Let’s face it – no one really needs a holiday gift, so why not give one that benefits a cause? Here are my Fab Five picks to consider, which may at least get you thinking of alternatives to the traditional, commercialized, consumer Christmas.
Help reforest your planet earth with a gift of a tree from the Arbor Day Foundation. For just $3, send a small, hardy evergreen tree that can grow for months indoors before being planted outdoors. These cute little redwoods, pines or spruces come in a 14-inch tube (made of 50 percent recycled content) that can be converted into a bird feeder after planting the tree. The label, with a picture of the mature tree, can be personalized for your gift recipient. You can also choose from nearly 200 other trees in the regular tree store, or you can have the Arbor Day Foundation plant trees in honor of your friends and loved ones (for every $10, 10 trees are planted). www.arborday.org
San Francisco has taken the bold and commendable step of eliminating those pesky plastic shopping bags, but there’s still the dilemma of what to use for produce and bulk dry goods. Check out Jaguar Moon Bags made from U.S.-milled organic cotton or recycled fabrics, screen-printed with PVC-free water-based inks, and hand-sewn by refugees who have recently relocated to Boise. Find the bags for around $5 at Real Food, 3060 Fillmore Street (at Filbert), 415-567-6900; www.jaguarmoonbags.com
Thankfully, most of us have stopped carrying commercially bottled water (even though those bottles are recyclable, that’s still disposable, as opposed to reusable). KOR One’s “Hydration Vessels” are BPA-free plastic and 1 percent of sales are donated “for the planet.” Their special edition “Thirst for Giving” series not only features bottles with beautiful art representing four specific water-related causes, but an additional $5 per bottle benefits one of the four nonprofits committed to preserving the environment. Find it for $35 at Flight 001, 525 Hayes (at Octavia), 415-487-1001, or www.korwater.com/tfg.
Make an investment for as little as $20 to any MicroPlace micro-lending cause in honor of a friend or relative, and you get a $20 gift certificate to give to someone else. MicroPlace (an e-Bay company) loans the funds it collects to needy people worldwide to start their own small businesses. Customize your investment according to project type (green, fair trade, women-focused, those in rural areas); financial options (your desired return, term, and whether you want to lend to one or multiple institutions); and geographic areas (what part of the world you’d like to support). Wouldn’t you rather help alleviate worldwide poverty and earn the same ROI currently paid by your bank or brokerage while giving a gift at the same time? Sounds like a no-brainer to me! www.microplace.com
Give the gift of a goat or a sheep ($50) at Oxfam America – just one goat can change the world for a needy family by generating income and improving nutrition; one sheep enables one woman to create her own income from the sale of textiles generated from the wool. Oxfam, which works to end poverty, hunger and social injustices, has over 60 such items to choose from, and will
provide you with a card that contains an image of your gift that you can personalize and send to your friend or relative. www.oxfamamerica.org