I LOVE Christmas. It’s definitely my favourite time of the year.

I love pretty much everything about it – the food, the time spent with loved ones, the fact that singing Christmas song (badly) in public is acceptable – what’s not to love? Oh and the PRESENTS. As a child, these were the absolute highlight of the holiday. Huddled around the tree, my family and I would take turns opening our gifts, ripping back the shiny wrapping paper and carefully tied bows, excited to see what new toy, or fancy item of clothing, they contained.

But as the years went on and the older I got, (and presumably the harder it was for people to buy me presents), the concept of crappy Christmas gifts became very real to me. Of course there were still wonderfully thoughtful presents, but these great presents were being outnumbered by some incredibly well-meaning, but generally terrible, gifts. I’ve lost track of the number of soaps, scented candles and floral stationary sets I’ve received over the years.

We’ve all received unwanted 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, unwanted. Unused. Unloved. Or worse – end up in our bins and eventually in landfill. Not to mention the added waste that goes into the wrapping, cards and gift tags.

We’re always striving for ways to make this holiday as sustainable and green as possible, and minimising the waste that comes with buying unwanted presents is an awesome 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.

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 – 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.idontwantpresent.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!

Of course some families and friends absolutely insist on exchanging gifts – so we’ve created an online gift catalogue, cheekily named ‘Gifts That Don’t Suck’. Every donation made through the shop will go towards our Girls Education Project and we’ll send you out a cute little card showing what you’ve gifted, whether it’s a pile of bricks to build the school, or a set of table and chairs for a new classroom. Check them out at: https://onegirl.myshopify.com/collections/giftsthatdontsuck

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


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


Author bio: Larissa 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

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

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