Last year we provided you with tips on how you can be ever green during the holiday season, and provided you with sustainable gift wrapping ideas.

This year we will be providing you with a series of blogs that are designed to help you give “greenly” while saving some green.

During the holiday season what we want to give and what we can afford to give may not align. One way save money is by regifting items you have received that you never used or plan on using.


Regifting, “passing on” a gift that you received, originates from a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry receives a present that was originally given to Elaine.

Creatively display holiday cards using a repurposed frame

The act of regifting makes some people uncomfortable. People may not be open to the idea because it seems disrespectful to the original gift giver, making it appear that they do not appreciate the time, energy and thoughtfulness that was put into purchasing the gift.

In reality, regifting is good for the planet. An estimated 5 billion pounds of returned goods are likely to end up in a landfill.[1]

Ryan Collins from Planet Ark shared that regifting keeps valuable resources in use and in circulation. “It saves the energy and the water that goes into making the original items, and it reduces carbon emissions because it’s not going into landfill, and there’s not another product being produced.”[2]

If the gift is not the right size or if you have too much of that item or you just don’t plan on using it, do not feel pressured to keep it. Consider regifting it.

Regifting Dos and Don’ts

Here are some tips from Bob Villa that will help with regifting and avoid awkward situations.

Etiquette tips from Bob Villa may make regifting less stressful.
  1. Do not regift items to someone who knows the original gift giver. This avoids the uncomfortable situation of the gift being opened in front of the person that originally gave it to you.
  2. Do not regift an item that was made especially or you. When you receive a gift examine it thoroughly to see if it is personalized in any way or if there is a message to you. If it does, see if there is a way to repurpose it (i.e., turn a coffee mug into makeup brush holder, pen holder on coin container)
  3. Do not regift promotional items. If you got something for FREE from an expo, fair or conference, don’t give it away as a gift. Nothing makes someone feel underappreciated like a gift you got for free from your credit union.

For more regifting etiquette tips, check out Vila’s article.

Upcycle Then Cycle Out

Repurposing and upcycling the item into something new is a great way to put a purposeful spin on regifting, keeps unwanted gifts out of landfills, and allows you to regift with less guilt.

Three of the most common regifting items are picture frames, books and coffee mugs. Here are some creative ways to give these unwanted gifts a new life.

Picture Frames

In addition to being a popular regifting item picture frames are one of the most versatile items that can be repurposed.

Jewelry Holder Frame and Hooks.jpg
Creating a jewelry holder is easy with an unwanted frame some small hooks

An easy upcycle that keeps the frame close to its original function is turning it into a message board using cork, padding and ribbon or converting it into a dry erase board.

Another functional upgrade is making the frame into a serving tray which can be a  simple and basic or more elaborate.

Frames can easily be made into jewelry organizers using chicken wire, burlap/fabric and wire, hook screws or a combination of any of these techniques.

A card holder to display holiday cards can be made and then used the rest of the year to hold shopping lists, forms that need signing, and phone messages.


In this digital, paperless age, books remain a popular gift. If you have an overabundance of books here are a few suggestions on how you can “rip a page out of an old book” to give it a new look.

Make gifts with a holiday spin by using pages to create gift bags, gift tags and envelopes or ornaments using a paper mache technique, gluing paper strips together or geometric shapes like a sphere.

Use pages from an unwanted book to create gift bags.

Pages can be used to create trees. A cone tree can be used by attaching paper circles to a styrofoam cone while a triangular tree can be created by folding pages into the spine of the book. Gluing paper cones to a paper towel tube or alternating paper shapes around a dowel are two other ways to make paper trees.

Nervous about “destroying a book? There are also ways to use entire books to make trees. Books can be stacked opened or closed to make trees and then decorated with lights, garland and ornaments.

Coffee Mugs

If you no longer have room in your cupboard for coffee mugs, upcycling/repurposing and regifting may help you thin down your supply.

If you are interested in creating something that can be used outside, coffee mugs can be transformed into a birdfeeder or broken up to use as drainage rocks for a planter that you create from a second mug. Coffee mugs can easily be turned into a pin cushion or candle. Ceramic mugs can be used in the kitchen by turning them into a cake or dessert stand.

When you are able to upcyle and repurpose items into gifts, regifting is not a bad thing but a green thing.

[1] The Dark Side Of Christmas: 5B Pounds Of Returned Goods Thrown Away Annually
[2] Regifting: Stingy or Sustainable?