Unique Christmas gifts

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

When I used to run a company with over 500 people, we would meet every month to celebrate like 10-15 birthday celebrants and let them blow candles on a cake. For many of them, it was a first. First time to have a cake, first time to blow candles. Unthinkable but true. We dismiss birthday cakes as ordinary, but to some people it is still a novel experience. I still smile when I recall how wonderful we made them feel.

Another idea is getting your staff something they would never put in their budgets. Like eye refraction or having eyes tested for distance and focus. Not many of them know that at 40 years old, presbyopia sets in and we start to put newspapers or magazines farther from us to be able to read the 10- to 12-point print. Not many know that at 40 they start to squint because they cannot read as comfortably as before. So I took my two staff to the same optical shop I go to, the same optometrist and got them a pair of glasses. The better to see the world with.

This Christmas I thought of something more personal – a visit to the dentist. Going to the dentist is like pulling teeth (pardon the pun). People put it last on their list, if they do it at all. I had my guy who came fresh from the province go to a dentist for a prophylaxis or cleaning. I am sure this will be a memorable experience he will treasure for life. And it does them well, too, because they may buy new clothes but will never schedule a dental clean up.

This Christmas think of memorable and functional gifts. Sometimes it is better to give a service a friend, relative or employee will not think of paying for. Like a full spa massage for someone who takes a regular commute and whose body always takes a beating. Or even a foot massage. There are apps that provide such service within 15 minutes and can be scheduled, too.

I have friends who are tech-challenged and could not think of ordering food outside for themselves. There are food delivery apps you can use to deliver food anywhere. I once tried to have food sent to a friend in Palawan! It would be a nice gesture to send food or a cake to a friend you have not seen in a long time. And for those who are house-bound and are restricted from going to malls or public places.

For your family, avoid more clutter. You can give a “job jar” where whoever picks a chore gets to give it as a gift to another family member. It can be mundane tasks but something you can skip doing during the holidays because someone is gifting you with their time (washing the car, cleaning the rooms, doing the dishes for a month, etc.).

For the elderly, you can help them navigate their iPad or their phones. You can subscribe them to music apps like Spotify or audiobooks through “audible.com” and other similar apps that allow them to listen to books, podcasts and news. This is specially good for those with poor eyesight and find it a chore to read.

For the young, give them experiences they will treasure. Take them to a Nature reserve or a farm tour. Let them run free with Nature and if you can afford a night out, go camping or glamping.

Gifting with experience or service also helps us reduce wrappers, clutter, plastic bubble wrap and more trash for landfills. Did you know that our plastic trash over the pandemic increased to 240 metric tons per day in the metro, up from just 60 metric tons pre-pandemic? The bubble wrap, the used PPEs and face masks all contributed to this rise in plastic trash. This Christmas, let us avoid even more trash by shifting our gift-giving to services given to others.

According to EcoWaste Coalition, the trash actually contains a lot of disposable diapers, feminine pads, medical trash like masks which up to this day are found by scuba divers in our waters. How you wish these disposables could be done away with. How can we go back to using washable sanitary wear, children’s diapers and washable face masks?

In the meantime, I am certain the paper wrappers this Christmas will add a few more tons to our daily trash collection. One-time use wrappers can be replaced with Japanese style Furushiki washable wrapping scarves. Do you see in Japanese movies how they wrap their gifts in these reusable, washable cloth scarves? We tried this in ECHOstore with the hope it can be as popular as the now ubiquitous ecobags. With Japanese malls trending, maybe it will have a comeback.

Another gift idea is a potted herb or a seedling of a forest tree or a coffee tree. They can be very affordable and will help us with carbon capture. Starting at P50, you can get a coffee tree or P100 for potted herbs. You can also contact NGOs who can do the planting for you (www.philcoffeeboard.com) or GForest in the Gcash app. This will surely give you good karma as we try to offset our carbon footprint or travel miles with planting trees. We like to plant native trees like Narra, Yakal, Dao instead of the invasive Mahogany, which many have made the mistake of planting. Even a forester confirmed to a crowd that Mahogany is not her preferred species. Imagine that tree disturbing our biodiversity.

So this season, let us do something a little different from past seasons:

Give a gift of service or a treat of physical wellness.

Give a gift of experience.

Give a tree of hope to protect our future.

Avoid plastic, be different and give a different gift this time around.

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