Update: looking for a guide to ethical gifting? Here’s where you can find our downloadable guide, 5 Minutes to Ethical Gifting.
This holiday season is going to be a strange one for a lot of us. Separated from our families, even more strapped for cash than we are usually and worried about the impact of consumerism on the environment? It’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate from November until January. There are sustainable, pandemic-proof gift ideas out there, though – read on for our tips and favourite vendors.
Donate to a charity
Charities have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers cutting back on their direct debits amid economic uncertainty. Do you have a friend who survived breast cancer? Consider donating to CoppaFeel! on her behalf. Has your uncle been raving about the benefits a daily nature walk had during lockdown? Donate to his local Wildlife Trust. You’re donating to an important cause, you’re not contributing to unnecessary wrapping waste and your loved ones won’t be lumbered with a product they don’t really want or need. There are hundreds of charities and non-profits to choose from (browse our directory for just a few!), all of whom will greatly appreciate your support. They often provide little gift certificates, or you could make one yourself.
Buy one thing from a local artisan
We’ve all been shopping on Etsy (hi, Etsy) for cute handcrafted gifts and seen something that definitely looks mass-manufactured. Sometimes we recognise an item from Urban Outfitters or IKEA. Those items are distinctly not handcrafted and give marketplace sites a bad name. To ensure you’re getting a quality, handmade product from a small business or sole trader, try a more niche community like Folksy or Buy Black Global, or visit an online market via Pedddle.
You needn’t buy more than one, useful thing: a handmade clock for a friend who’s just moved, a pair of sterling silver earrings for someone who loves jewellery but never treats themselves, some spa products for a key worker who hasn’t had time to wash their hair since March. Bonus environmental points if you only buy from sellers in your country or region to cut down on air miles! Find local sellers on social media by using hashtags such as ‘smallbusiness[placename] or searching a location.
If you’re not sure how to go about finding small businesses, we recommend checking out Just a Card’s Indie Week.
Ask your loved ones what they actually want
You might be surprised that it’s something simple and easy to acquire, like replacement headphones or a decent pair of socks (again, easy to find from a local business). They might be honest and say a gift card to a local shop so they can choose their own present. They might admit that they’re saving for a holiday or a car and that cash would be more helpful and stress-easing than any physical object.
Remember that quality always beats quantity when it comes to thoughtful gifts, especially during these chaotic, uncertain times. And if you’re in doubt? A handmade card and a catch up over Zoom will never, ever go wrong.
Make or Fix Something
Do you have a green thumb and a propagating house plant? Gift those little plant babies to your loved ones (check they aren’t allergic to the plant first, or that the plant isn’t poisonous to pets or children, if they have them). Are you one of those people who’s always baking? Make your friends cake. Everyone loves cake. (Again, check for allergies or food intolerances. Let’s not make 2020 any worse by poisoning our nearest and dearest.)
Alternatively, do you have skills, or know someone with skills, that could help someone out? Perhaps your grandmother has an ancient rocking chair, a real family heirloom, that needs restoring. Your neighbour owns a woodworking shop. You have your neighbour fix the chair and boom, you’re in the best grandchild books forever. You’re helping out your nan on a practical level, because she doesn’t have to worry about getting someone to fix the chair herself, and you’re supporting your neighbour’s small business. Maybe you’re good with computers and a friend’s laptop’s dying. They can’t afford a new machine, but you could afford to spend an hour improving their laptop. You’re giving the gift of time – literally, as a newly-fixed computer might last for months or years- and helping to reduce waste, too.
It’s not necessarily a glittering, wrapped-in-a-bow gift, but offering your time and skills will always be gratefully received. Especially if that skill is making cake.
Do you have any gift ideas to share? Let us know in a comment!