Depending on where you live, end of the year holidays may be a time to be with family and friends. These traditions often include gift giving.
From bringing flowers and chocolates to buying gifts for children, family, friends and co-workers, why not think about the environment too when you consider gifts this year?
There are lots of gift ideas that don’t come at a cost to the Earth. From making things yourself to selecting gifts that cut down on waste or electricity use, think creatively about how to use fewer natural resources.
For example, Beatriz Martins Carneiro, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Management Officer in ecolabelling and consumer information, said:
“Business strategies such as second-hand market, upcycling and repair are key to help closing the loop for circularity, allowing products and materials to be kept in the market for as long as possible. Instead of buying new, why not look for unique, exclusive pieces in second-hand markets or upcycling shops?”
Pioneered by young entrepreneurs, winners and finalists in the annual Young Champions of the Earth prize are also working on innovation ideas—from eco-friendly packaging to skin care products—to make your gift special and Earth-friendly.
Here are three ways to help you buy green this holiday season.
From plant-based food to organic face creams and deodorants, one idea is to be inspired by nature for gifts.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Curtis decided to start making nutritious dietary supplements from moringa oleifera, a nutrient-dense tree. She works with moringa farmers in Ghana, Haiti and Nicaragua to make her tasty goodies available to a global audience.
Meanwhile, twenty-six-year-old Celine Jennison takes inspiration from nature for nutrient-dense skin care collection. From black cedar soap to evening oils and deodorants, her handcrafted goods use tree crops and organic perennial plants.
Her products nurture regenerative agriculture and ocean conservation in a healthy and affordable way, through zero-waste products which are regenerative by design.
Yet the State of Fashion 2019 report by McKinsey & company notes that 9 in 10 Generation Z consumers—those born between 1994 and 2014—believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.
Young people are leading the way in recycling and upcycling clothes. Young Champion for the Earth Omar Itani in Lebanon is a case in point. His company FabricAID takes the concept of upcycling a to the next level by helping vulnerable communities to afford quality second-hand clothing.
When 19-year-old Alhaji Siraji Bah from Sierra Leone lost everything in a devastating mud slide, he could have given up. Instead, he used this experience to learn about drivers of this type of disaster. His research yielded that deforestation and massive amounts of waste were leading to environmental degradation.
In the Middle East and Africa, almost 1,000 tonnes of waste is produced every day, around 50 per cent of which is predominantly plastic and biomass waste, says Bah. “We asked ourselves how to help reduce this waste, while also creating a viable businesses opportunity.
Bah’s company tackles the waste crisis in Sierra Leone by making biodegradable paper bags from banana leaves to reduce plastic pollution. They have made more than 250,000 bags.
In India, 27-year-old Nitish Singh’s gecko-inspired reusable paper can be used more than 100 times. It can be written on with conventional pens, ball-point, sketch pen and marker pen, and removed by wiping the paper with a wet cloth.
Most wrapping paper is only used once. Imagine the inputs for single-use paper: manufacturing requires huge quantities of water: around 5 litres of fresh water for making only 1 A4 sheet, according to Singh. By 2020, global production of A4 sheets is expected to exceed 25 trillion per year, demanding 60 million hectares of forest, equivalent to the area of France, to be destroyed, notes Singh.
Garrette Clark, UNEP’s Sustainable Lifestyles Officer, said: “These are only some of the ways your holidays can make a difference! Try rethinking gifts entirely—no wrapping needed!
“If you do buy gifts, be inspired by nature or buy products and services that integrate sustainability concerns. Try to use reusable, decorated bags, magazines, newspaper, outdated maps or fabrics for wrapping for example,” she said.
Stay tuned here to follow the journey of the Young Champions and changemakers. Do you have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth?
Applications open in January. Pressing submit makes you part of our changemaker community – get involved and be part of the conversation on environmental change.
The Young Champions of the Earth Prize, powered by Covestro, is UN Environment Programme’s leading initiative to engage youth in tackling the world's most pressing environmental challenges.