We recently published our Worldchanging Holiday Gift Guide, a list of ideas for giving that we felt were useful, functional and educational. As we have mentioned before, the holiday season and gift-giving in general presents many people with decisions that can be tricky to make.
The decision whether or not to participate, and on what scale, is a very personal one. But with a little creative consciousness, you can match up your beliefs about consumption to your motivations for giving in a way that sits right with you. Below are some tips, and some key concepts, that have caught our attention by offering ways to re-imagine our gift-giving rituals.
Alternatives to the Typical "Stuff"
DIY and antique hunting
Do-it-yourself presents are almost always appreciated. You can make lotions, soaps, stationary, frame artsy photographs you took or just give homemade cookies. If you’re not so crafty, but cringe at the sight of shopping malls, check out the online market place for all things handmade at etsy.com or go treasure hunting at local antique shops. Buying vintage is a great way to support local business and buy secondhand goods.
Gift Certificates and Memberships
Give the gift of relaxation with certificates to the spa or the give of health with memberships to the rock gym or yoga studio. For the foodie in your life, try giving them a membership to a local food co-op or regional farm. (See our article on Community Supported Agriculture to learn more about this concept.)
Locavesting: Put Your Money Where Your House Is
A spin off of the term locavore, which defines people who strive to eat only locally grown food, locavestor is someone who invests their money in the local economy by shopping within the boundaries of their community or region. The theory is that purchasing in this way helps your dollar stays in your neighborhood longer.
Get the Backstory Before You Buy
A backstory, according to our Worldchanging principles, is the story of everything that happened to get the object or service to us, everything that will happen behind the scenes while we use it, and everything that will happen after it leaves our lives. Questions to ask: Were the people who made what you’re buying paid fairly for their work? Are the materials in the product responsibly and sustainably produced? How long did it travel to make it to this shelf? Learn more here and here.
CSR: The Profitable Companies of the Future are Socially Responsible
If you chose to buy from a larger corporation, it’s worth checking out their stance on things like environmental protection and workers rights. Companies that conduct business with the environment, society and stakeholders in mind typically have created a corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. The hope is that, if consumers vote responsibly with their dollars, these plans will be so ubiquitous that it will be unnatural to run a business without one. (For examples, check out the CSRs of companies like Patagonia and Timberland.)
If you'd like, please share your own alternatives to traditional shopping in the comments below.
Image credit: Flickr/acd111
Another way to show your love is to do something meaningful in a friend's name. http://www.ChangingThePresent.org offers thousands of tangible charitable gifts. Everything from preserving an acre of the rain forest to funding an hour of cancer research.
You can buy the domain www.locavesting.com and use it to promote this promising concept.