In this post, I’ll share how you can turn almost any gift into an eco friendly gift by keeping just a few tips in mind – and without driving yourself crazy! 🙂
There are probably more than 10 occasions during the year when you give gifts, right? With that much gift giving going on it’s a great chance to go a little green.
It’s also a great way to exercise your muscle as a consumer to let companies know you care about the environment and will support them if they do too!
What Is It Made Of?
One of the first things I consider when I’m picking out a gift (or actually anything!) is to think about the big picture and try to determine what the item is made of.
Once I know what an item is made of I take another step back and think about what natural resources are used to create that material. That gives me some clues about the impact that it has on the planet.
**Let me just insert here – I know this sounds like A LOT of brain power and that I’m taking this whole thing a bit too far! Luckily, this thought process is now pretty automatic for me so it’s easy! It’s like I put on a pair of green glasses so I view the world from a different perspective!**
Back to what the item is made of…
Is it made of plastic? If so, consider the fact that plastic is made from natural resources like coal, natural gas, and crude oil which are all non-renewable resources – and can have a negative impact on the planet.
Is it made of cotton? If so, is it farmed in a way that protects the environment and those who live in the culture where it’s produced?
Are the ingredients used to create the item harmful in any way? Does the product contain any chemicals? Could those chemicals be toxic to people or the environment?
Thinking about the bigger picture and considering what an item is made of can be a bit tricky at first and something you have to get used to but you’ll get the hang of it. I promise!
Once you start to consider what products are made of you’ll find yourself automatically purchasing products that support the environment instead of hurting it. And that starts to send a message loud and clear to manufacturers!
What Are the Company’s Values?
Another quick way to turn a gift into an eco friendly gift is to consider the company that makes the item.
Does the company mission include being a steward for the environment?
Does the company or manufacturer consider how producing the product takes a toll on the earth’s resources?
Do they ensure that their manufacturing process reduces its impact on the planet? Do they dispose of any manufacturing waste in a responsible way?
Do they support the community and workers in an ethical way? Are they serving an underprivileged group in a positive way?
Knowing a little bit about a company and their mindset when it comes to the environment is a great way to make purchasing decisions. And, it’s usually pretty easy to get the scoop by checking out a company’s website.
Many companies use their environmental efforts as a marketing tool – and I’m okay with that – as long as they are genuinely practicing what they say they are.
Being able to search online for gifts makes it so easy to check out all of your options – good and bad. You can usually find out pretty quickly about a company’s values in their About section of their website.
If they share info about their best practices it’s a good sign. If they don’t mention anything about it – it’s more than likely that they don’t have anything good to share. 🙁
How It Will Be Disposed Of?
Not only is it important to think about what natural resources are used to create a product but you should also consider how the product can/will be disposed of once the gift recipient is done with it.
Can it likely be donated and reused in some way?
Can all or part of it be recycled? If it can be recycled, how likely or easily can it be recycled?
Often, an item that CAN be recycled isn’t very easy to recycle. Either it’s an odd item that has to be taken somewhere special to be recycled (i.e. electronics) or it is made of a resource that there just isn’t a recycling market for.
So don’t just think about the gift recipient and how they will use (and love!) your gift but also what might happen to it when they are done enjoying it!
Is It Available Locally?
One of the easiest ways to turn a gift into an eco friendly gift is to find a version of it that is locally produced or sourced.
The resources used to transport items are a big deal! Think about the amount of fuel needed to ship an item to you from across the country – or around the globe!
What if, you could find a similar item that is produced locally that traveled a much shorter distance instead?
Shopping locally means you’re likely to find items that are much more unique versus the mass-produced items you find at the mall. Plus the resources used the get the item to you will be greatly reduced!
What About Gift Cards?
I get it, you can’t always come up with the perfect gift and it’s easier to just give a gift card. That way the recipient can get exactly what they want. Believe me, I know! I have two teenage daughters!! :-0
Obviously, with a gift card, you can’t control whether or not an eco friendly gift is purchased but you can give gift cards from companies that value sustainability and environmental stewardship, right?
And, gift cards CAN be recycled! Maybe you can include a little note with the gift card about where to recycle it after it’s zeroed out?
Plastic gift cards can be recycled through the Earthworks mail-in program which I realize is a little extra work BUT c’mon! So easy!!
Put These Tips To Work
You may be thinking that these tips sound good in theory but how do you really put them to work?
You don’t have to abandon your original idea especially if it’s something you really want to give and know the recipient would really love, want or need!
Once you have a gift idea in mind, take a bit of time to check out some other versions of it that may be more eco friendly.
I love to search for an item online and add in “eco friendly” or “sustainable” or another similar term to see what comes up.
To get your brain going in this direction here are a few examples for you:
If you’re searching for a special piece of jewelry for Mother’s Day, graduation or an anniversary, see if you can find a local artisan or craft show instead.
Instead of books or magazine subscriptions, give an online subscription instead. This cuts down on the amount of paper produced and the need to create books and/or magazines. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not banning books!! Just throwing out options to consider to cut down on using resources!)
Along the same lines, instead of giving a plastic gift card, send an electronic version instead. If you really like giving a tangible item, give a print-at-home gift card instead that can be printed on recycled paper and recycled after it’s used.
Turn your paper greeting card into a personalized, video instead. Cuts down on paper waste and the recipient can watch it over and over!
Flowers are a lovely gift to give (and receive!) but they can be sourced from far away places and not farmed using sustainable practices. Instead, find a nursery or florist that sources it’s flowers locally to cut down on the resources used to transport and support local businesses.
When you’re giving practical gifts like housewares, be sure to look for items that will really last. This will reduce the need to get rid of it quickly and increase the odds that it can be reused – keeping it out of the landfill. Maybe your new grad needs a set of pots and pans to get their new kitchen stocked. Opt for materials like cast iron or stainless steel.
Or if your college freshman needs new bedding, opt for organic cotton instead of man-made materials that could contain harmful toxins (yes! bedding can contain toxins!). In addition, organic cotton is produced using sustainable farming methods that are better for the environment.
Check out this great post from blogger Micaela at Mindful Momma,
“Favorite Natural & Organic Bedding for Sweet Ecof-Friendly Dreams”
If clothing is on your list try searching for companies that use only sustainably farmed cotton to make their clothing or that ships their items in recyclable packaging.
If you’re in need of more inspiration or are shopping for a specific occasion, check out my other posts about eco friendly gift giving:
“A Green Take on Gift Ideas for Dad”
“Easy Ways to “Green” Traditional Mother’s Day Gifts”
“Lovely Local Flowers Are Greener!”
“Easy Eco-Friendly Twists On Traditional Valentine’s Day Gifts”
“Eco-Friendly Ways to Wrap It Up!”
Ready to Give An Eco Friendly Gift?
I could go on and on with gift examples and how to make them eco friendly but I’m hoping you’re starting to get the idea!
I know it will take time to get used to switching your perspective and how you look at products but I also know that once you start – you can’t stop!
It’s like a new habit! You train your brain to look at products differently and then you’re off!
What’s your next occasion to give a gift?
I know you’ll feel good about ANY changes you make! 🙂