Let’s face it, we can’t keep producing, consuming and wasting at the current trajectory because our planet just ain’t gonna be able to keep up. Considering we mere mortals (“humans”) call Earth home, we have to take responsibility for our consumption habits, for the future of the entire planet.
Gift-giving can be among one of the most wasteful traditions in our modern culture. But you know, it never used to be. Presents for the most part were well-thought-out and usually consisted of items that the receiver genuinely needed and/ or wanted.
Since the Great Depression, we made the transition somewhere along the line to ‘fast fashion,’ ‘fast food’ and cheap, mass-produced everything.
I get it, the cost of living has exponentially exploded and now the average household needs two incomes to survive, rather than just one (or do they?). People need to stretch their dollars as far as they can, while still not wanting to miss out on things. But we’re also a more entitled culture who are much less grateful and overly expectant.
One of the problems that the cheap prices bring is a subconscious lack of value being placed on such items.
Simply put, when you have to work hard or pay true value for something, you appreciate it far more than if it was basically given to you.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to kids is a lesson in true gratitude and worth.
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Low Waste Gift-Giving Tips
The idea of low and zero waste gifts for kids is to give consciously while keeping the amount of waste surrounding the gifts to a minimum.
Tips for Low Waste Gift-giving:
- Swap quantity for quality
- Buy pre-loved items
- Gift items that have no (or very little) plastic packaging
- Choose sustainable materials such as wood and metal, over plastic
- Gift handmade or home crafted items
- Gift items that have a long life (rather than being ‘disposable’)
- Regift useful and unused items to people who will love them
Where to Find Pre-loved Gifts:
- Gumtree (don’t forget to check the Free section)
- Facebook Marketplace
- Facebook groups (Buy, Swap, Sell groups for your local community)
- Second hand stores
- Thrift Shops
Low & Zero Waste Gifts for Kids
For all of the kids who like to taste test everything, eco-friendly crayons are a great zero waste gift idea. Many regular crayons contain traces of heavy metals, synthetics, plastic and even asbestos!
The ingredients in eco crayons usually include 100% natural waxes and butters, with the lovely colours being achieved using plant-based roots, seeds, flowers or other non-toxic materials.
Eco crayons will come packaged in a nice cardboard box, which can be recycled or thrown into the fire once you’re finished with it. Or, they may even come in a wooden box.
Bamboo Brush Set
A nice set of bamboo brushes is a lovely zero waste gift idea for kids, particularly girls. You could package it really nicely with a face cloth underneath, tied together with ribbon and a handmade gift tag.
Bamboo brushes are a sustainable option, being that they aren’t made from plastic (except for sometimes the bristles). Plus, at the end of their life, you can use pliers to pull out the bristles (throw them into the rubbish), then burn the wooden piece in a fire.
|BAMBOO BRUSH & COMB
|➤ eBay: From $5.90 AUD →
Stainless Steel Ice Block Moulds
Forget the Tupperware, these stainless steel ice block moulds are one of the best zero waste gifts for kids! All you need to add are some reusable wooden paddle pop sticks.
Freeze up juices, cordials and smoothies for those long, hot summer days.
The best news is that this ice block mould set will last for years and years. It’ll probably still be around for the grandkids!
For an alternative, you can check out the We Might Be Tiny silicone ice block moulds.
|STAINLESS STEEL ICE BLOCK MOULDS
|➤ eBay: From $42.85 AUD →
For the toddlers, head to a thrift shop and put together a pretend kitchen kit. This is a great gift idea for youngsters who love to do play cooking.
Think utensils, pots, pans, measuring cups, rolling pin, wooden spoon, whisk. You could even have a look through your own drawers and cupboards to add in pieces that you don’t use yourself.
For older kids who are into cooking, get them their very own cooking or baking set. You could include an apron, cup cake tray, spatula, wooden spoon and recipe book.
Dress it all up in a nice thrifted basket or a pot with a ribbon and homemade card.
|From $5 – $30 AUD
For kids who love to be busy outdoors, having their own gardening kit is a great low waste gift idea. Opt for metal and wooden tools, which are more sustainable and longer-lasting than plastic.
Gardening Kit Ideas:
- Shovel & fork
- Watering can
- Wheel barrow
- Plants & pots
Introduce children to self-love from the earliest of ages with a set of Mindfulness Pencils. While they’re colouring and drawing they can read (or you can read to them) 12 positive affirmations.
“I deserve to be happy”
“I can change the world”
“I have inner beauty”
“I am loved”
“I believe in myself”
“I can live in the moment”
|➤ Adventure Awaits: From $9.95 AUD →
Colouring books are a great zero waste gift for all ages, from toddlers, right through to young adults. There are so many different colouring-in books available these days, you’re sure to find one that’s age-for appropriate whichever aged child you’re buying for.
Tickets to an Event or Attraction
Entry tickets to an exciting event or attraction is one of the best zero waste gifts for kids because they will always remember experiences over things. With this gift idea, you can really tailor it towards the specific interests of the child.
- Sporting game
- Theme park
- Movies/ theatre
- Science Centre
Wooden Teething Toys
One of the best zero waste gifts for babies is a wooden teething toy. They are made from a wood that’s non-splintering, naturally anti-bacterial and chemical-free.
Once bubs is through teething, these wooden toys can still be played with and then disposed of in a fire at the end of their life. No landfill is necessary.
Note: please do your own due diligencece before giving your child any type of teething toy.
Recycled Jar Baking Kit
Making a recycled jar baking kit is one of the popular zero waste gifts for kids who love to cook.
All you need is a generously sized recycled jar, then fill it with all of the dry ingredients needed for a baking recipe. Finish it off by handwriting the recipe on a piece of card and tying it to the jar with some ribbon or string.
|JAR BAKING KIT
|Under $10 AUD
The crafty kids would love to receive the gift of more supplies for their creative projects. Think glitter, coloured paper, ribbon, glue, pencils, pens, paint, brushes etc.
Have a rummage through the thrift stores, they always have craft kits and items that people never get around to using.
You can collect a whole bunch of crafty items, then organise them into a nice box or basket and finish it off with a ribbon.
|$10 – $20 AUD
Insulated Drink Bottle
Every kid needs a good quality insulated stainless steel drink bottle.
You can get a small, medium or large size, depending on the age of the child. Plus, you can choose between wooden screw on lids or the sports lid with a sippy spout.
Proper insulated stainless bottles will keep drinks cold all day!
What better zero waste kids gift to get than a bunch of eBooks or Audiobooks for kids who love their reading or stories to be digital?
You could go for an Audible subscription or a Booktopia Gift Certificate.
Kindles and Tablets are great zero waste gifts for kids who are avid readers. They can have the biggest library of books they like without having to take up half their bedroom or cart a heavy stack with them when travelling.
Most local libraries offer free eBooks for members to borrow, which gives kids a fantastic range right at their fingertips.
|➤ eBay: From $181 AUD →
Gifting sports equipment for athletic and active kids is always a winner. Quite often you can walk right into sporting stores and purchase the items without any unnecessary packaging, which is a zero waste bonus.
Sports Equipment Ideas:
- Balls (soccer, basketball, football, netball, tennis balls)
- Cricket set
- Basketball/ netball hoop
- Body board
- Soccer/ football boots
- Baseball mitt
- Golf clubs
- Tennis racket/ totem tennis
Lego will last generations, making it one of the staple zero waste gifts for kids all across the globe. Many homes still have a box of Lego that has been around since their own parent’s childhood.
There are always new scenes and kits coming out, but if you can buy a pre-loved bundle, that’s a great way to build up the spare blocks without having to purchase new.
Check out Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and eBay for second-hand Lego.
|3+ years (starting with larger Duplo blocks)
|➤ eBay: From $10 AUD →
Chalk & Chalkboard
Chalk is such a great zero waste gift idea for kids and is always a hit.
The gift of chalk gives kids permission to actually draw and write on the pavement and driveway! Parents don’t need to worry about the mess, because the rain will clear it away, all fresh and clean again.
Or, you can get a wooden chalkboard to go with the gift, which gives the kids a ‘chalk canvas’ for their artworks.
For chalk to be a low waste gift, rather than buying it in plastic packaging, purchase it in cardboard, which can be thrown into the fire or recycled.
|➤ eBay: From $6.99 AUD →
Handmade/ Natural Body Products
One of the more beautiful low or zero waste gifts for kids is an array of homemade, handmade or natural body products.
If you have the skills to make one or a few body products yourself, all the better. Opt for packaging of metal, glass and cardboard to keep the waste sustainable.
Natural Body Product Ideas:
- Natural soaps
- Essential oil rollers
- Bath salts
- Bath bombs
- Lotion bars
- Shampoo bars
- Dry shampoo
- Natural deodorant
- Lip balm
- Nail care kit
|From $5 AUD
For the older children, purchasing them a digital subscription is among the most appreciated zero waste gifts for kids in this day in age.
Have a look at what they’re into and go from there.
Digital Subscription Ideas:
- Xbox Live
- YouTube Premium
- Spotify Premium
- Kindle Unlimited
|$10 – $18 AUD/ mth
Eco Beach Towel
Everyone needs their own beach towel (especially in Australia), so why not make it an earth-friendly choice?
These eco towels are made from a recycled yarn called RPET, which is made from waste water bottles and fabric offcuts. Each towel effectively saves 20 waste water bottles from going into landfill or ending up in the waterways.
The best part is, when the towel is old and worn, you can return it to the company and get $20 off the purchase of your next towel! In turn, the old towel will be recycled into a new fabric or carpet.
|ECO BEACH TOWEL
|➤ Adventure Awaits: From $69.95 AUD →
Much more sustainable options for children’s toys are ones that are made from wood or metal.
Wooden toys will last years and years beyond that of the plastic ones and you rarely have to worry about them breaking, resulting in disappointed kids.
Wooden Toy Ideas:
- Trucks and cars
- Trains and train tracks
- Stacking & tossing games
- Pretend play
Stainless Steel Milkshake Tumbler
Another fantastic idea for zero waste gifts for kids is their very own stainless steel milkshake tumbler.
These guys are insulated and come with a lid and stainless steel straw, so their drinks will stay cold in there for hours!
Perfect for juices, smoothies, milkshakes or whatever they fancy.
|➤ eBay: From $24.90 AUD →
Puzzles are a source of hours of fun, patience and concentration. Having a ‘project puzzle’ out on the dining table is a great activity for not only kids but the whole family.
Thrift shops are a good place to pick up various puzzles. Just be sure to make sure all the pieces are in the box – there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a puzzle, only to find a piece missing!
As long as they are packed away properly, there’s no reason why puzzles can’t last for years.
For the adventurous and survivalist kids out there, a quality army knife is a great zero waste gift idea.
Most people who receive an army knife at some point in their life, hang on to it and have it for many years to come. So, this present is really an investment – and can go for both boys and girls.
|➤ eBay: From $9.95 AUD →
Eco Paint Kit
The eco-friendly paint kit comes equipped with 8 plant-based powdered paints, a brush, compostable mixing containers, spoons and stirrers.
All paints are made from 100% plant ingredients. The whole kit is either recyclable, biodegradable or compostable.
Eco paint is great for rock painting, artworks, painting the recycling and other craft projects.
|➤ eBay: From $75 AUD →
Gift the child in your life some lessons to learn a new skill.
Maybe they’ve always wanted to learn an instrument or learn how to surf. It might be that they’ve been hassling Mum or Dad to do ballet lessons all year, but it just hasn’t happened.
For older kids, you could pay for some driving lessons, or help put them through a woodwork or coding class. You could pay for swimming lessons for an infant or toddler – bonus points for taking them to the lessons as well!
Felt toys are a beautiful alternative to plastic toys. Felt food is great for pretend play and kitchen play. Common felt toys include animals, numbers, characters and felt scenes (where the kids can act out a story).
Experiences are always worth more than ‘things’ in the long run. If you ask any adult what they remember about their childhood, they’re most likely to talk to you about experiences, rather than items they owned.
An adventure experience as a zero waste gift would appeal to the more active kids.
Adventure Experience Ideas:
- Tree Top Ropes Cours
- Rock Climbing
- White Water Rafting
- Whale Watching
- Go Karting
- Horse Riding
- Water park
Mushroom Growing Kit
A grow-your-own mushroom kit is a great way to introduce kids to the world of producing their own food.
The mushroom kit will come with everything you need, including simple instructions. All the kids will need to do after setting it up, is to use a spray bottle to keep the compost moist.
After 3 – 5 weeks the first crop will grow and then you’ll get a new crop every few weeks for about 12 weeks.
|➤ eBay: From $35.43 AUD →
A good quality compartment lunch box is one of the best zero waste gifts for kids around.
Both Bento and Yumbox offer a great variety of styles to suit all needs. With these guys, there’s no need for wrapping food in plastic to keep it from spoiling. The compartments are each fully sealed, meaning that you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination.
I love the homemade DIY dress-up boxes for little guys and little gals!
Head to your local thrift stores and gather up a variety of costume items that young kids would love to dress up in.
Consider costumes, sequins, scarves, hats, sunglasses, costume jewellery, high heels, cocktails dresses, sports jerseys, superhero t-shirts and handbags.
Throw it all into a big box or basket, tie a ribbon on and your DIY dress-up box is ready for gifting.
|Under $20 AUD
Recycled Sweets Jar
Head to your local bulk foods store and fill a recycled jar with a variety of sweets, lollies and chocolates. You may need to take a few containers to weigh the different sweets separately, then arrange them in the jar when you get home.
Dress up the jar with a nice note, poem or quote tied around the neck with some string or ribbon.
Australian Bulk Food Stores:
|Under $20 AUD
For the older kids, you might consider a special piece of jewellery as a zero waste gift.
A nice ring, chain, birthstone pendant, bracelet, watch or set of earrings would be greatly appreciated and treasured.
It could be an everyday piece or something to put away for special occasions. This could work for both males and females, depending on the person that you’re buying for.
Stainless Steel Straws
I think by now, most of us have seen the images of the poor turtle with the plastic straw stuck up its nose. Gone are the days when plastic straws are even a thing anymore.
It’s all about stainless steel straws now and they are much more pleasurable to drink from than the paper alternatives!
The kids will love to have their own stainless straws with matching cleaning brush for their drinks.
Natural Play Dough
Natural play doughs are made from all-natural ingredients, using dyes from fruits and vegetables to give them their colour. Some even have the alluring scents of essential oils to add another element to this sensory play.
Many of the natural play doughs are packaged in recycled plastics, metal tins or other forms of sustainable materials.
If you’re handy at making your own play dough at home, you could even do that for a low waste kids’ gift idea. The only downside to homemade play dough is that the shelf life is generally much shorter.
|NATURAL PLAY DOUGH
|➤ eBay: From $24.95 AUD →
For the kids who love to read and physically flick the pages, get them a stack of second-hand books. Op shops are a great resource for second-hand books and each one will only set you back $1 – $3 per book on average.
If they like a particular author or genre, have a look at the pre-loved books on eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
|From $1 AUD
Upcycled/ Handmade Plush Teddy
A great zero waste gift for kids is a handmade or upcycled (using recycled fabrics and materials) plush toy.
This is also a really fantastic way to support small and local businesses, rather than the big companies that mass produce.
Check out Etsy, local markets and gift stores.
Pela Phone Case
Meet Pela, the world’s first fully compostable phone case! They are made from materials that will totally compost down in your regular household compost bin.
Pela cases are made from Flaxstic, which is a mixture of straw waste, plant-based biopolymers and recycled materials. They’re flexible, smooth to touch and have wrap-around edges to protect the phone’s screen.
Available are cases to suit iPhone, Samsung and Google Pixel phones.
|PELA PHONE CASE
|➤ eBay: From $9 AUD (pre-loved) →
Instead of a physical gift, a pamper spa day is a very luxurious zero waste gift for older kids. You could book in at the hairdresser or get your nails done, then finish off with a massage and a nice lunch.
Although the products along the way are probably not zero waste, the gift itself is. You might be able to find eco-friendly salons and parlours, rather than regular ones.
|READ: 17 Eco Bathroom Items →
Board games last for years and years if they’re looked after and stored properly. The good old staples like Monopoly, Uno and Scattergories are worthwhile having in every home.
Not only can you gift the board game, but you can play it with them too. Maybe even organise regular ‘game nights’ together.
For the gamer kids, what better zero waste gift to get them than an online game? Just ask them what they’d like and I’m sure they’ll let you know. It’s far better than gifting them something that will never get used.
Shopping at the Craft Markets
Another low waste or zero waste kids gift idea is to take them to a local handmade or craft market. Give them a budget and let them choose a gift that they’d like.
Kids love to have a sense of freedom and independence with making their own decisions and they will go home with something that’s truly special to them.
Bike or Scooter
Have a look around for a good quality or near-new bike or scooter as a great zero waste kids’ gift. Bikes and scooters give kids hours of fun and exercise out in the fresh air.
By purchasing second-hand, you’re giving extra life to an item before it eventually makes its way to the dump. The metal frames and hardware on bikes and scooters will be salvaged and used for scrap metal, then made into something else.
When thinking of low waste gift ideas, the aim is to choose gifts with a long life span. A high-quality set of binoculars ticks this box. Even as an adult, having binoculars can prove very handy and even invaluable at times.
Binoculars are a gift that a child can have with them for many, many years to come.
Ferro Rod & Striker
For the outdoor, adventure and survivalist kids, a Ferro rod and striker is a gift that will last them a very long time. Easily start a fire without the need for matches or a lighter with this kit.
Note: these can throw a decent spark, so they’re more suited for mature and responsible kids.
|FERRO ROD & STRIKER
|➤ eBay: From $9.89 AUD →
A special crystal makes for a beautiful zero waste gift for children. With so many to pick from, you can choose one with healing properties specific to the child’s needs and situation. Or you can choose a crystal for abundance to bring some good juju into their life.
Add a little card explaining what the crystal is called and what it’s used for.
Candles & Incense
Candles and incense can be a lovely zero waste or low waste gift for older kids. Candle shops and market stalls usually have the candles package-free and on display. You can simply choose which one you’d like and they may wrap it in paper.
Similarly, incense melts are often displayed in boxes or baskets and you can select the ones you want, which may be placed into a paper bag. An incense holder/ burner is a nice addition to the gift if the child doesn’t already have one.
Incense sticks are generally sold in cardboard boxes, which can be recycled after use.
|CANDLES & INCENSE
|➤ eBay: From $5.95 AUD →
Ethical & Eco-friendly Clothing
Ethical clothing is an evolving topic, but the main things to consider are the company’s whole ethos and philosophy. Fair and safe living and working conditions for all workers involved in producing the clothing should be at the forefront.
Eco-friendly clothing prioritises sustainable fabrics and dyes, as well as minimising waste of products. Important aspects include energy reduction, recycling and recyclable/ compostable packaging and tags.
Etsy is a great place to browse a mix of ethical and eco-friendly clothing. Buying from small, homemade eco businesses is one way to ensure that these boxes are being ticked.
Another option is to buy second hand clothing from op shops, Marketplace and so on.-
Buying pre-loved toys is a great zero waste option for gift-giving. Even if the toys are plastic, you’re still keeping items out of landfill and extending their life.
If there is a particular popular fad toy that a child wants, see if you can buy it on the second-hand market.
Try eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, Craigslist, garage sales and op shops.
|➤ eBay: From $4.99 AUD →
If all else fails, money (or a gift card) is an excellent zero waste gift for kids of a certain age. Rather than giving a present that’s just going to get wasted, at least you know that they’ll buy something that will get used and bring joy.
Giving the kids the opportunity to choose their own gift gives them a sense of independence, as well as the beginning skills of learning how to budget a set amount of money.