Sustainable Gift Giving
It’s that time again - and with that I wanted to talk a little bit about sustainable gift giving, what that means, and how we participate in helping the world be a better place. Sustainability has become a buzzword and easily overlooked as more and more companies are using it, but not necessarily showing it.
What is sustainability to us?
We like to look at sustainability as any means necessary to positively impact the planet. This means the process of how something is created from beginning to end, the life cycle of a product. We look at how much we buy as a business vs the turnover (never buying more than we need), we look at where it's coming from; co-ops second hand, things that will ultimately be trashed in hopes of giving it a second life. We also look at how it will be used and how it will be disposed of.
How Blu Radical Apothecary is Sustainable
We look at how we can constantly make our products more eco-friendly, high-quality, long-lasting, and reusable. We want the experience to be seamless and exciting for the consumer in knowing exactly what they are getting. No fluff. We look to seek a lower impact of all our products. For example, though we use plastic it is post consumer recycled PET (recycled water bottles) and we encourage recycling and/or reusing all these products packaging. Anything can be re-mailed to us and we will dispose of it for you as well.
How The Gifting Industry Affects Our Planet
The retail industry is the gifting industry. This year alone consumers are projected to pay $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion on the holiday. We are all guilty of last minute gifting by rushing to amazon and target with added expedited shipping and extra shipping materials, the carbon footprints of our gifts quickly rise. Once the gift arrives (in all the plastic wrap) that might be terrible for the planet, but is normalized, we are now left to wrap it.
Did you know: Wrapping paper alone dominates the gifting industry? Excessive prints and sparkly cellophane is detrimental to our planet’s health. Majority of gift wrap is not recyclable because it is too thin, too laminated, too saturated, or too sparkly. Earth911 estimates that approximately 5 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that about 2.3 million pounds ends its life in landfills. They also have information on where and how to recycle all your packaging from the holiday. Be sure to check it out.
Now let’s talk about holiday cards…1.6 billion plus cards are produced each year. Many of these cards contained polyvinyl chloride, a plastic that contains pollutants that are harmful to the environment and are slow to decompose. While spreading holiday cheer via snail mail is still a common thing to do (believe me I love it), I think the more important thing is where these cards end up at the end of their cycle. Do you instantly trash them? Do they have a special place in your stash? Do you reuse them every year as decor? If you don’t want holiday cards, consider asking the people you know will send them to just email you one this year - or opt for a way to just let them know the truth about why you don’t want a holiday card this year. They might be bummed, but should respect your wishes.
Small choices we make in gifting can make a much larger impact on the earth.
You might simply ignore everything said and that is completely fine. This is in no way a post to tell you how to do your holiday, just simply stating the facts of what these numbers look like. However, if you are interested in having a more sustainable holiday here are a few ways you can do that.
Ways To Gift Sustainably
Creating a meaningful connection with gift giving is what it's all about. Understand the person you are gifting. Give a gift that someone actually wants and is something that they will use for years to come. An item of quality, not a cheaply made product even if it's marketed as “eco-friendly”. Keep in mind that less can mean more. More gifts does not mean MORE LOVE. There is tremendous power in one thoughtful gift than ten random ones.
Shopping local is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and invest in the community around you. It’s a great way to help the planet on a smaller scale. Find great buys from your farmers markets, craft fairs, and locally made on Etsy.
Pro Tip: Look at the quality of what you are buying. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Will it last? Can it be enjoyed for years to come? How long before it ends up in a landfill? What does the life cycle of this product look like?
Wrap Creatively (and smarter)
We already went over some quality reasons as to why wrapping paper is not the best, so what can you do? Newspaper, brown paper shopping bags, kraft paper, old saved paper, printing paper, and butcher paper. They are all customizable as well. Use paint, pens, markers, crayons, etc. Get creative with it! You can also use old fabric, sheets, clothing, and look into reusable gift bags.
There are a number of digital goods that make amazing gifts. Subject specific online classes, memberships, apps, gift cards, and even holiday greeting cards. Just because you don't physically have it doesn’t make it any less of a gift. Consider cool ways to present your gift if it’s in digital form (eco-friendly of course). Create a shape out of cardboard or put a note in a special thrifted trinket box. There are so many beautiful ways to go about this.
Use your herbalism skills (that hopefully you learned here) and put them to use. Create your gifts! Scrubs, lotions, serums, soap, hair care, tea, you name it - the gift making is endless once you have the knowledge. All my friends know I love handmade gifting. It’s so special, even friends that didn’t think they were capable of learning a new skill have really enjoyed “handmade” holiday. I’m always amazed at how beautiful their creations turn out to be.
Simple yet effective. Thrifting is by far one of the more fun and exciting ways to give a gift. It feels like treasure hunting. Set a spending limit with your friends and run with it.
Support Small Business
Supporting small businesses is a no brainer. Be sure to find out what the small business is about, what they stand for, and if they are as like minded in the way they go about their business. Like local businesses, it's a great way to support this community.
Skip Gifts - Have an Experience
While gifting can be fun, what if you traded it all for an experience instead? Everyone can chip in for a road trip, weekend getaway in the hills, or an exciting encounter. Experiences are one of those core memory building moments. It’s unforgettable and needed. You can play games, have bonfires, tell stories, and enjoy each others company. What's not to love?
The gift of knowledge is something that will be useful for life. With online classes booming there is sure to be a subject worth gifting. Classes like needle work, embroidery, sewing, cooking, painting, weaving, etc. While books are still a great gift to receive, maybe add a related online class to go with it. We offer Herbalism 101 here at Blu Radical Apothecary - you can learn more here. If you or someone in your life that you think would benefit from these teachings be sure to send them our way *heart*.
Sharing a meal is so underrated. People don’t make the time to have a really great meal together these days. No phone, no distractions, just great food. Make a plan to share the fruits of you labor. Everyone bring a dish potluck style and dig in! You can even theme it, all vegan, meat lovers only, cocktail pairing, etc.
Another great cooking gift is to give edibles like pies, jams, jelly, honey, tea cakes, etc. Handmade food is always the best kind of food.
As you can see there are many ways to be a sustainable gift giver. Not all gifts are created equally. Yes we love stuff, but think about all the “stuff” you have gotten over the years and what of them have been really memorable? I can name only a handful of things that I have held onto over the years and most of them aren’t what you’d expect. My most treasured gifts are NOT something I got on Amazon, Target, Walmart, they are gifts with thought, purpose, and meaning.
Pro Tip: Don’t just buy to buy.
Spread The Sustainability Mindset For The Holiday Season
As Kermit the frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” He's not wrong. It's really hard for people to get on the same page when it comes to sustainability because it's not something we are forced to physically see each day. These landfills aren't right in the middle of our towns, schools, and other places of community. So why should we care?
More than 25 percent of solid waste received by facilities in Virginia in 2020 came from out of state, with Maryland and New York leading in sending their waste to Virginia. (Shutterstock)
This isn’t about minimalism, it's about sustainably sourcing and the life cycle of the products we consume. You could have tons of items, but where do they come from… Amazon? What about carefully curated items? Items that no one else has - these are the gems. These are the things that are special, people put their time and love into their craft and instead of us supporting them we buy from the retailers that exploit them.
Support artists, support small, support local, support handmade, support real people.