Zero Waste Gifts That You Don’t Have to Make Yourself

Refill Store Gift Certificates for Zero Waste No More Crap Gift Guide

Do we really all need more crap? Instead of gifting the usual electronics, ties, toys and books, why not go for a gift that imparts an experience? After all, research shows that experiences, not things, deliver more long-lasting happiness by becoming part of our identities.

Americans create 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s— an extra one million tons per week compared to our usual—but there’s a smart new way to combat all this waste while treating your nearest and dearest to gifts they’ll remember far longer than that unused power drill. The pandemic created opportunities to learn to play the guitar, solve a murder mystery, master Uzbek cuisine, or take a dance class—all from home.

Whether you’re devoted to your zero-waste lifestyle, or just want to reduce your trash this winter, these fun sustainable gifts help you lower your carbon footprint. And not only will these gifts avoid the dumpster, but they’ll bring you closer to friends and family by offering exciting opportunities to bond and make lasting memories. 

Virtual Cooking Class
The range of virtual cooking classes available spans from Uzbek cuisine to California cuisine. | Getty / Cavan Images

For the world traveler stuck at home: A virtual cooking class

If your loved one is itching to get to other countries but can’t just yet, consider gifting a virtual cooking class like The League of Kitchens or Todo Verde. Whether they prefer a live class or a recorded lesson, they’ll immerse themselves in cultures and food, from tasty Uzbek sambusa pastries to decadent tamales de xocolate con atole.

For the introvert: Virtual murder mystery

You’re all gathered in a room, ready to scream, “J’accuse!” But you’re actually at home in your pajamas, and you’re using unique software that allows you to participate in a virtual murder mystery called Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries. Not only is this at-home experience the introvert’s dream, but if you’re the villain, it’s even more fun.

For the extrovert: Dance class

You knew outdoor fitness classes took off, but have you taken an outdoor or virtual dance class yet? Your nickname may not be Twinkletoes, but no one will laugh you off the stage at Pasadena Civic Ballet’s outdoor classes, where you can get the people fix your extrovert self has been craving. If you need a virtual class, check out Mark Morris’ virtual dance workshops.

Kintsugi Repair Kit for Zero Waste No More Crap Gift Guide
The Japanese art of kintsugi lets you beautifully preserve broken ceramics. | Getty / Cavan Images

For the hoarder: A kintsugi repair kit

Have you been hoarding broken dishes for the day you’ll miraculously morph into a full-blown mosaicist? It’s time to invest $25 in Marie Kondo’s kintsugi repair kit, which lets you preserve your broken dish and reuse it in golden splendor.

For the animal lover: A tour at an animal sanctuary

Animal sanctuaries all over the world offer special tours, from feeding and bathing elephants in Chiang Mai to hugging cows in LA. The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, about an hour north of Los Angeles, offers tours for $12. Farm Sanctuary, which has locations in Acton, California and Watkins Glen, New York, offers tours for $10. Why not book a full afternoon of visiting rescued cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other farm animals in their happy new homes?

For the clean queen: Refill store gift certificates

Chances are, there’s a refill shop near you (Psst! Check this zero-waste, state-by-state guide for your nearest). Stocking up on soap, shampoo, apple cider vinegar, shea butter and more is easy at these shops, so gift to your friends generously. But if you really love them, help them make the switch to solid beauty, including refillable deodorants and soaps. For more, check out our zero-waste tips by room.

Music Class for Zero Waste No More Crap Gift Guide
Gift your friend with the best of music teachers, anywhere in the world. | Getty / Cavan Images

For the friend who impulse-purchased a guitar: Virtual music lessons

You can now find an even better music teacher than you would’ve pre-pandemic, thanks to the prevalence of online classes. Share the love with a friend who’s always nurtured the secret dream of being onstage by checking sites like TakeLessons and scouring local community colleges offerings and social networking apps like Nextdoor. You can always say you knew them when.