How to make every gift a sustainable gift
How to make unwanted gifts a thing of the past.
“It’s the thought that counts” might be a cliche used to shrug off an unwanted gift, but it’s the golden rule to remember when buying for another person – and why giving sustainable gifts is so important.
Gifts are a material expression of love, and the right one will live beyond the moment of giving and accepting, making a difference in your relationship with the receiver. This is especially true in the case of a life-changing gesture like an engagement ring, but even something simple like baking a cake for a neighbour builds a human connection.
Strange as it sounds, the right objects can help us feel closer to one another. We give leaving gifts to friends who are moving overseas to remind them of home, we participate in office Secret Santas to feel a little camaraderie with our colleagues, and we send family members who we haven’t been able to see for months something in the post in the hope it will make them smile. The meaning of the item is much more important than its value.
So where does sustainability come into all this? Somewhere down the line, this wonderful gesture has become an obligation for some people. Many presents are handed over to relieve the giver of guilt, rather than to benefit the receiver. According to research, 50% of Brits receive at least one gift they don’t like every Christmas. That’s not just 33 million wasted opportunities for connection, but the footprint required to produce these objects is often not taken into account: materials, resources, transportation and packaging that go straight to landfill if the present is unwanted. What’s more 10,000 tonnes of plastic packaging goes in the bin every year in the UK, along with 300,000 tonnes of cardboard. Something needs to change.
This is where the thought – and the choices you make around a gift – really begin to count. Even gift wrap can make a difference: a very easy way to make gifting more sustainable is to consider using paper packing tape instead of sellotape and, if you like the style, re-using wrapping paper and ribbons.
Being more mindful is the easiest way to avoid waste. Rather than being caught by the lure of ‘gift sets’, finding something that will illustrate the human connection between you and the receiver – that acts as a reminder of your past or will enrich their future – is so much more satisfying, and means it won’t be thrown out in a rush.
A basic definition of sustainability is that something will last, and not need replacing, which is also the exact aim of a good gift. As well as being a token of your love, a truly sustainable gift should add to somebody’s life, not create waste. And so, giving a sustainable gift couldn’t be easier and is about a lot more than just buying from a sustainable brand (although we have to say we’re huge advocates of doing just that!)
Another way to ensure a gift isn’t unwanted is to break reliance on the shops. It might be that it’s more fulfilling to make something or buy a ticket to an experience than an object. But making the thought count, listening out for hints and keeping a running list of what your loved ones want and need, and celebrating their values, is what makes a gift sustainable.
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