General, Resources

Holiday Tips + Zero Waste Last Minute Gifts Sold Anywhere

Eeek! Somehow it’s already Dec. 22nd and we’re still looking for last minute gifts!

If you’re like us and you travel for the holidays, this gets tricky when trying to order stuff online. If you haven’t planned ahead, you’ll have to ship to wherever you’re staying and hope it gets there on time.

So, what to do when you had the best intentions to give sustainable, low-waste gifts but are running out of time? If you don’t have a package-free shop in your town it can be hard to run out and find those sparkly new zero waste novelties in person.

Or, you may not have time to create a perfect DIY or crafted gift either.

But, there ARE plenty of great low-waste gifts you can run out quick and get in person in “normal” stores pretty much anywhere.

Here are some ideas we’ve relied on in a pinch!

Sustainable Last Minute Gifts from the Grocery Store

The grocery store may not seem like a place to find special gifts, but consider giving gifts that might be just a slightly higher price point than what you’d want to spend on a normal food trip. Things in the $10-15 range can put a damper on a regular food budget but are inexpensive when it comes to gift giving. If you have access to a natural grocer or Whole Foods, those offer even more package-free items in the bath & body section as well.

  • Wine
  • Real Maple Syrup, Honey, or Coconut Syrup for plant-based bakers (usually comes in glass, easy to recycle).
  • Chocolates wrapped in paper (compostable or recyclable). Or, if you have an empty glass jar, fill with snacks from bulk bin & decorate with twine bow or tree cuttings
  • Reusable silicon lunch bags or mesh produce bags (often found on aisle end-caps by paper plates & other disposable items). Whole Foods carries silicon Stasher bags and mesh produce bags in the produce section
  • Package-free bath bombs, bath salts, or soap. Often they have compostable/ recyclable brown paper bags you can fill in the beauty section.
Real maple syrup: SO good and SO pricey for a regular grocery trip. But not that expensive when given as a gift.

Last Minute Gifts at the Drugstore

Similarly, consider what you might be able to get from a local pharmacy, CVS, or Walgreens. You may be able to find most of the above, as well as look for anything that is wrapped simply, in just cardboard or plain paper without extra plastic wrap.

  • Send a nice photo online to CVS to be printed out (or Walgreens or Walmart if they have photo options in your area). You can pick it up and pop it in a frame or some places even offer the option to make a reusable mug with your photo on the spot.
  • Wine or other liqueur (depending on local liquor laws)

Local Ace Hardware

This may not be true of all Ace hardware locations in every city, but with a quick online search you’ll be able to determine if your local Ace has a specialty kitchen & home section. Our local Ace Hardware ( for Nola folks: on N. Rampart in New Orleans across from Armstrong Park), the whole second floor has lots of really great kitchenware.

  • SodaStream. Instead of multiple fizzy water or La Croix cans week after week, give the gift of refillable carbonated water! The bottles are reusable plastic but last for several months to years depending on their suggestion for replacement. The carbonation canisters can also be refilled at Ace when your gift recipient needs refills. Finally, it’s not necessary to buy their packaged specialty powders and flavors– just use real citrus instead! We flavor ours with grapefruit, lemon, lime, and sometimes bitters!
  • Wood cooking or serving utensils. These are often freestanding and sold without packaging. Also look for sets of Pyrex glass dishes with reusable tops– especially handy for transporting snacks & homemade meals to holiday events! You could also get these at Target or Walmart, along with reusable dish towels, cloth napkins, and other package-free home items like all-natural scrub brushes or wooden soap dishes. If possible, first consider stopping by a local secondhand store if there’s one near you before buying new.
  • Any other tools or gadgets in the main store that don’t come in plastic wrap. Hardware stores often have great gifts or stocking stuffers highlighted in end cap displays, and many small tools and handy items often have no need to be wrapped in excess packaging.
  • Le Creuset or Lodge Cast Iron pots & pans. If you’ve got the budget for some fancier items, our local Ace carries full lines of Le Creuset and (more affordable) Lodge cast iron pans for those interested in cooking without the chemicals that come from “nonstick” coated pans. One of my favorite pans is a Lodge cast iron flapjack pan. It’s got lower sides that make pancake flipping easier and was about $10-15. We’ve also found plenty of easy YouTube videos explaining how to cure & care for your cast iron pans so they’re also naturally nonstick with the use of plant-based cooking oils.
  • Compost bins & compost bags. Check for the small kitchen countertop/ under the sink bins to collect compost in the kitchen. If your gift recipient doesn’t have a compost system in their own yard, you can check with their city to see if they have a drop off program. Folks who participate in those can collect & freeze their scraps to drop off weekly at local collection sites.
Your town’s local Ace hardware often has a great selection of package free, beautiful home and kitchen gifts!

Subscriptions You Can Order Online & Print Out a Picture or Receipt to Gift Wrap

Give a great gift right from your laptop! These are a few subscription services that are great for you– convenient– and great for the planet:

  • Dropps Laundry or Dishwasher Pods. We switched to Dropps and I love them! Totally unsponsored, I’ve just found that this seems to be the most sustainable way to source laundry and dish detergent without making it myself. Dropps are ordered directly from the manufacturer so there’s no shipping to the store & driving to buy stuff. They come in disolvable pods you drop straight in, and are shipped in recyclable compostable cardboard boxes. Read about them, they’re really great!! We ordered the sensitive skin detergent because I dislike strong scents, and I’m hooked. I found it has a bit of a strong smell when it comes out of the wash but is completely gone when clothes have dried.
  • Blueland Dissolvable Tablets for Cleaning Products, Hand Soap, etc. Comes with one set of reusable, long-lasting acrylic bottles and then ships without the weight of any liquid by sending dissolvable tablets that you add water to at home.
  • Who Gives A Crap 100% recycled toilet paper, made without trees. Shipped to you directly and wrapped in paper instead of plastic. This is what we use at home and we love it! (We also have a bidet but are not 100% bidet only). I believe that there’s some health law that requires them to wrap it in something, but the paper is recyclable.

Last Minute Gifts: Local Experiences + Charity Donations

Many times tickets to events or memberships to local organizations can be purchased online and you can print out a receipt on paper to wrap. Try wrapping it in a weird-shaped box for added mystery, or include a token item that represents the larger gift. Here’s a list of lots of different types of experience gifts you could give:

  • Treat your recipient to any of the following trips you can plan and take together: coffee date, ice cream parlor, hike, picnic, ice skating, rollerskating, arcade, bowling, batting cages, driving range, laser tag, mini golf, rock climbing, camping
  • Charity Donations: donate funds in their name to a local or national charity you know your recipient values or supports such as an animal shelter.
  • Tickets, memberships, or gift certificates you can buy online for classes, shows, or other personal services: gardening/composting class, improv or comedy show, theater, movie, university lecture, art museum, science museum, escape room, yoga, pilates, massage, facials, sporting events, wine tasting, dance lessons, cooking classes, opera, theme park passes, concert tickets, photoshoot, gym membership

Aaand with that, I’ve got more presents to wrap and housecleaning to be done with precious few hours until the holiday fun begins! Hopefully this list will generate some sustainable last minute gift ideas for just about anyone left on your list!

For more ideas on sustainable gift wrapping, see my holiday story from this week on Instagram @vintagegreenreview (should be viewable online through this link even if you don’t have an account).

Oh, and if you’re looking for more zero-waste entertaining and general holiday waste-saving tips, check out the free pdf I put together, below.

Happy Holidays Y’all!

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