I was recently listening to WBEZ, Chicago land’s Public Radio and heard someone throwing around the term “ethical gifting.” And it wasn’t in a story about ethical gifting, it was just casual conversation thrown about during an end of year donor drive. The speaker tossed this phrase around as if everyone should know what it was. Sheepishly, I admit it was the first time I had come across it. I thought, however, that I immediately understood the term.
When I went to research the term later, I realized that there really is no cohesive application or understanding of the term. Many seem to apply it to green-giving. Then there are those that apply it to practical or useful gifts, and those that use it for creative gifts, anything bought from small shops, particularly if those shops contain goods made by people in under-developed nations. I also saw it applied to gifting with a charitable aim, which sometimes meant buying something that gives some or all of proceeds to charity and sometimes it just meant giving to charity in someone’s name. However, the other thing that popped up quite frequently was ethical gifting in a business environment. At first, I brushed this off as the wrong kind of ethical gifting, but then I realized that this no-strings-attached type of gift giving corporations advocated should be a part of ethical giving, at least, my ethical giving.
So what is ethical gifting? I have concluded that it is different for everyone and that it essentially giving that reflects your values, which we often forget at this time of year in our panic to just buy things for people. For me, ethical gifting is giving gifts that are immediately useful with a focus on recycling that will produce little to no waste. Yes, sometimes that means I make things, and sometimes they are actually really nice and sometimes my family is just really nice. I like to support small shops, too–though that can be in direct conflict with getting the best deal on something. But that is okay. It is less important to me to be frugal in gift giving than it is to buy a gift that will be useful–and used. This is a lot easier to justify when you are not buying a gift for every single relative.
For kids, my husband and I look for gifts that are educational,which to me takes precedent over Eco-friendly–though more and more, the two are compatible. Still, we try not to add mindlessly with piles of toys pulled off box-store shelves. This is sometimes tricky because you want to buy them the fun, hot toy of the year. The immediate satisfaction they will experience will probably be much greater than opening something useful and will catapult you to the top of the “best aunt and uncle in the world” list. But then I remember the ethics of corporate gift giving. My gifts are not to buy someone’s affections or to influence someone’s actions. They are given being thoughful of both the gift-giver and gift-receiver.