FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO RELAX
Vouchers to a local spa or beauty treatment are always welcome (at least in my household!). If you can support an independent business as well, then so much the better. Most face-to-face services have re-opened, but you may wish to double-check that your recipient’s local spa or salon is one of them.
FOR THE READER
If you know that your intended recipient has a favourite magazine that they splurge on at the newsstand, consider giving them a six- or twelve-month subscription to it. Even less waste: can it be converted to a subscription that can be read on their tablet or eReader?
Speaking of eReaders, my Kindle was one of the best gifts I ever received and I am never without it. If you know what type of eReader your recipient has, vouchers for ebooks are always welcome (hint, hint).
Vouchers to local bookshops are also great for those who love to browse. Beyond the usual High Street fare, Bath is home to at least two great independent bookshops: Mr B’s Emporium and Topping & Company Booksellers. Mr B’s Emporium also offers a very popular Reading Spa and subscription service.
FOR THE MOVIE BUFF
This section usually highlights how you can give your cinephile friend or family member a membership to their local cinema, but, unfortunately, I think that’s probably out for this year. Instead, perhaps a Netflix or Disney+ membership if they don’t already have one?
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE FUNKY FEET
A fashion for brightly coloured socks has swept across the nation over the past several years, and you don’t have to look far to find fun socks made out of bamboo, silk, or even merino wool. If you want your gift to go twice as far, consider supporting Stand4Socks, whose buy-a-pair, give-a-pair policy helps the homeless.
I debated about including this because it’s slightly NSFW (not safe for work … or those who dislike swear words—you have been warned before you click on the link), but I stumbled across Blue Q socks and they made me giggle. The company also donates 1% of the profits it makes from their socks towards Doctors without Borders, so they’re rude with a heart of gold. Or at least bronze.
For the Cyclist
I stumbled upon Cycle of Good during a visit to Hampstead Norreys, and I fell in love with their products and their ethos (and I’m not even a cyclist!). Proceeds help provide training and support for communities in Malawi through the recycling of bicycle inner tubes and other materials into amazing eco-friendly items, ranging from washbags and wallets to courier bags and rucksacks. You can even get face masks made from recycled plastic! For those who are looking for something a bit bigger under the tree, check out the Elephant Bikes: these ex-Royal Mail bicycles are built to last, and buying one here sees one donated to Africa.
FOR THE EXPLORER
I debated about whether to delete this section this year as many of us have had to curtail our travels this past year. However, I thought it was worth highlighting that most places have re-opened after lockdown, and memberships never go out of style …
… especially as giving experiences that can be used throughout the year is a great way to almost completely eliminate Christmas waste while also helping the recipient make lasting memories. You’ll have science on your side too: it’s been shown that people tend to gain greater happiness from experiences rather than things.
To this end, consider giving an annual membership to the National Trust, English Heritage, or the British Museum (the latter is one of my favourite gifts to find under the tree!). Or think local: in our neck of the woods there’s Westonbirt Arboretum, Bristol Zoo, Bowood House, and Longleat.
Or at least those whose taste buds you would like to tickle. Farm shops are a great source of local products, often with minimal plastic: jams and preserves, chutneys, exotic sauces, and honey all come in glass jars. Locally, I’ve always had success with Allington Farm Shop and Hartley Farm Shop, and I’m sure you can find a shop near you.
We also are fortunate in Wiltshire to be the home of Lick the Spoon, an award-winning producer of luxury chocolate. This family-run business has switched over to completely plastic-free packaging, and whether you’re looking for something to go in a stocking or under a tree, it’s hard to go wrong with these delicious chocs!
Another Wiltshire-based business is The Best Ever Brownie Company in Calne. While not completely plastic-free, I can vouch that their products live up to their name, and they are easy to have shipped to your chocolate-loving friend or family member (or yourself). They also do a subscription service if you want to keep the brownie goodness going beyond the holidays.
You can also consider keeping your friends and family hydrated:
- Alcohol is a popular gift for a reason: most people seem to enjoy it. A bottle or three of your recipient’s favourite tipple could definitely put you in their good books for the New Year, and these are the type of gifts that gift bags were made for.
- For the teetotal, tea (or coffee) could be a good choice. If you know that they’ve made the switch to loose-leaf tea, a refillable tea caddy could hit the spot. I use the Bath Tea House Emporium, Comins Tea, and Team Tea to stock up for our household, and Team Tea’s letterbox-friendly subscription service has also been a popular gift for family overseas—they do all the shipping for you! There are also various types of diffusers available (and yes, that’s a manatee, er, manatea), teapots, and plastic-free tea bags.
In addition to my passion for making the environment a better place, I am also a firm believer in gender equality. While culture is slowly (ever so slowly) changing, one place where we have more direct control is the toy box. Please consider the gifts you give your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any young people you shop for: do they perpetuate gender stereotypes? It’s been shown these cultural beliefs limit the aspirations of children by the age of 7: break out of the pink-and-blue prison!
Chemistry sets, Legos, superheroes, and dinosaurs are not just for boys. Cooking, kitchens, cuddly toys, and crafts are not just for girls. While it’s important to consider if a gift is age appropriate (small, swallowable parts and young children don’t mix), the gender of the recipient shouldn’t factor into your decision.
When giving gifts to children in particular, a big question to consider is whether the item can easily be handed down or taken to a charity shop once it’s outgrown (in other words, try to avoid the plastic toys that break if you look at them the wrong way).
I was one of those kids who loved to receive books under the Christmas tree (and still do!). If you’re shopping for one of them, there’s a wide range of environmental books to get them started on reducing their wasteline:
- Kids Fight Plastic: How to be a #2minutesuperhero, Martin Dorey
- Little Book for Big Changes Activities and Tips to Make the World a Better Place, Kirsten Liepmann and Karen Ng
- Plastic Sucks! You Can Make a Difference, Dougie Poynter
- A Planet Full of Plastic … and How You Can Help, Neal Layton
- Plastic: Past, Present, and Future, Eun-ju Kim and Ji-won Lee
And I recently stumbled on the intriguing Mud + Bloom while researching gifts. This is a monthly subscription box that is supposed to encourage children connect with nature through crafts and other activities. If you’ve tried this and have any thoughts about it, please let me know!