The ultimate list of experience and low-waste gift ideas

Low-waste and experience gifts

I almost feel guilty admitting this, but I love giving gifts. I love choosing them, wrapping them, and giving them. I always have. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve started to realize that it’s just far too much stuff.

Even looking past the idea of waste and resources, I don’t have anywhere to store gifts. My place is very small! Most people I know don’t want to receive unneeded things either. While the intention can be wonderful, often the item itself isn’t needed or wanted.

When it comes to kids, I honestly believe that too many gifts can backfire–proving overwhelming and teaching materialism.

In recent years, my family and I have started to give experience or low-waste gifts instead, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I often give a theatre and restaurant gift card for a “date night” to my parents and in-laws. For my mom’s birthday, we did a fancy afternoon tea service. And for the past few years, my sister has gifted me a night of a gourmet home-cooked meal. I also love supporting local attractions, companies, and organizations with these choices.

My son still receives some material gifts, simply because he needs more things: age-appropriate toys and books as he grows, clothing, and so on. But we keep it quite minimal.

The great thing is that you can still make an experience or low-waste gift exciting to give. Turn it into a scavenger hunt, add a personal note or poem, or give a low-waste option along with it (such as some baked goods with a family recipe collection). I still love gift giving, but I feel like I do it in a better way.

Here’s my grand list of gift ideas. Hopefully you’ll find it inspiring too!


  1. Classes: cooking, pottery, jewellery making, beekeeping, swimming lessons, yoga, calligraphy, sword fighting, bartending
  2. Theatre event: a comedy show, concert, opera, play, ballet, or other dance performance
  3. Escape room
  4. Restaurant — or fancy home-cooked meal
  5. Winery or brewery tour
  6. Coffee shop
  7. A local outdoorsy activity: skiing, kayaking, zip lining, hiking, whale watching…
  8. Psychic or tarot card reading
  9. Bowling
  10. Aquarium
  11. Museum
  12. Art gallery
  13. Spa or sauna visit
  14. A local farm/food tour
  15. Gym membership
  16. Indoor rock climbing
  17. Local walking tour: heritage houses, historical tours, ghost tours…
  18. Afternoon tea
  19. Sporting events
  20. A meditation course
  21. Professional organizer or home cleaning service
  22. Picnic
  23. Day at the beach
  24. Ice skating
  25. Movie theatre
  26. Mini golf
  27. Pub crawl
  28. Festival/convention/conference/lecture tickets
  29. Circus/trapeze school
  30. Amusement park tickets
  31. Photo shoot
  32. Cat cafe
  33. Sensory deprivation/float tank/salt cave
  34. Online magazine or newspaper subscription
  35. e-book, audio book, or online courses subscription
  36. Streaming or online music subscription
  37. Weekend away
  38. Cash for whatever they’re saving for (wedding, trip, school…)
  39. Hotel stay
  40. Volunteering day

And some of my favourite low-waste/zero waste gifts

  1. Flower or vegetable seeds; gardening supplies
  2. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box subscription
  3. Weekly flowers from a local sustainable florist
  4. Locally made artisan products: candles, soap and body care, bulk teas, artisan foods, clothing, toys, knitting, the list goes on…
  5. Baked goods or other DIYs
  6. Books
  7. Board games
  8. Personalized coupons
  9. Personalized playlist
  10. Collection of favourite family recipes
  11. Family tree
  12. Recreation of a childhood photo
  13. Song
  14. Poem
  15. Commissioned personalized artwork (for example, cartoon family portrait or family crest)
  16. Plants; succulent planter
  17. Camping/hiking gear
  18. Family photo book or scrapbook
  19. Gifts for zero waste living: reusable straws, cloth bulk bags, plastic-free scrub brushes, solid shampoo and conditioner, wool dryer balls, food wraps, bamboo toothbrush, etc
  20. Donation to a cause

Where to shop

Great gifts can be found all over, but these are some great places to start:

  1. Online (such as Etsy)
  2. Farmer’s markets, night markets, craft fairs
  3. Local boutiques and florists
  4. Bulk/refill stores
  5. Natural health retailers

A little note

I should mention that I’ve heard from a few people that some of the industries that go along with these gifts, such as the movie industry, can be quite high-waste and polluting, even if the gift itself isn’t. This is a very fair point, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do you give experience gifts, or Zero Waste/low waste gifts?


2 responses to “The ultimate list of experience and low-waste gift ideas”

  1. […] Choosing experience and zero-waste gifts [NOTE: See my blog post about it here.] […]

  2. […] Choosing experience and zero-waste gifts [See my blog post about it here.] […]

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