Cheaper (and greener) Christmas gifts

As the first of a series of posts about having a greener Christmas, Tracy looks at cheaper (and greener) options for gifts.

A recent press release issued by our government said that the National Credit Regulator (NCR) urges the public to be money wise over the festive season. The release warns against overspending in December so that you can make it easily through January to your next pay check. A few handy tips accompany the release too, which are great financial advice. One of those tips specifically struck a chord with me: “Make it a family project to make presents for friends and relatives. Bake biscuits, draw a picture, write a poem or sew a cushion cover. These all cost much less than buying something in the shops and will mean more.”

While I’m sure the NCR didn’t think of it this way, the very fact that this tip is encouragement to stay away from the shops and do something creative has strong ties to living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Does drudging through the mall to buy trinkets and other ‘stuff’ for loved ones really show we care? Finding the cheapest ‘thing’ also usually means that you’ll be buying something that’s been mass-produced in some far away country which comes with a hefty carbon footprint. Chances are it’ll be plastic and probably break before next Christmas too.

Maybe it’s time to not jump on the Christmas-gift-buying bandwagon as per usual. Maybe we need to start thinking a little more creatively. I have some ideas…

Offer your time or skills

A lot of us are a bit cash-strapped, but still want to give something to our loved ones. Solution? Give the gift of your time or skills.

  • Offer to babysit so your friends can enjoy a romantic dinner out
  • If you’re a great cook, bake cupcakes, biscuits or mince-pies for your friends
  • Creative? Paint, draw or write something beautiful to give as a gift.
  • Can you sew? Offer to take up the hem of your sister’s new jeans, or alter that shirt she never wears so that she will wear it again
  • If you’re a designer, offer to create the artwork for your friend’s new business cards, or if you’re a tax man, give a ‘voucher’ for an hour or two of your time to advise on his taxes next year

Gift a service

Many of us have things we’d like to get done around the house or in our lives, but either don’t have the time or money to get it done. Try to discover what these tasks are that are sitting on your friend or family’s to-do list, and organise to make it happen for them.

  •  Book a garden service for that friend who has been neglecting his/her garden recently
  • Give a friend a month’s worth of a recycling pickup service
  • Pay upfront for a month’s worth of car-washes for your father at his local eco-friendly car wash
  • Offer to pay for your mom’s next haircut, or send her off for an aromatherapy massage
  • Organise to get your brother’s vacuum cleaner fixed so he doesn’t have to buy a new one

Support a worthy cause

There are many worthy South African causes that can do with our support – and luckily a few of them give you great options for unique gifts.

  • Adopt an animal at the Zoo on behalf of someone. Your donation helps the conservation of animals, and your friend will get a certificate and tickets to visit “their” animal!
  • Buy a tree (or three) in someone’s name through Food & Trees for Africa and know that you’re helping to green the country. 
  • Buy a gift via the EWT online store – your recipient gets a great gift and you know you’re contributing to wildlife conservation initiatives 

If you must buy, buy local

If life’s just too busy and giving of your time or skills isn’t an option, then as a last resort before hitting the malls make a commitment to buy locally made products. You’ll get extra green credits if they are also fair trade or eco-friendly! Supporting ethical local business is a fair more sustainable choice than buying bulk-produced goods that have been shipped in from another country.

  • Visit your local craft or food market to pick up beautiful hand-made gifts
  • Give a tree! Grow-a-tree starter packs are great for families with kids, who can get involved in nurturing a tree from seed.
  • Find a green gadget for that gadget-mad friend of yours – something that will help him monitor his energy or water consumption could be cool, or how about a water-powered alarm clock
  • Buy fair trade products such as Bean There Coffee or Place in the Sun wine.

Hopefully these ideas have sparked your imagination and you choose more sustainable options this year. We’d love to hear about your non-commercial, local and greener choices for Christmas Gifts – do let us know in the comments below!

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