Lily Stringer is taking part in the Cardiff Environmental Leadership Programme, delivered by UpRising. Her blog challenges our Christmas present buying habits.
Make it Sentimental
This may sound a sinister start to a post about Christmas, but consider this: if you were forced from your home and only able to take one bag of belongings what would you take? It’s unlikely that it would be your novelty Christmas jumper that you got from your aunt, or the novelty glasses that were discarded under your bed from last Christmas. It would be photographs and meaningful jewellery, things that have meaning and are irreplaceable. So, when thinking about what to get someone for Christmas, why not make it something that is going to mean something? Something that has the potential to be passed down through generations. There are two things that I have noticed about Christmas. The first is that more often than not when I ask people what they got for Christmas, by the time it gets to February most people can’t remember. The second thing that I have noticed is that there are very few presents that you will get in your life that you will still have 20 years down the line.
Photographs are an incredible present because they have stories behind them and, unless you are EVIL, they are something that you are going to keep forever and so produce no waste. They often hold more value than anything you could buy and are something that are unique as well as being cheap.
Christmas Baubles are a great gift. Yes, they are something that are only used once a year, but they again are something that can hold incredible sentimental value and be passed down to relatives. Everyone has that one favourite Christmas decoration they are excited to get out of the box each year, so think about getting one that could be someone’s new favourite. It could represent someone no longer with you, it could be a symbol of your presence if you cannot be with your family at Christmas, it could even be homemade.
Plant a tree for someone you’ve lost
The title for this one is pretty self-explanatory but planting a tree for someone who is no longer with you is an incredible gift. An essential element of Christmas is family and when you lose a family member Christmas can be completely transformed. Planting a tree for someone is not only an act of remembrance but is a great family activity to bring everyone closer, whilst simultaneously helping the environment.
Experiences over physical gifts
When you are 100 years old and look back on your life, it’s likely that the things you remember most will be that bungee jump you did as opposed to the bath bomb and bed socks set you once got. “Experience gifts” create memories (which in turn could create photographs for your next Christmas plans). They not only provide a gift for someone else but could include a gift for yourself! Experience gifts provide no waste and maximum memories.
Charity donations
Secret Santa must be one of the biggest producers of novelty and waste heavy gifts. A budget of £5 each means you’re probably going to receive some pointless junk and a bar of chocolate which is not valuable to anyone. Just think: if each individual of a 30 person group pooled together their £5 they were going to spend on useless rubbish, this would equate to £150 that could then be donated to a charity who could really benefit from the money. I know for certain that I would prefer the knowledge of knowing I have helped someone than a pair of wind-up chattering teeth.
The homeless charity Crisis provide a place for a homeless individual in the centre to receive a Christmas dinner, a shower, fresh clothes, a medical check-up, mental health support and a series of other services for just £28.18. If you have a friendship group of 7 people, that is just £4 each. UNICEF are taking donations of £13.50 which can provide polio vaccinations for 100 kids, that’s less than a fiver between 3 people. Alternatively, if you are shopping for someone else, why not buy them a donation to something that is meaningful to them. A charity that has helped them or a adopt an animal that they love?
Make it yourself
In every house at Christmas you can almost guarantee that there will be at least 3 variety biscuit or chocolate selection boxes over the course of the festive period. As wonderful as these are, the black plastic trays within the lovely cardboard case are NOT recyclable. Switch it up and get on Google. The BBC food website has some amazing recipes for biscuits and treats that even the most uneducated bakers can tackle. Not only is this helping the environment but it’s an amazing family activity and significantly cheaper.
Charity shop
Charity shops are incredible and if you have never been in one then I suggest that you do. They are cheap, they prolong the life of products, they benefit amazing causes and best of all is that you never know what you might find! At Christmas time charity shops sell a huge range of products that have been donated as unwanted gifts. Gift sets that cost £50 originally can be bought for a couple of pounds! Not only does this save you money, but it stops these products going to waste. This also works the other way around: if you end up with 10 bath sets that you’re never going to use then why not donate them and let someone else enjoy them?
This article originally appeared on a news and information service for and by young people in Cardiff.