Ethical gifting guide: 9 ways to delight your loved ones and help the planet

Mother’s Day is fast approaching in the UK and in a world where consumerism often reigns supreme, ethical gifting is more important than ever.

One report back in 2020 estimated that £1 billion worth of gifts brought in the UK at Christmas time alone go unused out of the £4.5 billion spent on presents each Yuletide. In 2023, that figure had risen to £1.2 billion! It’s estimated that around £42 million worth of Christmas gifts each year go straight into UK landfills without being regifted.

This represents a vast amount of economic and physical waste, and these figures don’t even include other gift-giving occasions or similar stats from other countries around the globe!

At Shop Zero, we’re committed to promoting sustainability and cutting waste through our waste hierarchy: Refuse/rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Relove, Regift, Rot, Repair, and Recycle.

In this guide, we’ll explore how you can apply this hierarchy to your gift-giving practices. Ethical gifting means you can treat the special people in your life while knowing that you’re doing your bit for the planet.

1. Refuse/Rethink

Start by challenging the notion of gifting as obligatory. Consider if the recipient truly needs or wants another item. Instead, you could opt for experiences or homemade gifts that create memories rather than clutter.

  • Gift experiences: Treat your loved ones to a cooking class, concert tickets, a night at the theatre, or a weekend getaway. These gifts not only reduce waste but also foster meaningful connections.
  • DIY gifts: Get crafty and make personalised gifts like candles, soaps, or knitted scarves. Your effort and thoughtfulness will shine through, making the gift even more special. You could even create bespoke coupons volunteering to babysit/pet sit/cook/help in the garden, etc – whatever would make a difference to the recipient.

2. Reduce

Choose gifts that minimise environmental impact by selecting items with minimal packaging or those made from sustainable materials. This is something that we can help with a Shop Zero – we have a variety of eco-gifting or ethical gifting products, all of which have been sourced from ethical suppliers.

Product image fro eco-friendly gift section

3. Reuse

Embrace the beauty of pre-loved items and give them a new lease on life as an ethical gifting choice for your loved ones.

  • Vintage treasures: Browse thrift stores or online marketplaces for unique vintage finds like vinyl records, retro clothing, or antique jewellery.
  • Upcycled gifts: Support local artisans who transform discarded materials into one-of-a-kind creations. From reclaimed wood furniture to repurposed glassware, upcycled gifts are both sustainable and stylish.

4. Refill

Encourage a zero-waste lifestyle by gifting items that can be refilled or replenished.

  • Zero-waste starter kits: Introduce your friends and family to sustainable living with zero-waste starter kits containing essentials like bamboo toothbrushes, reusable cotton pads, and refillable skincare products.
  • Refillable containers: Invest in refillable containers for everyday items like laundry detergent, hand soap, or spices. Not only do they reduce packaging waste, but they also save money in the long run. Depending on the material the containers are made from, you could decorate them with a unique design that reflects the recipient for a truly personal touch.

5. Relove

Share the love by passing on items you no longer need but still hold value.

  • Hand-me-downs: Gift heirlooms or sentimental items that hold special memories. Whether it’s a family recipe book or a cherished piece of jewellery, passing down these treasures fosters connection and nostalgia.
  • Swap parties: Host a gift exchange or clothing swap party where guests can trade items they no longer use. It’s a fun way to refresh your wardrobe or home decor while reducing waste.

6. Regift

Give new life to unwanted gifts by passing them on to someone who will appreciate them.

  • Regifting etiquette: Be mindful of regifting etiquette by ensuring the item is in good condition and suitable for the recipient. Include a heartfelt note explaining why you thought of them for this particular gift.
  • White Elephant Exchange: Get friends and family or even work colleagues to embrace the joy of giving and receiving unexpected gifts with a white elephant exchange (the link will take you to the rules). It’s a playful way to recycle items and add an element of surprise to gift-giving occasions.

7. Rot

Support sustainable practices by choosing gifts that are biodegradable or compostable.

  • Living gifts: Give the gift of greenery with potted plants or seedling kits. Not only do they add beauty to any space, but they also help purify the air and promote a sense of wellbeing. Organisations such as The National Trust or Gift a Tree run schemes where you can gift a tree to be planted on behalf of the person you’re gifting.
  • Compostable goods: Opt for eco-friendly alternatives like bamboo toothbrushes, beeswax food wraps, or compostable phone cases. These items break down naturally, minimising environmental impact.
adult bamboo toothbrush
Zero Waste Club Bamboo Toothbrush in Leaf Green

8. Repair

Encourage sustainability by choosing durable gifts that can be repaired or maintained over time.

  • Quality over quantity: For ethical gifting, invest in high-quality items that are built to last, such as handcrafted textile goods, heirloom-quality kitchenware, or artisanal ceramics.
  • DIY repair kits: Equip your loved ones with the tools and knowledge to repair their belongings with DIY repair kits for clothing, electronics, or furniture. Not only does it extend the lifespan of items, but it also empowers individuals to become more self-sufficient.

9. Recycle

People often think of recycling as the first thing we can do to live more sustainably whereas it tends to be the last option in the waste hierarchy. You can close the loop by choosing gifts made from recycled materials or supporting companies with robust recycling programmes.

  • Recycled goods: Look for gifts made from recycled materials such as reclaimed wood furniture, recycled glassware, or upcycled textiles. These items not only reduce waste but also showcase creativity and innovation.
  • Support sustainable brands: Choose gifts from companies committed to sustainability and ethical production practices. Research their recycling initiatives and commitment to minimising environmental impact before making a purchase. Before we sell a product at Shop Zero, we meticulously research the ethical credentials of a product and their supplier to ensure that there’s no greenwashing going on and that the brand is truly sustainable.

You can make a difference by ethical gifting!

By embracing Shop Zero’s waste hierarchy, you can elevate your gift-giving experience while minimising your environmental footprint. Whether it’s refusing unnecessary items, reusing pre-loved treasures, or supporting sustainable brands, every conscious ethical gifting choice makes a difference.

Let’s make ethical gifting the new norm and spread joy without compromising our planet’s health. Happy gifting!

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