10 Holiday Gifts That Give Back

BlogHer Original Post

According to the CCNMoney.com article, Splurges Will Be Scarce This Holiday Season:

"Americans will spend an average of $923.36 on holiday gifts, which includes $106.67 on me-too purchases, which are the impulse buys that people make for themselves while they're shopping for gifts. This is up a moderate 3.7 percent from last year, according to NRF's 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey."

Wouldn't be great if some of that $923.36 could go towards giving the people you love a gift, and making the world a better place? Here are a few ideas for those special someones.

1. Do Artisans a World of Good

For many people, art and craft-making is their livelihood. You can buy beautiful, handmade gifts made by artisans from companies and organizations like World of Good, Be Sweet, Global Girlfriend, The Amber Chand Collection and New Mexico Creates. For example, according to the Global Girlfriend site, the $28 Button Summer Tote pictured above is, "Made by a fair trade organization based in Bali Indonesia that aims to help women create a market for their beautiful handicrafts in order to help them create sustainable incomes and encourage keeping traditional crafts and skills alive."

2. Buy Books from Your Local, Independent Bookstore.

When it comes to spending your holiday dollars, would you rather they went to Amazon and Borders, or to your local economy? Di's Book Blog recommends using the BookSense web site to find independent bookstores near you. You can also buy a BookSense gift card that can be used at hundreds of independent bookstores. The Jackson Street Book blog recently reported that the New York Times and NPR have added BookSense.com as an online book purchasing option, in addition to Amazon.com.

3. Wake Them Up with a Fair Trade Organic Coffee Sampler

Fair Trade Certified coffee means that the coffee farmers who grew it are getting a fair price for their product, are working in fair labor conditions, and are farming in an environmentally sustainable way. Introduce the coffee lover in your life to the benefits and deliciousness of organic, Fair Trade coffee. For example, A Green Mountain Coffee Roasters sampler of Organic Breakfast Blend, Organic French Roast and Organic Sumatran Reserve is $26.95. Search on TransFair for Fair Trade Certified products, or Google, "Fair Trade coffee sampler" for more options.

4. Empower an Entrepreneur with a Kiva Loan.

Kiva.org allows lenders to loan money to an aspiring social entrepreneur in a developing country using PayPal. The recipient of the loan commits to paying the lender back in a certain period of time. You can give a Kiva gift certificate for as little as $25. The recipient of the certificate can choose which entrepreneur they want to support. I bet former President Bill Clinton will be giving out a few of these this year. Check out what he had to say about Kiva on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

5. Donate a Flock of Chickens, Share of Tree Seedlings, or Knitting Basket of Llamas and Sheep.

Heifer International gives poor families a sustainable source of food and income by buying them livestock with your donation. For example, for $20 you can give a family a flock of chicks that will provide them with eggs to eat, share or sell. One good hen can lay up to 200 eggs in a year. You can even create a Heifer International gift registry for yourself to send to your friends and family.

6. Plant a Tree, Restore a Rainforest.

For your vegetarian and vegan friends who might be uncomfortable with promoting animal consumption through a group like Heifer International, the Do Life Right blog recommends giving the gift of a donation to Sustainable Harvest International and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. You could also give a donation to the Green Belt Movement started by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai.

7. Have Organic Fruits and Veggies Delivered to Their Door

Buy a gift certificate for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to deliver fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables grown by local farmers. Help keep family farming in business, and your friends healthy. Go to localharvest.org to find a CSA near you.

8. Adopt a Dog or Cat

According to the Humane Society of the United States, as of October 2006, 6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters, and 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. Petfinder is a great resource for finding a furry companion for your family or friend while saving an animal's life.

9. Give a Child a Laptop, Get a Child a Laptop.

Starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child will be offering a Give 1 Get 1 Program for a short period of time. For $399 you can donate one XO laptop to a child in a developing country, and have one XO laptop sent to your child at home.

10. Plan a Volunteer Vacation Getaway Together

Give the gift of time together while also living and working with people on a service project. Lynn O'Rourke of Travel Talk went to the Peruvian Amazon with family and friends where they, "traveled 90 miles by speedboat deep within the jungle. There we delivered much needed school supplies to several communities along the river." Lynn suggests several places to search for trips including the American Hiking Society. The AHS offers trips for $130 where you, "visit stunning backcountry locations to construct or rebuild footpaths, cabins and shelters." You'll also find lots of trip ideas by Googling, "volunteer vacation" and "voluntourism."

Remember, expressions like, "It's the thought that counts," and, "You can't buy happiness," are true. Instead of spending $923.36 to buy stuff for your loved ones that they might use a couple of times, figure out how to spend more quality time together this year.

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present. ~Babatunde Olatunji"

Full disclosure: New Mexico Creates is related to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, where my dad works.

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Britt Bravo, also blogs at Have Fun * Do Good, and NetSquared

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