The 11 Best Zero Waste Gifts of 2021

Zero waste, twice as much love.

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Zero-waste living has been gaining steam year-over-year as consumers take getting rid of waste—and plastic waste specifically—personally. It can seem overwhelming to go zero-waste if you are used to taking a plastic bag full of garbage out once (or more!) a week. But as any and every zero-waste guide will tell you, if you really want to reduce your waste footprint, it’s a one-step-at-a-time process. 

Making your gift-giving a zero-waste endeavor this holiday season is a great place to start—specifically because this is precisely when more trash is produced than any other time of year. Finding, making, and buying zero-waste gifts is also a great way to start learning the ins and outs of how to produce less trash, and be turned onto products and ideas that can be solutions to single use and disposable stuff.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best zero waste gift ideas, which are either made using zero-waste techniques or can help our loved ones reduce single-use waste with style.

The Rundown
This bag made from trashed car seatbelt material and airbag fabric will tough it out over thousands of miles of rough handling.
The best to-go cup you can buy since it’s modular, so parts can be replaced—and it’s designed by baristas.
Best for the Disposable Straw Apologist:
Koffie Straw at Package Free Shop
This 100% silicone straw will keep teeth from staining whether from coffee, tea, or soda.
Help you the home cook you love reduce their dependence on plastic in the kitchen.
Best for Dog Lovers:
Wilderdog Leashes at Wilderdog.com
Super-durable dog leashes made from reused materials in plenty of colors and lengths.
Replace those wasteful plastic cups with safe, stylish, and unbreakable stainless steel pint cups.
Best for Plant Lovers:
The Sill at Thesill.com
This woman-founded online shop offers a variety of pre-potted plants, reducing waste.
These toys for babies and kids with minimal waste, most made from natural materials.
An attractive worm composting system will generate free compost, and learning opportunities for your giftee.
These napkins are made from 100% reclaimed denim and linen fabrics, and they’re made in Los Angeles.

Best for the Traveler: Rewilder Airbag Backpack

Rewilder Airbag Backpack

This ultra-tough bag will last a really, really long time, because it’s made from car seatbelt material and airbag fabric that would otherwise end up in the landfill. This super-durable material is designed in such a way that it looks really mod and fresh, and it’s got all the pockets (for laptop, water bottle) an on-the-go person needs.

Rewilder claims that this backpack not only utilizes material that would otherwise be wasted, it also helps reduce an amount of carbon emissions equivalent to planting six trees.

Best for the Coffee Nerd: KeepCup Brew Cork Tempered Glass 12oz Press

KeepCup Brew Glass Reusable Coffee Cup, 12 oz/Medium, Filter

Designed by Australian baristas for use in busy coffee shops, the Keep Cup has spawned many imitators, but the original still gives you the most options—and not only does it come in drinks sizes from cortado to large latte, the company also lets you buy components like tops individually. So if you lose or break either a top or a bottom, you can simply buy the half you need to replace.

Keep Cups last for many years, the company is B-Corp certified, and cups are independently lab tested to ensure they're free from BPA, BPS, phthalates including DEHP, lead, and cadmium.

Best for the Disposable Straw Apologist: Koffie Straw

Koffie Straw

Made from 100% silicone, this straw is designed specifically to be used to enjoy hot beverages—it will fit through a coffee lid. It’s BPA and lead-free, and will keep teeth from getting painful from cold or hot exposure, or stained by coffee (or tea, soda, or any drink that stains teeth).

Best for Cooks: Abeego Variety 3 Pack

abeego beeswax food wrap

This is one of those things a busy home cook might hesitate in buying for themselves, so it makes a great gift. These beeswax food wraps will help them cut down on the plastic they use—especially non-recyclable cling wrap (AKA plastic wrap). It’s useful for storing food in bowls, wrapping cut produce, and even storing cheese. It’s made with simple beeswax-coated fabric, so when they are done with it, it can be composted although the last for many years and can be washed with warm water.

Best for Dog Lovers: Wilderdog Leashes

Wilderdog Leashes

Rock climbers have to replace their ropes when they’ve gotten damaged or after five years of use—which means there’s plenty of colorful rope that can be repurposed into tough dog leashes. Wilderdog offers these in a few sizes, many colors, and with various clips—include carabiners to go with the theme. Some of these leashes are even reflective, making them a good pick for night walks.

Best for the Pool Partier: Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Pint Cups

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Pint Cups

If you know someone who whips out those big disposable plastic cups every time they have an outdoor gathering, these endlessly reusable, (almost) impossible to destroy, stainless steel pint glasses are a great gift. You don’t have to worry about breaking them, ever, and they look great even with some nicks and scratches. They're BPA-free and can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Best for Plant Lovers: The Sill

Living Room Duo

Plants are always a welcome gift for plant-lovers, and you should look at your local plant store before going online. But if you are a long way from a plant store, or you want to ship your gift to a plant-loving friend, check out The Sill, a woman-founded online plant seller.

Most of the smaller plants ship inside the planter you choose for it, meaning your giftee won’t need to repot—and creating less waste. The company even has a pet-friendly section if you are buying for someone with animals in their house. 

Best for Kids: EarthHero Babies and Kids Section

Mini Foosball Table

There’s a lot here for the babies and kids on your gift list, enough so that it’s hard to choose just one item. From mini foosball tables to plush toys, wooden cityscape blocks to recycling trucks, all the items are made with minimal waste. EarthHero is a member of 1% for the Planet, is a Certified B Corp, and also offsets the carbon emissions associated with its business operations and shipping.

Best for Food Nerds: Sacred Resource 3 Bin Worm Composter

Sacred Resource 3 Bin Worm Composter

If you have a friend who is into both cooking food and is interested and thoughtful about where their food comes from, they might enjoy a beautifully crafted worm composting system like this one from Etsy's maker Sacred Resource. Made from rare blue pine sustainably salvaged from trees killed by pine beetles, this will help your giftee follow the full cycle of their food, get some compost tea for their garden or houseplants, and is a great learning experience for kids.

Best for the Home Entertainer: Atelier Saucier Reclaimed Linen Napkins

Atelier Saucier Reclaimed Linen Napkins

A beautiful gift for anyone who likes to throw a dinner party, these napkins are made from 100% reclaimed denim and linen fabrics (both very durable). They’re made in Los Angeles, and come in a set of four. Just note that it's recommended that these sustainable napkins are hand-washed in cold water and air dried.

Best for Bike Enthusiasts: REI Co-op Beyonder Saddlebag Panniers

REI Co-op Beyonder Saddlebag Panniers

These panniers will upgrade a commuter bike to a grocery-carrying machine—and look great doing it. While these aren’t made from zero-waste materials, they are a tough nylon which means they should last a really, really long time (and keep their contents dry on wet days or through splashes). The materials are Bluesign-approved, which means they meet a high level of environmentally responsible manufacturing.

What to Look for in a Zero Waste Gift

When it comes to gift-giving, start with DIY, since most gifts you make yourself can be put in reused containers. Consider making scented moisturizer and putting it in glass jars, snacks or treats, or making holiday ornaments for people to hang. 

If you are buying a gift, your best option is to go local. Attend a holiday market, farmers market, or local craft fair and choosing unique presents for your giftees is fun, keeps money in the local community, and it’s easy to ask for items to be unwrapped (be sure to bring your own bag or basket to carry your gifts home in). 

Your last choice should be to buy gifts online, simply because you are always going to have packaging waste with any product that is shipped. If you are going this route, think about the possibility of buying multiple items from one site and shipping them together, to cut down on packaging. If you are mailing gifts you can also reuse the packaging that you’ve gotten items in as well. 

One super-simple way to start your zero-waste gift-giving journey wherever you get gifts? “I personally try to avoid any single-use or individually wrapped items,” says Kathryn Kellogg,  founder of the site Going Zero Waste.

When buying online, be aware that “zero waste” is a trendy buzzword and some companies might be exaggerating their claims. “I’ve found that brands who are doing really good things for the planet are very upfront and honest,” Kellogg says. That means you should clearly be able to tell from their website what the company’s ethical bona fides are. Any claims they make should be “easy to verify because they’re spoken about in very specific terms and they often have third-party certifications like being B Corp certified, Fair Trade, Bluesign, or their factories are SA8000, etc.” 

You’ll find some specific gift recommendations on this list, but for more options, check out sustainable markets that do all that hard work for you like Earth Hero, Goldune, Wild Minimalist, Package Free Shop, and of course, Etsy (search for “zero waste gifts” or the specific item you’re interested in). 

Why Trust Treehugger?

Starre Vartan has been researching and reviewing environmentally sustainable products for 15 years and wrote a book on eco-friendly, healthy living.

The picks included on this list would make durable, useful, and thoughtful gifts for people who hope to live more sustainably. Our selections come from eco-friendly companies, any many of our gift suggestions are made using zero-waste materials.