If you’re well organized, you’ve already finished your holiday shopping. But if you’re like me and just starting to scramble for presents, ideally those of the non-corporate variety, read on for ideas. Everything below can be purchased and shipped before Hanukah and Christmas if you act (reasonably) quickly.
Heifer International holiday gifts of livestock for impoverished families is a venerable progressive holiday tradition. In fact, Heifer virtually pioneered the idea of alternative gift-giving beginning in the mid-1990s with its “The Most Important Catalog In The World.”
The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase a farm animal for needy families around the world, which can act as a life-line 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.
The pioneering political blog, FireDogLake has established an "OccupySupply" store, in which every purchase you make is matched with an identical donation of union-made gear to an Occupier-In-Need. So if you want to make a gift of a fleece, blanket, liner gloves or other cold-weather items to someone in your life, buy it through FDL and help the Occupy movement in the process.
In a similar vein, the unsung graphic artist Molly Crabapple is donating a portion of her proceeds of all holiday sales of her Occupy Wall Street art to OWS itself. This print, paying tribute to the destroyed OWS library, is my favorite of her Occupy work, but check out her affordable and impressive portfolio for yourself. A great gift for that art-history radical in your circle.
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking, they came across the idea of growing gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh food, they experimented in Velez’s fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of 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. Great gift for the foodie in your life that has it all.
Kate’s Caring Gifts has a welcome emphasis on food, featuring things like fresh organic fruit boxes from family owned Jerzy Boyz Farms; fair-trade Kosher treats for Hannukah; the ultimate Organic Chocolate Fantasy Gift Set and the "We’re all Organic Fruits and Nuts Gift Set," a cornucopia of exotic and organic nuts, preserves, butters, and dried fruit.
The Green America Green Gift Guide offers scores of links to small companies and collectives offering discounts to a wide range of products, services and opportunities. You can find everything from calendars and cards to fair-trade food and wine to wonderful wooden toys, lovely baby blankets and organic children’s 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!)
TreeHugger’s extensive 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.
The Fair Indigo label was created to make much more than a fashion statement. The mission is to create high-quality, yet affordable styles without the exploitation of workers and the environment that too often goes with the territory. Every item with the Fair Indigo label is made in a facility that pays fair and meaningful wages rather than the minimum wages that dominate the industry. Find stylish clothes for men, women and children plus a wide range of gifts for less than thirty dollars.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Peace Store has many meaningful gifts for friends and family, especially clothing and books conveying a message of non-violent resolution of conflict.
Finally, my boss might be mad if I don’t plug The Nation‘s own online store, Nation Mart, run in partnership with a quirky group called the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Nation Mart offers great gifts for activists and Nation fans. We have t-shirts with quotes from contributors Molly Ivins, Kurt Vonnegut, and James Baldwin, Nation logo merchandise and subversive buttons designed by the legendary Milton Glaser. Our popular “Thank a Teacher” pencil sets are an especially apt gift for educators or anyone else fighting to preserve public education and there’s also, of course always a good old-fashioned gift sub — the gift that keeps on giving week after week!
Please use the comments field below to recommend good gift ideas that I’ve neglected.