Here are our top picks for Christmas presents with a sustainable twist.
Plastic is the scourge of the planet. According to NGO Sustainable Coastlines, 70 per cent of single-use plastic ends up littering the coastline and finding its way into the ocean where it slowly biodegrades into smaller and smaller fragments, ending up in the stomachs of fish, turtles, whales and most marine creatures. Last year, New Zealand imported nearly 210,00 tonnes of nurdles: plastic beads used to make products from virgin plastic, such as throwaway packaging.
As plastic breaks down, they attract toxins which dissolve in plastic (essentially a 'solid oil'). Research from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, shows that these toxins are being transferred to the stomachs of plastic-eating seabirds.
The use of bisphenol A (BPA) and hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates in plastic have been linked to a series of health complications including some cancers, obesity, Alzheimer's, autism and sexual problems like sterility and infertility. BPA is allowed in New Zealand although is has been banned in the European Union, China and America.
4MyEarth sandwich wraps
Arrowtown-based Marcia McWhirter was sick of wrangling plastic wrap around her daughter's lunch. She has created a series of dishwasher and freezer-friendly food wraps made with ethically-sourced cotton canvas. Choose from snack size (11 cm by 11cm), sandwich wrap (30 cm by 30 cm) or extra large (40 cm by 40 cm). The wraps also conveniently act as a place mat for you or your family member.
Wraps range from $13.50 to $18.
Rethink grocery bags
Rethink recently took out the 2013 Unpackit Best Packaging Award. Lisa Cohen-Smith, the mother of three and owner of Rethink, said that she designed the bags as a solution for plastic-free shoppers creating irksome piles of produce for checkout operators to deal with.
Cohen-Smith has worked with some New World stores so they will tare the bags, meaning shoppers don't have to pay for the extra weight of the product. http://rethinknz.com/
Head to http://www.water-bottle.co.nz/ to meet all your non-plastic needs from stainless steel lunch boxes (between $ 11.95 and $35.95 for a three-piece set), to glass and metal drink bottles (including EcoTanka and Swedish eco-stalwart Sigg).
There are kids gifts too, including scribble-friendly, BPA, lead, latex and phthalate-free place mats fashioned from hand silk-screened silicone which come with children-safe markers.
For the person who has everything:
Know someone who loves gin and tonics, but hates plastic? These stainless steel straws are the perfect present for a juice or cocktail fiend with ethics. No longer will they bemoan the plastics industry while sipping on a smoothie. Dishwasher-safe, fun for kids and $7.50 for two.
Giving for good:
Oxfam Unwrapped have a multitude of Christmas choices, ranging from $10 stocking fillers, which will fund training to Pacific farmers in order to achieve organic accreditation for their produce, to an $1800 water-solution providing a 5000-litre water tank, three tap stands, four showers, four toilets (and a partridge in a pair tree) to communities that are without clean drinking water. Globally, 11 per cent lack the water we take for granted. According to Oxfam, less than half of the population of Vanuatu have access to a safe and reliable water supply. You can also buy piglets for Papua New Guineans, buy a pile of poo for farms in Tonga or set up a community-based business.
Buying a Givealittle gift voucher means your friend, brother, mother or daughter can donate to any cause or charity they feel passionate about. Last month there were over 450 causes to choose from. Vouchers could support one of the numerous groups helping to provide support for those affected by the typhoon, including ShelterBox which distributes tents, cooking and eating utensils, water purification equipment, a stove, blankets and other goods in an iconic green box or increase the capacity of local NGOs like Pillars, which funds mentors for the children of prisoners who are seven times more likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents. The site is a zero fees fundraising site so 100 per cent of money raised goes straight to the cause.
One person's trash...
Getting a new phone from Santa? Donate your old phone and help support Starship's National Air Ambulance Service. Telecom's phone recycling programme will see working phones being fixed up and resold, or non functional phones being broken down and recycled. Drop your phone into any Telecom store around the country or head to www.starship.org.nz/phone for more information.
Make your own:
Money can't buy you love. Put your blood, sweat and tears into some of these home-made gifts if you are short on funds or heavy on time.
Body scrubs - Check out Treehugger's ideas for homemade body scrubs.
Chutneys and jam.
Infused olive oil
Raw muesli (for those tricky gluten and dairy-free relatives)
Cleaning products, learn how to make your own here.