What’s the true cost of gifts? Is convention and politeness adding to the burden of unsustainable consumption?
Go to a kids birthday party and what do you need? Card, present - check!
Why? Is it because that’s the way things have always been done? Do we feel rude, turning up without something in our hand, no matter how inane?
When choosing a gift, are you really considering what that child will love and play with? Are we ever considering what goes into making that item, how it’s packaged or where it was manufactured? What is more who has the time to consider this? Perhaps we make a more conscious choice because we’ve just watched Blue Planet 2 and are feeling a pang of guilt but essentially we chose based on budget and convenience.
How can that change and do we want it to?
Research shows that 65% of parents think children have too many toys given to them at Christmas and birthdays and 90% of us are too afraid to ask for money towards more useful things like activities.
With the tradition of “buying” a gift comes the issue of plastic/material consumption – the manufacture and shipment and what happens to items when we’re finished.
Children’s toys/gifts are contributing to our carbon footprint in ways we don’t even know about.
I’m sure most people are aware that over 90% of the toys we purchase in the UK are manufactured outside of the EU. Mostly coming from China. But do you how they get here and at what cost?
They are transported here on huge shipping containers across the sea. A single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. They are then distributed throughout the UK by HGVs, HGVs contribute to 19% of our air pollution whilst only accounting for 5% of miles travelled in the UK.
What about the plastic that makes the toys – the majority of this is derived from virgin petrochemicals. Rarely do toy companies use recyclables because of the inherent risk to children (we’ve really come on since the days of lead based paint covering toys!). But these essential safety precautions mean that our toys are manufactured from non-renewables and consequently adding to the demand of a limited resource, not to mention the intrinsic carbon cost to source, transport and refine this raw material.
Many people agree that a revolution to our consumer culture needs to happen but how? And without the going to the effort of making a scarf yourself out of hemp you’ve had to buy from the organic shop 20 miles away!
One business has thought about how it can help parents, gift givers and children to solve the dilemma of what to get and avoid that deluge of plastic at particular times of the year. Gift Time For Kids has been created which allows parents to set up a wishlist of activities for their children. When friends are family are given the code they can access the childs wishlist, see the target amount needed and the activity the child wants to do. Unlike conventional “Gift experiences” these are not just for one-off days but more regular hobbies like swimming, rugby, football, gymnastics, baby sensory classes, music and more.
Giving as little as £5 towards a goal amount can pay for an activity, helping parents who have no idea what to get their child’s classmate, avoids wrapping, shopping and general faff of a kids birthday parties! Additionally the child then has a gift that will certainly be used throughout the year and without taking up their parent’s living room!
Businesses like Gift Time For Kids have founded a company which promotes sustainability but as an easier alternative to the convention, not more effort on the part of the consumer. Is this the avenue to make us change our ways or will it take more for us to give up our love of “buying”?