Reduce Your Wasteline: Gift Giving

It seems a bit strange to be highlighting Christmas during the height of summer, but gift giving is another area to consider reducing your wasteline. And if you start planning now (or at least put it at the back of your mind), then it gets much easier when December (or a birthday) rolls around. 

Wrapping it up

There are some really simple substitutions that can be made when it comes to wrapping paper. My favourite is using old atlases: the sheets are the perfect size for books, CDs, DVDs, and other small presents, and the paper can be easily recycled. Brown paper parcels tied up with string are also making a comeback; the price is considerably lower compared to traditional gift wrap, and you can decorate the paper yourself (or ask your kids to do it for you). There’s also the classic newspaper funnies section (although do newspapers still have comics?!).

Regarding paper, make sure it passes the crumple test. Crumple a small piece into a ball: does it stay more or less as is? If so, it’s paper and can be recycled. However, if it springs back open it contains plastic and cannot. And forget about glitter: this causes problems for the machines at recycling plants, so please avoid it on wrapping paper, greeting cards, or anything given to me.

There are a lot of other options beyond paper, especially for odd shaped items. I like using reusable bags like those from Onya or Oxfam’s I Was a Sari bag; they look great and become a second gift (tea towels are also suitable). Another of my experiments has been reusing cocoa powder containers (basically anything cylindrical with a lid) with a bit of paper and twine to turn it into a giant Christmas cracker. This is good if you’re giving a gift in person and can grab the container back after the recipient has opened it!

Plan ahead

I paid a visit to the lovely Somerset Lavender Farm a few weeks ago, and I’m sure many of you are also visiting some spectacular places as part of your summer holidays. Are there any independent shops that carry items you can bring back with you? Rather than summertime souvenirs, these can become fun gifts that are a little different than the usual High Street fare.

Planning has another component: a big part of reducing the waste that is produced through gift giving—or any purchase—is thinking about how the packaging and the item itself will be disposed of before it is even bought. Is it something that will break if you just look at it wrong, or perhaps a piece of technology that will be obsolete before the end of January?

Built to last

This brings me to one of the websites I discovered this month: Buy Me Once (available both in the UK and the US). The idea is just as it says in the site’s title: goods that are durable and sustainable. Many have lifetime guarantees or are easily repairable. I admit my own wish list is predominantly gift vouchers (hint: I like Chippenham’s House of Beauty), and these are always a great way to almost completely eliminate packaging waste while making sure the recipient gets exactly what they want.

I write an annual gift guide that is published in early November, but consider having a look at last year’s if you’re interested in learning more. Are there other brands or ideas you think should be included? Please let me know at hello@off-the-ground.org.

Plastic Free July may be coming to an end soon, but it’s never too late to start reducing your wasteline. Read the entire series:

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