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Giving greener Christmas gifts

Living

SIMPLER THAN YOU THINK From the packaging to what’s inside, giving sustainable Christmas presents is easy.   

Green Living

McKinley Neal

Given that it’s nearing the end of November, I feel fine mentioning Christmas without being accused of speaking too soon. My goal here today is to give you ideas to make your Christmas season less stressful and less wasteful, so you can enjoy the fun of the season without engaging in last-minute panic buying that ruins all the fun.
As with most things, Christmas goes a bit better if you can spend some time preparing in advance. If you have or know kids, they’ve probably already started to make clear what they expect to see under the tree, but adults too are often straightforward enough about what they like over the course of the year, if you pay attention.
In my family, we find it helpful to clarify ground rules for gift-giving, so with my in-laws, adults don’t exchange gifts other than delicious food, and the kids each get one reasonable gift from each adult couple.
For our own kids we try to buy gifts based on this rhyme shared by friend: Something they want, something they need, something to eat, something to read. It really helps us tune into what they are most interested in, and to teach them the value of goods besides toys.
My husband and I gift each other experiences, like a voucher for a nice restaurant or a night away, instead of items, as we find that we treasure the memories much more than any trinket we might buy.
When you go shopping, you can also have in mind certain criteria for gifts, in addition to a maximum price point. Many people like to buy locally produced or Irish made as much as possible, as this supports individuals or small businesses and the local economy, and cuts down on transport miles.
You can also choose items made from sustainable materials, such as wood, bamboo, wool, organic cotton or ceramics, recycled plastic or paper, or stainless steel, which is fairly indestructible and will last for ages.
Second-hand shopping is a great option for Christmas as well, as many goods don’t need a new price label to be valuable to the recipient, and there are loads of great pre-owned items in charity shops or via websites.
Vouchers for local shops, restaurants, or subscriptions for a service are also good options to ensure people are getting exactly what they know they will like and use.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect gift, try to give it with as little wrapping as possible. There are recycled paper envelopes for vouchers, and we probably all have a stash of Christmas gift bags from previous years tucked away somewhere that we can pull out and reuse.
If you really want to wrap a parcel in paper, try decorating plain brown craft paper with stamps or paint, or use newspaper and finish it with a reusable bow. In our house, Santa knows that he does not need to wrap the presents and can place them under the tree as they are!

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.