5 Sustainable Gifts for the Holiday Season
• December 22nd, 2017 • 2 Comments
1. Gift Vouchers: I know they are not the first thing that come to mind when you want to give your loved ones a thoughtful gift full of warm holiday wishes. And yet, two years after I received one, I think of a gift voucher as the nicest thing a friend has done for me. It was for a local luxury hotel that could be used at their spa and restaurant. I was battling a cranky toddler through most of my days and I would have never considered spending that kind of money on a single meal or pampering session. Thanks to her gift, though, I had a wonderful afternoon made of peace, quiet, and plinky plonky hotel music. Another time, I heard of a friend renewing her husband’s Applecare for three years as an anniversary gift. He was a little bemused, but it was something that turned out to be extremely useful (and saved them enough money to spend on many romantic dinners).
2. Upcycled Products: BBC Wildlife recently ran an article about the use of rhino dung for producing paper. Inspired by the work that produces paper from elephant poop, a retired engineer is using the dung of these large mammals to produce high-quality paper. Collecting and processing this material provides an alternate livelihood for people who live on the periphery of national parks (who often view the rhinos as pests that ravage their crops) and creates an environment where these gentle giants are valued for the goodness of their digestive systems, rather than for the suspect value of their keratinised horns and tusks. If there is surprising and wonderful work like this in your locality, use the holidays as an excuse to support the community and the wonderful creatures in it.
3. Local Handicraft: I get emails from a shop that curates handmade products from across the country. Their stuff is stunningly varied – from wonderfully diaphanous mulmul cotton to richly decorated, ornate Tanjavur paintings. I ogle at these beautiful things every chance I get, but I also feel a little reluctance in buying from them. I think it makes sense to buy local handicraft, and not just because there is greater variety on offer. Less than 50 kilometres from home, there is a village that specialises in making traditional wedding saris that are handed down from one generation to the next. The best part? The silk thread is made after the silkworm escapes from the cocoon as a fully grown moth. The thread is crowd sourced from homes and villages along the Brahmaputra who use this form of sericulture as an added source of income. There are stories and sustainable practices hiding just beneath the surface of our daily lives. As an added bonus, this kind of shopping leaves you with a happy glow that will definitely add to your radiance as you hit the holiday parties.
4. Time: Many people send contributions to their favourite charity during this time of the year. However, clichéd as that sounds, sometimes the best gift is the gift of your time. If you are an expert in personal finance, consider conducting a workshop at the local school instead of writing them a cheque. If you spent your working life battling (and winning) against the endless tide of administrative paperwork, perhaps you can help a local NGO get its papers in order. Experts in different fields can be invaluable during career guidance sessions.
5. Create: My uncle’s father used to compose a poem for every festive occasion and mail it to every person in the family. It was a quaint tradition that was missed after he passed away. If you are a storyteller, perhaps you could gather the little ones together for a session after dinner (gift for the kids and for their parents!). I heard of a person who meticulously created an extended family tree and presented it to everyone on January 1st, as a hat tip towards the past as the family stepped into the next year. My grandmother always makes little boxes of snacks each time I visit. Occasionally, she even gives me the recipe along with a list of her special tricks. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!
So, this year, what are your plans for a sustainable holiday?