What’s Christmas actually for? (Or . . . the alternative ethical present guide)

Personally I like the ritual of giving and receiving presents. It’s a way of showing we care about the people around us. Though my own preference is to give and receive presents which will continue to delight long after they’ve been unwrapped; rather than going straight into landfill (or the delayed landfill option, the loft). And bought from a company which doesn’t evade tax, or divert profit into tax havens outside the UK.

Sue & Paul at Christmas
Photographer: Paul Bell

So this is my personal ethical present list; things I’d be happy to give and/or receive. From cheap stocking fillers to more extravagant gifts. And in no particular order!

‘Astrid’ fishnet tights from Swedish Stockings

Why Swedish Stockings? Well, great design, of course, combining Scandinavian style and sustainability. But Swedish Stockings are also working towards ‘closing the manufacturing loop’ so that new pantyhose can be made from old hosiery. In the meantime, they send returned stockings to a recycling plant which makes them into Lego. Swedish Stockings are, as you’d expect, based in Sweden. However, they’re available from The Acey, a British online ethical retailer.

You can buy ‘Astrid’ fishnet tights for £23.00, and other lingerie and clothing gifts, from The Acey here.

Project PICO pants

Isobel and Phoebe, co-founders of recently launched Project PICO, went all the way to India to find out how best to produce ethical underwear. And they’re on a mission to provide us with men’s and women’s underwear basics made from the softest organic, Fairtrade cotton. You can read more about Isobel and Phoebe’s journey here.

You can buy PICO pants from £10 here.

The Spicery’s monthly Spicebox gift subscription

With a Spicery gift subscription your chosen recipient will receive a monthly ‘Spicebox’, designed to fit easily through a letterbox, and containing recipes and pre-measured sachets of the highest quality, freshly ground spices. So it’s like getting another present every single month of the subscription! And you can choose from options including street food, vegetarian, ‘date night’ and curry. For example, a Barcelona-style ‘date night box’ would include spice sachets, and step-by-step instructions, to make grilled vegetables with salsa romesco, catalan seafood with fideuà, and creme catalans. And, you’re buying from a caring company as the Spicery support Refugee Action. In their words:

“We’ve definitely benefitted as a business and as a country from the contribution that refugees have made, and it doesn’t seem a huge step to try and give a little something back so that’s why we’re doing what we can to support Refugee Action . . .”

You can order a Spicebox subscription from as little as £22.00 for three months here.

Elvis and Kresse Tooley Tote

I’ve coveted the Elvis and Kresse Tooley Tote for a while now. It’s named after an 1861 fire in Tooley Street which burned for two weeks, leading to the creation of London’s first fire brigade. It’s made from Elvis and Kresse’s signature decommissioned fire-hose, and was designed in a collaboration with master leather craftsman, Bill Amberg. Also, Elvis and Kresse donate 50% of the profits from the fire-hose range to the Fire Fighters Charity. What’s not to like! (You can read more about Elvis and Kresse here.)

You can buy the Tooley Tote for £260.00 here.

Rent a cherry tree

Michael Dallaway, of Cooks Yard Farm, grows five different varieties of delicious black cherry: Kordia, Colney, Penny, Sweetheart and Regina. And you can ‘rent’ one of his trees for a year, buying your friends or family the opportunity to pick their own delicious cherries straight from the orchard in Kent in the summer. It’s something to look forward to long after Christmas is over. Crops average around 12-13 kg, and nothing beats the taste of fresh cherries straight from the tree.

You can buy a year’s rental for £47.00 here.

A subscription to Selvedge Magazine

Selvedge is a beautifully designed and intelligent magazine for people who love contemporary and historical textiles. Founder, Polly Leonard, describes the ethos below:

“We are surrounded by cloth from the cradle to the grave and by exploring our universal emotional connection to fibre we share the stories and values that mean the most to us.”

You can order a twelve-month digital subscription for £39.95 or a paper subscription for £50 here.

Rethinking Capitalism

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Professor Mariana Mazzucato on Question Time recently. Such a sane, reasonable and compassionate commentator on social and economic affairs. Apparently, her work is focused on ‘the economics of innovation; finance and economic growth; and the role of the State in modern capitalism’. Which all sounds fascinating to me (well, I am an accountant by training!). I’d be happy to receive a copy of the book she recently co-edited: Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. If you’re boycotting Amazon because of their tax policy then buy the book for £14.99 directly from the publisher, Wiley-Blackwell.

‘Country Birds – Owl’ socks

OK, so it might not be the most on point fashion company, but I love my cosy, ‘Country Birds’ socks from West Yorkshire Spinners. They’re knitted from wool from British Bluefaced Leicester sheep, and take inspiration from the muted colours of an owl. You can buy your own pair for £14.90 here.

The Soap Co. gift set

I’d love a gift set from new company The Soap Co. They describe themselves as ‘an ethical luxury brand that makes products that are good and do good’. Everything is environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free and, even better, the company is run as a social enterprise providing training and work opportunities for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged. I’d be particularly delighted to receive the gift box Black Poppy & Wild Fig trio of hand-wash, lotion and soap for £32.00 here.

Cheese and wine tasting session

Neal’s Yard Dairy offer a variety of cheese and wine tastings, including a convivial, two-hour lunchtime ‘Cheesemonger’s Selection’ introducing cheese-making techniques and flavours for £50, or a three-hour evening session sampling winter cheeses and wines for £70.00.

You can book a cheese and wine tasting with Neal’s Yard here or, if you’re not sure which class to choose, you can buy a cheese class gift voucher here.

Ethical company pop-ups

Maybe you prefer to choose gifts in person. If so, please check the following websites for details of ethical company pop-ups between now and Christmas.

New company This Because showcases ‘creative companies using brilliant design and business innovation to tackle social and environmental challenges’. They sell toiletries (including from the Soap Co.), stationery, home accessories and cute baby clothes. You can meet them at 18 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8HS for a short period only leading up to Christmas this year. Details on their Facebook page.

Ethical womenswear company, Birdsong, ‘finds the best makers from women’s groups and brings them to you, no sweatshops, no photoshop’. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details of their pop-up concept store at 46 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PD.

Aerende sell gorgeous ‘life-improving homewares’ including these very seasonal pine cone firelighters. You can buy their products online but check their Instagram feed if you want to meet them at events including Makers Markets around London.

Wrapping paper

And, finally, for an ethical, stylish and slightly quirky effect, wrap your presents in wrapping paper from Art House Meath. Great designs by men and women living with complex epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties.

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Sue Written by:

I'm an accountant (ACCA) who's interested in whether we're accounting for the right things in the right ways.

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