It's the day after Christmas. Aside from feeling fat and hungover, you're probably wondering how you'll get rid of all the terrible gifts you've collected--the gizmo you'll never use, the book you'll never read, the sweater you wouldn't be caught dead wearing. Rather than toss that hideous scarf or Ricky Martin album in the trash, take a moment to think . . .there's got to be someone with an upcoming birthday and terrible taste.
Yes, I'm talking about regifting, the act of taking a gift you received, but don't want and giving it to someone else. Although the practice pre-dates the green trend, regifting is one of the most environmentally responsible things you can do.
By regifting you'll eliminate the need for new gifts, whose production requires the unnecessary dissipation of energy and extraction of natural resources. Regifting will also prevent items from ending up in the landfill or incinerator. According to the EPA, each American throws away an average of four pounds a day. That's a total of 210 million tons a year. Garbage cans everywhere should now read, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle . . . Regift!"
Even Emily Post--Madame Manners herself--was a regifter. According to Post, good etiquette doesn't require you to keep anything. Good etiquette simply requires you pretend you like the gift upon reception.
So there you have it! Regifting is neither tacky, nor cheap. Best of all, it's good for the environment. But first, a few cardinal rules to keep in mind. Follow these tips and you'll be sure to regift with finesse and tact.
1. Avoid Perishables.
Next Christmas, that food basket will be a collection of moldy crackers, rancid cheese, and outdated muffin-mix. Unless you're going to claim it's vinegar, best to avoid beverages with a funny smell and inch of sediment on their bottle's bottom.
2. Avoid Out-of-Date/Extinct Products.
Unless your giftee is an avid collector, avoid articles of clothing, music and electronic gear of decades past. Chances are your recipient will know you originally received that home BETA video recorder in 1988.
3. Avoid Dead Giveaways.
Certain regifts are a plain and clear message that a) you're regifting and b) you're an idiot. For example, never regift monogrammed items . . . unless you have a plan to explain why your initials should be emblazoned on their bathrobe. Promotional items from your company's "fun day" are also poor choices.
Gifts should always be in their original condition (i.e. unused and in box). If you're not fortunate enough to have "an original-condition situation," then make sure your gift is covered in non-tattered or faded paper. Nothing says this has been sitting in the bottom of my closet like disheveled wrapping paper.
5. Take Notes.
If you are going to regift, be sure you know who gave you what. Keep track in a notebook or computer file. Yes, it's nerdy, but you'll be happy you did. Nothing is quite as awkward as regifting to the person who gave you the gift in the first place, especially if that original giver is a grim-faced and resentful relative. You know, the one with a sense of humor akin to a dead fish?
Olivia Zaleski is a green living expert.