Thursday, November 08, 2007

10 Holiday Gifts That Give Back

According to the 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 as an online book purchasing option, in addition to

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. 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 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.


  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    These are all wonderful gift suggestions! I'm a self-proclaimed Christmas girl. I love December and I especially love shopping for gifts. What's so great about your list is that the gifts are really something original and enjoyable. And these ideas actually encourage people to do more good deeds. :) So thank you for your post and happy holidays!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Here is another suggestion to add to the list. Fair trade gift ideas at

    Full disclosure - this is my son and daugther-in-law's online business they started a little over a year ago. They have tons of new products and gift ideas this year and all are fair trade.

  4. Thanks for the suggestion, Mike!

  5. Man, I love that tote! Global Girlfriend is located nearby here in Denver. So good to hear they're doing well and other companies are following suit. Thanks for the list, Britt! K.

  6. Karen, That's so cool Global Girlfriend is near you. I love the bag too. Maybe I'm secretly hoping a family member will read my blog and get it for me (:

  7. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Hi, These are really cool idea's. I have two more:
    In Amnesty International Shop (US,
    UK) you can shop for Human Rights, Most of the stuff you buy are Fair trade, organic, or Eco friendly.
    Also by spending a few cents on a post card and contribute in Amnesty UK's greeting card's campaign you can send a message of Hope to those prisoners of conscience, people under sentence of death, human rights defenders under threat because of their work, and others at risk.

  8. Hi Britt,
    Great post idea. I'd like to add the South Africa Partners Masifunde Sonke (Let Us Read Together) children's book project. We've imported a selection of K-12 S. African books, and for each book sold in the U.S., we donate a second book in the purchaser's name to an under-resourced South African rural or township school.

    You can place orders and learn more about the project at

    Thanks again!

  9. thanks for the great ideas!

  10. Thanks for the suggestions, Ali and Kate. Another great one that I didn't get to add is Oxfam Unwrapped:

    "The Oxfam Unwrapped catalogues only contain items that people around the world have identified they need to change their lives for the better – our programs include emergency relief, farming, health, education, small business and advocacy. When you buy a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped your donation will help support our work in these areas, ensuring your donation has an impact on the lives of people living in poverty."

  11. You're welcome, Minotte! It's my pleasure. And there are so many other gifts that give back that I didn't include.

  12. Anonymous8:16 AM

    I love this website, there are so many great ideas about giving back to our world.
    Could I please mention a free charity website I found, it's in Nongkhai, Thailand.
    The founder of Isara in 2002 is a young American creating awesome projects helping the less fortunate in 4 countries. In May, 2007, he opened a Free Learning Center teaching English, Math and Computers to young children and adults.
    I would also like to post your website on the Isara forum. Networking is an important part of success.
    Thank you for helping me to "Give Back".

  13. Thanks for the great article. May I add A Greater Gift to the list? We're a nonprofit that sells fairly traded items from 85 partner groups in 36 countries around the world.

    Thanks for encouraging gifts that give back this holiday season!

  14. Anonymous10:44 AM

    Thank you so much for all of this support!

    I work with Oxfam America Unwrapped and thought that you and your readers would be interested to know about the updated Unwrapped Holiday Catalog. Please visit . 22 new gifts have been made available, just in time for the holiday season!

    Oxfam America Unwrapped is truly a fantastic way to give back this holiday season. Give the unexpected gift that does good!

    Thank you again for your support,

  15. Anonymous8:33 AM Has had some great ideas for Gifts that give back!

    Your suggestions are great!

  16. Anonymous6:20 AM

    Hi - Thanks for these ideas. I'd like to add another suggestion - for handmade gifts that give back.

    There are many artists and artisans who sell through Etsy who donate all or part of their profits to charity. I'm one of them. I sell the jewelry I create to support my husband's volunteer work with orphaned children in Liberia.

    I frequently feature these socially involved artisans and their projects on my blog at

    Thanks, Phyllis

  17. Wonderful idea, Phyllis. Thanks!

  18. Hi Brit! Thanks for the mention.

    At this time, during Remodel Hell, we don't have our books online to sell, but we hope to this month.

    In the spirit of your gift giving suggestions, let me add my friend Stormbear's excellent endeavor:

  19. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Trade As One ( is also a great place to buy fair trade gifts for the holidays. I think there will be a couple boutiques held in December in Berkeley but you can also shop online!


  20. Anonymous6:34 PM

    Thank you for including Sustainable Harvest International in your list of alternative gift ideas! Your support will provide Central American families with the tools and materials they need to improve their standard of living while protecting the environment. A beautiful Gift of Hope card will be sent to your loved ones announcing your gift in their honor. Embrace the true spirit of giving and Give a Gift of Hope!

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