Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Present choices - new, second hand, recycled, upcycled

Last year around about this time I pondered consumerism around Christmas, whether a levy of spend is a good idea or not. This year, for the past month, I'd intended to look at the choices we can make for giving, but life kind of got the better of me.

And for all the good intentions I had, I didn't put them into practice because of time constraints, circumstances and something having to give. I'm ok with that. And quite enjoyed some one stop shop (shopping centre) shopping which got me out of the house when spirits were low and made me rather pleased that my worry not to get presents in time was quickly kicked into the very back drawer. And you know what? I think I got rather nice presents that suit their recipients, and will be used - at least I hope.

However, in an ideal world, I'd like to have a handmade and recycled/upcycled Christmas, one where none of the presents given are bought from a chain store. There are so many alternatives. Handmade items from etsy, folksy and other incarnations of the same idea. Local businesses upcycling, just look at Glasgow Wood Recycling's range as a great example. Charities with shops often have a lovely selection of fairtrade or environmentally sound presents - Oxfam, Amnesty International and Save the Children are just some examples.

I've also come across online shops with a difference, such as Gifted People, or some other ethical store like Natural Collection.

It's really the same idea as giving someone the gift of a service, which you could do locally as well. Something like the felt making workshop I gifted myself for my 40th birthday, which in turn supported crafting people passing on their skills, but which also means that I now have a new skill myself, something that's going to be very lasting and not gather dust.

Then of course there is also the possibility of second hand. Now, personally, I have nothing against getting something that is second hand. I'd be very happy with that, as it gives an item a new lease of life rather than going to landfill, and it avoids the making of the same item again, which in my eyes is a waste of limited and precious resources.

The problem is that of course we don't have a culture where giving second hand items is acceptable. Yet. While I'm happy to announce that I'd rather get something second hand than new, would I give a second hand item to friends or family? I'm hypocritical that way and most would be I expect.

There's also the pressure element. Some time ago I announced that I felt there were too many presents going around and it was getting a bit over the top and how about reducing it all and just do less but let it be handmade? The thought behind this not being that we have to all make every present, but to give less, and make or buy handmade. The idea was to reduce the pressure to buy so much, not to add another pressure. But of course, for many, this does result in a new pressure, maybe because it's easier to stick with the shops you know, maybe because handmade takes more time, or if bought, is more expensive.

Personally, I always feel that a present given that is not used is a waste, not of money but of resources. Yes, I do appreciate that it's the thought that counts, but if I give a present that I don't see used, I'd rather not have given it. Look at toys for instance. They're all over the place in our house. Yet Cubling hardly plays with them at all. When I think of the amount of money that goes into them and how better that money could have been used, I get a bit flustered. It's not about my money being wasted, it's about money in general having been wasted, because it could have been spend on something more worthy, as well as resources to make the thing that just sits and doesn't get used.

So in the Christmas spirit, and I know I'm a bit late in throwing this thought into your Christmas shopping, do we really need all that we buy? Would we not be better off being a bit more selective, even offering to friends and family to not gift quite so much? In a time where most of us just buy what we need anyway, what is it we need really? Not another thing, but surely time together, help where we don't manage something ourself. Do you know more ethical shopping outlets that you can share, including handmade and upcycling initiatives? Please do share them in the comments! And finally, could you imagine to give and receive a second hand present?

My plan, again, for next year will be to give handmade, home baked, ethical and maybe even second hand. At least to some extent, because some is always better than none. In this spirit, some of my Christmas shopping did in fact come from some of the places mentioned. I also made some presents. Next time it will be more I hope.



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