A Drop in the Ocean: ‘Tis the Season to be Practical – How the Humble Care Package can Save Christmas and the World

I know it’s only November, I know we don’t want to think about it, I know it feels surreal and almost sacrilegious to even mention it what with the lockdowns and low hums of recession, the rising loneliness and lowering of morale but I’m going to do it, mention the unmentionable and open the Pandora’s box of hysterical, hair-pulling madness: Christmas. Apparently, it’s coming. Though not in any form we might recognise. And, with its advent, looms the unappealing prospect of Christmas shopping.

Practicality often gets a bad wrap and nowhere is its unpopularity more pronounced than in the sequined, bow-wrapped pantheon of Christmas presents. For my part, I have no idea why. A pair of homespun socks is my idea of Kris Kringle heaven; the sister who buys me frilly but functional (and crucially, needed) underwear each year remains my favourite sibling for this exact reason. But practicality is not cool; it is not associated with warmth or love, thoughtfulness or care, passion or devotion; it is disregarded as thoughtless, clinical, dull. 

There is a reason the care package is favoured by Irish mammies the world over: it is a straight-forward, value-for-money vehicle for expressing love with minimal waste but maximum heart.

In reality, the practical gift is the pinnacle of thoughtfulness – by its very nature it requires excessive thought, making it not only a considerate gift for the receiver but also for the world as a whole. Anything that sidesteps impulse buying or the hysteria of last-minute gift-grabbing and favours a pensive weighing up of the pros and cons of an essential product, is a thing to be celebrated in our journey towards becoming better climate activists. You see, the simplest way to be environmentally conscientious is to simply be conscientious. To ask, as I do every time I find myself lusting after yet another madly-patterned skirt, DO I NEED THIS?? If you are being guided by pragmatism, selecting need over desire, chances are you are also buying ethically. 

It is for this reason, dear reader, that this festive season I seek to bring back the humble, the overlooked, the too-long stigmatised, care package. 

Yes, the time has come to upcycle the cellophane-wrapped, perfume-doused relic of bad teenage birthdays and the Tayto-stuffed, Cadbury-littered harbinger of homesickness and transform it into the functional, ethical, but endlessly chic icon of climate action it has the potential to be. There is a reason the care package is favoured by Irish mammies the world over: it is a straight-forward, value-for-money vehicle for expressing love with minimal waste but maximum heart.  Supporting local businesses and supplying a loved one with both the essentials and the luxuries the financial strain of COVID-19 might be depriving them of, the care package is the monarch of pragmatism and pinnacle of thoughtful kindness this Christmas. Better again, it promises endless possibilities as an eco-warrior of a present that karate kicks every planet-saving box. 

A pair of homespun socks is my idea of Kris Kringle heaven; the sister who buys me frilly but functional (and crucially, needed) underwear each year remains my favourite sibling for this exact reason.

Buying local: tick. Minimal waste: tick. Essential gifts instead of superfluous bits: tick. Reusable packaging: tick. I’m talking bamboo toothbrushes from small Irish businesses (Bambooth) , luxurious, zero-waste deodorants made with foraged ingredients (Warrior Botanicals), bean-to-bar vegan chocolates (Exploding Tree), cruelty-free face creams (Janni Bars), prettified reusable bottles (Narcis’sips), and carbon-neutral coffee (Farmhand Coffee). I am talking about products essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing: the ointments and unguents we need to feel good and be well, and yet the products we will often forego in times of financial crisis. 

Because, let’s be honest, ethical consumerism is tied to financial privilege. Too often, cruelty-free, plastic-free, waste-free does not correlate to euro-free: to be environmentally-friendly in our consumer power necessitates a level of monetary agency and financial security. Thus, if you have money to spend this Christmas, why not invest it in a package that answers a loved one’s visceral needs but also protects the planet and local SMEs who are battling, like never before, against the slashed prices and bargain aisles of conglomerates? 

From the Minimal Waste Grocery in Dublin to the Filling Station Eco Store in Galway, to online shops such as Reuzi and Green Outlook, there are any number of fantastic Irish businesses to support in this. Build your own curated package of goodness with an online scavenger hunt or head straight to a site like EarthMother.ie to order a premade hamper. 

To extrapolate this idea further, what gift could be more practical or caring than an organic fruit and vegetable box delivered straight to the door of a loved one? Having accompanied my mother, under duress or otherwise, on the annual “FOOD SHOP”, I am painfully aware of the expense of not just Christmas dinner but the meals and in-between meals of the days both before and after this pivotal event. You can eradicate this financial stress and trolleyed ordeal entirely by having a handpicked box of delicious, seasonal and plastic-free veg delivered, in COVID-friendly style, to a neighbour in need, the sister-in-law who swears she wants nothing yet still expects everything, the furloughed friend who has been feigning “fineness” for the past six months. There are a host of small suppliers countrywide specialising in these boxes of vibrant, fragrant, nourishing goodness – Green Earth Organics, Carraignamuc Cottage, and Beech Lawn to name a few.

Anything that sidesteps impulse buying or the hysteria of last-minute gift-grabbing and favours a pensive weighing up of the pros and cons of an essential product, is a thing to be celebrated in our journey towards becoming better climate activists.

Any occasion that encourages gift-giving I view as an opportunity to persuade, manipulate, or indoctrinate a loved one into my environmental agenda. This Christmas, a care package of eco-alternatives to life’s necessities – toothpaste and caffeine, nappies and laundry detergent – is a highly recommended way to influence friends and dismantle the corporate weapons of mass environmental destruction. Oh, and show loved ones that you care, I suppose.

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