This silly season, take the opportunity to not waste money on gifts that harm the environment.
As per my tradition over the last few years, here are my top ten suggestions for gifts that keep on giving without a big footprint.
1. Gift an experience - connect people to nature
We are blessed in Aotearoa/New Zealand to have some of the most epic natural areas in the world. I think it a shame that many Kiwis don't get out enough to experience the beauty on our doorstep - many tourists have seen more of it than we have ourselves. Connecting people to nature has proven to be great for reducing stress, improving health and making people care about their actions back at home. Suggestions include diving at a marine reserve, one of our nine Great Walks, or for those less able, take a tour to 90 Mile Beach or Farewell Spit by 4WD.
2. Money for honey
Buying, or even building a beehive for a Christmas present is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Aside from the fact that bees will produce delicious honey, they also add an estimated $5.1 billion to our economy through ecosystem services by pollinating crops so that we can eat fresh produce for our Christmas dinner. Beehive solutions is one of several excellent providers and there are even rental hives are available as a cost-effective solution. You would be surprised how easy it is to have bees even on small property. One of my colleagues lives in a tiny, urban flat and produces amazing Pohutakawa Honey out of his little back yard, which I have in my coffee right now. Delicious.
3. Art for our sake
We have long known that creative solutions can make a huge difference to making people care about the environment. Gifting art is a low-impact way to make people happy many, many times over when they see a piece on the wall. I was particularly impressed the other day, when I saw what the Weston Frizzell team have done for the environment. They created a line of re-usable shopping bags that rapidly sold out in supermarkets and effectively made refusing plastic bags cool. They also realised that the misprints that occasionally happen by mistake really shouldn't be thrown away, so they created the 'Perfectly Imperfect' project - where they gift misprints to charities for auctions - raising crucial funds and minimising waste. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Support them with a Christmas purchase today.
4. Plastic straws suck - go stainless
To date, our small team has motivated people to remove 19,292 drinking straws from the coastlines. If you drive past the Chapel Bar on Ponsonby Road on a Sunday and see the state of people drinking on the street, it becomes obvious that this comes from careless littering. Start by asking the bartender not to put a straw in your drink. If your kids prefer to use straws, get a set of stainless steel ones here. Stainless is normally made from 60 per cent recycled material, it is very durable, can be fully recycled at the end of life and won't get eaten by fish if you drop it in the ocean accidentally after a Christmas tipple.
5. Feed the kids
Influencing the behaviour of our kids really does start at home. Give your child a reusable bag for them to take a home-made zero waste lunch to school. The generous folk at Citta Design have created a lunch bag for kids that supports the amazing work of the Garden To Table Trust who improve the resilience of communities by teaching kids how to grow and cook food.
6. Re-usable lunch wrap
By far the biggest category of rubbish we find on the beach is food wrappers. Over 160,000 pieces since we began! The packaging industry argues that this bane on the environment is necessary for preventing food waste, but actually that is not the case. You can make a far more nutritious parcel of food for your kids at home (that will make them concentrate better in school and achieve more) by wrapping it in Honey Wrap, which does a better job than single-use plastic and smells lovely.
7. Good water - good life
The late Sir Peter Blake famously said - 'good water - good life, poor water - poor life, no water - no life'. I reckon he nailed it with this statement and we have put huge efforts towards cleaning up water by planting trees. As I have mentioned before, buying someone a Grayl allows them to drink clean water anywhere.
8. Get on yer bike!
I wonder how many kids out there want a bike for Christmas? Go on - buy your kid a bike - ideally second hand from Trademe. Or if you want to do something really special, check out the top range of electric bikes here - I have given these a go and can wholeheartedly confirm that they are epic. If your loved one already has a bike, then you could get them a handy storage solution which won't break the bank, or a helmet to keep them safe.
9. Give a gift to charity
Oxfam have long run the 'buy a goat' campaign which has delivered services to many people in need. Making a donation to charity is an easy way to do something nice that makes a real difference. Otherwise, choose shops like Sitka, who sell amazing natural-fibre clothing, re-usable drink bottles and gift a portion of their profits to charity - that's shopping with a conscious right there.
10. Make something - out of waste!
I used to cover all my Christmas presents by making jewellery out of Paua shells that I had collected while free diving. This was not only extremely cost effective, but the people I gave them to were absolutely smitten. For me, getting on the tools (or getting all crafty) is much needed mental relaxation away from the computer screen and people love it when you put in obvious effort, even if the result is not perfect. If you are stuck for a concept, check out the Green Ideas magazine website, gift a subscription to someone who you know is practical, or simply search 'upcycling' on Google Images, Youtube or Pinterest for more project plans than you would ever need.