Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Top ten eco-friendly gifts

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The onslaught of hurried shoppers spending a heap of their hard-earned cash on unnecessary gifts that are invariably wrapped in single use plastic is about to ensue.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Check out my top ten gift ideas that are both easy on your wallet and easy on the planet.

ONE: UNICEF Inspired Gifts

This world-renowned charity has cleverly put the word out to make a donation to someone in need. You can tell your loved one where it has gone and make them feel warm and fuzzy in knowing that you are truly helping someone, rather than buying something useless that will almost definitely end up in their garage sale or on Trade Me when it comes to the clean-up next spring.

Oxfam have also jumped on the donation as a gift bandwagon, as have World Vision as they realise that sometimes buying something useful for someone in need is a great and pragmatic gift.

TWO: Trade Aid

Thirteen of our cities and towns have physical Trade-Aid stores and they also have a handy online shop. What I like is that the smiling youngster behind the counter is usually a volunteer. This Kiwi charity is made up of pioneers that have directly improved the livelihoods of developing countries.

Their gift selection is fantastic and they have a wonderful range of toys for children and jewellery for the missus.

THREE: Up-cycling, re-purposing or re-gifting

Making something out of rubbish is a thoughtful way of adding value with a physical gift that will keep your wallet happy too.

If you can find a mate with a tile cutter, then you can re-purpose a used wine bottle into a self-watering herb planter (another bonus: you get to enjoy the wine first).

One persons' trash can be another's treasure if you are clever - check out the amazing selection of up-cycled jewellery here, or if you are gifting to a crafty person, Sherri Haab has written a book that - in the hands of the right person - turns rubbish scavenging a into a cushy wee number.

Re-gifting is often frowned upon, but if it's done right (i.e. you don't accidentally return a personalised gift to the person who bought it for you), then you're benefiting both your wallet and the receiver. Just make sure you're not using the receiver as an outlet for junk that they'll just end up having to admin (that's what Trade Me is for).

FOUR: Reusable vessels

On average, we kiwis use 168 plastic drink bottles each year and only 24% of them get recycled.

Many thousands of them pollute the beaches that you probably want to visit this summer.

Cut this menace from your loved-ones' lives by buying them a good re-usable drink bottle. They are certain to thank you down the track as most people find it makes them drink more water, which means less headaches, better health and less hangovers too.

There are cool ones for sale that also support charity at www.sustainablecoastlines.org - they make small ones which are perfect for kiddies too.

For those who indulge in takeaway coffee, get them a reusable coffee cup like these Ideal Cups that are made right here in Aotearoa. Not only are they 100% reusable and 100% recyclable but they're also BPA free.

Many cafes offer discounts for those who bring their own takeaway cup. Conscious Consumers has a list of some of your local cafes offering this here.

FIVE: The living gift

One of the best gifts - that keeps on giving - is a tree, plant or perennial flowers.

In fact once on my mother's birthday, with only $8 to spend, I weeded out a neglected planter box just outside her bedroom window, put in a few nice flowers from the bargain bin and woke her up with a cup of tea and an improved view. It was a hit.

Taupo Native Plant Nursery has an epic selection, but be sure that the receiver has the right type of land before you buy them a tree that is going to get massive and cause problems down the track. There are heaps of other nurseries around with beautiful shrubs, houseplants and flowers too.

SIX: Reusable produce bags

While a lot of us already have reusable grocery bags, these ones are for your fresh produce (fruit and veges). Now you don't have to unload loose kumara and apples onto the checkout while everyone watches on bemused.

The best thing is the extra weight of the cotton bag is pre-entered at the checkout by participating retailers, so it doesn't cost you anything extra.

SEVEN: Hungry Bins

Did you know that nearly half of the waste households produce could be composted? The clever buggers at Hungry Bins have revolutionised composting by creating a system that is simple, clean and doesn't smell bad.

Stop throwing your food waste into the rubbish and start feeding your garden. If you don't have a garden, there are plenty of people around who will happily take your precious worm wee that you can make with these - you could even swap it for something like some delicious homegrown strawberries that your waste helped to grow.

EIGHT: Scented candles from Ecoya

For those looking to treat someone with a bit of luxury, natural Ecoya candles last longer and burn cleaner than the normal paraffin types that usually adorn your Christmas table.

They also smell so lovely that they will bring great pleasure to whoever is lucky enough to be gifted one.

The lady of the house has an Ecoya travel candle sitting in the back of the linen cupboard so the towels and sheets always smell divine. Because it doesn't get burned, it has lasted well over a year and is still going strong.

NINE: A bee hive*

Now this one is quite literally out of the box - and you definitely won't want to attempt to wrap it.

Gift someone years of delicious homemade honey and a natural way to enhance the rest of their backyard. Having bees can increase the fruit and vegetables a garden produces by 50% and we owe it to these little workhorses to give them a boost - without bees, we would lose access to over 70% of the food we produce today. Pick one up on Trade Me or at Beezthings in Auckland.

* This gift obviously isn't for everyone. Keeping bees requires a lot of knowledge and time, if your recipient doesn't have both of these then choose one of the other options! Click here for some more information on beekeeping in New Zealand.

TEN: A home brew kit

Ever since flatting while I was attending Otago University, I have been a fan of home brew. Obviously not one for the kids, but give your dad (or brother or uncle) a home brew kit and you may well bring a tear to his eye with your thoughtfulness.

Little brings more satisfaction to a man than mastering the craft of making his own beer and very little waste is produced in the process as you can re-use all of the old crate bottles that are gathering dust under the house.

For all these gifts, instead of buying new wrapping paper, you could re-use the stuff from last year (as my mum does) or even use an old newspaper instead. Get the kids involved and have them make potato stamps to decorate the paper with - a great school holiday exercise.

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