What Is Sustainable Gifting and Why Does It Matter?

We have branded ourselves as a sustainable gifting company, but with “sustainability” gaining traction as a buzzword in e-commerce and retail, what does “sustainable gifting” really mean? We’re taking you on a deep dive into what this phrase means to Tokki, and how the small steps we take to gift more mindfully can make a big impact on our planet.  

How Do We Define Gifting?  

Although you already know the textbook definition, at Tokki, we want to re-define what giving a gift looks like. We believe that at the root of gift-giving, creating connection is the most integral part of the experience. This connection can be fostered in several ways, and at many different stages of the gift-giving process.  

Looking at each stage of gifting can help us understand where our impact can be felt the most. The gift itself is hugely important, of course, and choosing the right gift for that special someone is a great opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level. Further than that, a choice as simple as how you wrap your gift could mean the world to the person opening your package. And the final touches on your gift (like a card) can be what “seals the deal” and creates a shared and meaningful moment between you and the giftee. Each of these steps in the gifting process are important in their own ways, and we strive to make each of them fun and easy, so you can focus on fostering that connection. 

How Do We Define Sustainability?  

“Sustainability” has become a huge buzzword for consumer products, and we love the direction our world is moving in terms of being more conscious about how our purchases and consumption affect the health of the planet.  

Sustainability means more than slapping a word on the label of whatever you’re selling. There is no “Certified Sustainable” sticker that can decide to what degree the creation or end of life of a product will negatively impact the planet. This means WE all are responsible for taking a closer look at what we’re buying and how our purchases make an impact – from how it was created to how it will be disposed. 

How Is Tokki Sustainable?   

At Tokki, we work to be a sustainable company by designing our products to be high-quality, long-lasting, and reusable. Our reusable gift wraps, bags, and bands are each a crucial part of the gifting process, and we build products that make this experience easier and better for the planet.  

We then look at the process of creating, distributing, and disposing of the materials we use, and seek to lower the impact of each of these steps individually. We are proudly carbon-neutral and hand-made in the USA, so you know that each product you purchase from us is created with love for you and the planet.  Learn more about our commitment to social responsibility here.

Did you know that tokki plants a tree for every wrap that is gifted or re-gifted? 

2000+ trees planted as of June 1, 2020.

Evaluating Sustainable Products   

We also spend time discovering other brands and products that align with our sustainability values to include in gift guides or sell in our gift sets. We ask ourselves, is this something we feel comfortable buying? Do we feel that the company’s values align with our own?  

The next step for us in evaluating sustainability is looking at the quality of the product, is it made to last? Is it something we will have to replace in a few months? Even if these products are boasting eco-friendly packaging and low-impact emissions, something that is built with quality in mind can be more sustainable than a cheaply made product marketed as “eco-friendly”. 

Sustainability and Mindfulness   

“Gifting mindfully” is a phrase we have come to reference frequently here at Tokki. To us, “gifting mindfully” is another checkbox within gifting sustainably. It’s giving a gift that someone actually wants or needs. It’s choosing a gift that they will want to use for years to come, and is high-quality enough to sustain that time.  

It can also mean less is more. In a society where the shopping narrative reads “BUY! BUY! BUY!”, it’s important to realize that one gift with a lot of thought behind it can be much more meaningful than a mound of presents. More gifts do not mean more love, and we believe that one thoughtful gift can be more meaningful and more sustainable.  

These Keen hiking boots are a great example of gifting mindfully for our Marketing Intern, Jayna.

She says, “My mom recently bought me these hiking boots as a birthday present and I was so excited! I had talked about wanting some recently and she found them on sale at REI. She knows how important sustainability is to me and sourced them from a brand I trust, which I really appreciated. I can tell that they’re high-quality and will last a long time, which is so important for hiking gear. Plus-they’re cute!

Although these aren’t textbook definitions, we believe that gifting mindfully is more important than gifting perfectly. When we take a moment to reflect on how we are choosing to gift to those we love, we are showing them that thought and care went into the gift they receive.  

How Is the Gifting Industry Affecting Our Planet? 

“The gifting industry” means anywhere you buy something for someone else, so basically the entirety of the retail industry. With such a vast number of companies contributing, it’s no surprise that it has a huge impact on our planet. This year alone, consumers are projected to spend between $678.75 billion to $682 billion on presents. This staggering number represents hundreds of thousands of consumers making gifting decisions every day.  

When the holidays roll around, many of us rush to Amazon or Walmart to get last-minute presents for family gift exchanges (we’re guilty of this too, don’t worry). With expedited shipping and mounds of extra shipping materials, the carbon footprints of our gifts quickly rise.  

Then the gift arrives (with a ridiculous amount of bubble wrap that might be terrible for the planet, but is just so fun to pop), and now we’re left to wrap it. Paper gift wrap dominates the gifting industry with flashy prints and sparkly cellophane, which can be detrimental to our planet’s health. 

Did you know that most gift wrap is not recyclable because it is too thin, too laminated, too saturated, or too sparkly? Earth911 estimates that approximately 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that about 2.3 million pounds ends its life in landfills.  

So now you have a beautifully wrapped (but environmentally harmful) gift ready and waiting, but you forgot the card! You drive to your local grocery store, struggle to choose from the hundreds of generic messages, and finally land on a simple “Merry Christmas” and call it a day. 

The International Cards Manufacturing Association reports 30.6 billion cards were produced in 2018 alone. Many of these cards contained polyvinyl chloride, a plastic that contains pollutants that are harmful to the environment and are slow to decompose.  

These numbers might seem hard to digest, but they show us that the small choices we make in gifting can make a much larger impact on the earth.  

What Can We Do to Decrease Our Gifting Waste and Gift More Sustainably?

Choose the Right Gift  

As we have said, choosing the right gift is the first and most important step in creating a meaningful connection. We suggest looking at what your giftee both needs and wants, as well as how their most unique qualities can be incorporated into their gift. Then do a little research, we recommend starting with our Tokki tested gift guides.  

Shop Local 

Once you’ve decided on a few possible gift ideas, determining how to source these gifts sustainably is key. We recommend avoiding large online retailers like Amazon and Walmart, and try to shop local when possible. Investing in our local communities is a wonderful way to help the planet on a smaller scale and can make your gift that much more valuable.  

Another step in choosing your gift is looking at the quality of what you’re buying. This is one of our biggest determining factors at Tokki when choosing a gift for someone we love. Will this gift last? Can they enjoy it for years to come? How long until it ends up in a landfill? Even though asking these questions isn’t as fun as choosing the gift, it’s an important step in gifting mindfully.  

Wrap Your Gift with Reusable or Recyclable Material 

An easy way to reduce the negative environmental impact of your gift is using an alternative reusable or eco-friendly gift-wrapping method. Butcher paper, newspaper, or even brown paper bags from the grocery store are all great options as these materials are recyclable or in some areas compostable.  

If you are looking for a stylish alternative to wrapping paper that is less harmful to the planet, our Tokki reusable gift wraps and gift bags are the perfect solutions. This is exactly why our founder, Jane Park, created Tokki. After realizing how much wrapping paper ends up in landfills, Jane set out to create a sustainable alternative that didn’t sacrifice the beauty of a wrapped gift.  

Jane’s inspiration also came from her grandmother, who was the first to give her a sustainably wrapped gift. She held onto the tradition of wrapping in bojagi, a Korean wrapping cloth.

“My grandma was an advocate for recycling and reusing things. That wrapping cloth was often made with scrap fabric that was left over from dresses and articles of clothing.”

Invest in a 100% Recyclable Card (Or Go Digital)  

The last step in gifting can sometimes be an afterthought, but here at Tokki, we find a lot of meaning in the messages we send along with our gifts. A touch of personalization can make your giftee feel extra-special, so a card can be the perfect finishing touch.  

There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic cards we have already mentioned. Looking for recycled materials in store-bought cards, or recycling your own resources are great ways to gift sustainably.  

Another great option is a digital gift card. Our unique Tokki tags bring the gifting experience online, where you can add a personalized message, photo, video, or GIF to your e-card.  

Our Tokki bands secure our wraps so wrapping your present is easy and cute, and when they scan the QR code on the Tokki tag (through the camera app, no download required) your completely personalized digital card is ready and waiting as they open their gift! Each message can be saved so your gift can live on and be remembered by you and your loved ones for years to come. 

We know that taking a hard look at our impact on the planet can feel like a daunting task. We aren’t perfect, and don’t expect you to be. At Tokki, we like to say that showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all. We encourage you to consider the impact of these small decisions and realize the little choices we make go a long way. ❤️ 

“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.” 

– David Suzuki