Better, Greener Gifts!


First published September 2008, updated November 2011

How many times have you beat your brains out trying to find the perfect "obligation" gift for someone who has everything, or even someone who doesn't?

"Obligation" gifts such as we buy for birthdays, Xmas and anniversaries etc have this horrible tendency of being accepted with a smile and sincere thanks and then stashed away somewhere, sometimes never to see the light of day.

Sure, it's the thought that counts, but in this age of hyperconsumption on a planet groaning under the stress of environmental problems, this is an aspect of our lives we can all certainly make changes to.

So what should you give to someone who has it all? Nothing. Well, sort of nothing.

Most people I know like to give and donate - but there's so many good causes, we can't support them all. The next time you are deciding on a gift for someone, consider making a donation to a charity on their behalf.

Have a think about what they've expressed concern about. It could be polar bears, the lack of drinking water in developing countries, deforestation etc. etc. - there's literally thousands of different causes that would appreciate the cash and use it well.

Here's a few suggestions, all very beneficial gifting ideas, and just $6.50 to $40

Life straw - Your sponsorship of a LifeStraw® is only $6.50. It's an amazing device that can be used to purify enough water to sustain a child for a year.

Trees For The Future -  Trees for the Future assists developing communities around the world plant trees; providing seed and agroforestry training. For $40, you can sponsor the propagation of 400 trees! The gift recipient will be sent a very attractive certificate.

Kiva.org - This is a gift you can give that keeps on giving and being in business, it's one of my favorites.

While not *really* green as such, by supporting entrepreneurs in developing countries it goes towards the battle against poverty. Hyperconsumption and abject poverty are two extremes that contribute greatly to environmental problems. With Kiva, you aren't actually giving anything except providing a very low interest loan to a small entrepreneur in a developing country. A number of lenders usually make up a single loan and you can pick which entrepreneur you'd like to support.

These aren't people wanting huge sums of money to build their business - a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand bucks. Even so, these are loans that change lives. Once the loan is paid back you can then loan those funds to other entrepreneurs.

Kiva offers gift certificates, starting at $25. Your recipient will create a Kiva account, redeem the gift certificate and lend the funds from the certificate to the entrepreneurs of their choice.

Kiva's micro finance program is fantastic - you can view my Kiva "portfolio" here and learn more about the program here

Other organizations offering gifting campaigns include the World Wildlife Fund's "Adopt An Animal" program (starts at $25), maybe your local humane shelter, your local environmental group - in fact, if you were to search the Internet for environmental and humanitarian groups in your local area, you'll find a swag of ideas and possibilities!

Your gift doesn't necessarily need to be a gift to a specific cause, it could just be a membership of a group you know the recipient would be interested in joining. To sweeten the deal, most of these donations/memberships you make will also be tax-deductible (check with the group).

So, less clutter and trashy gifts, a warm and fuzzy feeling for both you and the recipient, a tax deduction for you and a worthy cause being assisted too! Gift giving doesn't get any better (or greener) than that!

If this sort of idea doesn't appeal and you'd like to give something directly to someone, also consider giving fair trade items.


Michael Bloch
Green Living Tips.com


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