Guide to receiving low waste gifts

Holidays are coming up, and that means it’s the season for giving… and receiving!


Did you know that around the Holidays people generate 25% more trash? Gifts do not make up all of that, but are a big contributing factor. Often gifts are just a waste themselves (especially kids toys) and/or come in disposable but non-biodegradable packaging.

If you are on a low waste journey, Holiday gift receiving can be a big challenge when you want items that are low or zero waste, or if you really don’t want any extra stuff at all. It’s likely that not all of your friends and family are in the same place that you are on this journey. Many parents struggle with their kids getting showered with gifts from grandparents, who are part of another generation with different ideals. 

Here are a few ideas of how to help and hint to your friends and family the types of gifts that you would like for yourself or your kids.

  1. Gently tell your gifters about your zero waste goals. Tell them that you are trying to do your part to save the environment. Say things in a way that educates but doesn’t come off as high and mighty; make sure they know that your choices have nothing to do with them or their lifestyle. 
  2. Make a wishlist. Offer specific suggestions of eco friendly toys or other items that you or your kids would appreciate getting. If you are going to offer a wishlist, make sure you request one from the giver as well.

3. Discover what would appeal to the gift giver, such as supporting American made or local small business, or  Then add to your list items from those places that fit into your low waste wishes.

4. Suggest that experiences rather than items can be more meaningful and can build relationships. Some ideas: a fun art class, an outdoor recreation, or even just movie tickets

girl painting a picture

5. Relay that gift cards are a great gift. While getting money or gift cards may seem impersonal, they are just as appreciated as physical gifts.

6. Give them an option to donate to an organization in your name or your kids’ names. Some examples are or heifer international, where an animal can be given as a source of livelihood to help people support themselves.


7. Give the types of gifts (or experiences, or donations) that you would like to receive. Your friends and family just might get ideas from you.


In many cases there will still be less-than-ideal gifts given. What do you do then?  Receive them with gratitude. Make the best use out of the gifts as possible rather than letting them go to waste. Or, depending on the circumstance, return the gift.

Remember that relationships are more important than having others conform to your values.   Find values you have in common and go from there rather than argue. Educate when you are asked, as most of the time people don’t take advice well when it is not asked for. Change takes time, and demanding that others must live up to your standards never works.


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