If you’re well organized, you’ve already finished your holiday shopping. But if, like me, you’re just starting to scramble for presents, ideally those of the non-corporate variety, read on for ideas. (That is, If you can’t get away with a Buy Nothing Christmas which might be worth pitching to your friends and family.)
Heifer International holiday gifts of livestock for impoverished families is a venerable progressive holiday tradition. Heifer virtually pioneered the idea of alternative gift-giving in the early 1990s with its The Most Important Catalog In The World and has become a popular way for parents to impart some of the giving spirit to children awash in too many presents. The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase a farm animal for needy families around the world, which can help them achieve a degree of sustainability. A pig can be bought for $120 (or chip in $10 to help share the cost of one), three rabbits are a bargain at $60 total, a flock of chicks costs only $20, and, if you can afford to change a family’s life, a $1,500 donation provides two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas. I think of outfits like Heifer as offering the opportunity for the world’s comparatively well-off to voluntarily redistribute a bit of their incomes to those that need the money much more than we do.
The Sustainable Gifts Catalog is a project of Outreach International, a humanitarian organization currently working in thirteen impoverished countries around the world, assisting hundreds of thousands of children, women and men to overcome the effects of poverty each year. All gifts in the catalog grew out of the group's on-the-ground-projects and all proceeds go right back into funding the organization’s poverty-eradication efforts.
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora in 2009 during their last semester at UC Berkeley. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the world of investment banking, they came across the idea of growing gourmet mushrooms with recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into fresh food, they experimented in Velez’s fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of very tasty oyster mushrooms. With that single bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forgo their corporate futures and instead become full-time urban mushroom farmers. They soon created the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, anywhere, grow their own exotic mushrooms. (Order by December 17 to receive the kit before Christmas.)