R's of Green Gifting: Inspiring a Circular Economy
Updated: Jul 16
Here’s the third installment of our R’s of Green Gifting Series! In our 2 previous blogs, we gave an introduction to eco-friendly gifting, then explored practical ideas for sustainable gifts. These got us thinking: Is a world without trash possible? And, what would the world look like in a sustainable gifting future if we start now? This blog aims to inspire a circular economy by delving into the world of innovative gifting ideas that aren’t of the norm. We will be sharing tips, tricks and ideas to reinvent gifting.
But first, what is a Circular Economy?
The concept of Circular Economy is a model of consumption and production that eliminates waste by repurposing and recreating from existing products. An example would be recycling plastics into pellets which can then be reused to create soles of shoes. This redirects plastics from landfills and produces a new commodity that can then be integrated back into the economy. More examples can be found in this great article on circular-economy-inspired Christmas gifts.
By leveraging our buying power as consumers, we can encourage more brands and businesses to create products consciously. Below are some ideas to disrupt the gifting phenomena.
‘Gift giving is part of the culture no matter where you are or how long you stay’ ― Christalyn Brannen
Is it okay to regift? While people can stand on either side of the coin, we can’t deny that it’s a great way to declutter and save money. And the best part? It's eco-friendly! Regifting is a concept that some people struggle with because you’re giving away a gift that someone else had bought for you. Or perhaps we feel compelled to purchase something new in order to be comfortable giving it away. Did we ever think about where this notion stems from and why is it the norm?
Logically, regifting is actually one of the best things you can do with gifts you don’t love, want or need. In fact, Canadians are turning to regifting as a practice, with almost ¼ (24%) who say that they regift during the year. If this was talked about more and even encouraged, that statistic can be even higher. If the item is not for you, then why not pass it along to someone else who’ll appreciate it? Provided we are practicing consideration when regifting. The worst thing we can do with unwanted gifts is to throw them out or let them go to waste.
We don’t want to hurt the gift giver’s feelings but ⅓ of Canadians agree that they receive at least one unwanted gift each year, with almost half (47%) of Canadians pretend to be delighted when receiving an unwanted gift. Think of how many gifts can be circulated among our social groups to divert waste? All it takes is a collective effort to shift how we think about it.
Here are a few ways to get used to the idea of regifting:
Do not throw away unwanted gifts or let them go to waste. Find other purposes for it, regift it or donate it. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Create a list of regifting options your gift recipients could choose from.
Base your regifts on the recipient’s preferences, so that they will appreciate the gift.
Liquor-free households can regift their bottles of alcohol to parties they attend, as a present for the hosts.
You may have clothes in your closet that still have the price tags attached. Consider regifting them to someone who can use it, rather than have it sit there for a few more years.
Baby and children’s items are expensive, so parents would appreciate gifts geared towards their young ones. Giving clothes, books, school supplies, toys and games, and other essentials would make it easier on their pockets.
Another low-waste option would be Gift Cards that you won’t be using to the recipient’s chosen store. Make sure the balance hasn’t expired and the card isn’t personalized to you.
Regifting could also be hosting a swap meet where participants exchange toys, clothing items among other things, in hopes of finding something more suitable to their liking.
By not purchasing new goods, you are also reducing the amount of energy used to produce new products. You are giving something to someone who will make use of it, thereby keeping the item out of a landfill site. While many people may not be used to the idea of regifting, we believe it doesn’t need to be taboo. Instead of passing an unwanted gift to the next ‘victim’, match it with the ideal recipient.
‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.’ — Mother Teresa
Rehoming is looking for a new home for pre-loved items. Decluttering by rehoming is a great way to dispose of things you are no longer using, but can still be beneficial to someone else. Simply go around your house, and you will find tons of stuff that needs a new home. Once you set your mind to it, this purge is pretty satisfying and can become a life-changing experience towards minimizing and sustainability.
Below, we explore 4 categories of rehoming:
1. GIFT SWAP
Gather items around your home and make a list of these things that are still in gifting condition.
Parents can gather to exchange outgrown children’s clothes and toys, and swap with other parents for ones that currently fit their growing children.
Organize and host a gift exchange or holiday swap party with family, friends or colleagues. Not a fan of the regular roll-call for gift exchanges? Here are some great ideas to add excitement in distributing these gifts through games.
Attend gift swap events or check out local buy-and-sell groups like this bi-annual Drop, Swap and Shop by Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, Ontario.
Swap until you drop online with fellow fashionistas at Designer Swap, where you can mix up your wardrobe easily, affordably and sustainably.
2. MAKE A MONETARY DONATION
Help grow Canada’s forests with Tree Canada in natural and urban environments and give a seed a home. For only $5 per seedling. Your donation will help plant and care for trees in Canada’s 5 major regions: Atlantic & North, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia. Or plant a tree for $40 to join in creating greener urban neighbourhoods, cities and towns. Visit their website for more ways to contribute to this great environmental cause.
In honour of your gift recipient, donate to Greenpeace, an environmental organization that helps keep wildlife in their natural homes.
3. THRIFT STORES and ONLINE SHOPS
Consider doing your shopping at a local thrift store or vintage shop for unique finds. It’s an opportunity to reduce the impact on your wallet and the planet by giving new life and a new home to something old.
Go through your local thrift shop or yard sale to find hidden gems, giving that item a new home.
4. ADOPT A PET
Too many pets are currently without a home. If your giftee has no objections or allergies, visit a shelter together and give a pet a new home.
Petfinder makes it easy to search for the pet of your dreams with its wide selection of dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, rabbits, and even barnyard animals. Fill in the detailed compatibility checklist to make sure you get matched with the right pet.
There are a number of rescue organizations devoted to saving particular dog breeds from kill shelters, puppy mills and abandonment. Helping dogs find their forever homes are easy to find on various social network platforms or by a Google search.
You can symbolically adopt a Beluga Whale, an Arctic Fox, a Grizzly Bear, a River Otter among others from Earth Ranger’s Wildlife Adoptions Program.
‘Refill today for a cleaner tomorrow.’ ― unknown
Are refill stations the answer to creating less waste? We think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. One of the main sources of residential waste is plastic containers carrying common household products - think detergents, soaps, lotions, food containers, etc. A great way to reduce that waste is for companies to incorporate more refilling programs.
Imagine visiting your local general store where you can bring your existing containers and just fill up what you need? Always buying the same dishwashing soap or brand of milk? What if you were able to refill from a bulk dispenser for these items? The number of plastic containers would drastically reduce if every store offered this option. This would also mean a much lower cost for businesses producing these goods as there would be less need to create new packaging. Fortunately, there are companies out there who have thought of this.
Here are some Canadian brands that are reducing plastic as we speak:
Switching to a refillable water bottle instead of a single-use is one of the easiest ways to go green. Carry and refill your own water bottle like this one from Copper Bottle from Alberta’s The Better Farm Company. Each purchase supports water.org in providing access to safe water and sanitation for individuals for up to 5yrs.
Check out the Zero Waste Shopping Guide from The Eco Hub for a list of shops that offer refill services.
Ever heard of Kombucha? People swear by this fermented tea, claiming to help relieve a variety of health problems. Introduce your giftee to something they possibly have never heard of from Alberta’s own Amaranth Foods and Happy Belly. Both have taprooms to efficiently offer a taste of their Kombucha flavours and conveniently refill from their stations. Their only requirement is to bring your own bottle.
Mobile refilling stations and programs have also been gaining traction. Companies like Park Market and Refillery and The Apothecary in Inglewood offer convenient ways to get your products delivered in reusable and returnable glass jars
Treat your loved one to a grocery shopping experience on Canada’s first mobile market on wheels - a disruptor of the food retail industry! This innovative idea from Grocery Neighbour is coming soon and will be driving around neighbourhoods to conveniently deliver fresh groceries at an affordable price, and support sustainability goals by working with local farmers, bakers and butchers.
‘There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.’ ― Annie Leonard
We left our most unconventional tip for last. Dare we challenge you to refuse gifts altogether? A bold statement to make against such traditional practice, but we think it’s something that needs to be normalized. If you have a good relationship with your giftee, recommend gift-less occasions. Be open and honest and use this opportunity to share your reasons. Sometimes just saying no is all it takes. Instead of receiving a gift you don't like or need, recommend to others that for you, no gift is better or recommend they redirect their resources to a cause you believe in.
Here are some ideas on how you can refuse gifts:
Refuse to take items and products unless you’re going to use them.
Decline to partake in gift-giving practices. It’s okay to stop giving and receiving gifts if there’s an understanding between the parties. Offer to spend on a meal together or other non-tangible gifts instead.
If you are sending out invitations for an event, clearly inform your guests by adding a ‘No Gifts Please’ message.
In moving towards more sustainable gifting, you have control over the choices you make. If we know how to receive gifts gratefully, it is just as crucial to know how we can refuse them the same way. Clearly and carefully state your reasons for refusing, and express regret in doing so. Do it tactfully, carefully, and with consideration.
The most important thing is having and initiating these important conversations surrounding sustainability among our family and peers. It is the catalyst needed for change. If we want to disrupt a long-standing custom that has been ingrained in our culture for as far back as we can remember, then we need to do something radical.
The future of sustainable gifting is in our hands. The great thing is we can start now.
What do you think is the future of green gifting?