Posts Tagged 'Gifts'

Christmas gifts

 

Christmas is rapidly approaching so we thought it would be a good idea to give you some green inspiration for presents this year.

So we’ll start with “that” person. Every family has one – the relative who is almost impossible to buy for at Christmas.

This year, instead of trudging the high street hoping for inspiration, why not give them a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped?  It’s a great idea which involves buying a gift for those who really need it.

Your friend or relative receives a gift card and magnet, telling them how their “gift” has been used and there’s a huge range of ideas to choose from.  

According to Oxfam, 967 million people in the world are hungry, and a child dies every five seconds of hunger-related causes. A gift of just £10 can feed a hungry family for a month – or you can choose from other options such as the planting of 25 trees (£8), tools for farming (£30) or school books (£8).

If your Unwrapped gift costs more than £50, your relative also receives a free gift box and celebrity DVD.

There are gifts in the range to suit people of all tastes from bookworms or animal lovers to DIY fans or eco-warriors.  You can see the full range here.

Oxfam also has a range of “real” gifts for family and friends, including fairtrade items, energy saving gifts or gifts from sustainable sources. For example, you could buy a solar battery charger for £12.71 or a wind-up torch at £19.56.

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There’s a good range of food gifts from Fairtrade luxury chocolates to Christmas puddings and stocking fillers such as Fairtrade chocolate coins (£1.95).

Children’s gifts include the top-selling cardboard rocket, made from recycled cardboard (£29.35) and the Doll’s House (£26.42) which has an eco-friendly twist for a favourite toy.

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Before the dolls move in, the whole thing needs to be decorated so it’s great for those who love paint and crayons.  It’s made from at least 75% recycled cardboard and can be folded away for easy storage.

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Or how about buying a child the Best Eco Book Ever – an activity book which explores topics like recycling, ecology and the environment in a fun way. (£4.95)

If you are buying for people who aren’t averse to charity shop finds, then the Oxfam site is brimming with second-hand ideas.  Items from Oxfam shops all over the UK are available online and you can pick up anything from pre-owned Playstation games to Spiderman toys.

For example, a keen stamp collector would love a First Day Cover envelope with stamps – some are available from as far back as the World Cup in 1966.

People interested in living a greener lifestyle would probably appreciate a copy of one of the Green Guide range of books.  You can browse the titles here, including the Green Guide for Christmas (£4.99) and the Green Guide for Home and Household which is available at a special offer price of  £7.49 for Christmas.

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The range also includes Pocket Green Guides to England, Scotland and Wales for only £1.49 and EcoEscape UK (with free cyclometer) which includes green places to stay, eco days out and local food and drink (£8.99).

Staying with the green bookworm theme, I’m hoping someone will buy me Tamsin Blanchard’s book, ‘Green Is the New Black’. It’s a must-have and is available brand new from Amazon at £6.74, although personally, I’d rather be given a pre-owned copy. These start from only £1.07 – and it’s much more planet friendly to extend the life of someone’s discarded book 🙂

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Many online retailers now have a range of eco-gifts, including top retailer, I Want One of Those.com.  (IWOOT)

Their wind-up phone charger (£4.99) provides up to 8 minutes of talk time from a 3 minute wind – a lifesaver when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your phone has died.  

I also love their Sun Jar – an ingenious and pretty lighting concept from designer Tobias Wong. Instead of storing  traditional jam, this jam jar stores sunshine – and automatically turns itself on when it gets dark.  You just sit it on your windowsill to soak up the sun and its solar charging panel and low voltage bulb do the rest! 

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IWOOT is also stocking a Mini Kin green power generator for Christmas. It costs £30 but sounds great. A wind-powered battery charger, it straps to your arm or your bike (or pretty much anything really!) and its propeller powers a turbine which creates enough energy to power up a variety of gadgets. You can plug the battery unit into your iPod, mobile phone or PDA. It also has a back up battery pack with USB connector – but cycling in the wind is so much more planet friendly 🙂

IWOOT has a wide range of unusual gifts for the friend who has everything. I think the keyring featuring “permanent” bubble wrap sounds great – an ideal stocking filler for someone who just loves to pop bubble wrap. (It’s highly addictive as all true-poppers know only too well!)

The Friends of the Earth website has a range of eco books, including bargain basement books which start from just £1.99.  (I’ve already put their How to Grow Organic Vegetables and Herbs (£8.99) on my wishlist.)

Or how about buying someone the Friends of the Earth fundraising calendar, which features images from around the world (£7.50).

And when it comes to wrapping up all your gifts, remember to use alternatives to traditional gift wrap whenever you can. For example, the glossy pages of an unwanted magazine are great (you can use car magazines or fashion magazines for adults and old comics for children’s gifts.)

Some gifts look lovely without any wrapping at all – or you could recycle gift bags from previous pressies. (We have a couple of bottle bags in our family that have been doing the rounds for at least three years :))

And, when thinking green, remember that you need to go beyond the gift-giving. I love outdoor Christmas lights but we ditched ours a couple of years ago because of the energy they wasted. 

This year, we’re switching on again – but we’re using outdoor solar lights. The Eco-Savers lights (a string of 50) are £19.25 from Amazon and you won’t need to feel guilty about lighting up your house.

Special note – I’m excited about a new environmental website that I’m involved in called The Big Green Guide. Eventually, we hope The Big Green will be a one-stop shop for everything eco – from advice on renewable energy and greening your home to news on inspiring projects from around the globe.

It’s early days at the moment and we’re just starting to add content but we’ve started things off with a Cut the Christmas Carbon Campaign, which includes lots of ideas on making your Christmas greener this year, so we’d love you to join in. 🙂

Susan

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SERIOUS MONDAY: REMEMBER THE PLANET THIS CHRISTMAS

 

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Christmas is coming – and although most of us love the festive season,  it’s traditionally bad news for the planet.

December brings with it increased product buying, more packaging, more commercial transport – and vast amounts of rubbish afterwards.

It is estimated that wrapping paper alone used in the UK at Christmas, would cover the whole of Guernsey – and gifts aside, we will use around 750 million EXTRA bottles or glass containers and 500 million more drinks cans.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be bringing you some suggestions for a Greener Christmas and tips on reducing the amount of festive waste.

In the meantime, you could consider

Sending  an e-card rather than a traditional Christmas card to internet-savvy friends

Buying as local as possible – often a small games shop in town will cost little more than a chainstore outlet – and you’ll be supporting your local economy

Buying real charity Christmas cards – rather than those sold by many retailers which sometimes offer only a tiny donation to charity. Get them direct from Oxfam or your favourite charity instead

Planning your Christmas menu in advance so that you don’t buy much more food than you really need

Taking reusable bags on your shopping trips. (If you forget, it doesn’t mean to have to accept a bag in every store. Smaller items will often fit into a bag that you’re already carrying

Checking the energy rating on any large appliances or electrical items that you intend to buy

You could also try to buy children’s toys that don’t need up to six batteries at a time. I’ve already bought traditional tiddly-winks for my little one. I used to be quite an expert so we’ll see if I’ve still got the knack 

And if you work with more than a couple of people, suggest a Secret Santa this year where you put names in a hat and buy a gift for just the person whose name you pull out.  It not only saves unnecessary (and often unwanted) gifts but cuts down on your shopping – and saves everyone money!

Susan

LAZY FRIDAY: LAST MINUTE GIFT IDEAS!

Looking for last minute gift ideas?  Then it’s really time that you checked out your local shops.  They really need your support and you can cut your carbon footprint by leaving the car at home 🙂

So many neighbourhood shops are going to the wall in the face of competition from the giants – and we need to support those that remain, otherwise we’ll lose them too. 

Okay, I’m biased. A relative of mine has a post office and thousands of them are facing closure in the next few months. The problem is that so many people now use online banking, shop in the city centre and use email instead of traditional mail.  So, help your local post office – you can withdraw cash there if you bank with Barclays, Lloyds, Co-op or Alliance & Leicester. You can buy or order foreign currency there, send moneygrams overseas or buy postal orders as gifts.  If they also have a retail shop, you can get some budget stocking fillers like stationery sets, calendars and diaries – and they might even be different to the chainstore ones that everyone else is buying 🙂

And, remember, most small post offices are privately owned and they are really struggling now because of a steady loss of government business. TV licensing has been taken away, DVLA is now offering car tax online and millions of benefit customers have been cajoled into having their payment direct into the bank.

Yes, it saves the government money – but at what cost?  Post Offices provide a vital community service and we need to support them – and our other local shops –  all year round. It’s good for us, it’s good for the community and it’s good for the planet.

Right, I’m climbing down off the soap box now – 🙂 – and since it is almost the big day, grab a drink and sit back and enjoy a wonderful version of Silent Night from The King – complete with some great Presley pictures.

Susan

CRAZY WEDNESDAY: A TRADITIONAL POEM, RE-CYCLED FOR YOUR DELIGHT!

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In the spirit of re-using and re-cycling, and because Christmas seems a bit of a landmark, I thought I’d go back through the archives and see just what this year has been like here on Mygreenweek. Amazingly, the whole blog only began on 28th May, 2007, with Aurelien’s first post. The first Daily Green Joke was on the 16th July, and was an immediate hit. How Richard manages it, I’ll never know or understand, but he’s been coming out with a new, completely original joke every weekday ever since. It’s an unnatural talent. Dawn took over Serious Monday from Aurelien on 6th August, 2007, but has sadly had to leave us recently. Very best wishes to you, Dawn, if you’re reading. I’m sure that I won’t be the only one who misses your clear, interesting and well-researched weekly pieces. Susan’s been doing Lazy Friday since October 11th, 2007. Really? Yes, I checked and double-checked, it really is that recent. Her ever-inventive weekend ideas seem as if they’ve been around here forever! And me? Well, I started on 21st August – which seems like a lifetime ago, and feels like yesterday!!

Looking back, I just coudn’t believe how much stuff SenseUp/Mygreenweek had actually got through, in such a short time, and the staggering range of things we’ve written about, and that other people have read and commented on, and just the sheer mass of information – plus of course all the jokes and other funny bits and pieces we’ve picked up.

I thought I’d indulge myself with a nostalgia trip in the festive spirit – I hope you enjoy it. Every link, except one, has appeared somewhere on SenseUp/Mygreenweek between 28th May, 2007 and yesterday. Some are pictures, some are pages or articles and some are videos. I hope some of them bring back memories of bits you’ve enjoyed, and maybe some will give you pointers to bits you haven’t seen before. Have fun!

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

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The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

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Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

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Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

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More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

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And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

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A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

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His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

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A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

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LAZY FRIDAY: YOUR GREEN CHRISTMAS MARKETS

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If you are still looking for last minute gifts, you could check out the Big Green Market in Reading (December 14-16) or in Oxford (December 21 & 23).

It claims to be “a street market with a conscience” and shoppers can expect a range of  eco-friendly, ethically traded and organic products. 

And if you’re gift shopping for a bookworm, you might like to visit the Amnesty book sale on December 17 at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. Books will include second hand stock and warehouse clearance items, as well as brand new remainders, plus there will be giftwrap, diaries and calendars.

(As always, check online before setting out since events can change or be cancelled.)

Susan

LAZY FRIDAY: YOUR LUSH CHRISTMAS!

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Well, only 10 days to go to the big day and I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to the chance to relax after a hectic month.

So, I’ve decided that the rest of my Christmas shopping will have to be done online – although I must confess that I’m still not sure if real “foot shopping” is better for the environment.

That being the case, I’m going for the online option – but first I have to visit one more shop, Lush in Newcastle, because their products are simply – well – absolutely lush !  You can buy online but that way you miss the wonderful smells. (If you do visit Lush, make sure you pick up their free newspaper product guide – it smells wonderful and you can hug it all the way home on the bus 🙂 )

At the moment, Lush is to young people what the Body Shop was to trendies back in the 90s so their products go down a treat with young relatives.

Lush use organic fruit and vegetables in many products and are campaigning against animal testing. They also have a new green range and use popcorn instead of polystyrene beads or bubble wrap in their postal packaging.   You can see all the wonderful natural products for yourself by logging onto the Lush website.
 (And, just In case you haven’t guessed it yet, Lush beauty products are * so *  at the top of my Christmas wish list! )


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Lush Cupcake chocolate face mask for teenage or problem skins – £5.45.

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Lush Tisty Tosty – £2.50 – to weave a love spell. From the Bath Ballistic range which also includes Fairy Jasmine, Sex Bomb, Happy Pill and Big Blue)

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Comforter bubble bar from Lush –  gives you a pink, warming, fluffy bath to protect you from the big wide world – £3.50

Last year, in my search for products that wouldn’t need to be recycled, I bought gift vouchers for two relatives from the local beauty clinic and they went down extremely well.  One used hers to have a make-over while the other enjoyed a manicure and skin-cleansing session.

My sister has an elderly neighbour who rarely gets out and she’s bought her a gift voucher for a meal for two at a local restaurant which is another great idea.

And if you still need any convincing about the need to reduce packaging, check out this documentary

Susan

LAZY FRIDAY: YOUR GREEN CHRISTMAS

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Christmas – a time for giving thanks and spending time with your loved ones – or a manic month of spending more than you can afford on presents that will be taken back to the store in January ?

My childhood memories of Santa’s visits are probably similar to many.  One decent-sized present lined up alongside a compendium of games, a John Bull printing set, painting-by-numbers and the now-outlawed Smoker’s liquorice box.

These days it’s all hi-tech toys and over-priced Bratz sets – but I heard recently of a family who have agreed to buy all their presents from Ebay or charity shops  – and although you might not get away with it for children of a certain age, it’s a great idea for adults.

A few weeks ago, we mentioned a new charity shop, Traid, that sells “recycled fashions” and that would be a good starting point for gifts. But remember that you can pick up designer labels in most charity shops and they are also good for glassware, china, books and toys.

And what can we say about Ebay?  It’s a simple way to locate unusual presents and often, people auction or sell items to raise funds for charity so you’re killing two birds with one stone – recycling an unwanted gift and making a worthwhile donation.

Of course, if you have a friend or relative who would be appalled at a “second hand” present, you could opt for an environmentally friendly gift instead.

I just love the wind-up radios on offer at Natural Collection. They give up to one hour of radio (AM, FM, and international shortwave frequencies) from just one minute of winding. They have a built in LED flashlight and one model features a mobile phone charger output jack. Prices from £23.95.

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The Natural Collection gift range includes organic soft toys, unusual board games and fairly- traded jewellery and gifts – not to mention books, clothes and eco-gadgets such as the the Radiplug. This allows you to switch items off by remote control rather than leave them on standby. It’s also great for anyone who has difficulty moving around the house or bending down since you can switch on the kettle or turn off the TV from bed.  It works up to 30m away and unlike infrared, it can go through walls. (£19.95)

There are also some great outdoor gift ideas in the wiggly wigglers online shop. For example, you  might know someone who keeps talking about composting but hasn’t quite got around to it yet.

The wigglers wormery could be the ideal gift  (prices start at £56 for the all-in-one composter kit) or how about an Empowered Composter which works remarkably quickly and eliminates smells (£85+). The store also offers a range of other gifts from  water butts to natural beauty products (made in the UK and featuring herb extracts).

Other ideas for relatives who appreciate really practical presents could include loft insulation or secondary glazing. This is effectively two gifts in one since as well as you paying for their insulation they also benefit from the fuel savings. (And of course the environment benefits too)

Another excellent online source for eco gifts is All Things Green. Here you’ll find a wide assortment of gifts from solar powered gadgets to bamboo clothing. (I especially like the drinking glasses made from recycled bottles (priced from £10 per pair) and the ingenious water-powered calculators and clocks (priced from £4.99).

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If you know a new parent, the Organic Baby Book (£9.99) would make a nice gift or how about The Organic Directory which lists over 2000 suppliers and retailers (£10.99).

Flowers or plants are always a popular gift idea – but if possible, support your local economy by buying them from a local nursery or florist. If you have a real food-lover in the family, it’s also worth checking whether local farms or organic foodshops are offering Christmas hampers.)
 
And remember that many high street shops are now tentatively entering the “green” marketplace. This year, for example, Marks & Spencer are offering a small range of recycled and fair trade clothing.

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I think this men’s recycled zip-up fleece looks a good buy at £15 and I love the recycled satin-trim camisole at £12.

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If you already have a gift idea in mind for someone, you could log onto Gooshing, an online ethical shopping guide before deciding where to make your purchase. Simply type in what you’re looking for and it will suggest ethical products or companies to buy from.

It rates companies based on a wide number of issues such as animal testing, energy efficiency, political donations and environmental actions. It also has a compare-and-buy tool to find the best supplier for the item you want – from washing machines and computers to food or beauty products.

Next week, our gift guide will include green gifts that will never need to be recycled and don’t even require gift-wrapping.
Happy shopping !

Susan