A Guide to Sustainable Gift Giving
The idea of giving is such an important part of many religions, philosophies and ways of life. However, it feels like we’ve all gone a bit overboard with the consumerism surrounding gifts and giving occasions. Nowadays we need copious quantities of presents for every birthday, baby shower, wedding, milestone, anniversary, housewarming, next door neighbour’s dog’s birthday… You get the point. We give a lot of gifts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love presents. Nothing beats the feeling of giving someone a gift you know they’ll love (except maybe getting one!) But there are some simple ways we can change our gift-giving behaviour to make it a little more sustainable, eco-friendly and meaningful.
Sometimes less is more. We believe this is true in many of life’s situations but particularly with gift giving. Sometimes buying something small and meaningful can be much better than buying lots of bigger presents just for the sake of it. Instead of buying lots of items that look good why not choose one more expensive item that is truly special.
When you’re out looking for gifts see if you can find items that are made locally. This reduces the environmental impact of shipping and also supports local businesses. If you come from a country with laws regarding workplace safety and worker wellbeing you can be more sure your gift was ethically made than if it was made in a developing country where there are questionable working standards. If you already have an idea for a gift, do a google search and see if you can find an option made locally.
When we give gifts, we don’t just create waste by buying the presents we also need to wrap them. Instead of using plastic-based wrapping like cellophane or buying new wrapping paper with Sellotape try a more sustainable option. You can wrap the present in a nice scarf or colourful fabric. Or use recycled paper and decorate it, hold the wrapping paper together using a natural ribbon instead of Sellotape. Reuse an old gift bag or simply don’t wrap it at all. There a are plenty of options and in the end, it’s what on the inside that counts!
Another way to be a bit more eco-friendly with gift buying is to buy things in an actual shop. I know, it’s a bit if a foreign concept these days and no one can deny the convenience of shopping online but by visiting the shop you can avoid a whole lot of packaging and fuel used to get the item to your doorstep. Next time you’re in the area, pop along to the shop for a browse and don’t forget to bring a reusable shopping bag!
Give something useful
Sometimes we get so caught up in the idea of buying a gift that we forget that it should have a purpose. We’ve all given someone that funny joke present or kitsch item for the living room but 9 times out of 10 these items end up being thrown away or left in storage somewhere. Take the time to think of a gift that the person will actually use. Maybe practical gifts are less exciting but they are definitely more sustainable.
All these funky gadgets that we see on gift lists are cool for 10 minutes but actually end up being a bit useless. Edible gifts, kitchen items or vouchers all serve a purpose and are more likely to be used.
Give an experience
If you’re stuck for present ideas, give an experience instead of an object. These often end up being far more useful and enjoyable than something bought just for the sake of it. Think about the person you’re buying for, it could be a special experience like a trip or a spa treatment. But it could also be something to save them buying it themselves like family tickets to the swimming pool or cinema.
Also consider donating your time. Give them a day of work in the garden, offer to cook dinner for them or babysit the kids, giving them the ultimate gift of more time to do the things they love.
Make it yourself
There are so many fun and creative craft projects that can be attempted. If you’re a sewing whizz try making your own cushion covers, shopping bags or baby clothes as gifts. Edible gifts are a great thing to make yourself and it’s often cheaper to buy a few ingredients than a whole present. Try baking, making pesto, dips or jams or giving homegrown fruit, veges or herbs.
Give on random occasions
Who says a present has to be given on a certain day? The time pressure of gift buying can often result in unthoughtful or boring presents in order to simply have something to give on the ‘right’ day. If it’s a friend or family member they will understand if you explain that you couldn’t find anything meaningful to give on the day of their birthday but you will surprise them later in the year when you find the perfect gift. It’s also nice to get something on a normal day rather than all you presents on one or two days of the year.
We have adopted this policy and will bake a cake or cook a meal for someone’s birthdays but will gift presents as and when we find nice, sustainable and thoughtful presents.
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