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A Few Ways to Gift More Responsibly

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You've got the gift — what's next? Here are nine tips to make the accessories (batteries!), wrapping (paper!), and delivery (gas!) easier on the environment and your wallet.
UPDATED: 12/01/11 | Originally Published: 11/29/10

‘Tis the season for giving! Are you ready to make it a season of green giving? From food, to clothing, to electronics, finding the perfect gift for the loved ones on your list might actually be the easy part. You might already be well-acquainted with the search for reusable, refurbished, recycled, and recyclable items that range from local to organic to homemade to sustainable — the next challenge is keeping up the environmentally-friendly approach, and keeping your after-purchase gift prep green, too.

Check out this list of tips and ideas to ensure that your gifts are beautiful and eco-friendly, from the accessories included to the wrapping and the shipping, too.

Make gifts out-of-the-box ready.

Nothing's more disappointing than receiving a gift that you can't enjoy right away — make sure your gifts are ready to go by accompanying them with all the right (and eco-friendly) accessories:

  1. If a gift is battery-operated, include rechargeable batteries (and maybe even a battery charger).
  2. For gifts like stationery (or coloring books for children), include refillable pens, recycled pencils, or crayons and markers. For children's gifts you know won't be returned, consider un-boxing and assembling the gift ahead of time. That way, the toy can be used right away, and you can be sure that all that cardboard and plastic in which it was packaged is recycled.
  3. Everything benefits from a personal touch; consider adding homemade elements to any gift. You could make, design, and print your favorite recipes to go with kitchen supplies; a map of local or vintage suppliers to go with clothing; or a calendar of seasonal produce to go with food gifts. Electronics are especially easy and fun to personalize: If you are giving someone an e-reader, consider preloading it with some favorite books; if you're giving someone a digital photo-frame, load it with some great pictures and memories before you gift it. The same idea easily applies to mp3 players and music.

  4. Wrap right.

    Even the way you wrap and present your gift can be eco-friendly. Consider one or more of these options:

  5. Look for gift wrap that contains some recycled content (we even found 100% recycled gift wrap, which has seeds imbedded within, so that it can be planted!).
  6. Try wrapping and packaging gifts in materials found around the house — newspaper or comic pages or brown paper bags cut up and decorated with stamps or markers.
  7. Take homemade a step further by packaging the gifts in gift bags sewn from scraps of fabric or old scarves, or create cards embellished with images cut out from calendars, magazines, or other cards.

  8. Ship smart.

    For those on your gift list who live outside your house, be savvy about how you ship and deliver their gifts. To see to it that your packing methods are a bit earth-friendlier, try following these steps:

  9. Pack gifts in recycled and recyclable boxes.
  10. Be eco-responsible about the packing materials within the box — biodegradable packing peanuts are one option, or you could use crumpled newspapers or wadded-up plastic grocery bags.
  11. Plan ahead to take advantage of low ground-transportation rates, or to figure out the best path to deliver gifts yourself (if you're local, of course) — one trip, well-planned, could save energy, gas, money, and time.

Just like the gifts, the key to greening the after-purchase gift prep is to think about longevity: While you probably try to give gifts that will be useful to the recipient and be meaningful to their everyday life, it's also possible to give those gifts with the same consideration to the environment.

How do you stay organized and eco-friendly while gift giving? Share your ideas and personal checklists in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Holly K. 5 years ago
    Very helpful!
  • Jennifer H. 5 years ago
    I like the idea of un boxing! I would then recycle, but many would toss it in the trash!
  • Meg F. 5 years ago
    As I have come to want/need less 'stuff' and appreciate good times over material possessions, I assume that others may feel the same. So I've been giving pairs of tickets to movies, plays, musical productions, speakers, etc. All ordering/payment is done on line. Tickets are held at will-call. There is no wrapping or shipping involved which minimizes carbon footprint and eliminates lost mail, misplaced tickets, theft, late delivery, additional time and expense. It does require careful planning well in advance to ensure the recipient is available. However, I've found it also ensures the best seats! It will be the first date saved in the New Year!
  • Elise D. 5 years ago
    We only use scarves or reuse gift bags to "wrap" Christmas gifts in our house. We haven't purchased holiday wrapping paper in years. Even when it's not Christmas, we recycle shipping boxes, bubble-wrap envelopes and packing peanuts. When our inventory of peanuts gets too big, we Freecycle them to others in the community.
  • Donna R. 5 years ago
    I use marshnallows for cuision when shipping gifts.
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