If you’re really organized you’ve already completed your holiday shopping. If so, you can take a break from this column. But if you’re like me and still looking for gifts, keep reading for ideas.
Heifer International makes it easy to introduce charitable gift-giving to your circle. The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase an animal that will serve as a life-line for truly needy families in the developing world. 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’re feeling really flush, a $1,500 donation provides two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas.
It’s true that donating to Heifer does nothing to shake the fundamental global divide between rich and poor. But people need to eat, and 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.
If you don’t think a llama or pig is the right gift for your friends and family, check out TreeHugger’s expansive Slow Gift Guide, neatly broken up into twelve categories. I liked the "foodie" choices which gave me the idea to ask for an organic wine club membership and a cast iron skillet from Lodge Logic. In addition to excellent gift suggestions, the guide is full of DIY projects, terrific recipes, and eco-friendly tips to help you celebrate smartly. (Visit Planet Green’s Green Holidays, Green Christmas, and Green Hanukkah, for yet more recipes, how-to ideas, and crafts.)
Over at the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Lydia Howell offers a gift-giving guide to buying (mostly) local with social justice in mind. Buying local keeps profits in individual communities, instead of exporting them to far-away multinational corporations. Check Powell’s Minneapolis listings if you’re in the area. Even non-locals can take advantage of the inspiring posters of Ricardo Levins Morales. Now in a new studio, the Twin Cities artist creates portraits of progressive s/heroes like Pablo Neruda, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X, while depicting scenes celebrating labor, sustainability and peace.
The Co-Op America holiday catalogue offers scores of links to small companies and collectives all offering discounts through Co-Op America’s site. You can find everything from calendars and cards to food and wine to amber jewelry and Ms. Magazine. Through the Global Exchange holiday site you can buy 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 far-trade chocolate, and awesome coffee from Tanzania (I’ve tried it!)
Grist, the internet’s premiere environmental magazine, offers a hip eco-shop with a strong emphasis on baby and children clothing and accessories along with a strong cautionary note from advice columnist Umbra Fisk warning us off of the raft of toys out there containing dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium, and mercury.
Finally, The Nation and the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild are pleased to announce a new partnership. A unique merchandising outfit, the UPG carries a full selection of thought-provoking and fun gifts, including Freudian Slippers, Nietzsche T-shirts, Dali watches, Shakespeare pillows, Obamamints and Frida Kahlo puppets, among many other one-of-a-kind items for the intellectual who has everything. Best of all, The Nation earns a profit from each sale.