Birthdays are always a hard one, how do you tell someone that: no you don’t need a card and the best gift might be no gift, for the second year running?

In a world of materialism and disposable incomes here are a few easy tips to reduce waste this birthday, whether it’s yours or someone elses.


My mum is a huge fan of cards, whether it’s a birthday card, an I’m sorry card, a thank you card, a congratulations card, etc yet I have noticed my generation seem a lot less bothered by the whole thing. The older generation also seems to think our blasé way of saying happy birthday isn’t as sincere, perhaps. I’ll hapily send a text, or post on a facebook wall, say it to them in person, or simply buy them a drink; I don’t believe it to be less anything (except wasteful perhaps!), you can send e-cards, make picture collages, write a paragraph saying how much they mean to you or even send a poem! Why should it make a difference if you’ve typed the message rather than written it out?

There is always the alternative: make one! I am a very crafty person and love doing this. You put lots of time into it so it’s a great way to say I’ve been thinking of you. I’ve never bought a valentine’s day card (all very commercial, don’t buy into it blah blah. Yet I still want to spend the day spoiling my loved one!) and we always make one for each other, even if we forget it’s the 13th and have to make one that evening!

Bags and wrapping paper

An easy one for most people is to save gift bags, you can leave the tag blank or simply replace it. We used to have a stash of saved gift bags in all different sizes at home when I was younger, they seemed like an excessive luxury to buy, but a quick way to avoid wrapping, or to give multiple gifts at once!

As I have mentioned before, I am a bit of a craft hoarder. Anything that may come in handy will be tucked away for later use and a great many things can be used for wrapping presents. Old newpaper or magazine sheets, old tissue paper (I collected lots of this over time!), maps, paper bags etc, sometimes I would even save wrapping paper if it had a cool print!


Another method that is popping up a lot these day is wrapping in fabric. A traditional art form in Japan, the fabric (used to wrap pretty much anything, for transporting it or for gift-giving) is called furoshiki, yet the term is now often used to refer to the act of wrapping rather than the fabric itself.



According to Gumtree, £2.4bn worth of gifts were listed us unwanted in 2010. 33% of gifts are believed to be unwanted, but are not thrown just never opened/used and 2% are thrown straight away!

Obviously Christmas is a much worse time of year for waste but birthdays probably just spread this across the year. It can be hard to say to people that no, you really don’t need to get me anything… especially not that new-whatever-it-is.  It can also be hard to ask for a gift card or money although these are probably the best gifts as you can spend them as you choose.

The next best thing may be eco-friendly gifts, second hand gifts or even hadmade gifts. Perhaps suggesting a certain eco-friendly brand you support, or going to a charity shop to look for books, or clothes. Handmade gifts can be a tricky one as not everybody is creative but lots of people have different skills, and getting/giving something that they/you have made gives a lovely feeling of thought and warmth.

If you do ending getting a gift you don’t want, re-gifting or donating them to charity is probably the best thing to do.


I’m a huge fan of baking and have pretty much perfected my vegan chocolate cake (if I do say so myself), which makes an excellent gift for vegans and non-vegans alike! Bang it on a plate, add some chocolate sauce, strawberries and you can be pretty sure it will be gone before you leave that party allowing you to take the plate home.


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