This Christmas give back to our coastline when you choose presents for friends and family with our selection of crafts, upcycled products and those that directly benefit marine charities
Words RAE RITCHIE
Whether you love Christmas shopping or loathe it, it’s satisfying to find presents that don’t just benefit the recipient, and can help to protect our oceans. One way to start your search is to think about a place that means a lot to the person you’re buying for. Is there somewhere that they go back to year after year, or a place that they always speak of fondly? If you share happy memories – new or old – about a location, even better.
MEANINGFUL PRESENTS TO EVOKE HAPPY MEMORIES
Once you’ve settled on a spot, there are different approaches to choose from. If nostalgia is what you’re after, then look for brands such as For the Love Of The North, where retro-style prints of North East England (right) evoke the glory days of the seaside holiday and raise money for Northumbria’s NHS Trust’s Bright Charity at the same time (from £10, fortheloveofthenorth.co.uk).
Another option is to give a present that both supports a good cause and enhances the recipient’s connection to an area. The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, for instance, now allows gifting of its Friend membership. In return for a donation, the Friend will get updates throughout the year, including bi-monthly video diaries straight to their inbox (ios-wildlifetrust.org.uk/shop). Apply for an annual subscription to the Barmouth Sailor’s Institute and you’ll sustain a unique part of the area’s history – and provide somewhere for the giftee to visit whenever they’re there (£5, barsailinst.org.uk).
Buying Christmas presents from local artisans is another way to nurture a sense of connection with a place and also support it, particularly when this year’s travel restrictions may have prevented the usual flow of tourists and their spending. And thanks to the internet, distance or remoteness are not issues. The Iona Craft Shop stocks a selection of items made from the wool of the island’s sheep, as well as hanks of single origin Iona wool for the talented – or even just enthusiastic – knitter (from £10.95, ionacraftshop.com).
In the same region, the difficulties caused by Covid-19 inspired Rhoda Meek to create Isle20, a website that brings together artists, craftspeople and tiny food producers from across the Scottish islands in one place. A sea glass hanging from the Isle of Tiree, £15, and a handmade driftwood pen from the Isle of Mull, £36, are just two of the treasures listed (isle20.com).
MAKE A DONATION TO MARINE CHARITIES
Another approach to looking for gifts that give back is to focus on those companies that are contributing to worthwhile causes. Whoever you’re buying for, you can find brands offering products to help tackle coastal issues.
Salcombe Brewery donates 5p from each bottle of Seahorse beer sold to The Seahorse Trust, which works to conserve seahorse species that breed nearby (£17.50 for a case of eight 500ml bottles, salcombebrewery.com).
Every four Lavender and Sea Salt candles sold by social enterprise Goodwash will fund a training qualification at Challenge Wales, a volunteer-run organisation which encourages young people to achieve their potential through learning at sea (£16, goodwash.co.uk).
Beer and candles are classic Christmas presents. So are socks. Every pair from Critically Endangered Socks supports the world’s most at-risk animals, with 10% of the sale price of the organic cotton Maui Dolphin Striped Socks going to UK-based charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (£12, criticallyendangeredsocks.com).
Jewellery is a popular festive choice as well. Océan Bohème in Brighton pledges to give a minimum of 5% of profits to ocean conversation groups, primarily Surfers Against Sewage, plus many of its boho designs integrate natural elements, such as shells and sea glass (prices from £20, oceanboheme.co.uk).
If it’s youngsters you need to buy for, check out the toys and accessories from Pompom, such as Polar Circle balancing toy (£19.95), Coastal Creatures wooden animal set (£19.95) and Pete the Penguin slippers (£29.99) – not a scrap of plastic in sight (shoppompom.com).
INVEST IN UPCYCLING
A different way to source gifts that give back is to shop with brands that upcycle waste materials into items that make great presents. In Cornwall, Waterhaul transforms waste fishing nets into sunglasses (waterhaul.co), while up in Orkney, A Frayed Knot uses traditional knotting techniques to turn discarded fishing ropes into doormats (afrayedknot.shop).
Plastic Oceanic is likewise involved in a transformation project, which it describes as a four-stage repeating cycle: clean up ocean plastic, process the unrecyclable plastic, make products from ocean plastic and make money to clean up ocean plastic. Items forged from the rubbish it collects include cufflinks set in silver plate (£32, plasticoceanic.com).
Some companies have even joined forces to deal with plastic waste. Wyatt & Jack on the Isle of Wight makes bags from materials such as salvaged beach toys and inflatables (Monstera Leaf tote, £37.50, wyattandjack.com). Offcuts that are too small for them to use go to Stellen in Folkestone to be fashioned into earrings, often with a seaside theme – think bucket and spade or lobsters (£14.50, stellen.co.uk).
SUPPORT OCEAN ADVOCATES
An alternative route is to choose gifts that are sold directly by charities. Many of them have an online fundraising shop stocked with products linked to their mission. For example, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which provides financial and practical assistance to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependents, has a 2021 calendar of maritime photography to buy (£8.25, shipwreckedmariners.org). Or you could make a direct, tangible contribution to a charity. For fans of the RNLI, you can pick virtual gifts from fuel for a lifeboat to crew wellies to a lifeguard wetsuit (from £10, shop.rnli.org).
Organisations dedicated to improving our coastal areas also have online sites where you can pick up a wide range of gifts. The Marine Conservation Society shop has everything from beach-cleaning essentials to plastic-free pampering hampers and boxes (from £15, mcsuk.org/shop), while the #2 Minute Beach Clean online store offers stainless steel reusable coffee/tea cups, litter-pickers and much more (from £5.50, beachclean.shop).
Finally, if you and the recipient have enjoyed happy holidays together, why not share that precious gift with other people? A donation to the Family Holiday Association will help ensure that families struggling with some of life’s toughest challenges can also enjoy a much-needed break at the British seaside (familyholidayassociation.org.uk).