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How I stopped getting bad Christmas presents and helped end exploitation

World Vision
26 November 2014 by Ruth Dearnley
How I stopped getting bad Christmas presents and helped end exploitation

You can make sure your gifts are ethical this Christmas.

I don’t like getting Christmas presents. No matter how hard I try when I say “thank you, it’s lovely” I know my face says it all every time. But the problem is not simply the bad taste of certain family members and the associated guilt of offending them.

It’s the fact that millions of people around the world endure terrible conditions to bring us the goods that we buy. They include children like Raj, who gets hurt making jewellery, so his family can afford basic essentials.

I can’t stand the thought of receiving a gift that causes someone else harm. So for the last few years, I have made a real effort to ensure I don’t have to put on a fake smile and thank anyone for any unethical gift again!

[SPOILER ALERT for my friends and family! Stop reading now if you don’t want to know what you’re getting for Christmas].

One. I don’t give, I donate.

I will shortly be sending an email to all my friends and family telling them that once again they shouldn’t expect a Christmas greeting card from me, because I have donated the money to the charity of my choice instead. This year it will be the Syria Refugee Crisis Appeal. And I will urge them to donate instead of sending anything to me. You could even pick a gift from World Vision’s Gift Catalogue – from pencils to clean water, there is something to suit everyone.

Two. I make it clear what I actually want.

For the compulsive buyers, who must give me something, I tell them about two or three things that I need and do the research for them to find out which brand makes the most ethical product. Good On You is great for this if you’re looking for clothes this Christmas, or for techies, Behind The Barcode reviews which electronics companies are doing the most to address labour exploitation.

Three. I only give them ethical gifts – no matter what they want!

It may seem harsh not to give people what they want for Christmas, but to date, everyone has loved their presents! For those people that really must have a gift to unwrap, I make sure I do the research and get the most ethical version. This year, someone wants a new bike. So he’s getting one. This one!

Four. Tell them about it!

For every actual gift I buy – I make sure I include some information about why it is a more ethical alternative. For example, if they get a box of ethically certified chocolates, I’ll make sure they realise why they are so much better than normal chocolates.

So, if you’re like me and want to ensure that your Christmas gift giving has real meaning, why not try doing the same?!

Want to know more about how ethical shopping helps end labour exploitation? Find out more about the people behind the products you buy.

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


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