Zero Waste Mother’s Day Gifts and Ideas

Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday) is all about celebrating some of the most important women in our lives and the sacrifices they make for their children. Aside from the two billion mums around the world, there’s another matriarchal figure that deserves plenty of respect on this day – Mother Earth.

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a child or mother might not reach the same level of excess as Christmas, but it still creates plenty of waste. In the UK we spend around £1.3 billion for Mother’s Day every year. The good news is that around a third of people aim to buy ethically sourced or sustainable presents, according to Forbes.

Choosing zero and low-waste gifts shows Mother Earth and your own mum, step-mum, aunty, grandma, or anyone else that you care. Discover ways to celebrate Mother’s Day sustainably this year, whether you’re planning something special for your mum or are a mother yourself.

mother and daughter holding hands at sunset.

How much waste does 
Mother’s Day create?

Exact stats about Mother’s Day waste are hard to come by, but given we spend millions on all sorts of items each year it can create lots of rubbish. Here’s a rough idea of the types and amounts of waste that Mother’s Day produces:

  • Flowers – only Valentine’s Day and Christmas see more flowers and plants bought to celebrate a holiday than Mother’s Day. About 90% of flowers sold in the UK are imported and most only last a week or two before being chucked out.
  • Cards – around 30 million Mother’s Day cards are bought and sold in the UK every year at a cost of more than £60 million. Most of these are thrown away a few weeks later.
  • Chocolate – chocolates are the second-most purchased Mother’s Day gift after flowers. Most of these are likely eaten but it’s the packaging waste that can cause an issue. Millions of empty chocolate boxes end up in the bin over the following days and weeks.
  • Gift bags, boxes, and wrapping paper – many presents given on Mother’s Day are packaged in gift bags and boxes, so wrapping paper use and waste is much less than at Christmas and birthdays. Still, these gift boxes and bags are often discarded once the wine, chocolate, flowers, and plants have been removed.
  • Food waste almost a third of people plan on taking their mums out to eat on Mother’s Day, according to the National Restaurant Association. This can lead to an increase in food waste including leftovers and wasted ingredients in the kitchen.

Zero waste Mother’s Day gifts

It’s the thought that counts – and zero waste Mother’s Day gifts show plenty of consideration for the planet as well as your mum. They help avoid adding to general waste and landfill once the present and any packaging is used. Always try to buy packaging-free products or at least in recyclable packaging.

Here are some more ideas for sustainable zero waste Mother’s Day gifts:

  • Handpicked garden flowers – supermarket flowers can have a high carbon footprint and come with thin plastic bags and packaging that’s hard to recycle. If you’ve got a garden then consider picking some from it. This is sustainable as you can easily plant more, and they should last for longer.
  • Potted plants – flowers only last a couple of weeks but a potted plant like a succulent or cactus should last for years. Avoid those in plastic pots or with excess packaging though. You could always decorate an old jam jar or food tin and upcycle it as a personalised plant pot.
  • Tickets – is your mum a fan of the theatre, music, comedy, ballet, musicals, or sports? Then buying a couple of tickets to an event she’d love is an easy way to make her day and avoid creating any unnecessary waste. Most tickets are online now, so there’s not even any paper waste.
  • Sustainable subscription services – many modern subscription services send out a monthly item, such as coffee, wine, make-up, or books. Packaging for most of these products can be recycled and items like books passed on. Some services may even offer a takeback option to eliminate waste.
  • Home baking – baking a cake, biscuits, or creating jam, chilli, or conserves will be greatly appreciated. It’s an effective way to use up fruit that’s going off, so it doesn’t become food waste. And you can use old jam jars and tins to store your homemade goods in.
  • Books and clothes – buying second-hand books, clothes, jigsaws, and games from charity shops or online is a great way to source a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift and avoid generating waste at the same time.
tulips growing in a garden.

Low-waste ideas for Mother’s Day

Most physical gifts create some kind and amount of physical waste that needs managing and recycling where possible. An easy way to eliminate such waste is with an experience gift instead. Find inspiration from this range of ideas, whatever your mum’s interests and hobbies:

  • Plan a picnic – fill a basket or hamper with sandwiches, snacks, and sweet treats then plan a walk or drive in the local park or a favourite outdoor spot.
  • Host a movie night – if your mum loves the cinema then taking her to see the latest blockbuster is a good waste-free idea. Alternatively, host your own movie night at home with a few homemade snacks (an easy way to reduce packaging waste) and some of her favourite flicks.
  • Sign up for an online class – there are all sorts of virtual classes you could do together at home, such as yoga, painting, and cooking. Choose one that your mum would love for a low-waste bonding activity.
  • Enjoy a spa day – an experience day at a local spa can be a relaxing low-waste idea. Beauty treatments may create waste but lots of sustainable spas should try to minimise it.
  • Visit a museum – if your mother’s got a particular interest, whether it’s art, history, or music, then planning a trip to a relevant museum is a great idea. It’s a low-waste activity (as long as you don’t spend too long in the gift shop).

How to recycle Mother’s Day waste

As a mother, you’ve little control over what gifts you might receive. Even when buying presents for your own mum, it’s almost impossible for everything to be packaging-free. How you dispose of it can reduce its environmental impact though. Here’s how to get rid of some common waste you might create this Mothering Sunday:

  • Flowers – once your flowers have wilted and can’t be revived you should either add them to a compost heap or dispose of them in a garden waste bin.
  • Card – as long as there’s no glitter, plastic, or metallic foil, you can recycle most Mother’s Day cards in your household recycling bin.
  • Wrapping paper – do the scrunch test (squeeze it into a ball and if it doesn’t unfurl then it should be recyclable).
  • Gift bags and boxes – save any gift bags and boxes to reuse for other birthdays and celebrations. Some charity shops may also accept them. Otherwise, if they’re made from paper or card you should be able to put them in your domestic recycling bin.
  • Chocolate boxes – once you’ve munched through the chocolates you can normally recycle the box in your household recycling bin. If there’s a plastic tray, check the plastic type and if your local authority accepts and recycles it (otherwise it may have to go in your general waste bin).
  • Wine bottles – ensure the bottles are empty (a tough ask!), rinse them out, and drop them off at your nearest bottle bank to be recycled.
gift bag and flowers.
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