Why do we need to think about sustainable gifting
The culture of gifting and presenting it in the most attractive way has been going on for many years now. The word ‘gift’ just makes everyone so excited and thrilled. It is the most tangible way of how we humans express our love and happiness to our loved ones.
For the perfect occasion, items like flowers, cakes, chocolates, cosmetics, handicrafts, dry fruits, fancy bags, greeting cards are simply great. Traditional minded people go in for more conventional sweetmeats and mithais instead. Few of them do not like to follow the traditional norm and go in for alternative gifts like those made from recycled materials.
But have you ever given a thought about what happens to all the gifts boxes and wrappers after they are unpacked? Did you ever realize that all those fancy gifts that we buy, the wrapping papers and the gift presentation that we put so much effort into is actually harming our environment and posing distress for the coming generation?
Through this blog we dive into a brief history of how the gifting culture in India began, why the current gifting options available are harming the environment, what can be done to prevent this at an individual level and of course some sustainable gift ideas curated by us to help you make better choices.
Gifting culture in India; how it all began & still continues
India's innumerable festivals, traditions and diverse cultures form the perfect occasion for mutually exchanging gifts.
Earlier known as ‘dāna’, gifting culture in India has always been profound. In religious texts, ‘dāna’ was considered essential- a great responsibility as a practice of dharma.
Soon royal gifting was accorded immense importance and had become a part of rājadharma. Later, it continued as a living belief and was practiced in ancient and medieval periods by Hindu kings, and then handed down to us. Not much has changed in today’s day and age. The act of gifting continues its legacy by being a gesture that creates bonds and establishes relationships of love and care.
Exchanging gifts today is not limited to social events alone. It is also popular among corporates and business circles to promote the company and increase brand awareness.
But since the industrial revolution and increase in consumerism most gift items made today, have synthetic and harmful materials like plastic in it. Plastic is the most popular choice when it comes to making a gift item because the material in itself is light in weight, a little cheaper, shiny and easy to mold in any shape. This is why even the customers opt for such gifts as it’s attractive to look at, comes with various options and quite easy on their pockets. Then comes the plastic wrappers and decorative materials that are used to wrap the gift and make it look attractive to the receiver, they are not only made of plastic but are also single use, simply thrown away once the gift is unwrapped. Even most of the so called paper gift wrappers come with an additional plastic coating on the inside, often not visible to the naked eye.
Plastic damage on the environment
Since 1950, about 6.3 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced worldwide out of which only 9 per cent has been recycled. The increase in human population and consistent demand for plastics and plastic products are responsible for continuous increase in the production of plastics, generation of plastic waste and its accompanied environmental pollution.
In many instances, packaging plastics are disposed off after usage, however, because of their durability, such plastics are located everywhere and persistent in the environment. At the end-of-life these plastics are usually land-filled together with municipal solid waste or simply dumped in the ocean. Plastic can stay as it is for 1000 of years without degrading at all thus increasing plastic pollution and leaving lesser space for biodiversity to flourish.
What exactly is sustainable gifting; lets know the definition
Sustainable gifting aims to minimize the use of resources, use natural, biodegradable & reusable materials, upcycle materials that have already been used and still exist somewhere on our planet, support artisans, pay all workers fairly and give back to the society in a positive manner.
Sustainable gifts help one reduce waste and embrace an Earth-friendly lifestyle. They can also help you make a strong statement about your values and beliefs.
‘The global gift-wrapping products market size was valued at USD 15.1 billion in 2018’
Gifting creates millions of tons of waste and is claimed that half of it ends up in landfills. Paper with coatings, glitter, foil, bows, etc. is generally not recyclable. While these numbers do not change the fact that we have somehow collectively accepted the idea that a gift is not truly thoughtful unless it’s literally hidden inside something shiny and we believe it is time to consider cutting it out.
Instead of reaching for another plastic pen or gift basket emblazoned with your company colors, try looking for alternative gifting solutions that create minimum impact on our planet, reduce waste and become more environmentally responsible.
There are also sustainable alternatives like secondhand gifting which are perfect for unique and smart gifts. Secondhand stores are full of affordable and one-of-a-kind homewares, electronics, children’s toys, shoes, and clothing. Not only are these gifts cost-effective, but they’re also sustainable alternatives to buying new things. Best places to find secondhand gifts are Antique shops, Online, Flea Market. But if you do wish to buy new always choose eco-friendly alternatives over a regular plastic product.
Taking a Closer Look at some popular ‘Green’ Packaging Alternatives
The most common alternatives to plastic are paper, cloth, glass and metal. But replacing all plastic with these materials is not an ultimate solution, but a better move than plastic made packaging.
- Paper Packaging- A paper bag. It’s recyclable and an excellent packaging option, right? They can last for many uses.
- Glass Packaging - Glass is 100 per cent recyclable and, in theory, it can be recycled an infinite number of times.
- Metal Packaging - Like glass, metals such as aluminum and steel can be recycled an infinite number of times. In the UK, aluminum cans can be recycled, filled and back in your local supermarket in as little as 60 days.
On a positive note there are a growing number of conscious Indians opting for environmentally sustainable gifts.
For instance, everyone calls Sujata Adhikari “the activist” at Diwali parties. She gets strange looks and sighs from friends and family when she articulates why she would not accept unsustainable gifts — wouldn’t be buying or gifting any either. Plastic decorative items, non-biodegradable gifts, crackers, shiny wrapping papers are all banned by her.
“I abhor ending the festivities with a guilt. And would encourage all not to create heaps of waste that harms our environment,” said Adhikari, a Delhi-based entrepreneur.
Plants are the new ‘flowers’ and “green is the new gold” as people realize that their health and environmental health are interconnected. Sustainable shopping means investing in products that don’t end up creating unnecessary waste on our planet and this is one of the important aspects to be considered before choosing your gift.
When talking about sustainable gifting, there are endless options. We understand that sometimes it can be tricky to identify sustainable gifting options which is why we are here to help you make the process seamless. Below are some sustainable gifting ideas for the next time you wish to gift something to your loved ones:
In reducing toxic effects of plastic waste on the environment, the biggest responsibility lies first with the producer to not create products at the cost of our planet. Public health and waste management bodies play a major role as well. But as consumers we too hold a responsibility to demand better and only shop ethical.
Written by Zinal Dedhia
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