Christmas Gift Guide – Part One

Image: The Basket Room

Ho Ho Holy Moses I can’t quite figure out where this year has gone.  One minute I’m travelling around Wales in a caravan enjoying a pretty good British Summer, the next I’m thinking I’d really better get a wriggle on and get the Advent Calendar down from the attic before I have two very disappointed children on December 1st.

Not to mention the fact that I have officially (*not officially) the largest family in the world so Christmas shopping is an actual Herculean task.

Given my recent posts promoting sustainability and suggesting we reduce the amount of stuff we all buy you might think it’s a tad incongruous to do a Christmas Gift Guide and I guess you’d be right.  Christmas is, without doubt, the pinnacle (the star on top of the tree?) of the consumerist society we have created, accounting for a huge proportion of the profits of most of the major retailers as we put aside thoughts of austerity and spend spend spend.

That said, I do love Christmas, I can’t help it.  It’s the one time of year when we do seem to manage to slow down (after the flurry of preparation of course) and enjoy time with each other.  I love to stay close to home as much as possible, do very little, eat very much whilst wearing very stretchy pants.

I also love to give gifts to those that I’m closest to, as much as I might complain about Christmas shopping.  There’s something lovely about finding something perfect and giving it just for the sake of giving.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all thoughts around sustainability should go out of the window for the next month or so.  Christmas gifting is not going anywhere anytime soon but what we can do is to be more thoughtful about our purchases.  Do we really need to buy so many gifts for the kids?  Can we avoid too much reliance on the ease of Amazon and focus on more sustainable products and retailers?

With that in mind the first instalment of my Christmas gift guide is, predictably(!) all about the sustainable.  If we could all substitute just a small number of our Amazon/Big Supermarket presents for one or two things from this selection imagine what a huge difference it could make?

Candles

Who doesn’t love to receive a beautiful scented candle at Christmas?  In the past I’ve been given some amazing Jo Malone and Diptique candles which I’ve eked out for months to make the most of the indulgence.  What I didn’t realise at the time, however, was that both brands still use paraffin wax, a substance which gives off the same fumes as diesel fuel.

Fear not, however, because the alternatives to your favourites are both numerous and equally beautifully smelling.

One brand that I’m lusting after particularly is Boy Smells, a range of “traditionally masculine scents in a prettier bouquet” made in reuasble glass jars.  The wax is a combination of coconut and beeswax and the candles are hand-labelled and you’re getting something way cooler than Jo Malone without the price of the carcinogens.

Clockwise from top left: Boy Smells; Skog; Handmade Candle Co; PF Candle Co.

Reusable Cups

The switch from plastic bottles to reusable cups is one that we really all should be making, no excuses.  Not only has the thought of whales found with pounds upon pounds of plastic in their stomachs highlighted the issue but the choice of cups out there also makes it a relatively cheap and stylish switch to make.

KeepCups have garnered much attention but there are so many out there and I just had to include the Moomin flask that I own because, well, it’s Moomins!

Clockwise from top left: KeepCup; Thermos King Food Flask; Stojo Collapsible Reusable Pocket Cup; Moomin Flask at the Moomin Shop.

Interiors (Part One)

It wouldn’t really be a Christmas Gift Guide from me without a bit of a focus on homewares.  There are so many amazing products and brands to choose from I thought I would spread this over both instalments of my Christmas Gift Guide and then I will attempt not to buy it all.

One brand that I’ve mentioned a number of times (and who will also feature soon on the blog in more detail) is The Basket Room.  I was lucky enough to recently receive a couple of their baskets for my own home and I’m totally in love with them.  Not only are they beautifully made but the business helps to support traditional weaving communities across Africa, providing a fair wage and good working conditions for the weavers.

There are so many other brilliant products to choose from from independent retailers including blankets made from recycled plastic bottles at Weaver Green and a whole host of products made by vulnerable groups at Aerende.

We should also remember that big doesn’t always equal bad and that there are larger retailers that sell ethically made products using sustainable materials.  H&M Conscious for example, provide a wide range of products at amazing prices that fit the bill including this gorgeous cushion which graces my own bed!

Clockwise from top left: Lavumiso Tropical – The Basket Room; H&M Home; Ceramic Serving Bowl – Aerende; Diamond Cobalt Blanket – Weaver Green.

Covetable Shoppers

One change that we have made hugely successfully since the introduction of the 5p charge is reducing our use of plastic bags.  The latest figures show that we used, on average, 19 bags per person in year from 2017-2018, down 21% from the previous period and a whopping 86% from 2014 before the charge was introduced.

I’m guilty of occasionally forgetting to take my shopper with me and then struggling to carry everything in my arms rather than buy the plastic but I know that if I have a lovely bag to take with me I’m much more likely to remember, I’m shallow like that.

I love the revamped string versions that I’m seeing everywhere recently but there are so many others to choose from that work for your shopping as well as to take snacks to school for the kids and everything in between.  I particularly love this David Shrigley Creative Health Tote Bag which was commissioned by Imperial Health Charity to raise money for their patient engagement programme.

Clockwise from top left: Turtle Bags String Bag – Arket; Life Story Hey Ho Tote Bag- Trouva; Bella Freud Tote Bag – Matches Fashion; David Shrigley Tote Bag by Plinth – Wolf & Badger.

Oxfam

As a final category for this instalment of my Christmas Gift Guide I wanted to give a shout out to Oxfam and some of the fabulous things that they offer (and not just because my mum works there on Saturdays!)  I’m sure most of you will be aware that as well as their secondhand items Oxfam also offer a wide range of new products that have been ethically sourced and which all go some way to supporting needy and deprived communities.

I have included here a very small selection but love the phone pouch and basket which support communities in India and Vietnam respectively and these beautiful brass earrings which are handmade in Bristol using locally sourced and recycled materials.

Clockwise from top left: Handmade Paisley Phone Pouch; Wool Blanket; Seagrass Basket; Matisse Drop Earrings – All Oxfam.

I hope that has gone some way to convince you that you can buy a few gifts that are sustainable and ethical but that will also make your friends and family smile.  I’ll be back with another guide next week including ideas for kids, more on interiors and some fashion buys too.