One of the best things about zero waste, sustainable gift giving is that it can be really simple. Passersby laden with shopping bags look frankly harried these days, and I find myself thinking of grabbing each by the shoulders and saying "You don't have to do this!" Instead of that rather aggressive tactic, I'm instead sharing a few simple, easy, trash-free ideas, in case they're helpful to you:
"Experience gift" is a minimalist buzzword on par with "KonMari" these days. Rightfully so: sweet, shared time with those you love is the best gift. It also lends itself to such great creativity, and gives you the opportunity to show someone how well you know and love them. A few ideas: take your best friend out to that new restaurant you've both been talking about, get tickets to the museum exhibit you know your dad would love, sign your boyfriend up for a class in a sport he's always wished he could do (cross country skiing?), or plan to go to a yoga class with your mom. This also works well even for faraway loved ones: you could buy your college-age brother a gift card to a nearby coffee shop, send two movie tickets to a cinemaphile friend, or give your sister some money tucked in an envelope marked "date night."
Edibles, homemade or otherwise, are easy, simple, and beloved. Purchase soup mix, chocolate covered almonds, nuts, popcorn kernels, or tea from your local bulk foods aisle, and package them in a beautiful jar that the receiver can use again and again. Or, fill jars with things you've made yourself: homemade cookies, dried herbs from your windowsill, fruit jam, candy, or chocolate. A friend recently gave me homemade dark chocolate pomegranate seed bark (with sea salt!), and it was one of my favorite gifts of the season.
A donation in someone's name to a beloved cause suits everyone, from the person who has two of everything imaginable to your favorite minimalist. Consider the receiver's interests: animals? disease research? the environment? nutrition? and go from there. The website Charity Navigator can help you make sure you're giving to places who use the money where they say they will - look for scores of 90 and above.