There is no shame in re-gifting this Christmas – we all need to do more to fight climate change

Why oh why is re-gifting a present our dirty festive secret?

Jessica Evans
Sunday 22 December 2019 12:30
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Half of Britons buy Christmas presents for the sake of it

It’s Boxing Day. We’re feeling like we’ve turned into a walking Quality Street toffee penny, we’re debuting a new outfit and our mum is plating up yet more turkey for another family gathering. As we prepare for the next dose of Bucks Fizz, buffet and Brexit small talk, we swiftly realise we’ve forgotten our cousin’s new girlfriend will be attending the party and we have nothing to give her.

We woefully consider whether a Cadbury’s selection box will suffice, but after scrambling through our shiny presents, we finally come across a set of bubble baths from the work Secret Santa. And wa-lah, we have a present. We then sheepishly try to palm it off as a dedicated and very special gift.

Why oh why is re-gifting a present our dirty festive secret? I've re-gifted countless “smellies” in the past, and I've also felt incredibly guilty about it. Perhaps it's time for that attitude to change, particularly when we want to do something smart and lovely for the planet – and not just for our cousin’s girlfriend.

According to a study by waste management company Biffa, the UK creates 30 per cent more waste than usual over Christmas. This includes an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.

More people are trying to find ways to have a “Green Christmas”. Some people are embarking on their first Buy Nothing Christmas. As a nation, mostly thanks to Blue Planet and Extinction Rebellion, more of us are receiving environment education in school and understanding why climate change matters, and we are learning how we can contribute, whether that’s protesting or celebrating when our coffee shop switches to paper straws.

This year, there are even zero waste Xmas markets in the UK (hello brown paper and string), showing us that re-gifting is a natural evolution of our increasingly mainstream focus on the planet, not just something for hippies.

Re-gifting also means sticking two fingers up to the consumerism and gluttony of Christmas, in a country still racked by austerity where many consumers go into debt, running up credit card bills to try and achieve “perfect” Christmas gifts for all the family.

So, how about this – rather than collecting more and more stuff we don’t need or even want, why not give that set of bath bombs to someone who would really appreciate them (and who actually has a bathtub?). Recently, someone bought me a vegan cake mix (I'm not a vegan) and I knew someone who would absolutely love that. It found a new home and actually sparked joy in their life, rather than gathering dust in my cupboard for years until I moved house and threw it away.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy passing the gift onto someone around Christmas time, there are other ways to re-gift, like donating it to a charity shop, saving items to re-gift as birthday presents throughout the year, keeping hold of them for the next office secret Santa, sending them to a children's hospital or organising a present swap with friends. Another idea that I'm suggesting this year on Boxing Day is to all bring an unwanted gift and all pay £1.

When it comes to doing things more ethically, it tends to start in little but impactful ways. So the next time you feel bad about re-gifting, remember, you're helping the way we – as a society and western culture – buy and value the possessions in our lives, kind of like an eco-Marie Kondo.

At a time where we need to take care of our planet and people, there's no embarrassment in re-gifting. Let's make 2019 Christmas the one where re-gifting stops being such a seasonal no-no, and start giving and receiving gifts in more sustainable, thoughtful ways. It really shows how much you care.

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