Conscious Gifting - How to identify truly sustainable presents

With the state of the environment being a particularly hot-button issue, conscious gifting is a practice growing in popularity - but what exactly does it mean?

Well, the key to gifting consciously is awareness. What I mean by that is considering the impact of the creation, purchasing and consumption of the product you’re thinking about buying for your nearest and dearest. A truly conscious gift is one that helps to either perpetuate or promote sustainability, which can encompass both the natural world and your local community.

So what are some of the things to look for when it comes to choosing a conscious gift?

There are various aspects that you can consider but ultimately it depends on how deep you want to go and how much time you have to think about your purchase. In any case, let’s take a look at some important factors that can help you make an informed decision.

Packaging

This is a solid starting point. Here you need to look at the materials used in the manufacturing of what the product comes in. There’s the outer packaging that you’ll likely have to dispose of, the container or receptacle, as well as any lids, caps or even labels.

It’s best to start with products that are plastic-free in their entirety - no plastic used in or on the box it comes in and the product itself isn’t made from plastic at all. The reason for this is that sometimes toxic chemicals that are used in the production of plastics, such as c-decaBDE, can be found at unsafe levels even in recycled plastic.

The absolute worst of the worst when it comes to packaging and a particular scourge of the beauty care industry is black plastic. There are a couple of big issues when it comes to black plastic. Firstly, it’s a material that is fairly ubiquitously used for containers of shampoos or shower gels, but it almost never gets recycled. Not only is it difficult for machines to sort and detect, it taints any other plastic with its dyes and as such has very limited reusability.

Furthermore, black plastics are often made from heavy metals that can be toxic or even carcinogenic, which is certainly not something you should be exposing yourself to, nor should you want to put it in a landfill and potentially contaminate the surrounding area.

So what should you look for?

It’s advisable to look for materials that are easily and potentially infinitely recyclable. Glass and metals such as aluminium are great options as they can either be repurposed or recycled with ease and are far safer for you and the environment in just about every aspect.

It’s also important not to overlook the smaller details. When it comes to shampoo bottles, consider the cap and the label. What are they made from? Are they recyclable or biodegradable? It’s always the little things that add up and it would be a literal and figurative waste to have to contribute to a toxic landfill with an unrecyclable label or black plastic bottle cap.

In terms of the outer packaging, look for materials like recycled cardboard.

To recap:

DON’T - choose disposable plastic packaging or containers

DO - choose something that is either recycled itself or easily recyclable, like aluminium or glass bottles and cardboard outer packaging.

Ingredients

A vital part of whether a gift is conscious or not is the materials that make up the product itself, and there are two main factors to take into consideration.

 Firstly, it pays to think about the environmental impact that the creation of the product has in its various stages - the sourcing of the products, their production, and also the after-effects when they’ve been discarded. Ideally, you don’t want to buy products that are made from things that will damage the environment through their farming, nor do you want ingredients that create toxic by-products that are difficult to dispose of. In the beauty care industry, many cheaper products contain sulfates, parabens and other harsh chemicals that you want to avoid as much as possible.

The other is the economic side. It’s important that the companies you buy from are paying the people they source their ingredients from a fair price for their products and services. Too often we’ve heard of sweatshops and near slave-labour in the manufacturing industry, so we don’t want to endorse or support a company that doesn’t respect ethics and human rights. 

Other factors

Environmental sustainability, as we’ve seen, is obviously a very important factor when it comes to conscious gifting, but it’s not the only thing to consider. In order to make a truly conscious choice you also need to think about the company or retailer that you’re purchasing from.

The first thing to look at is where the product is made. If you’re purchasing an item that is made in the country where you live, you’re supporting a company that employs local people. Not only is that helping people put food on the table in this particularly difficult time, but it’s also helping the flow of money in their local economy and community.

 Another factor to consider is where the company is registered from a tax perspective. If the company you’re buying from is registered in an off-shore tax haven, then they’re essentially diverting money away from the national budget to line their own pockets. Public services suffer when companies do this and quite frankly, the conscious decision is not to support them. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to see if the company has partnered with any environmental or conscious organisation. Fairtrade is always a solid option, as they ensure that the products that bear their mark are ethically produced and sourced. Here at Nereus London, we work with Plastic Bank - an organisation that recovers ocean-bound plastic and makes sure that it is properly processed. With every bottle of shampoo, conditioner or body wash that we sell, one kilogram of plastic is recovered.

The Nereus London Way

We’re passionate about sustainability here at Nereus London. We want our customers to feel confident that if they buy one of our products for themselves, or indeed as a present, then it’ll be a conscious purchase.

We’ve worked hard to cover the areas that I’ve mentioned in this article as best we can - from our recycled cardboard outer packaging to our aluminium bottles, biodegradable labels and ethically sourced ingredients.

If you’d like to read more about how we do things, check out Our Approach or read about our commitment to a plastic-free beauty care industry.