Hello my friends, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the run up to Christmas?
Since lockdown earlier in the year I started to really notice how much rubbish we produce as a family and this started me down this road of trying to reduce our waste. I have been trying to tackle one thing at a time and when I’m out shopping I have been trying to ask myself with every purchase I make, do I need it and if so is there a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Come October I started to really give Christmas lots of thought and all I can say is I got my eyes opened big time. It started with wrapping and how most can’t be recycled (if you want to know how you can wrap your gifts in an eco-friendlier way than normal then check out my blog on it here).
Then I moved onto gifts and was shocked to find that British Consumers spend £5 billion on unwanted gifts. This really made me feel depressed. So I have decided that I need to personally look at myself and how I tackle my Christmas gifts to others, which has led me to writing this blog on waste free gifts or experience gifts.
While having a socially distanced walk with a friend our conversation started to drift onto the Christmas topic. I’m always interested how other families spend Christmas and what their traditions are. Their family doesn’t go overboard on buying gifts for each other. Instead they do a secret Santa, which reduces the number of gifts and put a cap on how much people spend. Which is amazing. Then the wider family doesn’t buy each other gifts but they commit to going to a restaurant for dinner so they can all be together. I’m not sure about you but for me I spend lots of time shopping and less time visiting. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be about spending time with loved ones? As a child it was one of the things I loved most about Christmas, the Christmas visiting (ok so this year we won’t be doing much of it, but I’m putting it on my next year’s list). Another tradition from a friend that I really love is giving the gift of just being together after Christmas. This friend gives her parents a day and place in which they all be together, soon after Christmas (the lull period where we don’t really know what to do with ourselves). They may go to the beach then out for lunch. I was very touched by this as I can imagine this is a gift that gives someone something to look forward to after Christmas plus it makes memories for all that go – priceless!
I want to give a few more examples here for other types of experiences you can give your loved ones this Christmas:
For the food lover – this is something as a family we were gifted and we all just loved it. Bake at home kits. Now I’m going to put the link of the company we received because it was totally awesome but If you have time and are very creative I think you could totally make one of these up yourself or look for different companies that suit you better. If you do make up one of these kits, I will give you an idea of what we got in ours…. It all came in a lovely, packaged recyclable box, inside was the cake tin needed, grease proof paper (cut to size), all dry ingredients and instructions. If you are looking for a unique way to wrap it, you could use a new tea towel so the recipient can use it too? We did indeed do this as a family, some ate more than others (I won’t tell tales, but it wasn’t me unfortunately lol). I have to say it was a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I will be doing this for a few people this year.
Crumbs and Doilies – www.crumbsanddoilies.co.uk - check out the bake at home section.
Forestside cookery school – www.forestsidecookeryschool.com - this is another fantastic gift for the food lover. There are even classes for kids.
For the adventurer young and old – across Northern Ireland there are lots of outdoor activities you can do by yourself or with guides. I’m not sure about you but after Christmas I really love getting out and about. I’m going to list a few places that offer guides and different activities but this is not an exhaustive list, there are more out there and if you don’t live in Northern Ireland a good place to start looking is on FB groups in your area.
Colin Glen – www.colinglen.org – our kids loved their high rope adventure and soon they will have the longest zipline in Ireland. It is also an amazing walk.
Mourne mountain guides – www.visitmournemountains.co.uk – this is a great walk with very scenic views. Well worth a visit to their site to see what they offer.
Coasteering NI – www.lurgabaylodge.com – from age 8, I haven’t tried this but I’m thinking maybe next year?
Helicopter rides – www.helipower.co.uk – based in Newtownards. I got my husband a flight lesson from here and he loved it!
- www.cuttingedgehelicopters.com – I got my dad a flight over our home city for a Christmas gift one year, he loved it!
For the crafter – there is a big crafting community everywhere and with it comes classes. As a crafter myself I know we are all keen to try new crafts as we love anything creative and for me the most important thing is meeting likeminded people, new friendships are made here. Crafting is just great craic! I also want to encourage you, if you are going to buy a crafting experience for a loved one then why not book yourself as well? It is a great thing to do with someone and it will add to your memories together, you won’t regret it.
Stained glass window classes – www.stainedglassnorthernireland.co.uk – I would love to try making my own stained glass pieces.
Pottery Classes – www.loafcatering.com
Knitting and crochet – www.folkloreyarns.com – I used to knit as a child, wishing I could teach my children now.
Belfast School of Jewellery – www.belfastschoolofjewellery.com – ok I’m being sneaky adding in my own classes, but they are great and a fantastic way to spend a day with a friend, sibling, mother or anyone!
Garden lovers - A National Trust pass is a great gift, there are so many wonderful gardens to visit and get inspiration from. You could also check out a magazine subscription or maybe even some local gardening classes.
For the young gardener here is the perfect gift by www.hollyberrytrees.com – this is the gift of buying a child a small potted tree, they have to look after this tree every day, teaching them to care for something living and about sustainability. It also helps that it comes with a very cool story.
This next one is not an experience gift but is a gift that gives to others. My dad is very adamant every year that he doesn’t want any gifts. It really did take a long time for that to sink in, I kept buying and I’m pretty sure my gifts to him would have been in that scary figure above for unwanted gifts. So, one year I decided I couldn’t think of anything else. So, I bought lots of small gift aid gifts. They change every year. I’ve donated to guide dogs, bought bees for families, bought clean water, donated school supplies and education for a child. I even bought him a voucher to loan it to a business in a developing country, once he gets the money back he can either keep it or donate it to another business (which he does). The first year I bought him these gift he rang me up and thanked me (normally he would say thanks when I phone home and the phone is being passed around, so I knew he really appreciate this gift). Last year he told me that he looks forward to opening that envelope every year to see what I picked. I do actually get him a small bag of gifts from the girls which is normally essentials and very boring, but I know they get used. From this I started doing a little more. Santa brings the girls a similar gift, last year he adopted their favourite animals. For my husband I paid to plant a tree in a forest, we were given directions and the plan was to go and find it but then Covid happened, but I’m sure we will do it next year.
Here is a list but again it is not exhaustive, there are lots more out there.
Oxfam unwrapped – www.unwrapped.oxfamireland.org
Guide dogs – www.guidedogs.org.uk
Sponsor a business (microloans) – www.lendwithcare.org
Well I really hope this has given you some ideas for waste free gifts for those that you know will enjoy it, you never know you may even help someone with their lifelong dream. I know these types of gifts are not for everyone. So next week, I will have a new blog out about buying eco-friendly gifts so stay tuned for that.
Thanks for reading and please do let me know if you find any of my ideas helpful.