TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, December 19, 2008

5 Really Last Minute Gift Ideas for Ethical Shoppers by Tex Dworkin

You’re a socially conscious shopper, there are just a handful of days left till Christmas, and like many people, you’ve still got some names left on your shopping list. If your gift recipients live farther than a stone’s throw away, getting packages mailed out in time for the holidays is no longer an option, unless you want to pay exorbitant expedited shipping costs. So what’s a socially conscious procrastinator to do? I went on an online adventure to find out, and discovered some great last minute gift ideas that don’t require checking your values at the door.

Idea #1: Give the Gift of Choice.
If you’re unsure what to give someone, instant Online Gift Certificates are a great last minute gift idea. To stay true to your values, target Online Stores offering Fair Trade products. Fair Trade is an economic model where producers work in healthy, safe conditions, are paid fairly, and employ environmentally sustainable practices. Make sure that the store you choose sends gift certificates automatically, so they arrive via email just moments after you order them. That way, when you order a gift certificate ON Christmas day, it will arrive ON Christmas day. For those who prefer to have something physical to give your gift recipients, many sites have a nice gift certificate graphic you can print out. In lieu of that, just paste the logo and gift certificate details onto an eco-friendly card. You’ll find plenty of Online Stores offering Fair Trade products listed on the Fair Trade Federation website. Choose “Online Shopping” in their “Find Products” drop down menu.

Idea #2: Invest IN Others FOR Others.
or those who are not familiar, Kiva is all about loans that change lives. On their website, individuals can invest in a specific entrepreneur in the developing world, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty. Kiva has figured out how to get everyday folks to invest in the hopes and dreams of others with less opportunities and resources at their disposal. You don’t have to be rich to be a Kiva investor, and while one US dollar may not seem like much to you and I, it sure does go a long way in some other parts of the world. For last minute shoppers, Kiva offers gift certificates so you can invest in someone’s name.
Idea #3: Open up a Can of Worms.
What do a crocodile, school supplies and a can of worms have in common? Well, they are just three of the many ‘symbolic’ gifts you can purchase from Oxfam America Unwrapped. Here’s how it works: You purchase an item from their website, the card goes to your gift recipient, and the gift goes to those who need it. In case you’re wondering, when you buy gifts here, an email is sent to your gift recipients automatically, making this a solid last minute gift solution. Their offerings include treated mosquito nets and school uniforms, bicycles and veterinarian field kits, and that’s a mere sampling of what they offer. Just remember, the items you select represent a contribution toward Oxfam America's many programs and not an actual physical item. http://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/home.php

Idea #4: You Can Never Have Too Many Trees!
There are an impressive amount of organizations offering to plant a tree in someone’s name for you, and that number seems to be growing (no pun intended!) I look at this as a great stand-by gift when you can’t think of anything else to give, you’re down to your last hours before gift giving time, and you’ve got internet nearby. To save you the 3 minutes it will take you to Google your way to tree planting organizations, here are some I found: http://www.treegreetings.com/: This website offers “the e-card that plants a tree.” The card plays music (and the website talks to you) but I must warn you; the music is a little new-agey, but hey, to each their own. They make up for it with a catchy order page: “It’s easy as 1,2 Tree.”
http://www.treesftf.org/: This organization claims to have planted 50 million trees around the world and counting! They offer customized tree planting certificates, but since they have a 7-10 day lead time for online orders, last minute gift givers should print out info from their website to craft it into a presentable gift.
http://www.friendsoftrees.org/: Friends of Trees will plant a native tree or an entire grove in honor of your gift recipient and send them a card to mark the occasion. They promise to process online orders within three working days, so if you’ve missed the deadline for holiday delivery they have a nice graphic online you can print out and use until the real certificate shows up. For the truly motivated, they also invite the public to take part in the action by joining in the actual planting.

Idea #5: Charity Clarity.
First, the gift idea: donate to a charity in someone’s name. Not the most novel idea, but hey, what do you expect? It’s late and we’re desperate holiday shoppers! If you go this route, there are some things you can do to boost the thoughtfulness. First, find a charity that really speaks to the values and interests of your gift recipient. Take my Mom, for instance. She loves her dog Zorro, a cute little mutt she got from a local shelter. So donating to the shelter where she adopted her dog from would definitely win me some points. Though I haven’t checked yet (I’m a procrastinator too) I’ll bet I could make a simple phone call to the shelter, give them my credit card #, and donate over the phone. Then I’ll reach for my trusty pile of recycled paper and sketch out a makeshift card to represent the gift. The bottom line is, if you’re going to donate to charity in someone’s name, put a little thought into it and you’ll come out smelling like roses!

Idea #5.5: Better Late Than Never.
If you’re not buying what I’m selling and the ideas above don’t appeal to you, then go online, buy whatever socially conscious gift your heart desires, and print its picture out onto some pretty recycled paper with a note that says “coming soon.”

Written by: Tex Dworkin

Note from Rachel: I also like Heifer International as a organization to support. They work in the United States and around the world helping people towards sustainability through programs where animal husbandry allow communities to build up resources. They have a nice gift section where one can purchase a symbolic gift, like the goose in this photo for $20. It is symbolic because the money goes where it is most needed at the time, but the recipient receives a nice e-mail notice showing the donation as a goose, beehive, flock of ducks, etc.


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