Etiquette says always be gracious when someone gives you a gift. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Re-gifting is a great idea for that book you have no interest in or the elephant figurine that doesn’t match your décor. But what do you do when someone gives you a gift that is not only not to your taste, but downright toxic?
Do some quick research
Go to Environmental Working Group’s website to look up the specific product by brand and find out how bad it really is. The site will tell you the known ingredients in the product and whether they are cancer causing or toxic to any system in your body. It also lists any violations associated with the product, such as an ingredient that is not supposed to be used around the eyes in a product that will most likely come in contact with that area. EWG even rates some supposedly “green” products and not all of them live up to their claims.
Face the facts
The deed is done. The product has been bought and is in your home. Unless the giver has been kind enough to include a gift receipt, you’re stuck. Here’s the cold hard fact: whether you pour it down the drain or use it, the toxins in that bubble bath or hand lotion will enter the wastewater system and have the potential to pollute waterways and land. There is no perfectly green option here.
Studies show that the average adult uses an average of nine personal care products a day which puts them in intimate contact with well over 100 chemicals every day and most of them are not tested for safety. Add to that chemicals in your home and office furnishings, air pollution, pesticides in non-organic foods and you start to get the picture.
If you’ve greened your life, you probably use far fewer products with far fewer chemicals. For you, using one small bottle of bubble bath or lotion with toxins in it may not be a problem because your overall exposure is low. In terms of the planet, you are doing slightly better by using the gift than just dumping it and buying a similar replacement product, even if it is greener.
You probably want to give a toxic gift just about as much as you want to receive one, but this, in my opinion, is the best solution. I am not advising you to give the toxic nail care set to the neighbor you know steals your newspaper. Instead, find someone who buys this product anyway. Giving them yours means they’ll buy one less.
Maybe next time you’ll consider making your event present-free or inviting everyone to contribute to a charity in your name. If you’re bold, setting up a registry for your next birthday or housewarming party can help your family and friends choose more welcome and planet- and health-friendly gifts.