December is well on its way, and so are all of our preparations for the holidays! This past weekend we hosted two workshops in-store, presenting a few easy-to-make, zero-waste gift ideas, as well as the different, and environmentally sustainable ways to wrap our gifts.

Madeleine (left) and Julie (right) during our Saturday Zero Waste Gift Ideas workshop.

For those that weren’t able to make it out on Saturday, or for those that were there and want to know our secrets, we’ve put together the recipes of gifts we made during the workshop, and a few more.

Consumable Gifts

Consumable or edible gifts combine thought with convenience. They add a personal touch and are made with ingredients you either have in your cupboard or can find in-store, at NU for example! Here are our three favourites.



1. Chai Spice Simple Syrup 

1 cup white sugar / 1 cup water / 4 cardamom pods / 1 cinnamon stick / 4 whole cloves / ½ tsp black peppercorns / 1 star anise

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the star anise. Bring up to a boil over medium/high heat and then reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the star anise for the last 5 minutes. 

Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Strain the mixture through a sieve, and pour into a jar or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

We suggest that..

The syrup be used in cocktails, or in place of other sweeteners in coffee or tea, on pancakes, oatmeal, and more! Or, add hot milk for a caffeine-free chai latte! 

Other infusion ideas: dried lavender, earl grey tea, chamomile, rosemary. 

Chai Spice Cocktail

1 oz Chai spice syrup / 1.5 oz alcohol of choice (we recommend bourbon!) / soda water to taste / ice / orange slice

Mix the first four ingredients in a glass. Stir, and garnish with the orange slice. Enjoy!

2. Marbled Fruit & Nut Bark

Had to be quick to snap this picture… those slabs were an instant hit!

Makes ~20 servings (1 piece/serving)

200g white chocolate / 200g dark chocolate / 1 cup roasted almonds (divided in half) / ½ cup dried cranberries (divided in half) / 2 tbsp medium flaked coconut

Melt the white and dark chocolate in separate bowls over pans of simmering water. Remove from heat when the chocolate is almost melted, and stir until fully melted. Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds, leaving some pieces bigger than others. Add half of the almonds and half of the cranberries to each bowl and stir.

Drop spoonfuls of each chocolate mixture in an alternating (checkerboard) pattern onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Swirl gently with a knife to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with the coconut and refrigerate for one hour to firm. Then, break into pieces and serve.

Other bark ingredients: whole coffee beans, pecans and dried apricot, cashews and dried cherries, candied ginger, sea salt

3. Spicy Mixed Nuts

Makes 4 cups

2 tablespoons (25 mL) unsalted butter or canola oil / 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder / 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cumin / ½ teaspoon (2 mL) paprika / ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) cayenne pepper / 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt / 1 cup (250 mL) almonds / 1 cup (250 mL) walnuts / 1 cup (250 mL) raw or dry-roasted cashews / 1 cup (250 mL) pecans

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (180℃)

Melt butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spices and cook 30 seconds. Stir in the nuts, toss to coat well. Spread the nuts in 1 layer on the sheet. Bake 8 minutes, Remove from oven and cool completely. Put in tin or jar, keeps for up to two-three weeks.

We suggest that…

You switch up the spice ratios for your preference! Want something spicier? Add more cayenne! Something with more of a ‘BBQ’ taste? Swap out the paprika for a smoked paprika!

Body Care 

Help those you love, show themselves some love! These are our two easiest, most affordable, and easy to adapt recipes for a body scrub and face mask.

1. Coconut Oil and Coffee Ground Scrub

¼ cup of ground coffee / ½ cup of coconut oil

Melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Once the oil is in liquid form, combine with coffee grounds in separate bowl. Mix oil and grounds together and spoon into jar/bottle. Leave to cool.

*Can also be used as a anti-acne facial scrub by adding either cinnamon, or turmeric (for sensitive skin).

2. Turmeric and Chickpea Flour Facial Scrub

1 part ground turmeric / 1 part chickpea flour

Whisk the ground turmeric and chickpea flour together in a bowl, until the mixture is one uniform colour.  Transfer the mixture to a container or jar.

When ready to use, pour about 2 tsp of the mixture into the palm of your hand. With the fingers of your other hand, drip water onto the mixture, until it can be mixed into a paste. Apply the paste to your face, and exfoliate in a circular motion for 5-10 mins. Rinse with warm water.

Well, that’s all we have for now!

For those of us that might not be in the mood to do-it-ourselves, don’t worry – there are endless ways to give gifts that create zero-waste.  Sticking to anything handmade, or locally-sourced are terrific starting points for more sustainable gift-giving.

My favourite zero-waste gift is giving the gift of an experience. Anything from tickets to a play or sporting event, enrolment in a workshop, a membership at a studio or a pass to a museum – giving an experience creates zero waste, and is an easy, enjoyable, and personal gift.

Even as we are all embarking on our zero-waste journeys, we need to remember that consciously approaching Christmas doesn’t mean not giving presents. Rather, just thinking about what we’re giving, and where it will end up after it is unwrapped.

While doing so will involve a little more time for thought, it adds so much more personality to gifts and thoughtfulness to the busy-mess that can be the holiday season.

Happy gifting!

Julie Lopez