As the heavy wave of consumerism crashes over December, it can be hard to escape the rising tide of meaningless purchasing – it’s the office Kris Kringle, the gift for your second cousin (once removed), and that joke present for your boss.
Giving and receiving gifts can spread joy and bring people together. It’s a beautiful way of honouring the value of others in our lives.
But at this time of year, it’s easy to buy for the sake of buying. This often ends in a thoughtless cycle that benefits very few, other than the multimillion-dollar corporations who entice us in our panicked state with their glittered packaging, while the ever-so-subtle sound of Christmas carols jingle in the background.
As COVID has ravaged the world, our relationship to ‘things’, and the value we place on them, has changed. When we’re stuck behind borders away from loved ones, or unable to partake in our favourite activities we’ve taken for granted for so long, we quickly realise what ‘things’ add the most value to our lives. Spoiler alert: it’s not the macramé coasters or shell-shaped trinket tray.
This December, I challenge you to stop and reflect.
Take a moment to truly consider why you are giving, and to appreciate who you are giving to. What is something that could impact their life? What is something they will receive ongoing enjoyment or pleasure from? What do they really need in their life right now – physically or even, perhaps, intangibly?
And then go even further.
Think about the bigger impact of your purchasing decisions. The purchase of a product is, in many ways, an endorsement of everything that went into making it. Consider where your gifts are coming from and what the brands you buy from stand for in their business practice. Remember, the impact of your purchase doesn’t stop after your credit card has been tapped on an EFTPOS machine. It has a far-reaching flow-on effect to people, communities, and environments around the globe.
The purchase of a product is, in many ways, an endorsement of everything that went into making it.
It also has power. Your purchases have the incredible ability to influence positive change.
So, as you shop for meaningful gifts this December, why not consider the following suggestions before opening your wallet at the checkout? Let’s commit to making conscious, informed choices that have a positive impact on people and the planet.
1. Choose a highly rated brand from the Ethical Fashion Guide.
Worker exploitation and environmental harm are widespread problems in the fashion industry. If you’re purchasing clothing this Christmas, use our Brand Finder or download a copy of the Ethical Fashion Guide to vote with your wallet and preference those doing the most to mitigate risks of modern slavery, child labour, and environmental degradation in their supply chains. It’s important to note that even the highly graded brands aren’t perfect and still have a long way to go – so use the tool as a guide to be informed, rather than a greenlight for a shopping spree. It helps you give that tee-shirt on Christmas morning knowing that you’ve purchased as a conscientious consumer.
2. For a present with a bigger picture focus, give a Big Hearted Gift.
It’s the perfect gift for that someone in your life who has everything they need – a beautiful gift card which is also a donation towards a community development project. But Big Hearted Gifts do much more than meet immediate needs like clean water, food, health, and income. They allow people to live with dignity. These are gifts that give hope and are an expression of God’s extraordinary love at work in the world.
3. Chocolate treats made with ethically sourced cocoa.
Nothing says, “Christmas time!” quite like chocolate-coated nuts. Inside the colourful packaging, however, there is a sour side to this super-sweet industry. The Cocoa Barometer estimated in their 2018 report, that there are 2.1 million children in Western Africa, alone, working on cocoa plantations that supply more than 70 per cent of the world’s chocolate producers. Instead of learning and playing at school, these children are working with hazardous tools, harmful chemicals, and carrying heavy loads. In the most abhorrent cases, children are trafficked. Lured with hopes of a better life, they end up involved in a form of debt bondage and are forced to work in order to pay off a never-ending burden.
When strolling through the chocolate aisle this Christmas, be sure to look for a Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, or one of these certification labels on the packaging. This will ensure that the brands you are buying from are taking credible steps towards mitigating the risk of child and forced labour in their supply chains.
4. Give the gift of knowledge.
As Koffi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient once said, ‘Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.’ Empower and liberate your gift recipients this Christmas by giving a book. When you give a book, you’re giving so much more – a new skill, a new passion, a new perspective, or a new source of inspiration.
5. Lend a helping hand to reduce next year’s environmental impact.
Give a gift that helps your loved ones reduce their impact on the environment. Our everyday actions and habits may seem insignificant, but together they contribute to a huge swarm problem. One of the areas in which we are all challenged to improve is the adoption of reusable goods in place of single use plastics. When we throw something away, the reality is, there really is no ‘away’. What we are told is ‘away’ is really just ‘out of sight’ – somebody else’s problem. This isn’t sustainable, and we must change our mindset.
On average, Australians consume 130kg of plastic per person each year. Only 12 per cent of that is recycled. Consider giving a gift that helps keep more plastic out of our landfills, oceans, and ecosystems. Reusable coffee travel cups, beeswax-coated food wraps, and mesh produce bags are all great alternatives to their single-use plastic counterparts. As Christians, we are called to be stewards of the earth. Let’s get to it and lead by example!
6. Give a gift wrapped in reusable wrapping.
Every year, Australians use more than 150,000 kilometres of wrapping paper at Christmas. A separate study suggests this is equivalent to 50,000 trees – that’s a lot of trees being cut down to make presents look pretty! With a 30 per cent increase in household waste over the Christmas period – and a large majority of this heading to landfill – it’s important to be conscious of our waste and take steps to reduce it where we can. Instead of wrapping your gifts in store-bought wrapping paper this Christmas, try adapting a reusable method such as Japanese furoshiki – which uses fabric pieces instead of paper. And for the gifts you receive in paper – remove the sticky tape and place the wrapping in the recycling bin (if the paper is unable to be reused). Recycling should always be a last resort option. Always try to reduce and reuse first!
7. Mailing your gifts? Use a carbon-neutral delivery service.
If you’re sending gifts to a loved one separated by distance this Christmas, consider the environmental impact of the postal carrier. More than 1 million tonnes of CO² are emitted every year in Australia alone by the transport and shipping industry. Sendle are a carbon-neutral postage service and certified B Corporation, that have offset 100 per cent of their generated CO² emissions since their establishment in 2014. This means that they invest back into environmental and social projects run by third-party organisations, such as the Myamyn Conservation biodiversity project in Victoria, Australia, or the Breathing Space air pollution project in South India. Send your gift knowing that the postal carbon footprint isn’t costing the earth.
8. Gift an experience.
If you’re looking to get away from the physical clutter of superfluous gifts, consider giving something more intangible – an experience. Give a gift of connection, respite, peace, or enjoyment through a voucher to something that will enhance your recipient’s regular, day-to-day life.
It may be a pampering/spa voucher for the selfless woman who rarely (if ever) takes time for herself. For the busy couple juggling work and family commitments, consider a restaurant voucher to allow them to spend relaxed, quality time alone together. Perhaps a museum or gallery annual pass for the young history buff or art lover? The possibilities are endless!
Allow them to indulge their passion. To broaden their skills. To enjoy the company and kinship of another. Help them experience joie di vivre and give them something to look forward to once the Christmas and New Year’s festivities are a distant memory.