Christmas Tree Wrapped in PlasticAlthough we are the owners of a business called Life Without Plastic, believe it or not, we still receive plastic gifts during the Holiday Season, even from our own family!  There are personal preferences that seem to receive a bit more deference from friends and family than avoiding plastics, such as being vegetarian or food intolerant.  Being a plasticarian, however, does not trigger the same attention and respect from people. It is almost as if people think that it’s just an unimportant personal preference that does not really affect us deeply.


Pink Plastic ToysTelling friends and family that we do not want to receive any plastic gifts, whether the gift itself is made of plastic or it is wrapped in plastic, is a very delicate subject. After all, a gift is something that people offer from their heart and they don’t want to be told what it should be, otherwise it is not really a gift. It’s just like someone placing an order.  The beauty of the gesture is lost.


Here are a few suggestions that may help you let important people in your life know that it is very important to you not to receive any plastics this Holiday Season, without hurting feelings:


Writing it

If you are uncomfortable saying it with your own words during a phone conversation or at a family dinner, how about announcing it in an email or on Facebook to many people at once so nobody feels more targeted than others. You could announce that this is a new commitment you have made to yourself and you need everybody’s collaboration.


Making it a Fun Plastic-Free Challenge

How about making it fun and challenging for everybody by announcing a plastic-free Christmas challenge this year. You set the rules and share them with everybody and then you warn them it is not as easy as it sounds – but every little bit makes a difference! You could even draw a prize between everybody who will have been able to meet the challenge.

Encouraging Donations to Organizations that Fight Plastic Pollution

You could let your loved ones and colleagues know that you are now engaged in the global fight against plastic pollution and that if they find it impossible to offer a plastic-free gift, they can always make a donation on your behalf to an organization engaged in the fight against plastic pollution, such as:

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Algalita Marine Research and Education

The 5 Gyres Institute

The Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defence

Surfrider Foundation

Environmental Working Group

The Story of Stuff


Creating a Wish List or Gift Registry with a Store where Plastic-Free Gifts can be Found

No need to remind our readers that is the ultimate one-stop shop for day to day plastic-free products. We have a wish list and gift registry available for clients to share with their friends and family in order to let let them know what they really really want.  There are other stores as well that offer plastic-free options.  If it is an online shop, just inquire ahead of time to ensure they will pack your online order without the usual plastic fillers, such as styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap, and that they will not use plastic tape.  (You can tell them what we use to pack – newspaper, recycled kraft paper, cardboard, cellulose wadding, paper tape, cellulose tape.)


Asking for a Gift Certificate

A gift certificate will allow you to choose a plastic-free item from a store’s entire offering. A true advantage of a gift certificate is that it allows you to ask for an experience instead of a thing. You may receive a certificate for a night out at a restaurant or a day at a Scandinavian spa (my personal favourite) which can be entirely without plastic.


The Gift of Altruism

White Envelope in TreeHave you heard of the white envelope gift? This idea originated in a magazine article published in 1982 by Nancy W. Gavin.  In it, she explains how she turned the commercial aspect of Christmas that her husband hated into a moment of anticipation.  She would encourage the members of her family to write a note about a good deed they had accomplished in the weeks prior to Christmas. This note would be inserted into a white envelope and laid on the branches of the Christmas tree.  On Christmas day, the family would open the unmarked white envelopes and feel warmth in their heart. A wonderful tradition, completely plastic-free!


Let us know of any other ideas you may have.  It’s also important to remain kind, and not too hardcore drastic – especially with family – if you sense serious conflict arising. It is the holiday season after all. Refusing a gift is rude and could create a long lasting grudge with someone who had really good intentions. Communication ahead of time is the best way to ensure nobody gets hurt in the process. Let’s not forget the “giving” aspect of the gift sharing tradition which is aimed at generating more love, not less.


Chantal Plamondon, Co-Owner
Life Without Plastic

Written with the help of Sarah Wylie.

7 thoughts on “How To Graciously Let it be Known That You Don’t Want Plastic Gifts this Holiday Season”

  1. This article is exactly I thought about today.
    Because this morning my sister emailed me that she sent me a christmas gift ” a genius Tupperware”.
    I got so disaponted about that. Those are smelly and I hate to put some foods in it. On top of that, the price is as similer as the container made of stainless, I don’t want to have it in my kitchen!
    I was happy to read your article that some of people have same thoughts towards Christmas gift. All plastics packages and all wrapping papers, those are sadly going to the landfill.

  2. Thank you for this article, this is most certainly a topic I’ve been looking for and have written about myself. I’m just starting to work toward being plastic free, and it is so hard to know what to say when people with good intentions don’t get it. I especially like the white envelope tradition, and I’d like to start doing that with my family too.

  3. And then, what to do with the plastic? No way to use with food or kids. Can not drill holes in the bottom to use in the garden. Maybe in the garage, tools can be stored in them – but beside that… what to do… 🙁 Just be gracious and keep educating I guess.

  4. I find that our plastic free lifestyle is really difficult for family and friends to understand. They just don’t understand WHY we are trying to do it. Even after a lot of explaining, my own parents feel I’m somehow depriving my children and taking “this no trash thing” too far. My mother in law sort of gets it…she figures if she removes the plastic packaging that the gift came in and re wraps it in a cloth gift wrap, that she’s meeting our no plastic requirements. 😔 keep on trying I guess.

  5. Just bringing the issue up and making your requests known is bringing awareness. That salad I bought at Chick Fil A came in a pretty sturdy plastic container. Ugh. Won’t do that again. 😳

  6. This is a great write up. I appreciate the last sentiment of reminding us how activism can seem “hardcore” or rude when it conflicts with other’s views, especially family. Thanks for this post.

  7. When it comes to receiving gifts, I don’t like to prescribe to people what they should not give me, I think it’s tacky.
    I don’t like putting conditions on people when it comes to them choosing a gift for me. Then it becomes about the item and not about the inspiration behind the gift and their reasons for choosing that particular gift for me. I want them to feel free to pick a gift that speaks to them. Just except it gracefully and give appreciation that they thought of you. Like everything in life, choose your battles, receiving gifts should not be one of them.

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