We don’t need a special occasion like Christmas to give gifts to our loved ones, but the time when we embrace the spirit of giving is a wonderful time to explore the art of sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly gifting from an Environmental Warrior perspective. Gifting is a wonderful opportunity to help others and give back to the Earth, and to say ‘thank you’ for our blessings and good fortune. Ensuring our gifts this season are ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly is easy. Here is an alternative approach to the art and practice of gift giving, the Environmental Warrior way.
Be grateful for the gifts we already have
If we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, and safe drinking water, we are in the global minority. If we have these things, we already have an excellent standard of living, and everything else we have on top of this is a bonus. Millions of people in the world don’t have these basic necessities in life, let alone other things – a good education, a fulfilling career or calling, an opportunity to travel, or a disposable income. If we have more than others, we are incredibly blessed, and we shouldn’t take these gifts for granted. As Environmental Warriors, we have a responsibility not only to live simply, to give back to the Earth and not take more than we need, but to share our good fortune with others.
Donate our time or money to help others
We can volunteer our time and give of our financial resources to help others and the Earth. There are many charities and not-for-profit organisations reliant on public support to achieve their ethical, social and environmental goals. When buying gifts for loved ones, we can allocate a portion of our budget to giving to others outside of our immediate family. Choose the charity that suits you and aligns with your interests and values. Some of us may like to help people, others prefer to donate to flora and fauna conservation, while the rest of us may want to take care of the environment. We may want to help in as many ways and via as many different avenues as we can. Whatever the form our assistance takes, we are giving back to the Earth in some way. Everything counts.
Give a communal gift
We do this in my family. Each person buys a gift for one other person only. I don’t support over-consumption and I don’t believe we should go crazy buying everything we can get our hands on just because we can (we live in a world of limited natural resources, so we must place limits on our consumption). Gifting in this way is perfect for those on the Environmental Warrior path. This way we can purchase one special item of greater value and quality, rather than many cheaper items of (more often than not) poor quality.
Give to others what you would otherwise receive for yourself
Instead of receiving a gift for yourself from others, ask that a gift be given to others on your behalf. Many charities and not-for-profit organisations offer the option of purchasing a gift that directly helps others and the Earth. Through the Australian Marine Conservation Society, we can donate to Save our Whales or Create Marine Sanctuaries for Ocean Wildlife and contribute to marine conservation. Through World Vision we can purchase gifts that add real value to indigenous communities. Give the gift of seeds to plant fruit trees and vegetable crops so families can grow healthy, nutritious food to eat, or (and this one is my favourite), buy a bicycle for a girl so she can ride to school.
Give a gift of quality over quantity
Isn’t it better to give (or receive) a single beautiful gift that is chosen well, hand-crafted from quality materials, ethically sourced and sustainably made, than many cheap, environmentally damaging, mass-produced items with no aesthetic beauty or sentimental value?
Purchase gifts from ethical and sustainable companies
Many companies have an environmental conscience that is embodied in their products and services. Part of the Environmental Warrior ethos involves purchasing what we need from companies who factor their environmental impact into their products and services.
Give a practical gift
I’m one of those people who love receiving practical, functional gifts. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was fresh, new white towels for a massage course I was enrolled in. It was the perfect, personalised, practical gift.
Give an experience instead of a product
Instead of giving someone another product to add to their growing collection of things, why not gift an experience or a service? Often gifts like this will have lasting benefits, unlike some gifts that we never use again once the initial thrill wears off. A relaxing massage with organic essential oils can soothe our tired souls and offers long-term benefits such as stress reduction, greater body awareness and increased wellbeing.
Use wrapping paper, bags, cards and ribbons made from recycled, recyclable materials
Gift wrapping is an artistic pleasure, but as Environmental Warriors we have made the commitment to reduce the waste we generate. If you’re anything like me, you love crisp paper and beautiful colours, but you are conscious of environmental impact. How do we reconcile two seemingly opposite desires? Try wrapping paper, bags, cards and ribbons made from recycled and recyclable materials, printed with vegetable-based, non-toxic inks and plant-based sticky tape. We can use less and we can re-use.
Giving back to the Earth and to others is about extending our generosity beyond our immediate family to the rest of the world, and being thankful and grateful for the gifts we already have.
Thank you to everyone who has supported my blog this year. Have a wonderful holiday season. I’m taking a break from blogging over the Christmas/New Year period. My first blog entry for 2015 will be published on Wednesday, January 14th. See you then!