Gifts; a Minimalistic and Anti-Plastic Perspective

Photograph by Camille Seaman

Photograph by Camille Seaman

Giving and receiving gifts is a wonderful and kind thing to do.

It shows you care about someone since you spent time and money getting the gift for them. It's also fun; the surprise of receiving something, the excitement and anticipation when ripping the wrapping off. But... it's also wasteful. The wrapping is used, ripped, and tossed. And the gifts themselves are often boxed in plastic or made of plastic. Further still, out of ten, how often is a gift useless or unnecessary or unsuited to you? 

As a minimalist and an individual who is trying to be plastic-free, gift giving and receiving is tricky. I know others must be similarly struggling, so I've compiled a few suggestions on how best to refuse gifts, accept gifts, and to gift others. 

Refusing Gifts

If your birthday, holiday or any milestone event is coming up, let those around you know what your opinion on gift receiving is. You can flat out say that you don't want any presents, or that you only want plastic-free presents, or that you'd just like them to skip the wrapping. What ever it is, let people know! It's also smart to provide a specific list of things you would appreciate to those who feel obligated to give you a gift, no matter what you say to them. This could be anything you've been wanting, such as a plant, necklace, or specific product. This is a great compromise because they still get to give and you'll receive something you'll actually use. 

Accepting Gifts

Sometimes you'll get a surprise gift from someone who doesn't know your wishes. It's important to be thankful. If you can, tell them that in the future you'd prefer gifts, for example, without plastic, but that you're very happy with the gift they just gave you nonetheless.

If the gift is something you won't use, give it to a friend who will appreciate it. If you can't think of anyone to give it to, don't feel bad about donating it. It's not worth holding on to something that doesn't give you joy when it could very well be making someone else happy. 

Giving gifts

As an eco-conscience person, you may feel worried about giving gifts. It's important to tell your values to those you are gifting. Because I am honest, my friends don't mind when I give them gifts without wrapping. If this makes you feel uncomfortable or is inappropriate for a certain event, reuse wrapping you have lying around the house. This could be a bag you received with a present or some newspaper for wrapping paper. 

For the gift itself, I like to give my friends one of my possessions that I think they'd appreciate more than me. At first, I was afraid this was tacky and cheap, but later learned from them that they appreciate it because it's as if I'm giving them a piece of myself. Another gift giving option is to find something that has minimal packaging or that isn't packaged in plastic. This could be as simple as a nice bottle of wine or a few nice package-free soaps.