How Not Getting Presents this Christmas Could Be the Best Gift You’ll Give this Year

One-Girl-scholar | Photo Credit One Girl AustraliaLarissa Ocampo is One Girl’s Online Community Manager and an avid drinker of coffee, eater of chocolate and is most passionate about educating and empowering women and girls everywhere to achieve their full potential. Get in touch with her at community@onegirl.org.au

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year.

I love pretty much everything about it. The yummy food, the time spent with loved ones, the fact that singing Christmas songs (badly) in public is acceptable – what’s not to love?

When I was younger, Christmas was very much about the presents we got to open on Christmas day. Huddled around the tree, my family and I would take turns opening presents, ripping back the shiny wrapping paper and carefully tied bows, excited to see what new toy, or fancy item of clothing, they contained. It was basically one of the most exciting experiences a 10-year-old could have.

But as the years went on and the older I got – the less Christmas became about the presents I received.  Of course there were still stand-outs gifts – like the handmade apron I got one year, or the wonderfully thoughtful personalised mug – but these great presents were being outnumbered by some incredibly well-meaning, but generally terrible gifts. I’ve lost track of the number of bath bombs, body lotions, scented candles and soaps I’ve received over the years. Photo frames, jewellery that isn’t quite my taste, and stationary kits round out my ‘unwanted present’ greatest hits.

We’ve all received gifts like this before – whether it’s the pair of socks from Nan, or the novelty Christmas-themed plate or mug from your aunt. A survey found that Australians will spend upwards of $700 million on these unwanted presents [1], most of which will end up gathering dust in our cupboards, or worse – end up in the bin and eventually in landfill. Not to mention the added waste that goes into the wrapping, cards and gift tags.

As we look for ways to have a greener, more sustainable Christmas – minimising on unwanted gifts and the environmental (not to mention financial) waste associated with them is an easy enough place to start.

Here at One Girl (www.onegirl.org.au), a start up charity working to provide access to education to women and girls in Sierra Leone, in amongst the waste we saw an opportunity. Imagine if we could capture just a TINY percentage of the $700 million wasted on unwanted presents and did something positive with it? It didn’t take us long to think of a project worthy of investing in.

Ronietta-School | Photo by One Girl Australia | SustainableSuburbia.net

One of the communities in which we work, Ronietta, is in desperate need of a new school. Their current mudbrick building has been badly damaged by tropical storms. Water has seeped in and softened the bricks, causing large cracks to form and sections of wall to collapse.

The government has threatened to shut the school down because it’s so unsafe, but the 260 boys and girls attending there are so determined to get an education that they keep showing up, every single day.

It was very likely that the 260 students would be out of school next year – but what if we could do something about it? If we gave up our presents this festive season and raised just $50,000 – we could give the community of Ronietta the best present ever – a brand new school. And the benefits wouldn’t just be for those 260 boys and girls, it would be a gift for generations to come.

So we started a campaign called I Don’t Want A Present (www.idontwantapresent.com) – and told our friends and family we didn’t want gifts this year, we wanted to help build a school instead. After being so inspired by the community of Ronietta, we knew if we shared their story others might be inspired to do something about it too. So we’re sharing it with like-minded, passionate people who want to do away with festive waste and join us in giving this community the gift of a new future.

Watch this video and meet the community of Ronietta:

Then head over to www.idontwantapresent.com and create a fundraising page – it only takes 2 seconds (we timed it!) and tell your friends and family to make a donation to your page instead of getting you a present. It’ll be the greenest, easiest and quickest present they’ll give this Christmas – a win for everyone!

Together we can cut down on our eco-footprint this festive season and be part of a positive change in the community of Ronietta.

One Girl works in Sierra Leone, West Africa providing educational opportunities to women and girls, through scholarships, classroom rebuilding, business training and sanitary pads. Want to find out more about One Girl’s work? Go to: www.onegirl.org.au


[1] The Australian Institute Survey, December 2010: http://www.tai.org.au/node/1686

Photo credits: One Girl Australia

This post has been shared – as usual – over at Essentially Jess’s I Blog On Tuesday (IBOT) linky, where she is sharing her Christmas wishes. Freedom for all and regular visits from the cleaning fairy (she likes cleaning right? it’s freedom for her) are my top picks from her list.

  6 comments for “How Not Getting Presents this Christmas Could Be the Best Gift You’ll Give this Year

  1. December 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    What a fantastic idea for Christmas, when the whole commercialism and greed of it is starting to get us down, it’s great to know there are alternatives like this.

    I know in previous years I have asked people to buy me a goat or chicken, for a family overseas via one of the charities. I don’t think anybody has ever actually done it though – not sure why – maybe they don’t take me seriously? Or maybe they think it’s not a “personal” gift? I would love to know!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT xxx
    Janet @ Redland City Living recently posted..Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids with Too Many ToysMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      December 11, 2013 at 8:16 am

      That’s what I love about this idea Janet – it kind of makes it more personal, and I think makes people more likely to take you seriously, because you register for it specifically.

      I haven’t done it yet, because my family don’t do presents between the grownups anyway (the kids get presents, and my kids always make something – often with some help from me – for the people who give them presents, mostly the grandparents), but I thought I might go register anyway, just in case :)

      • December 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

        Hi Janet that’s really interesting, I’ve definitely had similar experiences. I know my family and friends think buying those charity cards aren’t as personal as buying an actual item – but with I Don’t Want A Present I’ve actually gone out and told everyone why this story has inspired me personally to give up presents this Christmas. And what’s awesome about this Ronietta project is that once we raise enough to build the school we’ll send everyone out updates and photos, so they can see exactly what they helped create – which bring it home even further :)
        Larissa, One Girl recently posted..Top 10 Nelson Mandela Quotes (in images)My Profile

  2. December 10, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I’m really over all the wasted, unnecessary presents, so this idea really appeals to me. Thanks for sharing
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Dear Santa 2.0 #IBOTMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      December 11, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Me too. My 11 yo’s class decided to do a secret santa this year, and while in theory the secret santa idea can be nice, in practice it just means you are buying something of limited value for – very often – someone you don’t know well, and mostly just adding more junk to the world. I’m not thrilled about it, and actually neither is he (maybe that’s because I told him I would only match the amt of $$ he put in, not just buy it for him).

  3. Anita
    December 19, 2013 at 12:17 am

    The best Christmas we’ve ever had was when our family collectively decided to donate the money we set aside for the presents… We still had a good meal of course, and counted our blessings. :)

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