Waste-Free Holiday Gifts for Co-Workers

Finding Bulk Gift Ideas for Co-workers? The Struggle is Real

What should are some good gifts for co-workers? For years and years, I struggled with this. I’ve never made a ton of money, so by the time I bought my family’s gifts there wasn’t much left to spend and I always had a lot of co-workers. Don’t get me wrong, I love gifting. It’s my favorite thing in the world, but to find something inexpensive that everyone will like is difficult. It’s even harder to find waste-free gifts for co-workers, which is something I’m obviously all about.  Last year, I came up with the perfect solution.

Finding gifts for co-workers can be a struggle for many reasons, but over the years I've managed to compile a list of options, some even waste-free!

This post contains affiliate links

Homemade gifts for co-workers

Last year I was on a budget and I had about 10 co-workers. That might not be a lot to some, but on my budget it was a pretty big deal. There were 5 people who worked in our office, but we worked in a start-up center, so there was the receptionist, the janitor, and directors. I wanted to show my appreciation to those who worked hard, so we could dream big and not worry about the day-to-day.

I went to my heaven on Earth, the thrift store. There I found just tons and tons of Christmas tins. I’m not even really sure where all these things come from, but they were exactly what I needed. They usually sell them for about 50 cents to $1. I tried to get them big enough to fit about seven cookies. After washing them up, I put a piece of tissue paper in the bottom and filled them with my mom’s recipe of chocolate chip cookies.

I hate to admit it, but I’m avid upcycler, and sometimes I’m afraid people won’t get it. Gift giving is a pretty serious endeavor for me, so I want to make sure they like what they get. Last year, was a struggle because on the one hand, I want to share upcycling with everyone because nothing makes me happier. I was also slightly worried they would think it was trashy. So my solution? No one can complain about cookies, so they at least had that, if they didn’t like the other part of my gift: light bulb ornaments. You might be bold enough to try it without the cookies, but I wasn’t. I made both.

As you can see, you’re big OSU fans around here and we happened to have some stickers. I’ve made these for several years and usually I save up lightbulbs all year, but they seem to be getting harder and harder to find. As a result, I’m going to have to come up with a new idea, but I haven’t quite got there yet.

Inexpensive Gifts for Co-workers

My solution might now work for everyone, so I’ve compiled a list of waste-free gifts for co-workers that might work for a variety of work places.


My dad works at a fitness center, where t-shirts or polo shirts are part of the regular dress. For the past few years, he has bought his employees matching shirts or personalized polo shirts. The coordinated shirts often come in handy for different events or gatherings.


This is a great way to support local productions or theater companies, or even to just give your co-workers something relaxing to do on their time off. When you give experiences rather than just things, you can be sure your money is never wasted. They produce little to no waste and are a way for mom to be able to spend the day with the people that matter most to her. Tickets are also great for older moms who generally already have everything that they want and don’t want more material items taking up space in their home.

Reusable Items

Thermos, travel mugs, cloth napkins or grocery bags, such as these that just sit in the cart and the checker can easily pack, are all great gifts for co-workers. These items can support sustainable habits and are almost always waste free. Also, some of these items can also serve as waste-free packaging.

Recipes in a Jar

These are always popular around Christmas time and for good reason. You can buy the ingredients in bulk to cut down on waste and everyone loves food. The jars can also be used in a variety of ways for years to come.
Here are some of my favorite recipes in a jar.

Do a Good Deed in Their Name

Not only is this a waste-free gift, but it’s also a gift in multiple ways, maybe even for the environment.
Donating to a charity, planting a tree and dedicating to your co-work, or volunteering to an organization are some of my favorite ways to give back. Sometimes it’s hard to choose the right non-profit or organization because there’s a lot of distrust about the ways non-profits might use their funds. To help with this, there are ‘watch dog’ organizations, including Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which will help you navigate the overwhelming amount of organizations.

Some of my favorite green organizations to support are:

Natural Resource Defense Council

Considered on of the nation’s most powerful environmental group, NRDC combines “the grassroots power of 1.4 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals”. When you support this organization and give green gifts, they’ll send you a card describing the action it supports, such as “adopt a wolf in Yellowstone” or “save an acre of whale nursery” to add a tangible meaning to a personalized gift.

Environmental Working Group

This is a good pick for people who are passionate about clean food. EWG is best know for its “Dirty Dozen” list revealing the highest (and lowest) pesticide concentrations in conventionally-grown produce. It also researches and spreads awareness regarding toxic chemicals, sustainable versus exploitative agricultural practices, consumer product safety, and corporate accountability.

Local Charities

We don’t have a ton of environmental organizations here in Oklahoma, but I still like to support local charities like the Grey Snow Eagle House or maybe helping a local hospital with its garden, picking up trash around the parks and any number of environmental initiatives.

Gardening Kit

There is so many benefits to gardening, mostly for me is that it produces food, reduces waste in any area and is therapeutic. I like to share this passion with others, so giving them a starter kit with a little container, a seedling or packet of seeds, and some tools is a great way to go.

Waste-Free Wrapping

Sometimes, waste-free options just might not fit your particular group and that’s ok because you can find waste less wrapping ideas.
Here are some basics on waste-free wrapping:

  • Use reusable bags instead of single-use gift bags
  • Used maps or newspaper of wrapping paper
  • Avoid wrapping gifts in materials that are not recyclable or reusable, such as foil, mylar or plastic-coated paper and tissue.

So there are my ideas for waste-free gifts that any co-worker will love.

Need some more sustainable Christmas ideas? Check out these great articles!

Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Edible Gift for a Sustainable Christmas

Homemade Christmas: DIY Decorations from Around the House

Pin this article for later!

Finding gifts for co-workers can be a struggle for many reasons, but over the years I've managed to compile a list of options, some even waste-free!











15 thoughts on “Waste-Free Holiday Gifts for Co-Workers

  1. Those light bulb ornaments are delightful! We’ve up-cycled a bunch of tins, just like you did. The thrift store is also our favorite place, we stop there just about every week!

    Such clever ideas!!!

  2. I LOVE this list! I am a HUGE fan of practical gifts and I’m definitely a fan of all of these ideas. I never thought of giving a ticket for a production! I might do that for my hubby this year, plus… I’ll get to go, too! Thanks for putting this together! I pinned it for later use! 😀

  3. […] In the past few years, I have worked with 10 to 25 co-workers and during the holidays and I love to show my appreciation for their friendship and hard work. When gifting for so many people it’s important that the gifts are something they can use and it won’t get tossed with the majority of the other gifts. In the past I’ve made cookies and Christmas ornaments, but I wanted to do something different this year. Check out my other waste less gift ideas for co-workers. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *