Ethical Gift Guide 2017
Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read - isn’t that how the saying goes? The idea behind it is that we give less but more meaningful and useful presents instead of cramming hundreds of small plastic toys into Christmas stockings and convincing ourselves that novelty socks are a really great gift.
Every year at around this time I start to think about buying Christmas presents. I write a list of everyone I need to buy for and I start collecting gift catalogues like they are going out of fashion. As each new gift guide lands on the doormat I start considering if I need a new cake tin to make an igloo cake or if I need to invest in glittery reindeer food for Santa’s reindeers (spoiler alert: no I don’t!)
And I know that I am not alone. Across the UK, families are starting to think of gifts to buy, decorations and how to get hold of the ‘must have’ toy this season.
But what if this year was different. What if this year we stopped and thought about the gifts we bought our friends and families and the impact that our indulgence and overspending is having on the planet and on us and those around us?
The Gift of Death
In 2012, George Monbiot wrote a hard hitting blog post called The Gift of Death. It can be an uncomfortable read at times but it is well worth taking the time to read properly. In his post, Monbiot talks about how much of what we give at Christmas is designed to be thrown away. It is not designed to last - it raises a smile or a laugh and is then discarded.
This year I want to give gifts that last and will be trasured or used throughout the year.
If like me, you want to change the way you shop this Christmas then this blog post is for you. If you are stuck on gift ideas for you nieces and nephews, or don’t know what to tell family members when they ask for ideas for your children then this blog post is also for you.
In this blog post I am going to look at gifts that will last beyond the festive seasons. Gifts you can give that will be useful, valued or treasured throughout the year. Gifts that make a difference.
1. Family Days Out
As a family of 5, days out are expensive. We try to take a packed lunch where we can but there are lots of places that we just haven’t visited due to the costs. However, we love days out as a family and so would love to receive the gift of membership to somewhere that we could visit. National Trust Membership costs £114.60 per year for a family of 2 adults and up to 10 children you can visit many castles, nature reserves, stately homes and enjoy countless days out all year. Similarly, English Heritage Annual Family Membership costs £96 for 2 adults and up ti 12 children. We love visiting the castles in Kent when we visit Nanna and Big Grandad for the weekend with our current membership and so something like this would be ideal for us - and maybe for you too or another family you know?
If the great outdoors and castles aren’t your thing then why not look for theme parks or days out near you that you would enjoy and ask for membership? You could ask for a season ticket to Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park in Hampshire, or a season ticket to your local farm - we get a season ticket to our local farm each year and value for money it provides is incredible!
2. Gift Vouchers
If you want to give a gift but are unsure what to buy then gift vouchers are the ideal present. You can be sure that you are getting something that the recipient can use and will want - with the added bonus that if they spend it in the January sales then they can get twice as much for the money too! (If any of my relatives are reading this then John Lewis vouchers are always welcome…)
Of course, vouchers don’t have to be of monetary value. How about giving the gift of babysitting so that a couple could go out without the children every so often? Giving the gift of your time is invaluable in today's busy and fast paced world.
3. Clubs, Lessons and Classes
After school clubs and classes all add up the expense of family life. Why not ask for the gift or dance lessons, swimming lessons or football classes? A term of lessons is a great gift that will be well used and last past the festive season.
For grown ups you could look at the hobbies and passions and give the gift classes that perhaps the recipient hadn’t thought of. How about a Jamie Oliver Cooking Class or ballet classes at the Royal Academy? These experience days can be something fun that the recipient wouldn’t buy for themselves and can be a great gift.
4. Presents Under the Tree
Of course, giving physical gifts is still OK too. I love choosing gifts to give to others (and receiving them too!) but perhaps this should be the year when we (I?!) think harder about where the gift we are buying comes from. Do you get the cheapest, quickest easiest option? Or do you think about who made it and where it originated?
In an earlier blog post I looked at why we should care about buying ethical clothing and suggested three questions we should ask ourselves when we shop. If we stop and ask ourselves these questions of the gifts we buy for others this Christmas we can all really make a difference.
5. Charity Gifts
Sometimes we have to buy a gift for someone who seemingly has everything. We see gift guides for “the man that has it all” or “women who have everything”. These guides suggest buying microwaveable slippers, a Ferrero Rocher Prosecco Pineapple or an inflatable zimmer frame.
Funny for a moment then discarded - much like the things George Monbiot talks about in the article I began with.
Instead of buying the man or woman who has everything gifts that won’t last or are not useful how about buying them a gift that is useful to someone else? Fill classrooms, empower women or bust poverty with a selection of thoughtful gifts that really do think of someone else over on the Oxfam Unwrapped website.
These are just a few ideas to spark your imaginations and ‘think outside the box’ when giving gifts this Christmas. We don’t have to run to the nearest supermarket, large brightly lit toy shop or shop only on Amazon.
I hope that it helps you to look for alternatives for your Christmas shopping and gift ideas.
I’d love to hear what you enjoy giving and receiving as gifts - either individually or as a family. Why not comment below and let me know the best present your have received or share your ideas for gifts that will last this Christmas?