Sustainable Ethical Gifts

So for those of us who haven’t yet moved to a gift-free Christmas here’s the third in my series of posts on sustainable ethical gifts. The list includes items made from existing materials, low or package-free items or gadgets to extend the life of stuff. If none of these float your boat there are more option on my post on Sustainable Christmas gifts from last year, which includes suggestions for beauty queens, crafters and hobbiest.

If however you’re tempted by the idea of a gift-free Christmas, let me wet your whistle on the issue. It’s blissful. There’s no rushing around shops stressing about gifts, there’s no disappointed faces when you fail to get something they like, there’s no stressful wrapping at the 11th hour. You simple save a tonne of money and time, which you can choose to spend on the more important things in life like lunches with old friends or support for environmental charities.

In my experience moving to a gift-free Christmas isn’t an instant change, it’s more of a transition. This is how I made the change;

Step One – Firstly I decided who I would like to continue to buy physical gifts for. For me I settled on my husband and my kids, plus small items for my kids to give to their grandparents, which i pick up in charity shops during the year.

Step Two – Then I suggested giving up reciprocal gift buying to everyone else. Some were delighted so we fast-forwarded straight to the gift-free zone, and for those who were keen to continue the annual gift giving charade we moved onto step three.

Step Three – In the early years I gave homemade food gifts, or experiences to those who wanted to continue to swap gifts but I put a stop to this after finding too many homemade food gifts and expired vouchers languishing at the back of the presses mid-summer. This moved me onto Step Four.

Step Four – Now I make donations to charity in lieu of gifts for everyone except my hubbie and kids, and my godchildren, who I give cash to. I remind people every year that I’m doing this and welcome them to do likewise for me or alternatively, spend the money they would have spent on me on something for themselves. I used to give my kids’ teachers some homebaked goodies, along with a charitable donation made on their behalf, but last year I heard that teachers often bin homemade food for fear of contamination so this year I’m planning on buying some package-free cakes to go with the donation receipt and card. It’s less personal but less wasteful.

So there’s some ideas for how you might start to move towards a gift-free Christmas but for now let’s look at ‘lighter’ physical gifts for your loved ones.

I’ve mentioned Ugears Mechanical Models in my post about sustainable ethical toys but I’m including them again because some of their kits are advanced enough to keep an adult entertained too.

Or if you like the idea of a mechanical toy but not the DIY part consider these stunning music boxes handmade in Denmark from locally sourced sustainably grown timber by Robin Wood.

Socks are a staple gift every Christmas but this year pick a set that are actively helping to clean up our planet like these socks made from organic cotton and recycled plastic sourced from marine waste.

Jewellery is another favourite at this time of year and if you’re in the market for some consider sourcing it from companies create it from existing materials like the stunning necklaces and bracelets made from used bicycle tubes by German company Deus ex Machine. I picked up one of their pieces during my holidays in Madrid this year and am still in love with it. Paguro is another German based company offering products made from recycled bicycle tubes.

Another brand worth noting is the Irish based Beorknottobe that makes crocheted statement necklaces some from recycled yarn.

For something a bit more upmarket Jewellery by Juna (see first photo) is made with reclaimed silver and ethically sourced gemstones. Other jeweller makers using recycled materials can be found on Ethical Market or Etsy.

If timepieces are more your thing these wooden watches from Irish company Wood Life Store are made from sustainable grown trees and stainless steel. The company also plants 2 trees for every product sold.

If beauty gifts are more your bag this solid perfume by Jo Browne comes in bamboo packaging – with an inner core of plastic – and is free of phenoxyethanol, parabens, petrochemicals, SLS (sodium laurel sulfate), artifical colours, lanolin, and GMO ingredients.

Or how about these make-up brushes from Eco Tools or So Eco. They both use recycled aluminium, and bamboo to make their brushes and vegetable ink compostable printed packaging. The bristles used by both companies are plastic and neither recyclable nor compostable so bear that in mind when disposing of them. Eco Tools also donates EUR 0.91 to The Girl Project, up to EUR 90842.18 every time someone shares a message of women’s empowerment on social media using #MyTrueBeauty and tagging @EcoTools. Here is a very helpful comparison between Eco Tool and So Eco brushes by the beauty blogger Beauty Best Friend. You can buy Eco Tools from Boots chemists nationwide and So Eco are available in TK Max from time to time.

Or for something totally different how about a tool for resharpening wiper blades. Anything that helps to make something last longer is good in my book, and talking about books ……

consider Green Books  for the bookworm in your life, they publish a huge range of titles on the environment, nature and holistic living.


PS – This time in previous years I’ve posted a Guide to Rehoming Stuff Online and a Review of Shampoo Bars


Sustainable Ethical Toys

First and foremost I want to apologise in advance for the forthcoming series of ‘shopping’ blog posts that will be entering your inbox over the next few weeks. As much as I hate the consumerism that has become synonymous with Christmas I can’t ignore it. So acknowledging defeat I’ve decided that the best option might be to nudge people towards spending their hard-earned money on more sustainable, ethical versions of what they would otherwise have bought. Of course I’m not lumping you lovely enlightened people in with the great unwashed, quite the opposite I consider you disciples of sustainability spreading the good word on conscious consumerism and these post are intended to arm you with the requisite information to carry on your good work. So with that said let’s look at the whole area of sustainable ethical toys.

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Handmade Toys & Gifts

heads of 3 knitted teddies

Halloween is over so I’m feeling kinda safe about writing a Christmas post now. It may seem weeks off (7 and a bit to be exact) but if you’re hoping to make a few gifts this year you’ll need to get your skates on.  I don’t buy gifts for anyone outside of my immediate family and this frees up time to make at least one gift a year, so I’m always in search of some sustainable ideas. Here are some that I’ve bookmarked over the years, along with suggestions on where to source materials. If none of these float your boat check out my previous post on handmade gifts and Christmas Crafting.

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Sustainable Ethical Interiors – Living Room

scandi style living room

I struggled with how to write post on interiors. Whenever I write a post on where to buy things I worry that I’m just contributing to our epidemic of shopping porn. Then my brain argues that by emulating mainstream ‘buy me’ blogs I will reach a wider audience and be more successful in enticing some of them to reconsider their participation in the our disposable goods culture.

In a nut shell this means including pretty pictures in my blog. On a personal level I love them. I get a hit of dopamine when I see something desirable. I know this is the intended effect and that this is meant to encourage me to buy. For the most part I’m very good at resisting, primarily because I don’t buy online, which makes it a lot easier to avoid things. I suppose it’s like carrying cash, if it harder to do something you think twice about it.

In this post I’m trying to strike a balance between pretty pictures that make the post enjoyable to peruse and a useful directory for when you consciously choose to purchase a sustainable ethical replacement for something you actually need something, because after all that’s the only time we should actually be buying anything.

I’m going to cover different rooms in the house over a series of posts as I think it’s the easiest and most enjoyable way to digest this information. Today we start with the living room or lounge, depending on your origins!

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Sustainable Living is not an ‘Either Or’ Game

wild flowers growing in a concrete lot

I’ve noticed a trend when it comes to movements. First a kernel of an idea germinates in the brain of a progressive thinker, it spreads within their sphere of influence, then crosses over to separate but like-minded groups, it starts to garner interest on social media, it gains traction and the explodes filling newspapers, airwaves and television screens. Then the backlash comes, and the media (and us) love it. A perfect example is the furore over plastic straws. Apparently some people are of the view that we shouldn’t bother avoiding plastic straws while fishing nets continue to be dumped in the ocean. I’ve long been perplexed by the human tendency to descend to ‘either or’ arguments. Of course, if you’re faced with the choice of picking a plastic straw or a fishing net out of the ocean the choice is clear but being a landlocked luddite this isn’t a choice I face regularly. I don’t understand why these two things are being pitched against one another, why can’t I avoid unnecessary plastic AND support the removal of fishing nets from the oceans?

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