Give smart

Give smart

2 September, 2012
10 green gift ideas
Helpful hints for environmentally friendly presents
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You don’t have to be an eco warrior to appreciate an environmentally friendly gift. More than just being considerate about packaging, overconsumption and waste, green gift giving shows a deep level of caring for the recipient and their values. And while it can be economical in some cases, going green doesn’t necessarily mean cheaping out, either! Gifts with green credentials can range from luxury spa packages to solar powered gadgets, theatre tickets to bamboo toys and handmade or recycled artisan crafts. Here are some tips for finding a perfect guiltless gift.
 
Give an experience
 
When buying services, most of your money is paying for people’s time and not physical objects that could eventually find a spot in a landfill. As material items need resources to manufacture and transport, a service can be a more carbon friendly gift choice than a physical object. Check out what shows are on at theatres near you, book a ticket for an upcoming concert, or grab some gift certificates for a local spa or beauty salon. Or, go a little more adventurous and book a sailing, surfing, dance or golf lesson for your lucky recipient. For music, film or game enthusiasts, consider buying online vouchers or gift cards for downloadable games, movies and music. For those with friends and family overseas, telephone calling cards or Skype credit packages could be an appreciated gift.
 
Mister Fixit
 
Is there some prized possession that has great personal (or actual) value for your family, lying around waiting to be fixed? Does a friend or relative have a stopped antique clock or a broken treasure? Why not get it repaired for them! Or get hands-on and paint a room, or invest time in scanning boxes of family photos into a computer to have a digital record that can be sent around and shared. Old damaged photographs can be retouched and repaired by photo shops, and can have great sentimental meaning. Such gestures, instead of purchases, can create special memories for the whole family.
 
Choose recycled
 
There are some really great recycled products out there these days, as more and more designers turn their attention toward sustainability. Soft and fuzzy fleece jackets made of plastic bottles, tote bags woven out of colourful food wrappers, jewellery made from old computer parts and even bean bag chairs sewn out of advertising banners are all products that are stylish, fun and wondeful conversation ieces, though you may have to tell people they’re recycled, as some don’t even look it! Recycled paper note books and stationary are also a great gift for creative or hard to shop for people.
 
Go old-skool
 
Buying second hand is very environmentally friendly, as you’re not paying for the production of new materials. Scour your local vintage shops for cool and unusual clothes, jewlery and accessories. Hit up used book stores – with the differnce in cost, you’ll be able to give five nearly-new books instead of one freshly printed one. Consider ‘re-gifting’ (giving away items you’ve received as gifts) with caution, as people’s feelings can come into play. If you can ensure that whoever gave you the gift won’t find out and be offended, or even better, if you are able to be honest and open about it before going ahead and passing the gift along, go for it!
 
Buy natural
 
Buying natural products such as rattan, sea grass, banana leaf, hemp and bamboo can support natural systems and is generally considered more sustainable than items made synthetically and from fossil fuels. For wood and paper products, look for Forest Stewardship Council certification to ensure the sustainability of the forests they were harvested from. Also steer clear of hard and tropical woods from unknown sources. Unbleached and undyed clothing, toys and textile products usually mean fewer harsh chemicals are used in the manufacturing processes, and are a good choice.
 
Battery-free
 
In the USA, millions of batteries fly off the shelves every gift giving season. Buy toys that are powered by imagination instead of batteries, or seek out solar powered or wind-up products as an alternative. Fun and educational Visits to nature reserves, marine sanctuaries or organic farms are a great gift for kids or families. Green books (or e-books) and subscriptions to nature magazine are another thoughtful idea. Many wildlife charities have animal sponsorship programs that provide information packs on the threats faced by the endangered species in question, along with a cuddly toy or book for kids to relate to.
 
The double-give
 
Giving to others can have a doubly generous effect when the gift also benefits a third party. Many charities have extensive online shops selling beautiful gift products, with proceeds going to help the charity’s cause. Christmas and other cards are often sold by charity groups as well, and are a wonderful way to help spread awareness while offering your personal message inside. Look out for charity fairs, especially around the winter holidays, as they as are a great place to pick up guilt-free gifts and support your local community. For the person who really does have everything, consider sponsoring an animal, tree, a child’s education or any specific cause that is close to your recipient’s heart. Giving a donation on their behalf is a thoughtful way to show you care, and you can also hand over the tax deductible receipt if you’re so inclined!
 
Whaddya want?
 
Nothing is a bigger waste than giving items people don’t need or want, which are left sitting unused in the bottom of cupboards or, worse, discarded. Simply asking what someone wants may help ensure your gift is the perfect choice, and there is a higher likelihood that it will be used. Buying high quality products in general means that they are more likely to have a better lifespan and need fewer repairs, fixing or servicing, which your recipient will surely appreciate for a long time to come.
 
Wrap it up
 
Think about how you wrap gifts. Wrapping paper can be a huge generator of waste in the holidays. Consider using old newspapers, beautifully crafted recycled wrapping papers or sustainable, naturally-dyed handmade papers. Other creative gift wrapping ideas include tea towels for kitchenwares, attractive reusable boxes for jewellery or trinkets, and silk scarves with colourful patterns.
 

By: Carley Lauder
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