If you're hyper-organized, your holiday shopping was completed by the time you'd digested your Thanksgiving turkey. If so, take a break from this column and go make another list. But if you're like me and still looking for presents to buy, you may find ideas below.
Heifer International holiday gifts of livestock and training for hungry families are a tried and true progressive holiday tradition. In fact, Heifer pioneered the very idea of alternative holiday gifts beginning in the mid-1990s with “The Most Important Catalog In The World.”
The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase a farm animal for impoverished families around the world. An animal can act as a life-line for many families and 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. But if you don't think a llama or pig is the right gift for friends and family, check out MADRE's web store.
Featuring gifts hand-crafted by women from around the world, MADRE products—from beaded jewelry made by women in Kenya to woven textiles made by women in Chiapas, Mexico—include ornaments, household items, and clothing. The products range in style and quantity, but they all go toward the goal of helping build sustainable sources of income in small, rural communities.
TreeHugger's Low-Impact Gift Guide redefines luxury by delineating ten categories featuring more than 100 low-impact gifts, each packing a high-impact punch in terms of thoughtfulness, quality, durability, and respect for the environment. Making the guide even more useful is the editors' insistence in identifying sustainable gifts that aren't very expensive!
Kate's Caring Gifts have a heavy emphasis on food, featuring things like fresh organic fruit boxes from Jerzy Boyz Farms, a family owned and operated farm practicing simple, old-fashioned, hands-on, building the soil organic farming; the ultimate Organic Chocolate Fantasy Gift Set, a massive collection of fair-trade and organic chocolates from numerous purveyors and the "We're all Organic Fruits and Nuts Gift Set," a cornucopia of exotic and organic nuts, preserves, butters, and dried fruit.
If you're stuck on a gift for the foodie who has everything, then help them spread the joy of cooking with a donation to The Dinner Garden, a non-profit organization working to end hunger in the United States. For less than $2, you can provide a family with enough seeds to plant one full garden; for $5, you can help a family of 7 grow enough produce to last an entire year; and for $30 you can ship 100 schoolchildren the seeds they need to plant gardens at home. (As the group stresses, "Don't be tricked into thinking you are not a gardener. We are all gardeners. Anyone can grow their own food. The seeds do all the work!")
The Green America Green Gift Guide offers scores of links to small companies and collectives all offering discounts through the Green America site. You can find everything from calendars and cards to fair-trade food and wine to wonderful wooden toys and organic baby products. There are cosmetic cases created by the Lisu Tribe of Northern China and Burma, hand-stitched quilts from India, teddy bears from Sri Lanka, rugs from the Philippines, gift bags flush with fair-trade chocolate, and awesome coffee from Grounds for Change. (I've tried it!)
I've also ordered two gift copies of the new exclusive Brave New Conversations DVD. A treasure of perceptive and often entertaining commentary from an eclectic group of doers and thinkers, including Thom Hartmann, Alan Grayson, Oliver Stone, Amy Goodman, Henry Rollins, Markos Moulitsas, Shepard Fairey and Margaret Cho -- all in conversation with Robert Greenwald -- the DVD makes a perfect holiday gift for progressives.
Please use the comments field below to recommend additional good gifts; I'll feature them in a subsequent post early next week.