When we think about gifts, we would normally associate them with special occasions or celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, Christmas, anniversaries, or a milestone or accomplishment. In our current society’s norm, gifting is regarded as a natural practice and polite gesture of goodwill. The practice of “gifting” has existed since the beginning of human civilization. It is one of the oldest human practices.

In fact, the bestowing of gifts was also inferred as a status symbol when leaders of tribes or clans would show their appreciation for the contributions of those who were part of an important achievement.

There has always been a reason for gifting. Gifts were given to the pharaohs during the Egyptian era to store wealth for the afterlife, whilst in Roman times, people used good luck tokens as a present to show allegiance. By the Medieval period, gifts were used to secure the king’s personal support and to demonstrate loyalty in times of war.

Undoubtedly, gifting has been an integral part of customs and practices across all cultures. This could sometimes lead to disillusionment on gifting. People give gifts to build and reinforce relationships, to show love and devotion, and communicate symbolically with others.

However, ‘excessive’ gifting may lead to unsustainable behavior when unnecessary products are purchased for gifts but they end up not being used and thrown away. As a result, more waste and rubbish are generated. According to MIDA, the population in Malaysia is increasing rapidly, reaching 32.8 million people in 2021. This upsurge generates a tremendous amount of solid waste, which was estimated to be 38,427 metric tonnes per day in 2021 (1.17 kg/capita/day). Of which, 82.5 per cent is disposed in landfills.

Should Malaysians halt gifting altogether to address this ‘mounting’ problem? Not necessarily, if Malaysians shift to ‘sustainable gifting’.

Importance of Sustainable Gifting

A sustainable gift is one that contributes towards reducing waste and carbon footprint. It is a gift made from eco-friendly, repurposed, or recycled products that includes locally sourced or organic materials, or from alternative materials, or uses certified sustainable processes, and helps eliminate single-use plastic.

The sustainable gift also helps reduce waste sent to landfills since they are recyclable or reusable. This will eventually help increase local recycling rates, as Malaysia only reached 10.5% in 2020, according to The Chemical Engineer.

Here are some ideas for sustainable gifts to consider as a present for a special occasion.

  • Pre-loved items

A hand-picked vintage gift is a treasure. Giving pre-loved items as gifts is the most sustainable way as it does not expend any energy or resources. Pre-loved clothing, accessories and bags make great gifts if they are still in good quality and presented well.

  • Homemade edibles

Instead of shopping, one can choose to give gifts that are produced by one’s own cooking and baking skills. Homemade baked goods such as cookies, pies, jams, and jellies are more personal, easy on the environment, and not likely to go to waste.

  • Potted plants

Giving potted plants is an environmentally friendly gesture. Potted plants entails low maintenance, and they provide tranquilly and ambience to a recipients’ homes. Potted plants also remind people of nature’s splendor. Instead of purchasing plants from a nursery, consider planting from seeds.

  • Handmade crafts

Creating your own arts & craft gifts is another sustainable and meaningful option of gifting. One can create an item from waste and natural materials such as glass jars, milk cartons, etc. A handmade gift keeps the environment clean and safe. Paper products can be turned into celebration cards, scrapbooking recipes, and creating photo albums. Additionally, one can also turn cloth and related materials into knitted sweaters, scarves, or sewn pillowcases that could be used for a long time.

  • Eco-friendly products

Support small local businesses or artisans who provide environmentally friendly products by buying from them. Such eco-friendly products are created from non-toxic organic materials or recycled materials that do not deplete the environment. Handmade soaps, a wooden comb, and stainless-steel drinking straws are just a few examples.

If you are considering to buy a gift for a friend or loved one, why not consider sustainable gifting options that will not end up in landfills. In essence, sustainable gifts help to reduce waste, lower one’s carbon footprint and allows one to become more environmentally responsible.

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