If you’re really organized you’ve already completed your holiday shopping for the year. If so, you can take a break from this column. But if you’re like me and still looking for holiday presents with a progressive slant, keep reading for ideas, many of them courtesy of my crack intern researcher Mike Fox (who also plays a mean fiddle and whose band’s CD makes a nice holiday gift too).
First, check out Katha Pollitt’s latest Nation column, which upholds her recent tradition of offering annual suggestions for giving to groups and organizations doing unbelievable work with shockingly little money. The efficiency of some of these places would awe a McKinsey consultant, so look them over before you make your final round of charitable contributions this year.
Heifer International also makes it easy to help assist needy families far from home. The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase an animal that can be a life-line for 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 generous, a $1,500 donation provides two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas.
It’s true that donating to Heifer is wholly apolitical and does nothing to shake the fundamental global divide between rich and poor, which creates so much unnecessary misery around the world. But people need to eat while change is being made and I like to think of outfits like Heifer as offering the opportunity for the world’s well-off to voluntarily redistribute a bit of their incomes to those that need the money much more than we do.
On to gifts for friends and family: For a range of socially responsible ideas, see the Center for a New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Marketplace. Things like gift baskets with fair trade coffee and organic chocolate, hand lotion and organic cotton clothing are easy to find, as are big-ticket items like wood furniture, energy-efficient kitchen appliances and gift certificates that can be used on a range of green travel packages. There’s even a section of presents for college students looking to “green their dorm room.”