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Author: Marcus Campbell

We all say Christmas isn’t about the presents, and we mean it.

Ask around. It’s about family and friends, our neighbourhoods buzzing with community spirit, parents belting out Michael Bublé or Mariah Carey to annoy their children…

It’s about being present. A time to come together, sharing our lives in kindness and gratitude.

So why do we still buy so much stuff?

Each year, we’re confronted by the enormous and growing commercial enterprise Christmas has become. A season of hyper-consumption fed by accelerated production the world over.

We eat more, travel more, buy more and produce 30% more waste than at any other time of the year. Every December in Australia, we give an average of 20 million gifts that are unwanted and at least half of them quickly end up in landfill.

No wonder it’s been described as the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster.

We all want to be generous during our favourite time of year, but collectively our Christmas giving creates pollution and waste that has a huge environmental impact.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to be generous without more stuff, more waste and more CO2 in the atmosphere.

One way to think about it, is that every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Here’s six gift ideas that don’t cost the planet.

 

1. Gifts that fight poverty

Think of charitable organisations that reflect the values of your loved ones (like us!). Donate in their honour or give a poverty-fighting gift that can change a life. What could be a better gift than clean water to a community that doesn’t have it? Or income opportunities like goats and pig-farming to help a struggling family secure their future?

Check out our full catalogue of life-changing gifts here. They come with recycled envelopes, or you can even go completely digital.

 

2. Handmade gifts

Get creative and DIY. Why not take up that hobby you’ve been considering? I’ve heard crochet is making a comeback…

Host a ‘craft-ernoon’ with your kids or friends to make thoughtful, creative gifts. Check out these great DIY Christmas gift ideas. Or keep it small and YouTube how to make a cute origami fox or flower to give to a loved one, or you could make a whole Christmas tree out of recycled paper (like we did last year).

Bake something. Rise up a whole army of gingerbread men to scale a pyramid of brownies.

Go old-school. Homemade Christmas puddings still haven’t gone out of fashion. Be inspired by this brilliant non-profit pudding venture.

 

3. Give an experience

Practical workshops, concerts, community and cultural events often fly under the radar because there’s so much competing for our attention each week.

Give someone an escape from the office to places like this urban farm that runs useful workshops on organic gardening, pickling and preserving, beekeeping and how to make things like beeswax wraps and hand-carved kitchen utensils.

Or give an experience outdoors with eco/wildlife tours, kayaking, canyoning, snorkelling (or shark dive, anyone?)


(her face)

… or stay inside with a massage or a foodie restaurant experience.

 

4. Give time

It’s an absurdity of modern life that despite all our technological advancements – still we work more. Pledging your time could be a thoughtful and useful gift.

Maybe your in-laws could use some extended babysitting to get away for the day? Perhaps your dad can’t get up the ladder to do the gutters anymore? Or your partner has been meaning to get their bike serviced but hasn’t had the time to do it?

Imagine asking your grandma if your gift this year can be time spent helping her with the garden…

Yes, you should do these things anyway, so why don’t you?

You could even pledge your time in a card with an explanation and deadline, so they know you mean business.

 

5. Buy second hand

Fifty dollars for a T-shirt? Nah mate.

Buying at your local op shop saves you money, cuts down consumer demand for stuff to be produced and supports organisations making positive change in the world. That’s something to dance about.

Onto Gumtree yet? It’s a brilliant place to save a few second-hand treasures from landfill to be re-gifted.

 

6. Buy local, buy sustainable

Want to reduce your global impact? Think local. Buy from local small businesses, craftspeople, those grandmas selling delicious jams at the school fete. Stuff that hasn’t been shipped across half the world to arrive under your tree.

There’s so many zero waste, reusable gifts out there: keep cups, reusable bags, bamboo toothbrushes. Check out this Zero Waste Christmas Guide by UnitingEarth.

 

Vote for a better world with your choices this Christmas.

 

Disclaimer: vote with your whole community. We know that to overcome the global challenges we face, individual action isn’t enough. We also need drastic changes to our social, political and economic systems to mitigate the climate crisis ahead.

This global problem requires global action.

Truly purposive action is holistic – individual behavioural change leading to ‘awkward conversations’ in our communities, plus collective action aiming to influence widespread societal change.

The choices we make as consumers have already been influencing producers, but there’s a long way to go.

We each have the power to make a difference and it can start this Christmas.

 

This blog was inspired by an internal conversation among UnitingWorld staff to share sustainable Christmas gift ideas. Credit to everyone who fed the great discussion.

– Marcus

 

See how UnitingWorld and our partners are taking action on climate change and its impacts in the Pacific.

On a small island out on a lake in West Papua, a group of women are crafting themselves out of poverty by keeping a disappearing local art tradition alive.

The banks of their lake home skirt the far limits of Papua’s most modern city, Jayapura, but people here still travel between the islands using wooden canoes.

Traditional bark paintings (malo) have been produced by women from this area for hundreds of years. They spend weeks together making the canvases out of the beaten bark of fig trees, and then paint designs that express their culture, highlighting the theme of ‘harmony between all living things.’

Ask them how they learned the designs, and they all say, “our ancestors taught us.”

But despite everyone in their cooperative being talented artists and hard workers, they struggle to make a living, and their wider community lives in grinding poverty. The isolation of their island and their lack of business experience means that many of them work two jobs while raising children. Most of their husbands are fishermen, but fears of local overfishing has pushed their work out to sea and into the city where they make meagre earnings.

We wanted to invest in the women’s skills and see their business grow. So, after consulting with them about what they need, our local partners have been running business training and are helping them buy industrial sewing machines to help them expand their business to include bags and clothing with their traditional designs.

Together we’re helping them do what they love, get a fair price for their labour and lift themselves out of poverty.

My colleague Meilany, a local project manager, told me that empowering these women has huge flow-on affects for the community.

“You can’t make positive change for women here without also affecting all of society,” Meilanny says.

“These women work hard so that they can afford to send their children to school; many of them never had the chance themselves.”

“And if you teach a woman practical or artistic skills, or to read and write she will teach her family, her children. That knowledge is passed on.”

West Papua has a staggeringly high number of people living below the poverty line. Upwards of 27% live on less than $2 a day. Our local partners are working to change this at a community level, through strategies that invest in critical aspects of life: food security, health, women’s incomes and the future of children.

They need our support to continue to make projects like these a reality. Invest in these skillful women and projects that are helping people grow a new future in West Papua.

 

Visit www.unitingworld.org.au/papua to make a donation.

In hope and peace,

Marcus Campbell
UnitingWorld

 


Read more

In a place of extraordinary hardship, people still rise

Earlier this year, I made a trip across West Papua. It’s just 150km north of Australia, but it feels a world away – one of the poorest regions in the Asia Pacific. Yet everywhere I went, what struck me most was the profound generosity and sense of community that bound people together. This runs deep in local culture and traditions, expressed so naturally it almost seems to grow up out of the soil. It’s also what makes our work with the local Church so effective.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing stories of change and highlighting the work of our partners to tackle hunger, empower women and confront communicable disease in West Papua.

I’d like to start with the story of Beni and his family.

Beni and his wife Sarah live way up in the remote highlands of West Papua. When I met Beni in his garden one afternoon, he had been working all day but couldn’t stop smiling – even as he spoke about his recent struggles to put food on the table.

In 2016, the area he lives was gripped by one of the worst droughts in living memory. Crops right across the region failed. Beni and Sarah’s sweet potato, their main food source, was decimated.

“Our crop grew tiny and hard with the lack of rain; it was the same across the entire region, so everyone was worried… The whole village was wondering if we would all starve if we didn’t leave the area,” said Beni.

Thankfully, UnitingWorld’s local church partners were there to help during and after the crisis. Our partners gave Beni seeds and training to nurture the family garden and enter into field-sharing arrangements with his neighbours to test out how different crops grow across the mountain.

Beni says the help provided by the project has allowed his family to plan for the lean seasons.

He was beaming when he showed me his latest soybean plants sprouting up, and was keen to explain how well it had gone – not just for him but his whole community.

You can help us invest in training and equipping more families like Beni’s.

Imagine what it’s like to have – for the first time ever – the ability to plan confidently for your future. That’s the experience of Beni and Sarah today. Proud of their hard work and expertise, they’ve now expanded their skills to making tofu, much sought after in the highlands. It’s giving them a small additional income for medical and school needs for their children.

Our partners are providing the expertise and training these families need – but they can’t do it without our support. Your gift can get more workers in the field, supply more seeds and nurture more families to take up life-changing opportunities.

With your support, together with the hard work of people like Beni and his family, we’re helping communities grow better futures.

I’m looking forward to sharing more stories of change over the coming weeks!

In hope and peace,

Marcus Campbell
UnitingWorld

Donate now to help people grow a new future in West Papua.