These days, there seems to be the ability to create a gift registry for just about any event. Of course, traditional wedding and baby registries exist, but the “registry marketing tool” has been expanded to include everything up to “leaving for college.” We’ve discussed before why registries actually feed the consumer machine, but as gift-giving and buying season approaches (or for some people has been here since October), we thought that we’d revisit the topic while also giving some more postconsumer and eco-friendly alternatives.
Registry 101: Pros and Cons
While we took a hard stance being anti-registry not that long ago, we’ve actually come to a place of peace with more of a middle ground recently. We want to be clear – registries definitely feed the consumer engine and absolutely mean that you’ll be asking for and receiving gifts that you don’t need typically transported to you in some of the least eco-friendly ways possible. But there is a slight upside. For certain events (we’re specifically thinking weddings and babies), people are going to buy you boxed gifts whether you want them or not. No matter how much you encourage them to do otherwise, some people just equate tradition and etiquette with a boxed gift. There is a reality that, by creating a registry, you will at least be able to direct them to items you may actually use or want. Without a registry, the amount of “junk” that you get that goes directly to a charitable organization or gets packed into the clutter in the basement will exponentially increase. So, while registries do feed the idea of addictive consumerism, they can also direct people who are already hooked on consumerism to purchases that may have greater value.
The Honeyfund, Charitable Cause or Contribution Registry
There are a number of “registries” out there now that allow people wishing to give you gifts to contribute money to an end goal. For example, Honeyfund in particular is an alternative to wedding registries that allows users to contribute directly to honeymoon costs. There are a number of similar options that enable users to either make charitable contributions in your name or to contribute money to a larger purchase you may want to make, such as a home renovation. These, of course, are entirely more eco-friendly and in most cases more separate from the consumer machine. But while they may make sense as an alternative to asking for “more stuff,” they come with a few catches. The first is that most of them also involve the company who runs the alternative registry taking a percentage of all of the money gifted to you. So while your great Aunt Katie may think she’s donating $100 toward your kitchen upgrades, she’s actually only gifting $90 and the company that runs the registry is taking $10. The other thing to keep in mind is that many people (particularly of an older generation) will consider these money donation registries as a severe breach of etiquette. In their mind, it’s the same as begging for money, which somehow is different from asking for “stuff.” That probably shouldn’t be a reason for you to not select an alternative registry option, but you should be prepared to get the side eye from some people if you do.
Registries on Alternative Vendors
Another option is to still guide gift-givers to items that you want instead of leaving them on the loose to buy things that will just create clutter, but choose vendors that aren’t as connected to the consumer machine. For example, did you know that you could set up a registry at Etsy, where you can support local and independent vendors instead of big box stores? If you do a quick search online, you’ll find plenty of stores and companies that specifically make eco-friendly products. Yes, you’re still participating in registry culture, but you’re at least doing it more responsibly.
Go No Registry? Yes!
Finally, the ultimate option is to go “no registry.” Yes, you are going to experience the con that some people will still insist on buying you boxed gifts and you end up having to just store or ditch those items. However, without a registry, you’ll find yourself getting more cash gifts which you can then turn into whatever you want (even charitable donations). Of course, this then begs the question, “Can’t we just tell people not to bother with gifts at all?” You can do whatever you want, and asking to go “gift free” at an event is a noble and admirable choice. But as we mentioned above, not everybody is going to honor your wishes.
In some ways, creating a registry can help stem consumer behavior. In other ways, it feeds consumer behavior. The challenge that you’ll face is to find the middle line. We think that in general it’s a good idea to use a registry of some type (hopefully a small one with socially-conscious products) for events like weddings and babies when you know people will be buying gifts regardless. For other events that the marketing industry has decided are now registry events (graduations, college starts, etc.), skip the registry altogether. You probably don’t need that stuff and you don’t need to encourage others to buy it.
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