That time of year again :) This week, I have been choosing presents for my six nieces, aged from 10yrs to 19yrs. It has been fun but not easy. Last year, I gave up gift wrap; this year, I want the presents themselves not to contravene my values. That means they should not bolster a culture of materialism, which I believe is making a lot of people unhappy. They should be environmentally friendly. They should not add to surplus household clutter. They should suit the individual recipient.
Books are the best option I have come up with. On the down side, trees have been destroyed in their creation. But as long as I choose good books, I think their circulation is worthwhile. Hopefully when the books I give are no longer wanted, they will find their way to a Trade Me auction or a secondhand book shop or BookMooch.
Consumables might be a good choice. I like art and craft supplies as a present for young children. I thought about shopping at the Body Shop, but their products come in plastic and I don't know how environmentally friendly they are.
Over the years, I've received some lovely homemade presents. My only crafts are crochet and knitting. I would have to get a lot more motivated if I was going to crochet and knit gifts: I currently complete about one small project a year.
For my youngest two nieces, I have bought a beautiful little wooden box and an embroidered bag from Trade Aid. The shop is full of lovely things and it is comforting to know that all the products are fair trade, but even as I paid for them, I worried that after some initial appreciation, these gifts will just be more clutter in my nieces lives. New Zealanders (most of us) have so much stuff!
I was nervous of going with secondhand books, toys or clothes, worrying that they would not be well received. Until it occurred to me that because secondhand goods are cheaper than new, I could top-up a secondhand present with something small but new, or with cash. Kids of all ages seem to love being given cash but I like to give presents that I have chosen. This way I can do both :)
Matthew and Waveney at Rubbish Free Year recommend giving an experience: a great way to avoid clutter. I'm thinking movie tickets; event tickets; entry passes to museums, aquariums, climbing walls, swimming pools, etc; outdoor adventures like kayaking trips. For someone who lives in the same town it makes sense to share the experience: a picnic tea overlooking the lights of the city.