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How to have a Zero Waste Christmas when everyone wants to buy you stuff?

Written by: Hendrik

Category: Zero Waste

Updated on:


Ho ho ho, yep, it’s that time again. Another year almost over. This wonderful time of the year, and yet it can be so stressful and oh so wasteful. How can we have a zero waste Christmas especially when people still show their love through giving stuff? 

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with giving a beautiful present. It’s more a question of quality over quantity, and are you doing it because you feel guilty if you don’t buy stuff? Do your loved ones actually want stuff?

Let’s dive into our collection of ideas so that you can have a happy holiday while creating memories and no waste.

We all know that stuff doesn’t equal happiness, and Christmas is such a good reminder of the important things in life, right?

When I was a kid and didn’t get the present I wanted, I made a big scene. Sure, I was a bit of a pain in the butt, and this only shows that. However, if you want to find eco-friendly kids’ toys then this article is best for you.

stuff doesn’t = love.

I know this because I was quickly bored with it and wanted the next best thing when I actually got what I wanted. My parents didn’t really know how to deal with me back then, so they fell for it.

In retrospect, this behavior actually set me up for quite a lot of failure in the future. My dad ended up making a lot of things himself or buying the cheaper version. That was his way of showing me that he loved me. As a kid, I didn’t understand that and felt unheard and unloved.

dont let go of that present

Later I went through a phase where I believed I would only receive love if I have the best and highest quality items. Often that left me very unsatisfied and broke.

Everyone is trying to get your attention in today’s day and age, telling you to buy this, and you will be happy.

However, I feel there is a shift in energy happening for a couple of years now. One part of the world is going into more madness and chaos, but another part is connecting more with themselves and understanding that, yes, this might sound cheesy, but we are all one!

How do you tell your family to stop buying you crap?

give present
  • be upfront
  • be kind
  • but be straight to the point

Being gentle is definitely relevant here. Often people can get offended if you tell them you don’t want things. Instead, you prefer memories. It’s weird, but it happened to me.

This is a process that takes time. Just like going zero waste isn’t done overnight. But the more you start to clear out items you don’t need or are harmful to your health (made from plastic), the more you will realize it is much more helpful to gift quality over quantity.

I have promised to give you some Zero Waste Christmas ideas, so let’s have a look at what you can gift your loved ones.

Creating memories

We touched on this before, and it seems the most obvious thing to make a zero-waste Christmas perfect. Often it is our own mind that still has a lot of pleasure attached to receiving items. I can only speak for myself. Often I feel the urge to want something, only to recognize that this is an old pattern that no longer serves me on my journey to become a conscious and abundant zerowasteman.

Take your friends and family members out for a visit to a museum or if that’s too boring for the kids, how about a trampoline park? You can thank me later because I have never seen anyone unhappy on a trampoline.


How about a treasure hunt around the house using upcycled goodies? That’s almost like combining easter and Christmas in one day. I am sure the kids will love it.

Perhaps it is time to hand down Grandpa’s old watch or some other item of emotional value to you.

The gift of a new opportunity

If you wonder how to reduce waste during Christmas time, perhaps gifting a course that will bring massive value to your family/friends’ life and even has the potential to make them grow into a new career is one excellent idea.

Here are 4 of those zero waste Christmas gift ideas:


Perhaps one of your kids or even yourself has been dreaming about starting your own zero-waste blog. Starting your blog is an excellent course for anyone who wants to put the word out. I can highly recommend the WA community. That’s where I learned everything from building a website on WordPress to writing content that converts.


Perhaps your partner has been wanting to put some money aside and finally learn how to trade. Well, there is a course for that Forex Trading Crash Course, FX Trading Course.


Perhaps you always wanted to Build A Container Home in the backyard and rent it out on Airbnb to make a little extra cash? There is a course for that too.


The gift of life

Life is too short to spend it unhappy. A great way to increase your happiness is through giving, and perhaps giving the gift of life to an animal or a tree can bring peace and happiness into your life just through giving.


A wedding present I once gave to some friends of mine was an orangutan. No, not as a pet. I made sure this orangutan orphan baby had food for the next year and would be looked after. Her name is Chocolate.

Those are some of the best presents out there. The WWF has a wildlife adoption category, where you find anything from a shark or a monkey.


Adopt a tree at Eco matcher. This is an organization that plants trees to help with the fight against deforestation. With the Treetracker app, you can find out who planted your tree and its whereabouts.


But, of course, we have to put in a massage voucher for your lovely wife. Those gifts will never get old, and who doesn’t deserve a bit of pampering?

DIY gifts


This was always a big one for my parents. They much preferred a gift that was hand made and from a place of creativity. Plus, I guess when you are a 9-year-old child, buying Christmas gifts may not be in your budget.

Do you like baking? Christmas cookies are the best, and I remember having the smell of cookies in the house was one of the best parts of Christmas. It’s a nice tradition, and it helps to cut down on food waste.

Additionally, cookies from the supermarket come in a lot of plastic and have way too many ingredients that I can’t even pronounce.

Buy preloved gifts

Second-hand clothes are especially significant for the ladies, but it is challenging to shop for my wife’s clothes. She never likes what I pick. If you have the same problem, perhaps a voucher is a better idea 🙂

Would your hubby like some new tools or toys? Have a look at Letgo or eBay. Often the best tools are secondhand since they were made to last heavy impacts. With a preloved set of screwdrivers, and a nice old hand planer, I have found some of the best tools second-hand.

Subscription presents

In today’s day and age, we don’t need trees to read anymore. Sure, a book is still a pleasant present, and I prefer them in paper format than in kindle, but you can even buy books on amazon second hand now. Another way to reduce your waste and have a happy zero waste Christmas is by gifting subscriptions or ebooks.

Subscriptions for new yorker or other magazines that you can find online now.

Book reading subscriptions like kindle or audible can be great presents.

eBooks Gift Certificate

How about a zero waste subscription box for Christmas? This neatly put together zero waste Christmas box from Earthlove can come 4 times a year if you like.

The box includes 6-8 items spanning different categories like snacks, tea, wildcrafting, wellness, apothecary, aromatherapy, beauty, outdoor, gardening, home decor, apparel, accessories, and more! A themed guide with tips and eco-challenges for the season. Support a different environmental non-profit with each box


To make an impact in terms of waste reduction is to spread the word about zero waste and make it easy for your friends to adapt to this lifestyle. You know items like a safety razor, bottles, coffee cups, and straws are always a great present if you want to help someone get started to go zero waste.

Gift wrapping

Now when it comes to wrapping your gifts, we make a lot of waste that is essentially single-use. But that doesn’t need to be the way. Sure, most of the wrapping is made from paper = trees, which is definitely more eco-friendly than plastic. But what if we can reduce our footprint here as well?

Have you heard of furoshiki? It’s the Japanese way to wrap your presents in clothes. The beauty is not only are you being an eco-warrior, but you are also gifting a bandana or a scarf or a handkerchief with your main gift, cool, right? Two birds with one stone.

Other options for zero waste gift wrapping:

  • newspaper
  • paper grocery bag
  • blanket
  • fabric
  • hemp twine
  • baking paper
  • last year Christmas wrapping

Zero waste Christmas tree

xmas tree

Now I get it this might not be everyone’s favorite Christmas tree, but this is what I came up with last year, where I am only utilizing 3 boards from a pallet. But I have since seen some really cool and simple ideas of Christmas trees made from driftwood or pallets.

photo of decorations on the wall 732917

These are all zero waste presents, and the best part is you will learn a new skill, or you get to have an experience.

But what do you do with the family members that are still wanting things over experience?

In most cases, and this is what I am doing on my blog here is to live by example. But not only that, you can educate your loved ones when you opt in for an online course in writing rather than a new gadget.

Having less is more. I am not saying you need to convert your friends/family to minimalists, but you would be surprised to see the difference. The less stuff you have that is screaming for attention, the more you can focus on the important things in life.

Merry Christmas

Photo of author

Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

6 thoughts on “How to have a Zero Waste Christmas when everyone wants to buy you stuff?”

  1. Thanks for that very interesting post. The zero waste Christmas tree was great. I would have never imagined to build a Christmas tree out of those things. MacGyver would be proud. 🙂
    I might actually try doing that this year.

    We always had a plastic tree when I was growing up except for one year. The real one was great because of the beautiful smell that comes from the real trees. I will for sure be looking into your website more.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks, John, yep good old MacGyver taught me a lot 🙂 I even saw another clever idea for a zero waste Christmas tree, which consisted of an old wooden foldable ladder and in between were lights and Christmas decoration. So simple yet very cool. Have a good Christmas.

  2. Hendrik,
    Thank you for posting about a zero waste Christmas. I enjoyed reading about this. You have wonderful ideas! I didn’t know about the Japanese way of wrapping gifts, but it makes so much sense and I’d like to try it. It’s true that all it takes sometimes is a little more focus to tweak decision making at the moment, especially when tempted to buy products. Many of my relatives are adults and would prefer cash or memory based gifts, such as the ideas you presented here. I wish more people were compassionate and eco conscious like you.

  3. Hi Hendrik – I LOVE this article! My husband and I live a very minimalist lifestyle and it is difficult for our families to accept that we don’t want things for Christmas. It is really important to us that we create a little waste as possible, which is really hard during the holiday season. I love the ideas you provided for zero waste Christmas gifts. Especially adopting an animal or a tree. Ideas like this are exactly what I’ll tell our families to get us for Christmas!


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