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The Worldchanging Holiday Gift Guide

As much as we all would like to profess that we are above the material nature of the holidays, we at Worldchanging Headquarters must admit that we wouldn’t mind having a few useful presents this season: an innovative new book, a subscription to our favorite magazine, helpful tools for the kitchen, or even a slightly lopsided, handmade scarf. And from this list, we created the Worldchanging Holiday Gift Guide.

From documentaries to donations, compost bins to Cory Doctorow's latest, The Worldchanging Holiday Gift Guide is full of inspired ideas for the world changer on your list. We've done our best to include only items that are useful, functional or educational. We've taken concerns about environmental and social responsibility into consideration, and we've also created a Worldchanging Concepts for Alternative Gift Giving, which includes a sampling of ideas and a refresher on a few key consumer concepts like backstories, buying local and corporate responsibility.

Please leave any ideas you have for holiday gifts in the comment section below.

Give a Gift in their Name: Donate to a Worthy Nonprofit Organization

New websites like and GlobalGiving Green are making it easy to give donations as gifts and to find an organization whose goals speak to you. If Worldchanging is one of those organizations, be sure to visit our Donate Now page. Give above $100 and you can tuck your gift card into a complimentary copy of our first book, Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century.

Organize Your Kitchen, Organize Your Life

Getting organized in the kitchen can help you decrease the amount of waste you’re producing as well as streamline your cooking process. We have suggested some essentials below, like a handsome bamboo pail that makes composting easy and unobtrusive. Other fundamentals like stainless steel pots and pans, new knives and charming canning jars, which just might entice you to cook for yourself and learn more about how food moves from farm to plate.

Bamboo Compost Pail 3.25-qt.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 7-Piece Cookware Set

J.A. Henckels International Classic Forged Hollow-Edge Stainless-Steel 2-Piece Knife Set

Set of 5 (Five) Bormioli Rocco Fido Glass Canning Jars - 5 Piece - .5, .75, 1, 1.5 and 2 Liters

Best Books of the 21st Century

Books are necessary objects for the winter months, sweeping us away from chilly living rooms and reviving brain cells sliding toward dormancy. For the past year, we've been compiling a huge list of what we and our allies consider influential "must-reads" of the 21st Century. (And of course, we hope our book would make your list.


Little Brother

Halting State (Ace Science Fiction) (Alex's favorite adult sci-fi of the year)


Verb Crisis(Worldchanging review)

Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises (Worldchanging review)

How to Build a Village (Worldchanging review)

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape (This is one of Alex's favorite books of the last couple years)

The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What it Means for the World (Worldchanging review)

Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems: Principles and Practices (Worldchanging review)

Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa's Future (Worldchanging review)

State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World (Worldchanging review)

An Atlas of Radical Cartography (Worldchanging review)

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization (Worldchanging review)

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Worldchanging review)

A Framework for Understanding Poverty

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Worldchanging review)

The Ecology of Commerce (Worldchanging review)

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Worldchanging review)


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict. (Worldchanging review)

The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century (Worldchanging review)

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (Worldchanging review)

Solving Tough Problems (Worldchanging review)

Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (Worldchanging review)


Atlas of the World: 15th Edition

The Weather Makers : How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. (Worldchanging review)

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (Worldchanging review)

Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America

Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet (Worldchanging review)

Who Owns the Water? (Worldchanging review)

(For more, see our 2008 summer and fall book reviews.)

We Heart Magazines

Matte or glossy, full of lines of text or eye-grabbing images, magazines are our favorite disposable vice. Delivered to your door, full of current information, and directed at sometimes ridiculously specific interests, magazine subscriptions make great presents. From smart and stylized science magazine SEED, to verbose and spiritual Sun Magazine, we've made a short list of monthlies and quarterlies that we love to page through:


Fast Company

Vegetarian Times

The Sun




MAKE: Technology on Your Time


NEED Magazine

Watch This: 21st Century Documentaries Make Issues Visual

A great way to learn about complex theories or problems is to see them from a different angle. Documentary films relay heavy research in interesting, visual ways, helping learners of all types understand issues like global agriculture, climate change or even the universe. Here are a few we like from 2008, as well as a few that are quickly becoming classics:

Flow (aka- Flow:For Love of Water)

The 11th Hour

National Geographic: Human Footprint

King Corn

NOVA - The Elegant Universe

An Inconvenient Truth

Planet Earth & The Blue Planet Seas of Life (Special Collector's Edition)

Sicko (Special Edition)

And, although it's not a documentary, we definitely wouldn't mind having a copy of Wall-E around.

Gear Providers: Get Out and Play

One of the best ways to learn about and appreciate nature is to spend some time in it. Whether you prefer hiking through the woods, or a strolling in the urban jungle, it might be helpful to have comfortable walking shoes or a cozy hat.For some responsibly produced outdoor and active gear, look no further than the following companies:
(Note: we know these are not the only responsible gear companies. There are just a few near the top of our list. If you have one to add, do so in the comment section.)





TOMS Shoes


Comet Skateboards

For those who choose to celebrate, from any tradition, we hope you enjoy the intangibles of the season -- family, friends, shared stories and inspiration for the year to come. Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you!

Image credits
Feature: Flickr/acd111
Donations: Flickr/benevolink
Kitchen:Flickr/almost bunnies
Magazines: Flickr/bravenewtraveler
Documentaries: Flick/boredomvsapathy
Gear: Flickr/onecrazymxman

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You may also want to look at TisBest Charity Gift Cards. The gift giver makes a charitable donation and the gift recipient chooses the charity that will receive the donation.

TisBest Philanthropy offers the most beautiful charity gift cards, with over 50 different standard designs, or you can upload your own photo. And with TisBest cards, you can check the status to see when each is spent and on which charity. Cards can be sent by email, printed on your printer or printed on recycled plastic and sent by mail.

Erik Marks
Executive Director
TisBest Philanthropy

Posted by: Erik Marks on 15 Dec 08

As much as I love Threadless, they're not exactly environmentally responsible, and I don't think they should be on your list.

They manufacture their t-shirts from non-organic cotton in Bangladesh (I don't know how far their cotton travels to get there...), then they fly it from Bangladesh to Chicago, where the t-shirts are printed up. Though they have a Chicago store, the vast majority of their t-shirts are sold on-line, and are shipped all over the USA and the rest of the world from Chicago.

Although they're looking into making their manufacturing and selling more sustainable, at the moment they're hardly a golden standard for good environmental business.

And this is coming from a big Threadless fan, who has stopped buying their stuff for these very reasons.

Posted by: 13strong on 16 Dec 08

Wow, I didn't know that 13strong. That actually changes it a lot for me. They should have stuck to using American Apparel to print on then I guess.

Also, you guys have done an interviewer with the founder of NEED magazine, which is a magazine that I think should definitely be on here.

Posted by: Apexa on 16 Dec 08

Oh no, that's a huge bummer about Threadless. I've emailed them to see what the story is. I'll let you know what I find out.

Thanks for the NEED suggestion, Apexa. I definitely agree and will add them to the list.

Posted by: Sarah on 16 Dec 08

My list includes bees and trees from Heifer International (where the trees do double duty as a carbon offset), solar cookers for Darfur refugees from Jewish World Watch, Bogolights which give away a solar LED light for every one you buy, and the FreePlay Companion solar/dynamo light/radio/cell phone charger.

My list with links is at

Posted by: gmoke on 16 Dec 08

I personally would have recommended "VegNews" over "Vegetarian Times"... As their motto goes, they really are "More than just recipes" and are committed to world changing principles such as environmentalism and activism. And while recently, they have increased the number of recipes in their pages, they are all vegan!

"Good" magazine donates 100% of whatever you choose to pay for a subscription (the "Radiohead Model") to one of several non-profit groups of your choice. Their content is also licensed under Creative Commons. Plus they carbon offset... They provide information, commentary and ideas that not a lot of other media outlets commit time to.

Magazine Dude @ a Reno, NV Big-box Bookstore Chain

Posted by: Branden on 17 Dec 08

I found some great green gift ideas and green holiday tips on!


Dreaming of a GREEN Christmas

Rethink Gift Wrapping
Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holidays. You can reduce a portion of your holiday waste by using alternatives to wrapping paper. Tap into your creative side by using newspaper, magazines, old calendars or even fabric to wrap presents. You can also save money by reusing recycled paper or any other materials around your home to decorate wrapped gifts.

Send holiday e-cards, or print your card on recycled paper
You can save money and the environment by sending a free holiday e-card to your loved ones. Using recycled paper is another way to save the environment because recycled paper helps reduce demand for wood, conserves natural resources and generates less pollution during manufacturing.

Consider real, not artificial, when choosing your Christmas tree this year
Real Christmas trees are both renewable and recyclable. They are grown on tree farms specifically designed to produce trees for the holidays. Artificial trees may be the right choice for some people, and can be cost effective in the long run. However, some artificial trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a potential source of hazardous lead, and once those trees are thrown away, they’ll be in a landfill for a long, long time.

Recycle your Christmas tree
A real Christmas tree is 100% biodegradable. By recycling your Christmas tree, you can reduce 690,000 tons of materials that are dumped in landfills. Check your city’s local listings for curbside or drop-off locations for recycling.

Shop for Green Gifts
Browse for holiday presents for your family and friends. By purchasing eco-friendly gifts, you can do your part for the Earth and at the same time encourage your loved ones to reduce their carbon footprint beyond the holiday season. Also consider gifts, given in the name of friends and family, to environmental charities.

Recycle your beverage containers at all holiday parties
The holidays are filled with delicious dinners and festivities that generate a lot of waste. By recycling your bottles and cans, you can help reduce the 4.5 pounds of trash per person per day that Americans produce.

Source: Department of Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Defense, National Christmas Tree Association

Posted by: Kymberly Allen on 17 Dec 08

I think ETSY should be on your list.
Many of the artists are recycling, upcycling and using sustainable materials.
it is a great place for hand-made.
EXAMPLE: just type in "organic cotton USA made tshirt" in the search engine.

You can also support creativity in your own town by shopping LOCAL:

Posted by: joel on 18 Dec 08

Esty is a great one for the list. We included it in a side post called Worldchanging Concepts for Alternative Giving:

It's snowing here in Seattle! I hope you are all having a wonderful winter.

Posted by: Sarah on 18 Dec 08

For many of us, clean water comes with the twist of a faucet. But for 1 in 6 people, access to water requires hard work: hours of walking, waiting in line and heavy lifting.

Acknowledge someone special by giving a Hippo Water Roller in his or her name. We’ll send them a special thank you (via email or post) detailing the difference your thoughtful gift will make in the lives of a family in need.

Posted by: hippo on 18 Dec 08

FYI: Threadless response to my inquiry about how/where their products are manufactured:

Hello Sarah!

Some of our Threadless Custom items are made in the US and some are made overseas. All Hoodies, Long Sleeve shirts, Kids & Baby items, and the Select Custom Color tees are all made in the US. Most of the short sleeve tees are made in Bangladesh.

The shirts made overseas are manufactured in an updated facility built in 1996. This facility is not a sweatshop. We understand that overseas manufacturing can bring up some concerns about factory conditions, but we have confirmed the labor conditions are 100% up to US standards. The manufacturing plant we are using is also a part of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association ( and a member of the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production Group (

Have a wonderful day!

Threadless Customer Service

Hope that helps! S

Posted by: Sarah on 18 Dec 08

Check out Green gifts at

Posted by: Ryan on 19 Dec 08

Looking for a gift with meaning? Why not give peace, social justice and equality this year? Donate to Give Something Big ( ) and send out animated e-cards letting your friends and family know that a donation has been made in their name to help Inter Pares continue their international efforts for a more just world.

Posted by: colette on 19 Dec 08

Help friends and family create green and healthy homes with the Eco Starter Kit. The kit is under $100 and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of a typical U.S. household by 2.5 tons in the first year alone. That is equivalent to replacing a mid-size car with a Prius hybrid. Kit recipients can track their environmental impact online and generate a personal roadmap for future greening. You can order online and send directly with a gift message:

Posted by: Andrea on 20 Dec 08

Well, a book is nice. But my wife has made ragdolls out of extra fabric for the children, and has made soap from the goats we milk to give as gifts to adults. Truly something special when it is handmade.

Posted by: Travis Krick on 21 Dec 08

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