Your Plastic-Free Gift-Giving Guide



For the eco-friendliest holidays of all.

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Sometimes holiday gift giving can feel like one more task to cross off your “to do” list, or feel like excessive consumerism when you can’t find that just-right gift. But we have some choices! How about giving a bag or basket with useful, better-for-the-planet items — especially replacements for single-use plastics, which comprise more than 40 percent of the plastics we use. I have given many of the following items. Some have produced a chuckle and others stirred curiosity and enthusiasm for products the recipients hadn’t known existed.

For Your Friend On The Go

If you use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, you can avoid tossing out hundreds of plastic bottles, cups, and lids. I love the durable Hydroflask bottles. A set of Earth Hero bamboo utensils are handy and compact — and are great for takeout or mixing cream and sugar into your to-go coffee (Hydroflask has coffee mugs too!). For wrapping your sandwich or other food, try the Bees Wrap Lunch Pack or reusable Stasher bags that have a Pinch-Loc seal.

For Your Favorite Clean Freak

Grocery store shelves are lined with large plastic containers of cleaning products. Bulky, heavy-duty plastic containers are required because water is added to these products. But we can add the water at home! Besides the excessive use of plastic, shipping water adds to a product’s carbon impact. 

Instead, try Earth Breeze or TruEarth laundry detergent strips. There’s enough detergent for one load in a small, thin sheet and 60-plus of them are contained within a small paper envelope or cardboard box. You can purchase scented and unscented and I can vouch that they do an excellent job of cleaning clothes. Clean People and Weightless Clean are less expensive strips, but I have not tried them (if you have, let us know what you think!). If you do not have air conditioning and you live in a humid climate, keep your laundry sheets in an airtight container.

For handwashing dishes, I like Zero Waste Outlet's Dish Washing Block. It cuts through the grease and leaves dishes sparkling. Friends who have used it at my house often want to buy one for themselves. I find rubbing the block with a washcloth or sponge works well and one block can last for months. 

Or give your friends some of your favorite DIY cleaning products — from glass cleaner to surface disinfectant. Save plastic spray bottles from the cleaners already on your shelf or buy reusable spray bottles and use them for your home-made concoctions. The Joy of Green Cleaning has easy-to-make recipes with ingredients that are readily available and do not contain harmful chemicals. Toss in some attractive UNpaper towels from Marley’s Monsters. They’re made from cotton cloth that conveniently wrap around a paper towel tube.

Bluedot’s Dear Dot shared her recipe for a stainless-steel sink cleaner that can be made in a minute. Mix 3 tablespoons of Tru Earth Eco Strip multi-surface cleaner* with 3 ⁄ 4 cup baking soda to make a paste. Store it in a glass peanut butter jar or other container for storage. Add a pretty label! (One full Tru Earth Eco Strip sheet added to water is equivalent to a bottle of multi-surface cleaner and 8 strips come in one envelope).

For hand soap, give a beautiful bar. Most soaps contain palm oil, which means that rainforests are being cut down for its production. But Etsy has a wide array of palm oil-free soaps. Pop the soap into an Eco Roots sisal bag that doubles as an exfoliant. I use one of the bags for leftover slivers of soap and it makes a sudsy sponge. Or use it as a dishwashing cloth. Blueland offers a foam hand soap that comes in an attractive reusable glass container. To refill, just dissolve one tablet in water. 

For Your Really Close Friends

Zero Waste Outlet sells dental floss in a handy glass reusable container with a screw-on metal lid and dental floss refills. I found the bamboo-charcoal fiber dental floss doesn’t break when I am using it between tight teeth, glides well, and is biodegradable. Bite “toothpaste” bits come in a glass container — you simply chew and brush. I tested several brands and found Bite to be the best tasting and easiest to use. Choose from fluoride and non-fluoride versions, and refills arrive in paper packaging. 

The bar shampoos and bar hair conditioners from the earthling co. work very well. My personal favorite is the citrus sun shampoo and the sandalwood conditioner varieties. I also like the Etsy Henna Shampoo Bar. The henna plant naturally brings out hair’s natural highlights and this shampoo suds well and delivers the henna magic. The bars last longer if you keep them in a container, such as a reusable tin, and not let them sit in water.

Native makes an effective deodorant in several pleasing scents (or no scent at all), all in a biodegradable rigid paper container. My personal favorite is the citrus herbal musk. 

For your truly intimate friends and family, give tampons that have paper applicators or no applicator, or, even better, Thinx washable absorbent underwear or the reusable Diva Cup or Flex Cup. (For the record, I have found way too many plastic tampon applicators during beach cleanups!) 

Wrap It All Up

How can you wrap up your Earth-friendly gifts in a way that reflects the contents? Reusable shopping bags can serve as attractive and functional gift wrap. Love Bags, as well as 4Ocean, are made from recycled plastic bottles and, once they’ve served their purpose as wrapping, stuff neatly into a small pouch that can fit in a purse or car for more use. Or try Kammok upcycled bags made from scrap material. 

If you want to give your friends a laugh, use the colorful recycled paper wrappers from Who Gives A Crap 100% recycled or bamboo toilet paper. The rolls are individually wrapped with recycled paper in attractive festive designs. Cutting down our precious forests for toilet paper is unnecessary and this toilet paper does the job. Toss a couple of the brightly covered rolls into your gift bag, too. 

If you’re gifting someone a food item, consider adding (or wrapping it in) Bee’s Wrap to replace plastic wrap. It comes in many sizes and fun designs to fit over all sorts of bowls or containers. It takes a little getting used to because the wrap can stick to itself, not to the container. Use it also for bread, cut fruit, hard cheese, and more. It’s easy to clean with a wipe, then hang it on your dish rack to dry. 

Be creative and find more ways to shun plastic. Try these items for yourself then share the products you like with your friends and family to spread the word about plastic-free options.

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Anne Mazar
Anne Mazar
Anne Mazar is a board member of the Great Pond Foundation and lives alongside the Edgartown Great Pond. Read the story of her house, and the restoration of the native sandplain habitat here:
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