostable bag. Simply heat in boiling water and pour into an old jar or container for a plastic and no waste Christmas gift. Or consider a candle making set for a practical and plastic-free present.
  • Linen duvet set – linen is light and breathable, which makes it great for bedding. It’s also completely biodegradable and easily recyclable, so one of the world’s most sustainable fabrics.
  • Recycled cotton throw – the Sourced by Oxfam collection has a variety of sustainable products including a colourful throw made from recycled cotton, rayon, and polyester. Add a colourful and eco-friendly touch to a loved one’s sofa.
  • Handmade wood chopping boards – it’s not Christmas without a cheeseboard, and wood is one of the most sustainable natural materials. Many are made from 100% wood, meaning they can be completely recycled if they break.
  • Block soap – many cleaning products contain all sorts of chemicals and come in plastic packaging that’s hard to recycle. Block soap (with a wooden-handled scrubber) makes a great plastic-free alternative for a zero-waste clean of your home.

Homemade sustainable 
Christmas gifts

DIY eco-friendly Christmas gifts ensure you give something truly unique, while you can control all the materials used to make them – reducing waste at the source. If crafting isn’t your thing, you can always seek out the assistance of an expert (have a browse on Etsy). Whether you go DIY or enlist someone else’s help, some ideas for homemade sustainable Christmas gifts are:

  • Home baking – avoid the packaging that comes with most festive foods by baking your own gingerbread, salted caramel, jams, and chutneys. Reuse any jars and boxes you have to store them. For any non-bakers, try something simple like chocolate orange slices.
  • Snow globe ­– all you need is a clean jam jar, some salt, and a little creativity to build a bespoke snow globe. You could add in a special photo, make a tiny tree, or pop in any unused small toys to craft a Christmas scene.
  • Wall hangings – use an old tea towel or some leftover fabric and create a simple yet effective wall hanging by sewing in a message, shape, or other design. It’s a great way to reuse textiles and create a useful home decoration.
  • Bath salts – most bath salts include lots of plastic packaging. Instead, make your own with salt, baking soda, essential oils, and a glass jar. Add some dried flowers for an alluring aroma.
  • Beeswax candles – roll up a few beeswax sheets and secure them, then add a festive decorative touch to create Christmas candles – without having to melt hot wax.
santa and snowman gingerbread faces.

Looking for more ways to have a low waste Christmas this year? Aside from buying zero waste Christmas presents, there are plenty of other things you can do as a household or business to celebrate the holiday season sustainably.

Learn more in our Christmas waste guides

Sustainable Christmas
presents FAQs

  • How many Christmas presents end up in landfill?

    Around one million Christmas presents are thrown away in the UK every year. Research found that around 21 million Brits receive at least one unwanted Christmas present every year. While many are regifted, sold, or donated to charity, sadly around 5% of these are thrown away – meaning they’ll likely make their way to landfill.

    Find out why landfill is bad

  • What can I give instead of Christmas gifts?

    There are a few things you can give as an alternative to a physical Christmas gift, such as:

    • An experience – such as a spa day, meal out, or racetrack visit.
    • Donations to a charity on the receiver’s behalf, ideally one that aligns with their values.
    • Your time to do any chores like cleaning the car or mowing the lawn.
    • A subscription to a streaming service.
    • Host an event, such as a quiz night or movie evening.
  • What do you get an environmentally conscious friend?

    Sustainable and zero waste gifts are best for that environmentally conscious friend in your life. Look for items made from natural and sustainable materials that are sourced ethically and create a minimal carbon footprint. This could be anything from reusable bags and storage boxes to biodegradable clothing and phone cases made from recycled plastic.

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