Forget material possessions: Greener holiday gift ideas

Gift givers do not need to be limited to environmental organizations, either.  While saving the planet is a great focus, hunger, social justice, poverty, peace efforts and many others are equally important and in need of support.  Here are some ways you can contribute this holiday season:

  • Sponsor a Wild Place - A Sierra Club sponsorship gift is a great way to show how much you care, not only about a loved one, but about[image-1] the environment.  Choose from one of ten natural wonders in the United States.

  • End Hunger Through Gardening - The Dinner Garden works to fight hunger in the U.S. by helping people plant their own gardens for food.  Send a holiday card to someone special indicating your donation in their name.

  • Support the National Parks - The National Park Foundation works to preserve and protect "America's Best Idea"  through conservation and restoration efforts, fostering youth engagement, promoting citizenship and preserving history in the places where it happened.

  • "Adopt" an Endangered Animal - The World Wildlife Fund offers several different levels of support for over one hundred endangered animals.  Recipients recieve an adoption certificate and an animal information card no matter what level.

  • Help Young Girls in Developing Countries - Studies show that if young girls in poverty have the opportunity to be educated and healthy, they are more likely to rise above their situation and give back to their community.

  • Micro-Loans that Change Lives - Kiva offers a unique opportunity for people to lend small amounts of money to poor-but-motivated[image-2] entrepreneurs around the globe.

  • Create Play Spaces for Kids in America - KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Your donation can help save kids' lives and give them a future.

  • Keep a Cancer Patient Comfortable - Chemo Comfort provides kits to cancer patients with products that help manage nausea, mouth sores, hair loss, and other side effects of chemotherapy.

  • Adopt an Acre of Forest - From the Appalachians to Papau New Guinea, the world's trees are bein glost at an alarming rate.  Help the Nature Conservency plant new trees around the world, and your loved one receives a wonderful gift as well.

  • Help Feed Tampa Bay's Hungry - It is heartbreaking to realize we have people going to bed hungry at night in our ouwn town.  Every little bit helps right here at home.

If none of these it up your alley, check out Changing the Present, a clearinghouse of over 1500 ways to contribute to various causes around the world, and giving the gift of philanthropy in someone's name.  As with anything that involves donations, it is important to do your homework and know that the money or goods you are giving are being used wisely and for the intended purpose.  Sites like Charity Navigator and the National Charity Reports Index can give you important information on many of the charities out there, and even any tax info you might need.

The holiday onslaught is upon us, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday screeching at us to buy more and more and increase our world of stuff. Big box stores and mega marts are doing everything in their power to get your increasingly limited money, and it can be a daunting task indeed for an eco-conscious individual to figure out a gift for loved ones.

There are many "green" gift ideas, from organic and eco-friendly clothing to sustainably made items for the home and office.  Home-made items show real caring, and anytime you buy something made and sold locally, you are not only stimulating the local economy, but reducing the environmental impact it has.  But what about something that is not material?  Many of us already have a lot of things.  Its probably safe to say that most of us could do with less stuff, less clutter, and less space-filling possessions (regardless of how eco-friendly they may be).

A trend I have seen among many people who are conscious about what they are contributing to in the world have moved to a different mode of gift giving.  Instead of a physical present, a donation is made.  A membership or subscription is given in their loved one's name.  Often this is accompanied by a card or photo indicating what was done, and sometimes it even included frequent updates from the recipient charities or organizations.  What better way to tell someone you care than by helping to save the world, and including them in your efforts?

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