Buying Ethical Presents

There’s nothing quite like the joy of giving – or getting – a present, and if you can do some wider good into the bargain, then everybody wins. With so many horror stories in the media surrounding slave-labour manufacturing of this newest must-have toy, or that latest fashion range, it can be hard to know that our gifts aren’t the product of miserable exploitation. In short, how can any of us be sure that what we give is green, and not just rewarding the greedy?

Buying ethical presents can provide the answer – though you may have to do a little research to make sure that your next birthday party gift is everything you’d want it to be.

Little and Local

No matter how brilliant an idea paying a doctor’s salary for a month or buying a family a goat may seem to be, it’s a rare youngster indeed who is really going to appreciate being told that either is what they got for Christmas. Fortunately, there are many ethically-made products available on the high street – and in the major supermarkets – which can make ideal presents, with the added bonus of being able to buy them locally. A quick trip to the shops should soon furnish you with sufficient fair trade chocolate, sustainably grown wooden items and co-operatively produced wine to provide for the whole family.

Feed The World

While your local charity shops are a great place to hunt for a wide range of ethically-made gifts, if your kids are all set on buying Uncle Frank and Auntie Sarah something a bit different that will really do some good in the developing world, there’s no shortage of choice. Best of all, feeding the world – or at least helping a bit – comes with a surprisingly low price tag. For around a tenner, you can provide ten people with clean water, help feed a family, buy essential school books or equip a household with mosquito nets, while around £20 buys a goat, a clutch of chickens, fits a rain water recycling system or helps provide a community with solar panels.

If you want to spend more, of course, the sky’s the limit – from giving a family access to clean water and sanitation or buying a local health worker a bike (both around £50) to £200 or more to buy life-saving medicines or help to fund schools and library services.

Too Good To Be True?

Clearly, an awful lot of good can be done for what is a relatively small amount of money. Never-the-less, it’s obviously going to be difficult for most of us to be sure that the cow we think we’ve bought really has made it to that farmer in Malawi and the money hasn’t simply disappeared into some unscrupulous middleman’s back pocket. The whole ethical giving arena is potentially open to abuse, but with a bit of care it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid a scam.

Luckily most of the well-known wildlife and aid charities have their own well-established ethical gift programmes, so if you restrict yourself to a name you recognise, everything should go according to plan and that way, everyone benefits.

Perhaps one of the biggest plus points for the whole idea is that it’s a great way to make your youngsters aware of the way other people really live and the daily privations they suffer – something which otherwise isn’t just so easy to understand. Kids have an innate sense of fairness and a desire to share, which is why they will embrace the whole idea of ethical presents so whole-heartedly once they’re “in the know.” The bottom line is, whether they choose to celebrate that birthday, anniversary or wedding by helping to regenerate a mangrove forest in Bangladesh, providing a camel for a Somali pastoralist or building a whole new classroom in Bolivia, an ethical gift is, quite literally, for life.