As Cliff Richard once crooned, Christmas is a time for giving. But before you head down the high street to pick up the latest tablet, perfume or twerking llama for your nearest and dearest, why not consider something a little more philanthropic? Our charity clients are offering wonderful gifts and experiences designed not only to bring joy to the recipient, but also to make a positive impact on the world at large. And with everything from annual memberships to animal adoptions, ethical toiletries to ice-skating sessions, there’s a gift for every member of the family…
Do it: Nothing revitalises the soul like the sound of birdsong. And with a year’s membership of the RSPB (kids from £24, adults from £60, families from £72), the nature lovers in your life will be able to listen to it to their heart’s content, through admission to over 170 nature reserves. Not only that, they’ll receive four issues a year of the RSPB’s Nature’s Home magazine (produced by our good selves) – packed with expert tips, inspiring features and ways to help wildlife – plus an awesome free gift (adult memberships only). With proceeds going towards the RSPB’s amazing conservation work, this makes for a truly worthwhile present.
Buy it: Available exclusively from the RSPB, the new Victorian Flora range of toiletries (prices vary) was inspired by “the pioneering women who campaigned to outlaw exotic bird feathers in fashion” in the early years of the RSPB. The products – comprising a body butter, bath salts and more – are made from a refreshing blend of orange blossom, rose geranium, cedarwood and petitgrain. More importantly, they’re vegan-friendly and free from harmful ingredients, meaning that your loved one’s conscience will be as clean as they are.
Do it: One of the world’s most majestic creatures, the jaguar, is under serious pressure. In its Amazon stronghold, an area of rainforest the size of three football pitches is being lost every minute, leaving the animal exposed to poachers and other threats. However, you can help: jaguars and other endangered species are available for ‘adoption’ from WWF. For a small fee (from £3 a month), the adopter will receive a certificate and photo of their animal, along with a fact book, stickers and updates three times a year. It’s a fantastic gift, and one that raises funds for an excellent cause.
Buy it: Babies’ feet are already pretty cute, but they’ll look absolutely adorable in Critically Endangered Socks’ colourful tootsie warmers (£15 for a pack of four pairs). Featuring motifs of some of the world’s most at-risk species, they’re sure to keep little ones entranced – especially as they double-up as glove puppets. And with the manufacturer donating a portion of the proceeds to wildlife charities, they’ll give the animals a foot up, too.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
Do it: Dogs and cats are, as the slogan has it, not just for Christmas – but at this time of year there are many in need of a good home. And as Battersea is reminding us all, rescue is the best ‘breed’ to choose. If you think your family is ready for such a commitment, head over to Battersea’s website, where you’ll find dozens of adorable cats and dogs just waiting to be matched to a loving carer. There’s no fee, though you and your family will need to register and arrange a meeting with a Battersea representative before getting to take your new four-legged friend home. It’s also possible to buy virtual gifts for Battersea’s animals if you can’t adopt but want to help out.
Buy it: No one likes having to dry the dishes – especially when the draining board is stacked high following the family Christmas dinner. But we reckon the job will feel much more bearable with one of Battersea’s Curious Cats tea towels in hand. Sold in packs of two (£12), these cotton cloths feature cute illustrations of various cat types (along with the occasional wind-up mouse), against a backdrop of fishbone motifs.
Natural History Museum
Do it: Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without tottering precariously around an ice rink like a baby penguin, wearing the festive mittens that your nan knitted you the previous year. And you’d be hard-pushed to find a rink more spectacular than the Natural History Museum’s (adults from £12.65, children from £8.80, families from £39.60). Set against the elegant backdrop of the Alfred Waterhouse-designed building, it’s a magical winter wonderland decorated with sparkly lights and filled with the festive aroma of mulled wine. Even if you do fall on your backside, just remember that the proceeds are going towards this wonderful British institution.
Buy it: As you may have seen in the most recent issue of Evolve – the magazine we produce for NHM members – the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is currently on display at the Museum. To celebrate, the NHM shop is selling a range of wall prints (from £20) featuring some of the most stunning entries from the competition. Available in a range of formats and sizes, these expertly captured shots are guaranteed to get the conversation started.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Do it: During the festive period, the famous gardens at Kew are transformed into an enchanting maze of laser projections and seasonal installations. If you’re not lucky enough to get a ticket (and it does sell out fast), why not treat the horticulturalist in your family to a visit in the new year (adults from £12.50, children from £3.50, concessions from £11)? With over 50,000 living plants to be found at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, they’ll be in their element.
Buy it: Sending correspondence by snail mail is a dying art, but if there’s one thing that’s going to resurrect it, it’s having something pretty to write on. As a tribute to Marianne North, the 19th-century botanical artist whose works are housed in a gallery at Kew, the Royal Botanic Gardens shop is selling a set of 100 postcards (£15) depicting some of her most eye-catching paintings and illustrations. It’s not just your loved one who’ll benefit from such a gift – every purchase in the shop helps to support Kew’s vital conservation work around the world.
Do it: If one of your family members loves butterflies and moths, they’re not alone. Introduce them to a wide network of like-minded enthusiasts by gifting them an annual membership to Butterfly Conservation (from £18 a year). As well as getting opportunities to join working parties, guided walks and conservation talks, they’ll receive three issues of Butterfly magazine – created by Immediate Media – a welcome pack containing postcards and a car sticker, as well as an attractive butterfly shopping bag.
Buy it: As if the Garden Tiger moth wasn’t striking enough, the MOTH T-shirt (£19) available from Butterfly Conservation’s online shop brings it to the fore even more, with the help of large, bold lettering. Available in mustard, white or grey, this 100% organic cotton top is sure to be a summer favourite with lepidoptera-lovers.
Royal Opera House
Do it: The Royal Ballet will be glissading into your home this Christmas, in a series of special BBC broadcasts. Take a front-row seat (your sofa) as the Beeb screens two fascinating documentaries on the famous company, along with Michael Nunn and William Trevitt’s acclaimed film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words. If you’re inspired by what you see, you might want to pledge a gift to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation, which relies on public donations to produce its extraordinary works.
Buy it: And finally, if someone you know is a fan of ballet – and has a sweet tooth – The Sleeping Beauty Biscuit Tin (£40) is guaranteed to make them pirouette with delight. Made by London-based company Biscuiteers, this gorgeously illustrated box contains an assortment of handmade treats, each designed to represent a character from the classic Tchaikovsky ballet. They’re (almost) too good to eat.