Shopping with care for the holidays

Give more than just a gift.

• Gather old clothes, electronics, furniture, and anything else you no longer use. Don’t peddle them off to Salvation Army or other non-profits that discriminate or evangelize. Instead, give them to a local charity, such as a shelter for abused women or homeless folks.

• Between the Penn State tragedy and that viral video of a young girl in Texas being beaten by her father, maybe donating extra change or belongings to a child abuse prevention group is the best message to send the universe this year.

• Give blood.

Here are two fun ways to give the gift of social justice without leaving home.

• Have you seen news reports about anti-choice militants protesting outside abortion providers’ homes or their children’s schools? Bullies think intimidation tactics are appropriate for their war on women. Join me and the good folks at Voice of Choice to change that. We call these misogynists at home or work and very politely condemn their methods. We email them every week. (Some of us even protest outside their homes and places of business.) They don’t like it too much and many have backed down.

• From the great minds at Keep Wall Street Occupied, collect all that junk mail from banks and credit cards and instead of throwing the envelopes away, open them up. Take the application and write #OWS in big letters (or spell it out: OCCUPY WALL STREET), stuff the envelope with as much as you can and mail it back. The bank gets charged for the delivery and you send a powerful message at the same time.

If you must use large corporations for gift-giving this year, find websites like GoodShop that allow a portion of what you spend to go to the charity of your choice.

Differentiate yourself from the big-box shoppers. Try these gifts instead, and you don’t even need to kill a tree to wrap them.

Find Catherine Durkin Robinson online at

I’ve never been a big holiday shopper, but with Occupy Movements and income inequality still making headlines, I’m even less reluctant to spend money on goods made overseas or by large, multi-national corporations. Some employ good, hard-working Americans, but there’s a huge disconnect between executive pay, company policies, labor practices, tax payments, and workers’ rights.

My dear friend Cathy sent me an email suggesting other ways to think about spending for the holiday season. I’ve taken those ideas and blended them with my own:

• Buy gift certificates from locally owned hair salons, barbershops, detail shops, gyms, mechanics, cleaning services, massage therapists, pool cleaners, pet groomers and car washes; consider companies that seal driveways, mow lawns, and teach young kids how to play sports or instruments.

• Purchase gift cards from local or owner-run restaurants. This isn't about big chains; this is about supporting your fellow Floridians and helping them to keep their doors open.

• Support neighbors who offer computer repair, homemade clothes, and accessories such as jewelry or pottery.

• Keep reporters on the beat. Send someone you love a subscription to one of our worthy newspapers.

• Instead of movie passes, support local theater or dance, or find a venue showcasing local bands.

• Leave the mail carrier, tutor, teacher, trash guy or babysitter a nice tip.

• Plant a tree for everyone on your list, not just the ones who acted like idiots at Thanksgiving.

• Buy some used books from your local library instead of an online conglomerate.

• Nonprofits in our community should start an Alternative Gift Fair, selling goods and services — with proceeds to benefit all the great groups in this area that need financial help.

If you’re completely broke, give of yourself.:

• Make something for your loved ones — a poem, necklace, heartfelt essay, or dinner. Whip up some cookies or bread and deliver them to a hospital, fire house, or police station.

• Make a commitment to march or stuff envelopes for a disease or social issue you care about.

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