It happens to everyone. You get a gift that, while thoughtful, simply isn't something you want to keep. Sure, you love your collection of clown figurines, but that colorful clown plate from Aunt Sally simply doesn't fit.

It could be that the floral green Crock-Pot you got as a housewarming gift doesn't fit your kitchen decor. Maybe you received two Crock-Pots, and you only need one. Regardless of why you received gifts that you can't use, the same question remains: should you always try to return or exchange them? The most ecologically sound answer is "No", so try regifting instead.

What is regifting?  

Regifting is the act of giving a gift you received to another person as a gift, literally giving the gift again. The term was popularized by an episode of "Seinfield" ("The Label Maker"), in which Elaine calls a person a "regifter." Of course, the act of regifting predates the modern term.

In fact, regifting has its own day celebrated on Dec. 18 in the United States. Regifting has been used for marketing, with online leader eBay celebrating "National Regifting Week" in Canada, timing it to coincide with Boxing Day.

Even talk show giant Oprah Winfrey has sung the praises of regifting. In 2008 she featured the idea on her "Favorite Things" show.

It's greener to recycle

When you consider the steps involved in returning or exchanging an item, it creates a great deal of waste. You usually have to drive to the store, which burns gas and adds pollutants. The store will have to reprocess the item. All around, it's a waste of resources.

Instead, regift the item in question. You save the resources it takes to return or exchange it, and you'll save the resources for buying the next gift, too. In addition, this path it avoids the entire resource chain, from creation of the item to packaging, shipping, processing and displaying. The ecological impact of each regifted item adds up quickly.

When you regift, not only do you save resources and act responsibly towards the planet, you also save your time. The time you would have spent shopping and buying is now yours to enjoy otherwise. When you look at from this perspective, the unused gift ends up being a good gift to have received.

Regifting etiquette  

As with anything that involves social circles, there's an etiquette to regifting. The most common points to note when regifting include:

  • Rewrap the gift before regifting. (Consider recycling that wrapping paper as well.)
  • Don't use the gift first, then regift it.
  • Never regift an item back to the original giver.
Of course, there could be exceptions to the above list, but these rules of thumb apply in the majority of cases. For example, with the popularity of gift cards today, it's easy to imagine a partially used gift card being reused as a gift — this is probably best avoided, but situations vary.

Enjoying the fine art of regifting  

You can take regifting a step further, and use it as a valuable asset in your planning. For example, you could ask for gifts intended for regifting, allowing you to avoid a lot of the shopping chores that happen during holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

With everything that regifting has going for it, it's hard to believe there's still a polite social stigma against it. But, just like other practices that were once taboo, things change. I think it's time regifting is given the respect it deserves. Done right, it can be a thoughtful act for everyone in the chain of giving, and it makes great ecological sense.

This post is written by guest blogger D. Salmons on behalf of DIY Guides, where you can find everything from recipes to building and remodeling DIY ideas.