Most of us in the Western world have plenty of material possessions already and despite the advertisements we know that life isn’t really about accumulating more things. This holiday season why not avoid all of the shopping mayhem and give something more in line with the real spirit of the season?
I’ve been looking at some gift ideas that show your loved ones you really care and you can make a positive change in the world at the same time. Charitable giving has become much more satisfying as a gift option in recent years. Whereas once you just gave a donation to a charity and that was the end of it, now several organisations make it possible to choose exactly what your money gets spent on and send you an attractive acknowledgement certificate or thank you card back, which you can pass on as a gift.
What about protecting an acre of rainforest? Knowing that you are helping to save the lungs of the world is an incredible present to offer someone you love. I found several organisations helping you to protect rainforest that is in real danger of being felled. World Land Trust US offers a certificate and their UK sister site World Land Trust has a gift pack available. Coolearth can also send a certificate and you can view the piece of rainforest you've protected on a Google Map.
Perhaps you have an animal lover in the family? What about sponsoring an endangered species? The WWF adoption scheme offers not only an acknowledgement, but a matching plush toy, making it an ideal present for a child. You can choose between pandas, tigers, polar bears and more. There are a range of adoption packages to suit most pockets. If you are in the UK you can adopt here: Adopt an Animal The National Wildlife Federation has a similar scheme, plus the option to donate 'Toys for Tots'.
If you’d like to help people in poorer countries there are organisations geared up to gift anything from seeds to sow, chickens or a goat, to the wherewithal to dig a well or pay a teacher’s salary. Our funds can go a long way in these countries and you know you are making a big difference. Oxfam is perhaps the best known charity offering this. Their US site is Oxfam America Unwrapped or in the UK Oxfam. There's a good range of ideas for gifting. There are other organisations are out there too, I found quite a few just with a quick seach of the net such as Practical Presents.
If you still want to give something the recipient can use, but don’t want to clutter up their living space what about a membership subscription? Here in the UK many of our charities have membership schemes that allow members access to their sites, from the Royal Horticultural Society for garden lovers, English Heritage for castles and ancient sites, to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for bird watchers. Memberships can support great causes and are presents that can give enjoyment all year round.
If you still feel you want to buy some tangible gifts to wrap what about looking at fair trade and ethical stores? A Google search will reveal a good range of options and you’ll know that the Season of Goodwill extends to the makers of the gift. I liked the Ethical Superstore for the sheer range of goods it stocks, but several charities also offer fair trade catalogues.
Often experiences will be more memorable than any physical gift. What about a hot air balloon ride, a day spent flying birds of prey, or a pampering treatment, anything from a voucher for a therapeutic massage to a spa holiday?
How about gifting your own time? You could design your gift vouchers. What can you offer? Perhaps you could give a beauty treatment, give a foot massage, babysit, clean the house, do a basket of ironing, cook a special meal, or be a chauffeur?
Lastly there is nothing as touching as receiving something handmade by the giver. Why not make some of your presents this year? The energy of love and care you put into your creations will surpass the most expensive shop bought gift. Whether you can paint, write, sew, or cook you can make something truly memorable, personalised and unique.