More alternative ideas for Christmas gifts, parties and activities by Felicity St John

Posted under Gift giving

My friend Felicity kindly shared with me this article that was published in the Friends of the Birth Centre newsletter 2009 and Special Delivery- Friends of the Birth Centre 2009.   I’m so excited to be able to republish it here for my MamaMoontime friends! She has some fantastic ideas!
Creating a Sustainable Christmas by Felicity St John
  • Ever notice how there is always too much food at every event, morning tea, lunch, etc you go to (even when it is not Christmas). Much of it gets thrown out, and in the warmer months may not be safe to keep. So take less – do you really need to take a plate of 24 cookies, or will 6 suffice. And while we are on the plate – take one, wash it and take it home.
  • If you must give a gift – give one that counts. Organisations such as Oxfam ( and Tear Australia ( have catalogues of useful gifts you can buy that make a difference in someone’s life in developing nations; providing food, a source of income, sanitation and health. You even get a card you can give to someone letting them know what their gift is and how it helps someone. Gifts start from $5 for eye care or school supplies. For $25 you could restore someone’s eyesight while sitting back and enjoying the view before your eyes you often take for granted (
  • Have honest discussions with loved ones, child care centres, schools etc. I’ve often been a part of the unoriginal idea of everybody buying a $5 present/contributing $5 to a present for their child at school/childcare/playroup. Does your child honestly need more stuff? So next time this idea comes up (and it will), talk to the people involved about ditching the idea altogether, starting a community permaculture garden with the funds, or buying, for example a well for people who could definitely use sanitary water. Consider that a school with just 300 students could buy a well with that $5
  • Give gifts of your time. Time is finite and incredibly valuable. You have a skill, a talent that someone else could use. I am telling you now I (and my sizeable behind) would much rather an afternoon of babysitting, than a giant box of chocolates. Can you teach someone to cook, to ride a bike, to start a garden, fix a bike, re-string a guitar, fix fence posts, walk someone’s dog – the list is endless. Brothers and sisters can change their younger siblings nappies for a week, read stories to others, or bring Dad a drink of cold water while he is doing whatever it is Dads do
  • According to research on happiness, once a certain survival level has been met, experiences bring happiness more than material goods. So how about opting for experiences with people – a dinner, taking someone out with you to rockclimb using your gear, a good walk with your father, having a surf together, or learning to cook old school style from your Italian Nonna. The bonus of experiences is that it also cuts out the need for wrapping paper
  • Consider investing in a deciduous tree to plant in your yard to provide decent shade in summer, and let the sun in during winter. This will reduce your heating and cooling needs, and reduce the impact on the environment.
  • Even though it involves using paper, I would say write a letter to someone to share with them why you are truly grateful for them, and special memories of them you hold. I’ve been surprised in the past of how this has moved some people – which I just hadn’t expected. Gratitude Journals (again paper – or hey, you could do an online one). Why? I find the more people focus on how much they have to be thankful for, the less the need to fill their life with stuff to fill a void.
  • Don’t feel obligated to return the buying of gifts. You are just setting up a cycle for the following year, which is not kind to your environment or wallet.
  • Give a gift membership to organisations like Australian Conservation Fund.
  • If you have a magazine you love, such as G magazine, buy a gift subscription for your local library and enjoy reading it there, knowing others can share it.
  • If you are going to buy a gift for someone, consider where it has come from, and where it will end up. Where possible take a Cradle to Cradle approach where the item just feeds back into the system. And for goodness sake make sure it is something the person actually really desires. Aunty Jill really doesn’t need another bottle of Vanderbilt darling.
  • Send e-cards instead of paper based cards through organisations like Care 2 –
  • Read David Suzuki’s Green Guide and implement some of the ideas.
  • For all those people you know who may be receiving chritsmas upgrades on their mobile phones when they have a perfectly good one(albeit so 2008 version, or one where the zero needs to be pushed down a little harder), find a good home for their mobile with someone who actually needs one, or recycle it through programs such as Melbourne Zoo’s phone recycling program (, which by reducing the demand for some components found in mobile phone saves gorilla habitats. You can even send phones that are unusable to you.
  • Consider second hand items. We’re talking Ebay (, Gumtree (, freecycling (, Baby and Kids Market (, refurbished goods such as bikes (, and swap meet parties with your gal pals etc. Quite a few people we know have had swap parties with their clothes, or toys, or baby goods, and made a really great night of it with a bit of wine and cheese. Think about your child/loved ones interest and where you might be able to find something second hand to match. I have a costume loving daughter who always got around in costumes after school, and we found a great dance gear shop re-selling people’s second hand dance costumes ( I can buy a box of beautiful tutus, chicken costumes etc for less than I would pay at Lifeline.
  • If you grow herbs, take generous bouquets of these, instead of flowers, wine and chocolates. The fragrance they fill a house with is beautiful.
  • How about a bike as a present (preferably refurbished), and practical lessons on how to keep it going. Of course the whole point is to actually use it, instead of the car.
  • Don’t bother with disposable plates – use the permanent kind. There are always enough hands around to wash plates.
I love the last one.  Washing up is such a good place for community building, conversation and care. Don’t you think?
I’m super grateful for Felicity sharing this with me, especially today. Sadly, today I attended the second funeral this year for a child from my old school.  It is never fair when children pass, and even more tragic when they pass from a rare and unfortunate reaction to a virus/flu (as both these children did).  Today, the Gage family were supported by a huge number of people who came to share their grief and loss, and throughout it all, they remained courageous and showed a quiet dignity and strength. ”Rock solid”.

I’m pleased to have known Ben during his year in Prep, and to have helped coax a smile, and giggle with glee as we jumped rope together countless times.  Blessings to the entire family, and to Ben.
Au Revoir.

3 Responses to “More alternative ideas for Christmas gifts, parties and activities by Felicity St John”

  1. Anonymous

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  2. Cheryl

    I saved this post and the previous one so I could sit down and digest them. Some really good suggestions on both and some challenging ones too. Thanks for posting them. I guess if we all do one extra sustainable act/gift this year, it will make a difference.

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