on the ethical hierarchy of gifting

how to give more with less

We are happy to republish this story as a post from Christmas past.

Katherine Saunders loved Christmas.  She wrote this article in 2018 as Publication Specialist of Guide to the Good. Her passing in 2020 leaves an empty space where joy once lived.  But the ideas she shared in this article, and the delight she brought to everyday live on in her work and our memories.

by Katherine Saunders

A few weeks ago, I made my list of people to shop for this Christmas. I made a neat little checklist on my phone. I jotted down notes about potential gift ideas next to some names. When I finished, I opened Facebook to see what my friends were up to. And that’s when I saw the ‘The Ethical Hierarchy of Gift Purchasing’ graphic, shared by my friend Katie. This got me immediately going back to my Christmas shopping list to see how I could incorporate some of these concepts.

the ethical hierarchy

Being a guide to the good-er, I am already aware of shopping local and reducing waste. In my own life, I have been striving to cut down on the amount of possessions that I have that I do not need. This is not to say that I eschew the very thought of the big-box commercial Christmas. I did end up in Best Buy and on Amazon to purchase gifts for my fiancé. But I did consider the Ethical Hierarchy to see how it could fit for the other people on my list. And I found some benefits.

She's making a list

This year when I began my listmaking, I found myself thinking that half of the people on my list have everything they need and would have little use for more ‘things’. Take our good friend Bobby Bessey’s Nana from the video we shared for #seasonsgroundings the other day.  The top two tiers of memories and time would have been perfect for her.  One thing Katie mentioned that is not on this list, but would probably be at about the same levels as giving memories, was donating to charity on behalf of someone as a gift to them. I ended up using that idea – Unicef has a site where you can buy Survival gifts, and there are lots of local organizations that could use the boost at this time of year. This worked well for me for the people in my life that have little need or room for more things.

Local and handmade 

There are a couple of things that I was surprised to find were not on this list. One of them, as mentioned by my friend Katie, and highly supported by guide to the good, is shopping local.  Again the idea that buying from within the community can often build stronger local connections.  Another thing that I would add is giving consumable goods, which minimize waste. This could mean giving food and drink. I also often give bath bombs, which disappear once they are used.  And while I get that it could still end up with the recipient accumulating more possessions, I would put a higher value on handmade items. To me, that is the same as giving your time; using your skills to create something for the person to enjoy.  There is something special about receiving something made by someone you love.

A better benefit

In some ways, this graphic could come across as a bit of an “easier said than done” sort of situation. Not everybody has the skills to restore old furniture, for example. People have to balance desire within the means of time, finances, and capacity. This graphic is by no means a rulebook for Christmas. I simply saw this in the midst of my own whirlwind of Christmas gift planning and found that I kept thinking about it as I scrolled through the next news stories in my feed. It helped me decide on some ways I could adjust my purchasing decisions for this year to better benefit the recipients, the planet, and ultimately, myself. And it gave me some alternatives just as my new gift ideas were starting to run out.

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Katherine Saunders

Katherine Saunders was publication specialist for guide to the good in 2019. she earned a master's degree in Environmental History from Memorial University of Newfoundland and was passionate about causes which support the planet. She is missed.