Friday, December 7, 2012

Buying Christmas gifts? My gift guide.

I have decided to throw in my 2 cents (more like $200, at current Perth prices) with a Christmas gift guide. There's a wealth of links here about how to simplify your Christmas, including Zen Habits' Case Against Buying Christmas Presents. A sobering statistic from The Life You Can Save newsletter:

"According to the National Retail Foundation, last year, $563 billion dollars were spent just in the U.S. during the holidays in 2011. To put that in perspective, according to a UN report, the cost of reducing by half the proportion of the world’s population in extreme poverty will be $189 billion dollars in 2015."

However, if you are going to buy gifts (as I am), my first suggestion would be to make a charitable donation on behalf of the recipient - for example, Oxfam Unwrapped's Pile of Poo (or any of their other excellent gifts for the less faecally-inclined). As well as helping Oxfam's humanitarian projects, you can claim the donation as a tax deduction! Win-win.

If your recipient just wouldn't be satisfied with a donation, think about gifting an experience. Depending on your budget, options include a holiday, birdwatching, a voucher for a local independent restaurant, some babysitting or a cooking class. A voucher for shoe repair or a tailor would allow them to rejuvenate old shoes and clothes, to stop them going to landfill.

If you must give a more tangible gift, keep in mind the resources (environmental and human) that went into producing the gift. Fair trade items tick the box here (try the Oxfam shop or if in Perth, Fair Go Trading in Northbridge). If you're buying for a sweet tooth, there's a lot of delicious fair trade chocolate about (Fair Go have a Butter and Sea Salt chocolate that I really want to try - hint to any family or friends reading).

You can also head to local markets for locally produced items. Some of my upcoming favourite Perth holiday markets include Unwrapped Designer Market (Sundays December 9th and 16th in Forrest Place), Subi Farmers Market Annual Christmas Gift Market (Saturday December 8th, 8am to noon) and Illuminites Christmas Festival (Friday December 14th, 5pm to 10pm, Perth Cultural Centre).

Support your independent bookstores by giving books as gifts. Be subversive with beautiful coffee-table books with an underlying message of sustainability. I recommend Kevin McCloud's 43 Principles of Home, Amanda Talbot's Rethink: The Way You Live, Michael Pollan's Food Rules (beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman) or India Flint's Second Skin.

Some other thoughtful gift guides I recommend are Nicholas D. Kristof's Gifts That Change Lives for the New York Times (charitable donations), GiveWell's Top Charities for the 2012 Giving Season (also donations), Oxfam's Top Ten Gifts (all fair trade) and Sarah Wilson's Christmas Gift Guide.

If none of the above will satisfy, I recommend something from Aesop. Unlike mainstream beauty companies, this fiercely independent Australian brand puts most of its money back into research and development, rather than advertising and promotions. They don't have sales, which is a good indicator that their products don't have ridiculous mark-ups. The products are all made in Australia and they do what they promise on the label, in addition to looking great in the bathroom and smelling divine. They're expensive but they last for months (and then some). As a universally pleasing gift, I would recommend the Resurrection Aromatique Handwash. Every time your gift recipient uses it, or spies it next to their sink, they will sigh with pleasure and think of you with fondness for bringing it into their life.

What are your recommendations for ethical gift-giving?


  1. Fantastic blog post and all great ideas! Thanks for the inspiration.

    My mum has bought all of her Christmas presents second hand this year from charity Op Shops which I think is really wonderful. I can hardly wait to see what she has bought me. :)

    I love the Oxfam cards/gifts and love the humour in them. Last year I had a lot of fun choosing just the "right" one for each person.

    I also love giving and receiving home made gifts. The time and effort spent preparing them seems so much more valuable than the most expensive shop bought gift.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I love that you Mum is buying her gifts from Op Shops. I can't imagine my Mum even setting foot in an Op Shop.

      I love making home made gifts too. I bet your vegan baked treats are really popular!

  2. Oh good - I already went with an Oxfam Unwrapped card and some fair trade chocolate for my Secret Santa gift at one of my workplaces. Glad you approve!

    I agree with Mandy that homemade gifts are nice.

    Apart from your examples, another type of experiential gift I sometimes like to give is tickets to concerts. (But you have to be sure it's to something the recipient wants to see.)

    1. Thanks for the comment. I like the gift of tickets too. A voucher for the ballet or symphony orchestra goes down a treat (even a non-symphony lover will enjoy those popular classics concerts... or the one where they play the Star Wars theme)!