The festive period is marked by excess: food, drink, cheer, and unfortunately, waste. It’s not new—we’ve known for a while that people produce on average 30% more waste during the festive period—but the growing awareness surrounding sustainability does mean it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and conscious in how we gift this Christmas. We chat with BYDEAU Founder Jennifer Margolin about sustainable presents, and how to gift more consciously this Christmas.
Find out what they love
Each year, unwanted gifts end up in the landfill—the UK alone throws out more than US$53.8 million worth. The easiest way to gift sustainably is to make sure there’s no waste at all—which means getting your recipient something they’ll keep and use. “The key to thoughtful gifting is knowing your recipient well, and what they like and enjoy. Do your homework: find out what they love and think of something that incorporates that,” says Jennifer.
“For example, if they love cooking then maybe a gorgeous Japanese knife that they wouldn’t splurge on for themselves. It doesn’t need to be extravagant but knowing that you put the time and effort into gifting them something that they would appreciate goes a long way.”
Minimise your wrapping
The USA reportedly spend US$7 billion each year on wrapping paper, while the UK throws away 227,000 miles of gift wrap each year—it might look pretty, but this single-use paper product is often not recyclable and usually ends up in the landfill, not to mention the trees that it took to make. So how can you give gifts without the wrapping? “Most of our gifts come boxed in reusable wooden keepsake boxes,” says Jennifer. “At BYDEAU, we’re always looking for new ways to minimise packaging waste: we often use recyclable paper, or linen to wrap flowers which can be reused.”
“Additionally, reuse ribbon you receive on other gifts or purchases you make—you’ll be surprised how fast this will add up. Another simple and often beautiful wrap is a brown paper bag. This is a great base to decorate using stamps, stickers, washi tape, ribbon, dried flowers or small accessories tied in.”
Think outside the box
And on the topic of wrapping… what if the ‘wrapping’ was part of the gift? “If you’re gifting beauty products place in a cute cosmetic bag and wrap the outside with ribbon instead of using gift wrapping paper,” suggests Jennifer. “You can gift wine in a reusable wine cooler bag with a beautiful bow.” This adds an extra element to the gift as well as being functional and sustainable.
Material gifts are all well and good when it’s something you need or have been coveting for a while, but experiences are truly irreplaceable and can have a profound effect on the giftee’s life. “Experiences are a great way to give more but less at the same time. People will remember spending time together and having that special experience more times than an item,” says Jennifer. “Knowing your recipient and what they like helps to make sure you are gifting something which can have a big impact: if your friend is a budding chef maybe buy them cooking classes, or organise a flower workshops for your girlfriends to spend time together and catch up, or perhaps book a trip somewhere with family or a partner to relax and unwind.” And let’s be honest—who doesn’t want a spa day?
Gift cards don’t have to be thoughtless
People shy away from gift-cards because they’re often portrayed as the last-minute, last-resort gift of people who don’t know what to get you—but they don’t have to be. “Offering your recipient their gift of choice can be good if you know they like the store but not sure what to gift them,” says Jennifer. Especially when it comes to matters of personal taste, like fashion or homeware, this is the best way to ensure the gift is actually right for the person. Subscriptions can also work in a similar way, whether it’s for monthly bouquets or food hampers.
A handwritten note goes a long way
Being conscious in your gifting isn’t just about the environmental impact, but the emotional one it has on your recipient. No matter what you’re gifting, in what packaging, you can make it special with a little personal touch. “At BYDEAU, we’re all about the extra personal touches—ribbon, messages, notes. There really is nothing like a handwritten gift message,” notes Jennifer. “You can use card made from recycled paper. Alternatively, write directly on the gift, if you are using gift wrap or paper. For Christmas parties, you can have personalised ornaments/nameplates made to use as name tags which double as gifts.”
Do your research
If you want to really be conscious this Christmas, you have to know what you’re buying, and be accountable for it. “Shopping online has changed the way we gift,” says Jennifer. “We now have the opportunity to review items before we buy them—so we can research and compare products, company ethos, delivery methods, and so on. You can search for eco-friendly options before making a purchase, which can be done quickly and all online.” With so many options, it’s important to make sure you know you’re looking for before you begin to shop.