The holiday season is almost here, and many of us will be exchanging gifts with loved ones, friends, neighbors and colleagues. While it always feels good to give, it’s even more meaningful when we can do so while ensuring our festive generosity has a minimal impact on the environment.
One of the areas we can address is shipping and postage. For example, my business ships products around the country, and when we were looking at how we could improve our carbon footprint, I put a lot of time into researching our options.
As a result, it’s now our policy to reuse any packing material we can from incoming shipments, and to use biodegradable packing peanuts for any shipments requiring them. We’re always looking into options for alternative, eco-friendly packing materials.
But the most important thing we have done is to participate in UPS’ carbon neutral shipping program. UPS manages the full process, calculating the CO2 emissions, and purchasing and retiring carbon offsets. They also partner with third-party verification and certification organizations to help validate the service’s credibility.
This makes sense for a lot of businesses, and there are other green shipping initiatives emerging regularly that are worth investigating.
As consumers, we can check to see which retailers use sustainable shipping providers and then prioritize them when we purchase and deliver gifts.
There are other ways we can keep our gifting sustainable, too. We can buy second-hand or antique gifts — thoughtful reused items that are really tailored to the recipient’s interests. We can try to minimize any gifts that use batteries, which are notoriously difficult to dispose of in a way that avoids environmental risk.
Steel lunchboxes, drink flasks and travel mugs, perhaps with personalized engravings, make excellent presents that retain their usefulness year-round. Do-it-yourself homemade items always have a special place in the recipient’s heart, and you can construct those from found or recycled materials too. (Look online for simple tutorials if you’re not feeling the creative spark yourself.)
A digital subscription to an online publication or service can cater to people with special interests or enthusiasms, as can a membership to a museum, gallery, sports club or association. Tickets to experiences — shows, gigs, activities and indulgent pampering sessions — make memorable gifts too.
Recycled wrapping paper is always a good idea (and can be recycled again after it’s used). Kids in particular are more concerned with what’s inside than the pattern on the paper. You can even use old newspaper — maybe highlight a particularly interesting Coast News article so that the recipient has some high-quality reading material while unwrapping a thoughtful gift?
A.J. van de Ven is President and CEO of Carlsbad-based smart irrigation company Calsense and a board member of the nonprofit ECOLIFE Conservation.