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How to Normalize Regifting—And Why It's Great for the Planet

Regifting has gotten a bad rap, but what's so bad about giving a perfectly good item a new home? Here's why it's great for the planet.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

Regifting—when you give a gift you've already received to someone else—has gotten a bad rap. It's been shown as a major faux pas in pop culture over the years, most famously in an episode of Seinfeld when a label maker is regifted.

While these moments have made people think it's rude or tacky to pass along old gifts they no longer want or need, what's so bad about giving a perfectly good item a new home?


We spend most of the holiday season stressing over what to buy our loved ones, only for many of those gifts to go unused or get returned in the new year. In January 2021, it was estimated that 8.75 million packaged were returned within the span of a few days. The reality of returns is that many don't make it back into the market—they're sent to landfills.

Consumers have normalized returning and exchanging unwanted gifts, so why not normalize regifting, too? If you're still not sure about regifting an item this holiday season, here are some reasons that are sure to convince you.

4 Reasons Why Regifting Is Great for the Planet

1. It Saves Unwanted Gifts from Getting Returned (or Thrown Away)

There's nothing wrong with returning items you know won't get any use, but the real question is: What happens to the items you return? Many of us think the returned items, whether they're clothes that don't fit or a toy your child already owns, automatically go back on the shelf. However, this isn't always true.

According to a 2018 report, about $390 billion worth of merchandise is returned each year in the U.S., sending about 5 billion pounds of waste to the landfill. When an item is returned to the retailer, it has to go through an extensive inspection to ensure there's no damage to it. Sometimes these items don't go back on the shelves with the brand-new products, even if they're in perfect condition. They either get thrown away or the prices get marked down. And oftentimes, they're more difficult to sell.

Instead of giving your loved ones a gift with a gift receipt in the box, try giving them something you know they'll use. Perhaps the old coffee machine you got last year that hasn't been opened is a good option for your friend who just got a new apartment. Or maybe the sweaters you got for your birthday that still have the tags on them would make a great Secret Santa gift.

There are endless opportunities to regift the items you didn't get to use so they won't get returned or go to waste.

2. It Minimizes Overall Waste

These days, returns are easier than ever. Most stores allow you to ship your returns directly to the warehouse; instead of lugging them to the store, all you need to do is print your free shipping label, pack up the box, and ship it off. However, free returns come at a cost to the planet.

The packaging used to mail returns isn't always recycled. About 15.4% of paper packaging goes to the landfill. However, that number increases when we look at the amount of plastic packaging that gets sent to the landfill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 69% of plastic containers and packaging were landfilled in 2018.

The solution is simple: To minimize waste, minimize returns. And to minimize returns, you can regift the presents you receive that you know you won't need.

3. It Helps Declutter Your Home

Doing some winter cleaning? Instead of throwing away the things you no longer need or want, find your stuff a new home. If you know you'll never wear the jewelry you got for your birthday, for instance, you might know someone who will.

Not only does regifting help declutter your home, but it's also a sustainable way to ensure you don't throw away perfectly good items and accidentally send them to the landfill.

4. It Saves You Money

Holiday gift shopping is costly in more ways than one. Not only are you paying for the gift, but you're also paying for shipping, gas in your car to get to and from the mall, and wrapping paper (which isn't always recyclable). The numbers add up. Plus, while you're spending more money, you're also creating more and more carbon emissions.

Instead of continuously swiping your card this holiday season, try shopping around the house. Not only will you save some big bucks, but you'll also decrease your carbon footprint in the process. And to wrap your regifted gift, use eco-friendly gift wrapping alternatives.