Written by Nicole Banister
Serious question though: why do we keep buying our friends bottles of alcohol and gift cards every single year when it’s time to get them a birthday present? Don’t get me wrong — I’m all here for some drank and a card that lets me buy what I want from whatever store you think I like, but friends, let’s do better. There are a number of thoughtful, unique, and bespoke gifts we could be bestowing upon our beloved besties instead.
I believe that people generally do put effort into ensuring that their gift is especially aligned to the interests of their birthday friend, but truth be told, in the world that we live in today, that simply ain’t enough. Buying a birthday present for a loved one has serious potential! Your gift can be both memorable and can positively affect the life of the person you’re giving it to. Your gift can go even further by also contributing to society in meaningful, cyclical ways. Supporting local artists and designers, lowering carbon footprints, empowering womxn- and black-owned businesses — woke birthday presents give back to the people and the community as much as they give to the birthday bunnies themselves.
If you’re reading this, you were probably never sleeping. But just in case you were, here’s a list of my top choices when stocking up for your next birthday bash.
Plastic-Free Everyday Items
Bamboo toothbrushes and glass straws all day urry day! As we continue to take strides toward eliminating our astronomical amounts of global plastic usage, cutting out single-use plastic is a fantastic and simple individual start. It’s the little things that quickly add up and can cause serious damage to our marine friends. Curb your squad’s environmental impact by gifting them bamboo toothbrushes to use instead of plastic ones. Help them refuse plastic straws by showering them with glass or metal straws that they can whip out and reuse time and time again. These are two small yet powerful ways to be more conscious about all of the times we use plastic daily and don’t even realize it. Reusable water bottles and fabric tote bags are also great plastic-free options that will have them thanking you for keeping them hip while also questioning how they ever lived while wasting so much plastic.
Potted Plants and Succulents
Who isn’t overcome by a sense of serenity when they walk into a house that’s covered in plants? I don’t know about you, but I would love for my apartment to parallel a tropical oasis. I live in the middle of one of the busiest and vibiest streets in Cape Town, so creating my own little green paradise has been a mission. I don’t have a grassy outdoor area like most of my neighbors in the ‘burbs who have oodles of space to cultivate proper gardens. However, my Mission: Apartment Oasis has been made easier by friends who have gifted me plants. If you’re worried about your friend’s green thumb (or lack thereof) then succulents are an excellent place to start. They require minimal water/attention and normally last for months. If your friend is a bit more experienced in the plant world, I recommend a Delicious Monster (monstera deliciosa) or a Rubber Fig (ficus elastica). Plants are great prezzies because they break the monotony of our concrete jungles, exude oxygen to refresh the soul, and they don’t do any damage to the environment when you get rid of them.
Millennials these days would much rather spend money on experiences than anything else. When young people travel, they skimp on paying higher prices for accommodation and transportation in the hopes of fueling more of their hard earned nonprofit- and struggling entrepreneur-money an authentic adventures. If it’s experiences they want, then it is experiences they shall receive from the friends funding their birthdays. You don’t even have to leave your city to share a birthday experience with your bestie. Look into City Sightseeing Tours, Airbnb experiences, walking graffiti tours of certain neighborhoods, or other opportunities for your homie to connect with their city in a way they have never experienced it before. While most of those companies may seem suuuuper touristy, and your friend may think they already have expert knowledge of all things in their ‘hood, this is an incredible opportunity to see the place they call home through a new and different lens. You’ll also snag some prime bonding time if you share the experience with your buddy, and then be the envy of all of your other friends.
Anything Locally Made
Local designers and small business owners are struggling artists just like the best of them. Forego mass-produced gifts at major international chain stores like H&M or Nike and instead support a local shop owner by purchasing your gift from them. When you buy a gift from Nike you’re just another peg in the massive consumer system. When you buy a gift from a local entrepreneur, you’re helping them cover the bills next week. Take it a step further by purchasing your gift from a local business owner who’s also a womxn, a minority, or who identifies with a marginalized population. In Cape Town, my go-to gift favorites include a handcrafted leather wallet from Gemini, a customized chitenge bag from One of Each or Dr. Pachanga, an edgy jacket from Wale Mandla, a stunning chunky necklace from Pichulik, a paint splattered sun dress from Lo at the Old Biscuit Mill, or natural skin and hair products from Kafui Naturals.
That list barely scratches the surface of amazing talent in the Mother City, but do research in your own locale to figure out who’s in the area, who’s putting out amazing products, and who could really benefit from your euros and dolla dolla bills, y’all.
Don’t forget that when you #ShopDOCC, we’ll happily ship your birthday buddy items from our fabulous collections anywhere in the world. With that being said, I guess everyone knows exactly what they can bless me with for my birthday this year. It’s November 22, in case you forgot.