After a punishing pandemic, things seem to be looking up at the end of the year. If the third wave does not hit us severely, the Christmas-New Year is likely to be a season to celebrate. Traditionally too the year-end has always been a time to communicate with friends and relatives, spread good cheer, exchange gifts and herald in hope for the coming year.
Shopping for appropriate gifts becomes a December preoccupation. And if you are committed to living in the green zone then sustainable gifting is an essential component of the obligation. So, in this issue I bring to you a plethora of green gifting ideas that can be presented without an iota of feeling guilty about polluting the planet.
Environment-friendly gifting means minimising the use of resources and being open to gifts that have gone through the process of recycling or upcycling. And the choice does not stop with just the gift, its wrapping too needs to be a non-degradable option.
Let’s start with the gifts. Though my personal choice for a gift — be it an adult or a child — is a book, many may not feel the same. Today there are umpteen green gifts that come from natural resources and are chemical and plastic-free. Take terracotta, bamboo, glass and metal. All these materials are turned into beautiful bowls, mugs, vases, hooks and hangers, chimes, bookends, coasters, planters… the list is endless. So, to make your choices easier I checked out a few online sites that offer gifts for a zero-waste lifestyle.
Brown Living calls itself “India’s first plastic-free marketplace” and offers “specially curated” gifts after evaluating their environmental impact. They have vegan and sustainable categories to choose from, package and ship them plastic-free and “plant trees from the profit to ensure the orders are carbon neutral as well.”
Then there is Loopify which offers innovative gifts that are made from upcycled, recycled and biodegradable products. Their bamboo range includes desk organisers, planters, straws, toothpicks, cutlery, coasters, toothbrushes, beer mugs, salad bowls… the works. Their products from upcycled cork include coasters, wallets, passport sleeves, even yoga mats. Similarly, they offer gifting ideas in glass and metal, making you feel totally spoilt for choice.
Green Feels is another online store that offers gifts in the stationery, clothing, accessories segments and specific products for the kitchen, bathroom, and the home in general. You could also go in for plants. Many people love being gifted a plant, the succulent variety are especially popular as they can be kept indoors and do not need as much care as other plants. Hanging pots are also appreciated and these can be bought from neighbourhood gardening shops, which will take you one step further into encouraging a micro entrepreneur. This time during Diwali an enterprising youngster made candles from throwaway coconut shells. She scooped the coconut out neatly and filled the shell with wax, making it a perfect eco-friendly gift for her parents.
These days shopping online for plants is also a rage and there are many eco stores on the worldwide web that you can order from. But the point I am trying to make is that there is no dearth of options that will help you to stay away from non-biodegradable material. That is if you are serious about making a small, but important, contribution to saving the planet.
It is the same with packing gifts as well. I remember a friend who would always bring my son’s birthday gift tied with string and packed in newspaper which her daughter had coloured with crayons. She managed to do three things — inculcate a sense of recycling in the children, keep her little one busy with a creative activity, and not buy that shiny wrapping paper which almost always has a plastic coating that is not noticeable to the naked eye.
Apart from using paper or cardboard that is hundred per cent recyclable for packing a gift, there are other green packing alternatives as well. If the gift needs a hard material for packaging, you could reuse a tin or use metal or aluminium — both are recyclable products.
Glass too is a recyclable product and can be used freely for personal gifting. It makes perfect sense to reuse a handsome glass bottle and fill it with homemade pickle, jam or chocolate fudge. Or show your love and concern by stuffing it with super healthy sunflower and melon seeds.
Cloth and jute too are great alternatives for packing. The neighbourhood tailor can turn leftover or discarded material into the most attractive gifting bags. Once a year when you clean out your cupboard, pile up unwanted material or clothes and simply use your imagination to turn them into bags of all shapes and sizes. They make nice money-gifting envelopes as well.
The idea is to be innovative and committed to eco-friendly gifting. Sustainable gifting has another dimension as well. Apart from minimising the use of resources, using natural, biodegradable, recycled, upcycled materials, it means paying attention to those who live on the planet. This necessarily means giving back to the world, supporting local artisans, believing in an equitable distribution of resources, paying all workers fairly, and making the most positive impact on planet earth.
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues