The Ethical Gift Box: Easy, friendly, gift-giving ideas

August 2017 – Jeremy Stone sets off to Asia with his wife Tina and three kids in tow, home schooled on the road as they backpack their way across the continent. Their mission – to teach their children about countries and culture as well as sow the seeds for a new business idea. Exactly a year later they land back in the UK all set to launch a new business; The Ethical Gift Box.

The Ethical Gift Box sells beautifully curated gift boxes containing products with a positive social and environmental impact. Pre-made boxes are creatively designed with individual recipients in mind; For Him, For Her, and for different interests (Cooking, Travel, Lifestyle, Relaxation, Well-being). Customers also have the option of designing their own box of goodies. Most boxes are in the £25-35 range and include a selection of thoughtfully-made things together with a presentation card detailing the story behind the makers. Customers can personalise the box with a message of their choice and their favourite colour in raffia ribbon. 12 globally inspired box bands, ranging from Balinese to Moroccan, finish the look.

Values are core to the enterprise: fair trade values, environmental values and family values too. A life long traveller, Jeremy has always been passionate about fair trade. He is inspired by Andre Gunder Frank’s Dependency Theory and influenced in particular from a long period travelling across the Indonesian Archipelago back in the late 1980’s from East Timor to Sumatra.

Jeremy told me, ‘Indonesia is typical of countries in Asia where you receive so much warmth, kindness and generosity from local people who live from day to day without any long term security. It’s impossible for you not to want to give something back! What’s more, seeing how local crafts people are terribly exploited by middlemen and international traders seeking to maximise profits only motivates us more to instil fair trade principles into our business and ensure that crafts people get paid fairly for their creativity. The delight in selling is not in the selling itself but in being able to go back to a supplier and place a bigger order knowing the knock on benefits that it has to the local community.’

Jeremy has also experience installing environmental values into a major multinational; having worked as Global Environmental Manager for Cadbury Schweppes. He has a wealth of knowledge therefore not only in environmental management but also in global communities and social enterprise.

The integrity of The Ethical Gift Box comes through clearly in the way in which products are presented and described. How often do you see a photograph of the maker next to an online purchase? That’s exactly what you get if you buy this upcycled cushion, handmade by Lamai in Thailand. Whilst many of the products come from connections Jeremy and his family made in Asia there are British made products too, such as candles and miniature bottles of Raspberry infused gin.

Pre-made gift boxes include ‘For Her Vegan Wash Box’, ‘Wine Lovers Box’ and ‘Kids Baking Box’. You can buy products individually too with products filtered by ethics, for example fair trade, recycled, vegan. I love the wooden twig spoon; it’s little things like this that bring me daily joy! Whilst the product range isn’t huge, bath time, stationery, homeware and jewellery are all covered.

I’ve just had four family member’s birthdays in the space of two weeks, six if you count the dogs (and they certainly get presents too!). I always find it a challenge to balance gift giving with my own values; what if what they want is from a store you’d normally avoid for ethical reasons? There’s also the time required to source good quality, interesting and ethical/sustainable gifts – tricky when everyone’s birthday comes at once! The Ethical Gift Box makes this process a lot easier and spreads the love further. After all, it’s not just your loved one who gets a great gift box, but you are contributing to the livelihoods of the talented makers and their communities too.

Visit www.ethicalgiftbox.com

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Sustainable Wrapping Paper Alternatives


At Christmas last year I searched high and low for recycled wrapping paper and eventually settled on buying some from Oxfam (although I’m not sure whether it was made from recycled paper). Along with Christmas cards, gift wrapping is a tricky tradition that I really want to keep but worry it is unnecessary from a sustainability perspective. In the UK, Defra estimates that enough paper is used each year to gift-wrap the island of Guernsey. They also estimate that each year, 83 sq km of wrapping paper ends up in UK rubbish bins and some authorities can’t recycle it. Approximately 50,000 trees are used to make the 8,250 tonnes of wrapping consumed at Christmas. That’s a lot of trees to use for one day of the year.

A couple of years ago I came across the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki, the reusable wrapping cloth. It is thought that this tradition could date as far back as the Nara period (AD 710) when pieces of fabric were used to transport clothes and gifts. The tradition has been partly lost in the Japanese culture but is coming back as the eco-friendly way to wrap presents. When I came across Furoshiki I thought it was a fabulous idea and could make a lovely business. Of course two lovely ladies beat me to it and started Wrag Wrap, a product design and manufacturing company based in the South Hams, Devon.

Wrag Wraps are made using fabric rather than paper and are therefore reusable time and time again. Each product has been designed to overcome the limitations of paper, wrapping a whole range of different shapes and sizes of gift – with no fuss or waste. No need for sellotape or safety pins, wrapping has never been easier. Each wrap comes in a range of sizes to cover almost any gift, with a choice of patterns. They launched a range of five Christmas designs with sweet reindeers and winter trees in festive reds and greens. Why not give it a go?

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A Second-Hand Christmas? The Etiquette of Giving Second-Hand Gifts

Where did you do most of your Christmas shopping? Online? In a department store? Out-of-town shopping centre? Whilst doing your weekly supermarket shop? . . . . You haven’t started? Well you’d better get to it!

The fact is there are many consumption avenues for buying your Christmas presents but how do you feel about buying second-hand presents? My PhD research is about second-hand things; second-hand baby and children’s clothes, toys and equipment to be precise. I am currently immersed in the data collection phase, carrying out interviews, and have spoken to a number of parents who happily buy second-hand toys for their kids for Christmas. The feeling is that you don’t need to spend a lot to keep children happy and furthermore, many children get plenty of expensive gifts from extended family and friends. I myself have bought second-hand things as gifts before. It got me thinking then, what is the etiquette of second-hand gift giving?

Virtually any resource can be turned into a gift, as we have seen with the rise of gift day experiences, gift subscriptions and give a child the gift of reading with a camel library (check it out). When I talk about second-hand gifts I don’t mean recycling gifts, that’s something your own conscience will have to wrestle with. I’m talking about finding something in a charity shop, a church bric-a-brac stall, or on eBay and gifting it to a recipient. The interesting thing is, doing this no doubt says much more about the giver than the receiver.

There is a body of academic work on gift giving in the social sciences, indeed gift giving is a fundamental social system. Every single gift is tied up with expectations; we are expected to give, to receive and to reciprocate. Gifts can reflect social roles, reinforce or weaken social bonds, and be heavily inscribed with a signifier. As suggested by Sherry et al. (1983:159) ‘We give, receive and reject gifts strategically, thereby symbolically predicating identity’.

We often hear that it is better to give than to receive and we can all relate to the warm fuzzy feeling you get inside from making others happy, but gift giving can equally generate feelings of anxiety for the giver. This sense of anxiety comes not just from the thought of traipsing around the shopping mall on a Saturday in December, but from the worry that the recipient won’t like our gift or that it won’t elicit the desired reaction (Wooten 2000). In a sense, giving something that you have sourced second-hand can heighten this risk and anxiety, and is probably something we would only do if we knew the recipient well (or planned to palm off the present as bought new).

So why might I give or not give someone a second-hand present? You could say that giving a second-hand gift requires more of a time commitment and more thought. Half the fun of second-hand shopping is that you never know exactly what you’ll find where, and you have to search to find the treasure. Some people will never appreciate being given something second-hand, however much thought that goes into it, and there’s the risk of being considered ‘cheap’ although, of course, vintage and antique things can easily be particularly expensive but that it not really what I’m describing here. I could give a second-hand gift as a political, moral statement, and thinking about it maybe, just maybe, that is what I have done before. “I will force you to accept this second-hand present because it is morally right and see how ethical I am to not buy you something from a mass-marketed corporate store”.

Interesting don’t you think? In a consumer era when it is increasingly common to worry what to get the person who has everything, a second-hand book, jewellery or ornament could really be the most thoughtful gift of all.

References
Sherry, J. F., Jr. (1983). “Gift Giving in Anthropological Perspective.” Journal of Consumer Research 10(2): 157-168.
Wooten, D. B. (2000). “Qualitative Steps toward an Expanded Model of Anxiety in Gift‐Giving.” Journal of Consumer Research 27(1): 84-95.

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