By Maruša Levstek
With Christmas songs on repeat, a tree in the corner waiting to be decorated and an apple pie in the oven, I still struggle to comprehend how the year has come around so quickly. Although this is supposed to be the time when people reconnect with their loved ones and for some, their religion, it feels more like the time of stressful last-minute shopping mall marathons accompanied with wild guessing people’s hobbies and hidden wishes, often resulting in…, useless presents, if I may.
Since this year’s Christmas is going to be substantially different for many, perhaps we can extend the learning and re-learning we have all been forced into throughout the year. I hope to encourage you to re-think not only how to gift to those we cannot physically see this year, but also what businesses and values our gifts support and represent.
With colleagues’ lovely contributions, I have compiled a list of sustainable and ethical gift ideas and more. I hope we can all continue to contribute to this wonderful collection of ideas via Padlet.
Plants are personally my favourite present for any occasion (and perhaps the most literally appropriate for the purposes of this blog). I have never met anyone who was not happy to receive a plant. After all, they make a great decoration, purify the air and watching them grow can be a source of personal satisfaction. I think you might have just enough time to propagate your own plants in order to reduce the production and import burdens, as well as financial for yourself.
Books are probably my second favourite choice, but perhaps a slightly more difficult present to choose for those you do not know so well. I sometimes try to guess what kind of genres people like, but I am guilty of gifting books I have personally enjoyed and felt like people could learn a lot from. I would be happy to share my suggestions via email, but I have also added a column to the suggestions Padlet, if you want to share yours.
If you already have an idea for your present, why not exploring sustainable and ethical alternative products you could purchase instead. As part of a Green Tip about fast fashion, Charlotte and I made a Padlet collection of great businesses with ethical and sustainable clothes, shoes and accessories. If you are specifically keen on converting your recipients to a more sustainable lifestyle, zero waste kits are also a great idea. These range from cosmetic to utensil items and there are some great suggestions on the Christmas gift Padlet.
If possible, I encourage you to support small local businesses and avoid purchasing your presents via Amazon, despite the incredible convenience it represents. Why I avoid purchasing from Amazon should be a whole new Green Tip by itself, but I found a useful short blog for the meantime.
However, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we need a present this year at all. There are plenty of wonderful initiatives facilitating donations to those in need and ethical investments instead (e.g. lendwithcare, chooselove), which sounds like a much better idea than a present you do not need or enjoy.
As promised, I would also like to share some tips on how to deliver your presents in a sustainable and ethical manner. Mar and Charlotte have shared a great range of resources on the Padlet about alternative gift-wrapping materials (e.g. newspaper, fabric gift wraps, cardboard boxes and many more), as most wrapping paper and plastic sellotape cannot be recycled. I would also like to encourage you to purchase your presents either locally to you if you are planning on gifting the presents in person or getting in touch with shops local to your recipient and arranging a delivery through them. This way you reduce the delivery costs and its carbon footprint, as well as support small local businesses, which might be crucial for their survival considering circumstances. Lastly, Kristy shares some great ways of how to await and celebrate Christmas sustainably on the Padlet, such as charity shop filled advent calendars and handmade cloth crackers, such great ideas!
I want to conclude with some food for thought. There are many communities who did not get to spend their religious holidays with their families this year, and we should keep this in mind with gratitude. Moreover, in all this bliss and Christmas songs on repeat, it is easy to forget there are many who will not be able to spend this Christmas with their loved ones or have no one to spend it with. And I worry this year might be an especially lonely one for many elderlies and those at risk. Perhaps the best and the most sustainable gift you can give to many is letting them know you’re thinking of them, that be a call, a letter, a card, an email or a message. After all, Christmas is supposed to be about much more than just presents.
Maruša Levstek is a PhD student under the supervision of Professor Robin Banerjee.