The Human condition: All present and correct: the A-Z of ethical Christ mas shopping
Didn't know you could shop and save the planet at the same time? You can with Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones's guide to ecologically sound and morally unimpeachable gift buying. Illustrations by Linda Combi
Sunday 07 December 1997
Banana Hanger. Bananas keep fresher for longer if they are kept separate from other fruit. Banana hangers are made out of wood from rubber trees grown in sustainably managed forests. From pounds 4.75 at John Lewis and other major stores. Try to buy your bananas from small independent producers in Windward Islands (labelled St Vincent, Dominica, St Lucia, Grenade, Martinique and Five Isles).
Composter. Turn kitchen and garden waste into lovely rich compost to feed your plants. The Organic Gardening Catalogue features an extensive range of composting bins for outdoor use. For a catalogue, call 01932 253666. Flat dwellers and indoor gardeners can enjoy the delights of composting, too, with an Original Wormery. Available in two sizes, the wormery includes shredded paper for worm bedding and starter worm food. The Tiger worms are sent out separately. Price pounds 29.95 and pounds 49.90, from Original Organics, 01884 841515.
Duvet. Give duvets stuffed with recycled plastic drinks bottles and sleep the sound sleep of the virtuous. Cleverly converted back into soft polyester fibre fluff in German factories, the bottle duvets come complete with white covers made from 100 per cent unbleached, non-allergenic cotton. Available in king, double, single and cot size. Prices from pounds 15 to pounds 50, from The Natural Collection. For mail order, call 01225 442288.
Ecological Furniture. Think twice before you get stuck on the M25 on your way to a furniture megastore. Instead, buy a fashionable wall telephone table made of flecked, recycled plastic, pounds 49.50 from the Ruth Aram design shop, 65 Heath Street, London NW3, 0171 431 4008, or a stylish Indian- made wooden folding chair with embroidered leather back, pounds 54.99 from Traidcraft, call 0191 491 0591 for a catalogue. Or how about a soft-pine futon or table sourced from Swedish plantations where a new tree is planted for every one cut down? From the Futon Factory, 192 Balls Pond Road, London N1, 0171 226 4477.
Fair trade. Britain's fair trade shops now boast gifts with mainstream appeal. Traidcraft's 1,000-plus products range from contemporary and ethnic clothes to bags, pottery and glassware, 0191 491 0591. Out Of This World, a new chain of organic co-operative supermarkets, stock almost 4,000 items. For a catalogue, call 01225 442288. For local outlets, try the British Association of Fair Trade Shops, 0191 384 1180.
Green and Black's Organic Chocolate for chocoholics with a conscience. The Maya Gold dark chocolate bar, made in Belize, was the first British product to receive the Fair Trade Foundation's mark of approval in 1994. The company's new milk chocolate Santa is stocked by health-food shops nationwide, price pounds 1.19, and its plain chocolate bars are on sale in Sainsbury's.
Herbal remedies. Using natural herbs and plants is big business. For something different, buy after-shave lotions, perfumes, bath and skin oils from home-grown English Lavender's 100-acre, pesticide-free lavender farm. For a catalogue, write to Norfolk Lavender, Caley Mill, Heacham, King's Lynn, PE31 7JE, enclosing two first-class stamps. Overseas deliveries available.
Ink and fountain pen. Disposable ballpoint pens last at most a few weeks and get chucked away when they start leaking all over your briefcase. A good fountain pen can last a lifetime, provided the recipient looks after it. Good hand-writing will become a more highly prized skill when the Millennium Bug causes all the computers to crash - so it's never too soon to start practising.
Jewellery. Ethical shoppers bored or turned-off by the ethnic look need not despair. Traidcraft's winter catalogue features a sophisticated new range of silver-based earrings, pendants and brooches which would not look out of place at Harvey Nick's. For body piercers, there are fair trade Indonesian silver and 22-carat-gold studs which would fit nicely into nose and navel, and for men, smart silver and onyx cufflinks from Peru.
Kite. "It's flying by proxy - a very relaxing antidote to the computer age," says Andy King, co-owner of the The Kite Store. You can choose from 200 different models at prices to suit most pockets - from pounds 1.95 for the miniature, diamond-shaped kite, to pounds 799 for a kite-cum-paraglider. Two- line steerable kite start at pounds 8.95. Frisbees, boomerangs and "balloon helicopter" toys are among the other air-powered toys stocked at the shop. The Kite Store, 48 Neal Street, London WC2, 0171 836 1666.
Local. Buy or barter locally wherever you can. That way you cut down on car journeys, help small traders to survive cut-throat competition from out-of-town superstores, support local craftspeople and encourage economic diversity. You could buy ethically minded loved ones membership of their nearest Local Exchange Trading System (Lets), or set one up yourself as a present to your neighbourhood. By buying and selling goods and services in local currencies, you can help foster community spirit, expertise and skills. For details of Lets schemes, call LETSlink UK on 01705 730639.
Make-Up. The safest bet is to choose from the Beauty Without Cruelty range, which only uses ingredients established before 1976, the year the EC first required animal test data to approve new cosmetics. For mail order call 01732 365291.
National Garden Gift Token. They can be exchanged for a huge range of plants, shrubs and gardening gear at most garden centres and nurseries across the UK and are available in values of pounds 1, pounds 5, pounds 10 and pounds 20. For details call 0345 6 60442.
Organic Food Hampers. Choose from a range of Breakfast, Teatime, Mediterranean, Stocking Filler and Gourmet (pounds 15 to pounds 85) from The Better Food Company 1 Hobbes Lane, Barrow Gurney. Orders and inquiries 01275 474545. For something stronger, try the Organic Wine Club, 261 Upper Town Street, Bramley, Leeds, 0113 257 7545. For details of local organic suppliers, call the Soil Association, 0117 929 0661.
Plant A Tree. Help conserve our native trees. For pounds 5 the Woodland Trust will plant a tree for someone in one of the 850 woods it owns and manages. For pounds 10 you can choose which area of the country it is planted. For pounds 25 you can choose th e actual wood. A gift certificate and Christmas card will be sent to the recipient to mark the contribution. Call the Woodland Trust's Tree Gift Freephone on 0800 026 9650.
Queue Avoidance. So stressful has Yule-tide spending and shopping become that counselling courses have been set up to comfort Christmas-phobes. You can avoid the usual elbow-crush, save on precious time and win "greenie points" by preserving petrol:shop at home. Order over the phone from charity and fair trade catalogues or scan the huge range of gift ideas on the Internet.
Recycled Plastic Organiser. Plastic has long been the non-biodegradable bete noire of the green movement. But re-cycled plastic products are slowly emerging and World of Difference now stocks a good gift range including colourful personal organisers, key rings and pens made from redundant computer circuit boards. The shop is at 14 Woburn Walk, London WCl. For its mail order catalogue call 0171 387 2363. Subscription to a voluntary organisation is the ideal prezzie for desk-bound over-achievers. They can learn how to repair a stile, lay a hedge or build a dry stone wall with The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (01491 839766); help create anati onal cycle network though membership of Sustrans (0117 929 0888); or preserve the distinctiveness of local communities through Common Ground (0171 379 3109).
Time. Your time, to be precise. Baby-sit or granny-sit so someone else can get out of the house. Make them a special meal, or give your significant other a lie-in while you rustle up a fabulous breakfast. Write your time pledge into the Christmas card, a nd set a trend. Used. Second-hand, or pre-used as the Americans say, can knock new into a cocked hat, so scour the junk shops, charity shops and reclamation yards near you. Cut last year's Christmas cards in half and use them again or snip them into gift tags. Givelast year's unwanted Christmas presents to charity shops. Somebody, somewhere will find a use for it.
Vegetarian shoes. They look and feel like leather, but are made from "breathable" scuff-resistant and water-resistant polyurethane. Vegetarian Shoes, 12 Gardner Street, Brighton, 01273 691913. Phone before visiting. Shoes cost pounds 47.00; Doc Marten-st yle boots pounds 49.95, plus pounds 3.95 p&p.
Wind-up radio. Buy music-lovers the latest version of the celebrated BayGen radio. It runs on a clock-work mechanism and gives 60 minutes playing for 60 turns of the manually wound handle. Friends of the Earth receives pounds 12 for every pounds 59.95 ra dio sold. Stocked by many electrical stores and from the Natural Collections catalogue.
Xmas dinner. Order an organic, free-range bird now, or start planning meat-free seasonal feasts. How about stuffed mushroom parcels, roast vegetable tarts, port and stilton pate, chestnut bourgignonne pie and brandy snap fruit baskets? Feeding the Imagin ation, (Sigma Press, pounds 8.95) shows how to enjoy flesh-free meals for the rest of the year. To order the book, contact The Vegetarian Society (0161 928 0793). Y-fronts. Forget the usual annual armful of over-packaged, over-priced boxer shorts. Take the purist approach and order men's briefs in 100% unbleached cotton. Guaranteed chemical-free, they come in a cream tinge, not white, and cost pounds 3 a pair. Fro m the Natural Collection's catalogue (see F).
Zeitgeist. Book him or her a place at the Cafe Philosophique, at the Institute Francais, 17 Queensberry Place, in London SW7 and a chance to create Utopia over the pain au chocolat. The next discussion session is on 24th January 1998. Call 0171 838 2167.
Downshifting: The Guide to Happier Simpler Living, by Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones, Coronet, pounds 5.99.
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