Gifts can already be a tricky area without even considering the environment. That being said something to think about is that most gifts have an impact on the environment in some way. Unnecessary resources and energy being wasted, unwanted gifts going into landfill and plastic pollution are all big problems associated with gift-giving. We've come up with some suggestions below to help relieve some stress when it comes to the environmental aspect of gift-giving. Some solutions may also help your pocket!
WHAT TO GIVE
Mindful gift-giving is one of the best ways to go green. Ask yourself, is this person really going to use this? If the answer is no, it's better to choose something else. Novelty gifts may seem fun but are a few seconds of amusement worth all the impact which that item has on the environment? Opting for meaningful gifts which you think will really be put to use is one of the best starting tips.
If you generally struggle to think of gifts for people then there are three really green ways to go:
The first is buying somebody a plant. Not only do you reduce the impact of using wrapping paper but you also increase the demand for plants which help to offset carbon. They also clean the air we breath and help reconnect us to nature, especially if indoors. Choosing a plant which doesn't come wrapped in plastic is even better for the environment.
The second, which can apply more to people who are hard to buy for or not too bothered about receiving gifts, is to donate to a cause. There may be something which somebody has a passion for that it may be difficult to give a gift related to this. For example, for someone who is interested in tropical fish, you could make a donation to a charity working to restore coral reef. If it's an environmental charity then this is a great way to help the planet whilst still showing the gesture of giving.
If you're looking to give someone more of an experience to share together then you could look into planting a tree. If done in a local area then that person can visit the tree in the future and reap the benefits from it whilst helping to combat climate change.
Did you know that the UK alone goes through 50,000 trees worth of wrapping paper each year, just for Christmas!? Much of this wrapping paper is non-recyclable as it's coated with plastic, glitter or foil and so ends up in landfill or worse. The majority of that paper comes packaged in plastic film which is also unrecyclable. As well as that, gifts are often wrapped with unrecyclable plastic tape, ribbon, bows and paper tags. It's safe to say something needs to change if we are to be more respectful to the environment.
Firstly, the greenest way to go is to not wrap presents! Is it really worth all of the energy and resources that go into making, packaging, transporting and disposing of all this wrapping paper? It may be a tradition but is tradition not something which can be fluid and ever changing with the world?
A great idea for children is hiding presents and creating a treasure hunt instead of wrapping gifts. That way there's still the element of fun and surprise without the waste of paper.
If wrapping presents is a habit or tradition which you simply do not want to stop then fear not, there are still ways to be greener with wrapping presents:
TOP TIP: The first change is the paper itself. If you've received a wrapped gift then you could firstly see if you can reuse the gift bag and paper if it's not been ripped too much. After all, the real joy is the element of surprise, I'm sure someone won't mind the odd crease here and there! If they do, perhaps it's something where a change of perspective is needed. Should having a perfectly wrapped present come at such a cost to the environment?
If you've not got any used wrapping paper to hand then why not try using newspaper or old magazines?
Opting for recycled wrapping paper which is also recyclable is the next best thing to use. This means a tree hasn't been directly cut down for that paper and it can also go onto another life afterwards.
Instead of using plastic tape, there are plastic-free, recyclable tape alternatives to switch to. Using these means the tape can be recycled alongside the paper and not add to plastic pollution.
For gift tags you could upcycle old cards. It's a really simple thing to do to reduce your use of virgin paper products and also save a little more for your pocket.
Instead of unrecyclable ribbon and bows you could get creative and see what things you could reuse. Have you got some wool left over from a knitting project? Or bits of string from clothes tags which could be used to attach a gift tag. A bow could even be replaced with a piece of holly or an acorn!
If you're not able to upcycle bits and bobs for present decorations then have a look at our page for more eco-friendly gift decorations.
What we do with the wrapping we receive is also very important. If paper is beyond use for anything then Recycle Now have a great page on how to know if it can be recycled or not. If it's got any foil, glitter or plastic coating attached then unfortunately it's definitely one to go in the waste bin.
For received gift decorations, such as ribbons and bows, see if you can reuse them on a gift to someone else. The more we can reuse anything the better for the planet.
Then there's card-giving to think about. In the UK alone we send over 700 million greeting cards each year! Again this uses up so many trees and many cards are not recyclable due to plastic coating and glitter. To top if off most cards are sold in an unrecyclable plastic sleeve.
Similar to wrapping, the greenest way to go is to not send physical cards but send eCards instead! If the main part of sending a card is delivering a loving message then this can still be done with a lovely eCard. That way you avoid using the energy and resources that go into making, packaging, transporting and disposing of physical cards. The page we've put together is solely for eCards which support charities. So not only will you be doing something which is better for the planet but you can support organisations creating positive change at the same time!
If eCards aren't for you then there are still ways to send physical cards with the environment in mind:
Opting for recyclable cards made from recycled paper is a great option. That way a tree hasn't been cut down directly to make the card and it can also be disposed of responsibly afterwards.
If you prefer to shop on the high street and can't find recycled cards then choosing cards without glitter which don't come in plastic wrap is still a better step for the environment. Card Factory sell some glitter-free cards which are packaging-free, find your nearest store here.
What we do with cards we've received is important too. When it's time for them to go, before throwing them see if any could be upcycled into gift tags. It's a really simple thing to do to help the planet and save a little more for your pocket too.
If this is not possible then it's best to recycle whatever you can. Cards with glitter sadly aren't accepted for recycling. However, if only the front has glitter then you could cut it in half and still put the back of the card and the envelope in the recycle bin. The more which can be recycled the better!