In her latest Nation magazine column, Katha Pollitt offers tips on how to have yourself an altruistic holiday by reaching out to people in need. In that spirit, I’ve gathered a few socially-conscious holiday gift ideas for my fellow last-minute shoppers. (And in this same spirit, check out Talia Berman’s new piece on WireTap profiling some young Americans who are breaking the holiday mold by making their own gifts, volunteering with friends or donating to the causes they care most about.)


The stylish yet sensible ChicoBag, a reusable shopping bag, is the perfect gift for your favorite Whole Foods shopper. It folds into an integrated pouch with a hook, can fit in or hook on to your pocket or purse, comes in five colors and helps lessen America’s dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. (ChicoBags can save the average American 300 to 700 plastic shopping bags per year, which would reportedly save three to seven gallons of crude oil.)

While we’re on bags, Brendon Smyth, writing in Grist’s holiday gift round-up, lauds the Alchemy Goods bag “as a compulsive recycler’s wet dream.” Made from recycled bike-tire tubes and seat belts, it’s soft, durable, and really sharp-looking. He also likes Reware’s Juice Bag, “perfect for off-grid adventures: It’s made from recycled soda bottles and can power up your electronics via the sun! The outside flap is a thin-film solar panel that can recharge mobile devices like a camera, phone, mp3 player, or GPS.”

Political Docs

Since the 2004 election, Brave New Films has tackled Wal-Mart, Tom DeLay and war profiteers in Iraq. Now, this holiday season, Robert Greenwald’s dynamic production company is offering you the opportunity to buy a gift for a friend, help raise funds for future productions, and get a gift for yourself. As with everything at Brave New Films, this is no traditional fundraiser.

Get one of a limited number of Brave New Films Boxed Sets. Each set contains the films Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, The Big Buy: Tom Delay’s Stolen Congress, and Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers, plus a bonus DVD containing extra footage, interviews, montages and more. Rolling Stone just gave the set three-and-one-half stars in its upcoming issue.

Your $100 donation gets the box set for a friend, relative, or co-worker, and they’ll send it directly to them with a special introductory note from Robert Greenwald. As a thank you for your donation, they’ll send you the bonus DVD. And you can always get discounted boxes of DVDs and 5 packs by clicking here.

Conscious Consumer Marketplace

For a range of socially responsible gift ideas, see the Center for a New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Marketplace. Things like sweatshop-free clothing, gift baskets with fair trade coffee, flowers and organic chocolate, hand lotion and organic cotton clothing and home-improvement items like energy-efficient kitchen appliances, shower-heads and faucets, non-toxic paints and sustainable wood products are easy to find. There are also gift certificates that can be used on a range of green travel packages and a section of presents for college students looking to “green their dorm room.”

BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace

You can also find a host of conscious presents at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace, where you can get great gifts and help a terrific web site at the same time. Proceeds from this marketplace are critical to BuzzFlash’s continued survival. And with more than twenty categories of gift options–from apparel to foreign films to postcards to food to books to Barack Obama buttons–you can probably scratch off numerous names on your lists in one fell swoop.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t urge you to visit The Nation‘s online shop. NationMart is your one-stop shop for everything Nation. Be subtle by sporting the Nation logo on t-shirts, caps, mugs and totes. Or be brash by wearing our t-shirt featuring our famous “Worry” cover image (recently selected by the American Society of Magazine Editors as one of the top 40 magazine covers of the past 40 years). Nation gear makes for great gift-giving all year round. And don’t forget radically discounted books by Nation writers and editors.

Happy holidays!