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How to Find Sustainable Gifts
A Guide for How to Recognise a Sustainable Gift
I don’t mind admitting that I find the word ‘sustainable’ a bit of a minefield. If you search for ‘sustainable gifts’, hundreds of results come up and include terms such as zero-waste, ethical, eco-friendly. So where do you start?
When we talk about sustainable presents, we’re really talking about items that do the least harm. That means making conscious choices not only about the product itself, but also the company you’re buying from.
For example, a t-shirt that is marketed as being made from recycled cotton may sound great, but who made the t-shirt and in what working conditions? How are they packaging and transporting the t-shirt and what is the company doing with the profits?
There is a lot to think about so we’ve broken it down into two parts:
- What a good sustainable gift is
- How to know if a gift is sustainable
What is a good sustainable gift?
A good sustainable present aligns with the values of both you as the buyer and your loved one as the recipient. But there are multiple layers to what makes a product sustainable.
Let’s start with the most obvious one – the materials.
To be eco-friendly, the gift needs to be made from sustainable materials. This might mean the materials are recycled, it also means no toxic ingredients and the less plastic the better. Not all plastics are bad, however, single-use or ‘hidden’ plastics (such as those found in many tea bags) are definitely not sustainable. Read our blog on hidden plastics for more info.
Next up is waste and disposal.
How much packaging is used? How will it be disposed of? Is it compostable and does it have a second life? Great examples of sustainable packaging are those with no marking or branding, meaning it can be re-used for giving gifts to others.
Think about the 3 green R’s: Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle. The longer the gift and its packaging can be kept in use and out of the bin, the better for the planet!
Zero-waste is ideal but if there is waste, try to make sure it’s compostable.
Note: be cautious about items labelled biodegradable. Biodegradable simply means that the product will break down - whether that’s over a month or a century! So look at the actual material. The closer it is to a natural product, the more easily it will be reabsorbed by nature.
Last but not least is ethical production.
Ethical production takes into account the entire supply chain of a product. Ethical gifts are produced using cruelty-free methods (taking into account both animals and humans) and are made in a way that treats people throughout the entire lifecycle fairly.
How to know if a gift is sustainable?
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of ‘greenwashing’ that occurs, not just in retail but across the board. However, companies are generally getting much better at demonstrating how and where they are doing good and those who take it seriously aren’t too hard to spot.
Many companies use eco-labels such as Vegan or Fairtrade which are a great way to see what sustainability measures they’re meeting. The certifications are given by impartial organisations so you can be pretty sure they’re genuine. Read more about eco-labels here.
And as a general rule, smaller companies tend to be a lot more transparent than larger businesses. If their product is green you will easily be able to see where it came from and what it is made out of without much effort. Buying gifts from smaller businesses is also a great way of boosting the local economy (and we’re not just saying that because we are one!).
Here at LB4P we work with UK based independent brands and we are very particular! All of the brands having the same ethos as us is something we take seriously, so you can be sure that a gift bought from us is sustainable.
Shopping for sustainable gifts can feel a bit daunting but trying to keep these pointers in mind will certainly help. Choosing natural products with minimal packaging that have second, third or fourth lives is a great start.
Smaller, local businesses tend to be more transparent and tend to support other local companies. This not only reduces the footprint but also tends to mean their products are produced ethically.
And remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing what you can!