7 Ways to Give Plastic-Free Gifts

by Kaitlin Grable

December 19, 2018

During the holidays we tend to get so caught up in the festive spirit that we forget about the resulting environmental impacts. This holiday season we’re putting the challenge out to be more waste conscious and intentional with gift giving!

During the holiday season, American households generate 25% more waste than they do throughout the rest of the year. That’s about 1 million extra tons of trash created in just two months. We tend to get so caught up in the festive spirit that we forget about the resulting environmental impacts. There can be a lot of pressure to purchase the perfect gift, and it’s an additional challenge to find one that doesn’t use a lot of plastic and won’t just get thrown out by the time the next holiday comes around.

This holiday season we’re putting the challenge out to be more waste-conscious and intentional with gift giving! Join us — here are a few tips to help:

1. Re-think your gift wrapping

When wrapping your presents, go for that nostalgic feel by using recycled brown parcel paper tied in jute twine, natural string, or cloth ribbon. If you’re feeling extra artsy, you can draw some festive designs on the brown paper to make it even more beautiful. Alternatively, you could wrap your gifts in newspaper, old maps, magazine or comic book pages, or even upcycled textile fabrics from old clothes.

2. Shop small to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging

Most of the time when you buy from large retailers the plastic packaging is unavoidable. Instead, look to local artisans and small businesses to find one-of-a-kind gifts that are plastic free! For example, buy a painting from a local artist, a piece of pottery from a ceramicist, or a necklace from a local jeweler.

3. Gift items that will help them say no to single-use plastics

Give a reusable bottle, travel mug, or pack of stainless steel straws that will encourage your giftee to #BreakFreeFromPlastic. It’s possible to find these in plastic-free packaging, and you get bonus points if you buy it from a local small business as we mentioned above!

4. Buy and gift pre-loved items

According to thredup, if everyone bought just one gift secondhand, we could save 188 billion gallons of water, which is enough water to supply the entire state of Texas for two months! It can also save 2.2 billion pounds of CO2, which is equivalent to taking 216,000 cars off the road every year. Buying secondhand items offsets the production of new textiles and materials, which requires a lot of water and creates a huge amount of CO2.

You can cut down on emissions and conserve resources by shopping for and gifting pre-loved items! Find a unique, vintage gift that is built to last for your special someone at a local secondhand store. Maybe an original vinyl record for the music lover in your life, or an antique novel for your favorite bookworm.

5. Gift experiences and memories

Studies have shown experiences yield more happiness over material objects, so give your loved one a gift they’ll never forget, like surfing lessons, cooking classes, a membership to a local museum, or tickets to see their favorite band in concert. The possibilities are endless! And don’t forget, your presence is a present, and quality time with your loved ones can be the most wonderful gift. Take some time to go on a hike together, sit around the fire and share stories, or have a board game night as a family!

6. Get creative and make something!

Who doesn’t love a handmade gift? You can make anything from candles and soaps to baked goods made with lots of love. If you’re a plant person, propagate some beautiful houseplants or succulents of yours and give them as gifts! Or you can keep it simple and make a sentimental card from scratch and write a nice letter to your loved one inside.

7. Donate to your giftee’s favorite cause

Make a difference on their behalf by making a donation to an organization they love, like Greenpeace! You may want to consider asking in advance, even though it spoils the surprise, but it could be the perfect gift for the person who has everything. Donating could also be a great option to combine with another gift, maybe pair it with that vinyl record or antique book you bought from the secondhand store.

And remember — individual actions are a great place to start, but we shouldn’t stop there! Join our petition to hold corporations accountable for the plastic pollution crisis.

Kaitlin Grable

By Kaitlin Grable

Kaitlin Grable (she/they) is an Online Content Specialist at Greenpeace USA. She is currently based out of Durham, North Carolina on Eno and Occaneechi territory.

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