It’s definitely that time of year: Christmas music is playing from every store front, the weather is significantly colder, eggnog has made its return, and those warm and fuzzy feelings are occurring more than usual. The Holiday Season, no matter how you celebrate it, is all about being with those you love and sharing both joy and cheer. It’s easy to forget this and get caught up in the hustle and bustle of finding the right gift for a certain someone or making sure your Wish List is extremely clear with the North Pole.
Luckily, from shoeboxes to coffee it’s easier than you think to reinvigorate the genuine spirit of the Holiday Season. Below are 10 different gifts that will keep on giving all year long while creating a more positive world around you.
1) Lush Charity Lotion
Lush Cosmetics has always been one of my personal favourite brands of body products. Yes, their store smell can be borderline overwhelming when you first walk in, but their ethically sourced organic products make them an irresistible stop. They run multiple charitable campaigns, hand make their products, fight animal testing, run environmental campaigns, and support numerous humanitarian causes. Since 2007, when their Charity Pot lotion launched, it has raised over $10,000,000 for over 850 grassroots charities in 42 countries. There are two different sizes of lotions, the smaller costing $6.95CAD and the larger $25.95CAD with 100% proceeds going towards various charitable endeavours. This gift could be perfect for a Secret Santa exchange, or even to slip into your own stocking (hey, everyone deserves to treat themselves once in a while, or even more than once in a while, when it comes to Lush).
2) Potato Socks for the Homeless
Yes, at first this one might seem a little out there, but it’s both enjoyable to create and extremely useful. First, collect warm winter socks in your school or local community. Next, on a pre-decided day (ideally a colder one) get together to bake potatoes and then place them in a warm pair of socks. At Reynolds Secondary School, where the idea originated, it is a highly anticipated Christmas tradition to go downtown and hand out these Christmas treats (don’t worry the potatoes are wrapped in tinfoil, and the socks are new; it is sanitary). Phone a local shelter beforehand and ask if they would accept these gifts on a certain date, or hand them out with an adult supervising while you “spread holiday cheer” (if you choose to go this route, just make sure you are positive that those you are reaching out to are in need, as in previous years I have made the mistake of approaching those not in need with potatoes.)
3) World Wildlife Fund “Adoption Kit”
When it comes to gifts for children, or people of all ages (let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a cute stuffed toy), World Wildlife Fund offers “Symbolic Adoptions”. The average cost is $40CAD, and you can choose from a number of different animals to adopt. The gift comes with a “plush”, personalized adoption certificate, gift bag, educational pamphlet, and poster about the species. As well, your “plush” is made with no harmful dyes or PVCs. Create awareness, donate, and have a cute gift under the tree with this present.
4) Me to We Rafiki Chains
I’m guessing you’ve heard of Free the Children and the Me to We initiative. If not, you should definitely check out their We Day events and attend one if you’re eligible. The day involves celebrities and leaders worldwide coming together to inspire a generation of positive change. On the Me to We website, you can purchase a variety of gifts which support their charitable initiatives.
Rafiki chains are one of their most popular gift items. Created by Mamas in Kenya, who earn fair wages for their work, the profits from these chains go towards different aspects of support for their own communities. Some chains support clean water, education, or health care among other things; all have the goal of ending the cycle of poverty. The Holiday Rafiki Combo Pack is $50.00CAD and includes five Rafiki chains, and a single Rafiki chain is $10.00CAD.
5) Shoebox “Caring Kits”
In my opinion, this gift is one of the most fun to create and organize. At Reynolds Secondary School, where this idea originated, the entire community participates in creating these gifts annually. To begin, you can work with a local homeless shelter to pinpoint which items are in the largest demand (as well, a list of what should not be included). Some items in demand could be anything from toothbrushes to warm socks. Fill the shoeboxes with around 10-12 of these items and decorate them with colourful wrapping paper. Near Christmas Day, deliver them to these shelters or work with them to arrange for their distribution on Christmas morning. In shelters that I have worked with in the past, employees would place the boxes at the foot of their beds to be a surprise on December 25th.
6) Reusable Water Bottle
In the US alone, an estimated 50 billion plastic bottles are dumped in landfill sites each year, and over 200 billion globally. These facts come from S’well Water Bottles official website. S’well’s Reusable Water Bottles are not just like any old reusable water bottle. They are durable, fashionable, and promote a more positive environment.
The company partners with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help provide clean water to the world’s most vulnerable children and also works with American Forests and Drink Up. They are created with non-leaching and non-toxic stainless steel and keep your drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours.
Prices range, depending on the style and size of water bottle, from around $25CAD – $45CAD. The business prides itself on still being a relatively small operation and has an info section on their website where you can virtually meet each employee. Giving this gift promotes sustainable living and is definitely trending. One thing is for sure, a S’well Reusable Water Bottle is definitely on my Wish List this year.
7) Re-Gifted Children’s Toys
If you live in BC, the BC Children’s Hospital has a wonderful initiative which can help show any child in your life the value of sharing, caring, and reusing as well as brighten the day of many. The Child Life Department at the BC Children’s Hospital works to ensure that every inpatient, as well as their siblings, receives gifts on Christmas morning. There are two options to donate leading up to Christmas, either you can donate money directly online or you can donate toys to the Hospital before Monday, December 14th. To see more details about this initiative click on the image below.
8) DIY Orange Air Freshener
DIY, “Do it Yourself”, is definitely one of my secret hobbies. Whether it’s searching for new dorm room upgrades under $5 on Pinterest, to watching YouTube videos on revamping your old jeans, I’m there. The best part about DIY’s is that they create new and exciting things from old, the epitome of Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle.
This particular holiday DIY can be seen all over the internet, the easiest version I found can be seen here. Using an orange and some cloves, you can create these homemade air fresheners to give a personal gift and even spend relaxing time with loved ones creating them. You can also find lots of other holiday DIY ideas by Googling them or searching YouTube for more thorough tutorials.
9) Local Coffee Beans
Supporting local businesses can be a great way to get unique holiday gifts and create further opportunities for future local initiatives. Check out some of the benefits of buying local here. One great place to pick up these kind of gifts in Toronto is at the Trinity Bellwoods Holiday Weekend Market, which offers handmade, local, art and vintage vendors and artisans. This particular market is taking place December 19th-20th, and in many other communities local markets often pop up during the holiday season (so keep your eyes peeled for one in your community, or even start your own!)
One particularly great local gift is coffee beans. For any coffee lover, the gift of a truly great batch of roasted beans is invaluable. Some coffee shops will source their own beans and roast them on location, these are the gold mines. If you live in the Victoria BC area, my favourite coffee bean can be found at Caffe Fantastico. I may be a bit biased, as this is where I worked at one of my first ever jobs, but their coffee truly speaks for itself. Caffe Fanastico is a Victoria-local business owned and operated by Ryan and Kristy Taylor, founded in 1993. They have built their business to focus on sustainability, the environment, and ethical practices. The coffee beans are chosen personally by Caffe Fantastico, and Ryan and Kristy have visited many of the farms where the beans are sourced and have relationships with those farms. Right now, their Quadra Village location has finished expansions which include solar panels. As mentioned in my, Can Your Outfit Change the World? article, where you invest your money is a vote for what you support; local businesses is definitely something to vote for.
10) Random Acts of Kindness
At the University of Toronto it is officially exam season, which means even though the holidays are in sight a mountain of finals lies between you and home. Being away during the holidays can be hard, and in response, a student recently went around slipping anonymous notes of encouragement under residence doors with encouraging messages such as, “You Can Do This”, “Keep Being You”, or “Happy Holidays”. These messages are now on friends’ walls, in pockets while heading into exams, or photographed on multiple Instagram’s. The author of these notes has still remains anonymous, and so with no reward for these actions the true Holiday Spirit is spread throughout the University.
Random acts of kindness can be this grandiose, much smaller, or anything in-between. If you subscribe to the Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar it will suggest random acts of kindness you can do each day leading up to Christmas. You can also create your own Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar to make sure you continue to spread joy and positivity to those around you each and every day. It can be fun, creative, and the repercussions are always very rewarding.
BONUS: Another great tip is to wrap gifts with newspaper or other recycled materials. This is a great way to reduce, reuse, and recycle while promoting a more sustainable world. There’s lots of ways to make this gift wrapping look unique as well!
Whichever way you choose to celebrate the holidays this year, decide what type of holiday cheer you want to promote and share with others. This season can also be a harder time for many, so no matter what, remember you are loved and pass it on.
And lastly poppers, remember to see change, share change, be change. Much love xo and Happy Holidays.