Is it green to re-gift?


Freecycle, upcycle and refashion anything unwanted into something irresistible… As Lucy Siegle reveals, any re-use is good news

Lucy Siegle

I feel like a spectacular ingrate for even broaching the subject of re-gifting before a single present has been unwrapped, never mind wished out of my life and into somebody else's. My unease reflects the fact that re-gifting – the act of passing on an unwanted present to someone else in the guise of a gift – retains a slight whiff of social opprobrium.

Actually that's a good thing. Most presents are still given in good faith. Consumer psychologists tell us that the amount of time we spend choosing a present remains considerably greater than the time we spend buying a similar item for personal consumption.

But wasted time is one thing. Wasted energy and material resources is quite another. A survey from Christmas past (ie 2008) reckoned £48m worth of unwanted Christmas gifts would be on their way to landfill after the festive season.

So your re-gifting at least needs to neutralise all the resources and energy expended in manufacturing the product in the first place. Remember for every tonne of waste produced in your house, it's estimated that an extra 15 tonnes of waste has been produced through extraction of raw materials and manufacture. And some 600m tonnes of raw materials are used in the UK alone each year.

So think of the present as matter – it can neither be created nor destroyed – but passed on until it finds a useful life. However there is inherent risk. The end recipient could smile, say thank you (as you did) then sling the mulled wine smelling bath salts in the bin the moment you've left.

For this reason I like online re-gifting such as Freecycle (, where you don't have to pretend the item's new or Nigel's Ecostore (, where the e-tailer commendably hosts a re-gifting forum promising respite to anybody "expecting a teapot shaped like a caravan from Auntie Elsie this Christmas?" (Contrarily I quite like the sound of that.)

The second issue with re-gifting is that the item loses status. As soon as something is not new any more, it is effectively tarnished and therefore downcycled. One of the newer sustainable concepts in manufacturing is to take a redundant product and remanufacture it, creating something with greater value in what's known as Upcycling. We should appropriate this for the re-gifting movement. Take a nasty present and paint it, refashion it, embroider it – add value.

Or for those without the requisite creative ability who find themselves effusively over compensating for the fact they wouldn't be seen dead in a gifted garment, stay calm and save it for the first ever international day of swishing on 9 January ( for details of the UK event in London). Swishing (clothes swapping) is a way of re-gifting on a big scale. But the organisers do specify that you should bring "fabulous" items and that may preclude nastier examples of the Christmas jumper.

broach - poruszać

effusively - wylewnie

embroider - upiększać

ingrate - niewdzięczny

landfill - wysypisko

mulled wine - grzane wino z korzeniami

opprobrium - potępienie

preclude - wykluczać, uniemożliwiać

reckon - kalkulować

requisite - niezbędny

retain - zatrzymywać

sling - ciskać

tarnish - tracić połysk, matowieć

whiff - podmuch, powiew

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