Zero Waste Gift Giving
Ah, gift-giving. So many fond memories and recollections of big smiles brimming with excitement as the gift is passed from one set of hands into another. This is usually followed by crazed unwrapping as the wrapping paper falls to the floor.
What’s usually discovered is a shiny new trinket, a game, an offering of love and care. Whatever it is, it usually comes fitted nicely into a plastic container (or any other material.) What’s often forgotten, however, is that most of this is going to fill the bin.
We have a dastardly habit of ignoring this abandoned and thrown-to-the-side waste until it’s time to clean up. Some of us have an even worse habit of thinking the paper and plastic in our bins don’t matter.
But what if we put everyone’s bins together? What if we then poured them all out into a big heap and weighed them?
The Answer is quite shocking …
What we would find is a gargantuan 254 million tonnes of trash in the USA alone. This is overall. If we take gift-giving into account, it makes up 25 million tonnes of that number – and that’s only during Christmas.
It’s enough to make you think twice, three times, maybe even four times over before throwing anything away. But that’s not all the problem – the buying part also plays a significant role.
If you’re already ready to make the change to zero waste gift giving after hearing that, here’s your one-stop-shop zero waste gift giving guide to get you through every occasion.
What role does gift-giving play?
Many gifts are wrapped in unnecessarily large amounts of colorful and eye-catching plastics or papers. All done to make sure they have the highest chance of being picked up off the shelf.
These are the gifts that we end up passing over to our loved ones with entirely wholesome intentions, sometimes completely unaware of the damage we may be doing to our beautiful world.
“Why would you go ahead and ruin gifts like that?” You might be asking. But all hope is not lost. Luckily for us, there’s a new concept on the horizon that’s gradually becoming a reality.
What we can do about it
You now might be asking “and what concept is that?” It’s the very aptly named ‘Zero Waste’ concept. Now, Zero Waste isn’t exactly revolutionary, there have been people dedicated to the cause for years but it’s gaining traction by the day.
You just need to think of street markets in India, south-eastern Countries, and across great swathes of Africa. People pick the food they want and bring it home in their own bags. No need for extra waste.
So, if whole populations of people can do it? Why can’t everyone do it?
The answer is that they’re trying.
In a world of ever-growing eco-friendliness and recycling campaigns, it’s become the talking point of the moment. Awareness is being raised left right and center of the benefits of going zero waste.
How to make a change
And yes, you do ‘go’ zero waste. It’s a life change. You can dip your toes into the eco-friendly and green living world but before you know it, it’s a whole lifestyle.
A once relatively hard lifestyle to lead, being a zero-waste proponent is becoming easier by the day. Where before there were no zero waste products in a supermarket, there now may even be an entire zero waste section.
Incredibly, there are even shops and businesses popping up around the world dedicated solely to providing zero waste alternatives to our favorite foods and products. You can even find plenty of tips, tricks, and elaborate recipes online that promote eco-friendliness and green living.
But why should I?
I guess this can all seem pretty tiring. It’s a big leap to make. It can lead many to ask, “why bother?” and even pointing the finger along the lines of “if THEY’RE not doing it, then why should I?.” The answer lies in the future.
But first, it might be helpful to learn about exactly what waste is and what it means for our world.
So, what exactly is waste?
Waste comes in many shapes and sizes. They can be found in many day-to-day products such as the simple water bottle, comb, clingfilm, and jewelry with some of the more common types being Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP).
Some of the more colorful and bendable plastics are known under the term of Thermoplastics. They are the plastics that make up those well-known cavernous toy containers, some straws, and even Legos.
This means that you’ve likely gifted a copious amount of thermoplastic products to your children. And if you were ever a child, which I presume you were, you very likely owned even more thermoplastics than kids of today’s more environmentally conscious world.
The thing is that though these plastics can seem convenient, fun, and attractive, they’re having harmful effects on our environment. Fortunately, most plastics can be melted down and reused. Unfortunately, this is not how most plastics meet their end.
Waste’s harmful effects on the planet
Many plastics end up lining the streets where they eventually make their way into our waterways and oceans. From here, animals can easily ingest the plastics leading to death or significant pain. Some animals will experience such pain that they will not be able to mate or feed themselves.
Naturally, this throws a spanner into the works that is the harmony of nature. And when one system in nature fails, the rest tend to fail as well. This is just one of the reasons alongside global warming that we’re experiencing one of the biggest mass extinctions of species ever seen.
Thermosets are the ‘unmeltable’ version of thermoplastics making them generally more harmful to the environment.
A relatively unknown and often overlooked culprit are microplastics. Though not considered much of a threat before, microplastics are coming to the forefront of the fight for sustainability.
Our waters are replete with microplastics that animals and humans alike ingest every day. Though studies have not yet shown any conclusive evidence of the harmful effects of microplastics, research is still being conducted.
There is something we can all agree on, however, plastics don’t belong in our water. And they certainly don’t contribute towards sustainability.
Now to get down to action!
But now that we know it’s necessary, how can we do our part to lead a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle? Well, the truth is you’ve already started. If you’re reading this you’re making an attempt to become more environmentally conscious and that’s half the battle.
The next half of the battle is taking action. Sure, watching the many environmentally positive YouTube videos and learning about the best methods of recycling is all helpful, but taking the first step matters just as much.
But one of the more exciting parts of adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle is getting to make and purchase zero waste gifts. They’re always interesting and still just novel enough to make them unique and special gifts.
But will people like my gifts?
Contrary to popular belief, most people love to receive zero-waste gifts.
Giving zero-waste gifts can also be the perfect opportunity to subtly educate those around you on the importance of green living and sustainability. You don’t have to go on any long speeches about how the world needs to change right now! Your actions will show your convictions.
And if you were to receive a zero-waste gift, wouldn’t you be intrigued as well? So, inspire those around you by dedicating to the art of zero waste gift-giving. Who knows, you might even create a few new trends and traditions among your family and friends.
Where do I find them?
Zero waste and eco-friendly gift-giving still remain a relatively untrodden ground so you may have to do some research before getting started. Here are just some guidelines to help you put your best foot forward into a more environmentally conscious world:
Firstly, you needn’t worry if you’re not living in the US. Though it’s true that there are generally more zero-waste products available in-store in the US, you’ll always be able to find them online.
And why not try shopping local and helping out small businesses while you’re at it? Shop around your local area for zero-waste gift ideas, it’s always good to encourage local zero waste businesses.
Of course, if this isn’t possible, there is an incredibly wide array of online eco-friendly and zero waste shops that are focused on sustainability.
What are my zero-waste gift options?
Now to learn what to look for. You’ll find that many eco-friendly products will have repeated phrases and words used in their advertisements or descriptions. Keep an eye out for ‘reusable’ and ‘washable’ to denote products that are suitable for recycled use.
However, some terms may crop up that aren’t immediately associated with sustainability but still achieve the same result. ‘Durable’ and ‘long-lasting’ for example. These terms suggest that there will be no need to replace the product for the foreseeable future.
Bonus additions to the products are if they are also labeled as ‘non-toxic’ and ‘BPA free’. Being Bisphenol A (BPA) free essentially means that the product does not contain any plastics.
Perhaps the most eco-friendly products are those that are ‘100% biodegradable.’ These are great for those ‘one use’ gifts that can’t possibly be zero waste. The next best thing is for them to be recyclable or biodegradable.
We all love to receive something to pamper ourselves with. Whether it be expensive shampoo/body wash, or a scented bath bomb, they have eco-friendly alternatives ready to be snapped off the shelves!
When buying a zero-waste beauty gift, it’s best to look out for vegan, plant-based varieties. You’ll find that a lot of plant-based beauty gifts come in interesting forms such as the little cubes that are known as beauty bars. Though you wouldn’t immediately know it by looking at them, these beauty bars offer the most refreshing and guilt-free spa treatments.
Some companies even offer cruelty-free makeup and makeup sets that don’t involve animal testing and are fully made out of recyclable materials.
Many people still hold the stereotype that a plant-based, eco-friendly, and zero waste product will naturally be of lower quality than its synthetic counterparts. This simply isn’t the case. Especially not with product design and the science involved in making zero waste products improving by the day. And even if they were lower-quality, wouldn’t it be worth the sacrifice to save the world?
Anyhow, naturally with the ever-increasing demand for eco-friendly products, their quality is only getting better. Nowadays, if you are to believe the reviews, most plant-based or biodegradable products are surpassing expectations with some even boasting of higher quality than synthetic products.
So, as long as you do your research, you won’t have to worry about giving a low-quality or broken gift. If you’re still not sure, be sure to look up any unboxing videos online or blog posts detailing a person’s experience with the product.
Zero-waste gifts to suit everyone
However, there are some sustainable gifts that you can be sure everyone will love. Reusable glass coffee cups or containers for example. They’re easy to wash and most cafés/coffee shops will make your coffee in them (often for a lower price!) so you can take them on-the-go.
Some companies even offer “eco-boxes” that are essential toolboxes that provide the rudimentary instruments for living an environmentally friendly lifestyle. By buying someone one of these boxes, you give them the gift of doing their part for the world, not to mention that some of the components of the box can be expensive separately but are affordable in the eco-box.
Most of these starter kits contain stainless steel straws, lunch boxes, mesh shopping bags, and reusable drink containers.
You can even buy sustainable gifts for children. There are a wide variety of no-plastic kid’s toys available both in stores and online.
One of the most common gifts are books, consider taking a zero-waste approach to books by buying and gifting second-hand books. Most shops will perform quality checks before putting their second-hand books up for sale, so you won’t have to worry much about bent pages or stain.
Outstandingly, the zero-waste movement has been making huge strides with eco-friendly technology. There are Bluetooth speakers, radios, and much more to be found made out of bamboo or recycled plastics. And what’s not to love about that?!
There are so many more eco-friendly products and services that are just dying to be bought and gifted out there. The environmentally conscious community is growing by the day and so too are their markets/innovation. Though all the products obviously can’t all be fit into one article, they’re definitely worth checking out.
So, keep your finger on the pulse, and be sure to the first to grab any new zero waste product that catches your fancy. And if it’s caught your fancy, surely it will catch your loved one’s fancy as well. This means you can pass on these products or gift them to someone who never would’ve found them otherwise.
There’s so much left to do for our environment and though it may seem only seem small, your action of gifting zero waste products can make waves in society for years to come. It’s the little things that matter the most after all.
All in all, keep on giving back to the world by giving to those around you.