I love giving presents at Christmas. I love receiving them too! Although I am not one of the quarter of Australians who are worried about how they will finance this festive period I know that it is possible to go into such a frenzy of spending at this time of year without thinking about the sustainability of what we are doing. Families need to be mindful of their budgets because it’s not sustainable to go into debt every year to finance extravagance. We need to be mindful of the environment because no matter how great that bargain seems at the time if it will fall apart in six months (or the person doesn’t actually want it), it will head straight to landfill. We also need to be careful of the social rules and conventions within families that mean (for instance) that so-and-so won’t talk to you unless you spend at least $50 on her. It can be a tricky balancing act. Here are a few Christmas present ideas that help you to save money in a fun, heartfelt and environmentally sustainable way!
- E-books: Presumably the person you would buy this for already has an i-Pad/Kindle/Tablet/Phone device that they can read this gift on, so while you might consider that to have sustainability implications, it’s not really something you can control. However, ebooks are a present that won’t result stuff needing to be chucked away if the recipient doesn’t share the same taste in books as you. Although I haven’t done the sustainability analysis, I’m pretty sure that less resources are used in the production of an ebook than a paper one. They have the added benefit of arriving instantly (in case you leave it til Christmas Eve). Booktopia and Sustainable Table both sell ebooks.
- Give your time: Depending on the circumstance of the recipient they might need – and prefer – you to babysit their kids for a couple of hours or clean their bathroom rather than get something they don’t really want. Obviously, think carefully about what you give and to whom (not everyone takes kindly to the offer of domestic assistance!), but you could make up a booklet of ‘vouchers’ entitling friends to things like ‘one hour of baby sitting’, ‘a lunch by the beach’ or ‘a bathroom makeover’ over the next year.
- Gift catalogues like the Gifts That Give More catalogue from World Vision allow you to buy gifts for people in developing countries on behalf of others. This is a great and important thing to give, but once again you do have to think about the values of the person you are giving this too. If people value material, tangible things they can take offence to something like this – especially if they have bought a gift for you.
- Make or bake: This is big in my family! Put research and effort into making special tea mixes, spice blends, jams, chutneys or biscuits for the people who are special to you. Make big batches so you can buy materials in bulk more cheaply. These are great for teacher gifts. Package them beautifully (some kind of reusable kitchen wrapping is great if you have baked because it avoids plastic wrapping and adds an additional element to the gift) and wrap with care.