Only recently have I learned the expression: “to regift.” I have done it a couple of times in my life, but only furtively, expecting to be caught looking cheap. (In fact, that would have constituted lead-pipe evidence that I was cheap.)
But now that I have enough money to buy appropriate gifts, my heart is not in it. I visited an indoors craft show a few weeks ago that covered at least one city block. It seemed vulgar, somehow. Most things were created with imagination and high quality; it was only the excess that disturbed. I did buy a vase and a mug, but then my friend Rheta mentioned the word “regifting,” and my imagination soared. What a wonderful idea!
This is not my manifesto opposing capitalism or economic growth. I celebrate both. I will never join your Marxist revolution. (I’ve been in too many Communist countries to be taken in by that.) And I believe it is not necessary for us to deprive ourselves much in order to live in harmony with nature. We just need to substitute the purchase of more non-material pleasures for unneeded physical commodities. So imagine how regifting can help with that!
A large fraction of all retail sales occur at Christmas, when it is extremely common to find that our intended recipients “already have everything.” But it is possible to stop almost all of these Christmas purchases without depriving our loved ones of the fun of Christmas presents. We all have things that we could give up without regret — not just cheesy things, either. If we just circulated our surplus things around, the stores could close at Christmas and we’d be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by a huge amount. (I wish I could calculate just how much, but your imagination will approximate the missing number.) When we’re talking about saving the planet, this could be a big, big contribution.
I read a couple of blogs by other people who “admit” to regifting, as if they were owning up to something embarrassing. One of them, by a woman named Eileen, includes a list of possible mistakes, to help other would-be regifting perpetrators keep from being caught out. She reminds us to make sure the cards from our original donors have been removed before we re-wrap. And she advises against regifting to people in the same social network. Thus, if your gift came from a family member, it’s safe to regift it to a co-workers, but not to another family member. That makes sense. Probably you wouldn’t like to see your cousin unwrap the very same earrings that you gave to your sister the night before. Or maybe you wouldn't mind.
Anyway, let’s lighten up about it. Regifting is not a shameful practice but a real contribution to the planet. There are lots of ways to make sure we aren’t unnecessarily elevating the “through-put” of natural resources. One way is to give each other consumable items such as bottles of brandy that we’d buy ourselves and use up anyhow. Or buy gift certificates for things that require no raw materials, such as massages, concerts, or weekend meditation workshops.
But regifting is just as good. It’s not necessarily to re-wrap an item that came to you as a gift either. It can be a book or a record that you bought for yourself but no longer need to keep. We’ll just stop taking account of the monetary value of the gift by announcing that we will be giving “second-hand” items as a matter of principle this year, and that we hope our friends will do the same for us.
I have made this declaration to my friends. I truly think they will prefer that anyhow. And instead of feeling cheap, we can donate the money we saved to a worthy cause, such as planting trees. The UN wants one billion trees to be planted within a year, so I’ve sent them some money to help out, and you can too. In every respect, Mother Earth will be the winner.
And keep the wrappings simple, please. A pretty paper bag can be re-used in your recipient’s next regift-wrapping session.