People, Planet, and Purchasing Power
By the Optimist Daily Editorial Team
The holiday jingles playing on repeat these days remind us ‘tis the season to show our family and friends how much we love them. Traditionally, this includes giving them presents. Yet, the whole experience of holiday shopping can be intimidating, expensive, and full of excess offsetting the warm glow we naturally get when we give. Our solution for this year: give gifts with meaning. And no matter what you celebrate, consider creating holidays that instill more meaning into the season and encourage more sharing, laughter, creativity, and personal renewal.
For example, maybe the perfect gift is something a little less tangible, such as a donation to a favorite charity, an unforgettable experience, or the gift of an Optimist Emissary membership. Along with 365 days of solutions news, access to meaningful Optimist View articles and invitations to exclusive Emissary Guest events delivered to their inbox, your gift of a daily dose of Optimism helps us provide our free service to 50 more readers, bringing us that much closer to achieving our mission of gathering 100,000,000 people around the world who start their day with a positive thought and a solutions-oriented mindset. Researchers have found that experiential purchases and prosocial spending can provide more happiness than material possessions. Not only will a novel experience best please the receiver, it will also help to reduce waste this holiday season.
If you’re looking to adopt more intrinsically rewarding gift-giving behaviors – for the benefit of the planet, your soul and your wallet – we’ve gathered some resources and gift ideas that are great for local economies, easy on the earth, and delightful to receive. No matter which sorts of gifts you choose to give, a great idea mentioned by a reader was to add a little note that says something like, “We know you care about the environment, and and we do too. This gift came to you without impacting the planet.”
There is something particularly special about receiving a handmade holiday gift — something that someone put their heart into.
Create Something. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Sew something. Make a handmade ornament. Write a love letter. Create something from scratch with you own hands and heart.
Bake or cook a homemade treat, and put it in a reusable jar or container. This activity can be enjoyed together by a group of friends or family members, and will create zero or no waste by being consumed!
For those gifts you do buy, consider spending your hard-earned dollars at small businesses and social enterprises that work to improve lives and protect the environment. “When you shop in your own town, or shop online and support a small business, you are literally voting with your dollars for the kind of stores, goods and communities you want to see going forward,” said Amy Cooper, owner of Plum Goods a store in Santa Barbara, California, dedicated to ethically made, innovative and local goods.
Farmer’s Markets – Shopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce as well as a rich variety of crafts and homemade items.
Community Supported Agriculture – Join a CSA to enjoy locally and organically grown food.
Plant a tree – Planting a tree is a lifelong investment. Learn how to plant a tree with this nine-step brochure from Trees Are Good and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
SHOP FAIR TRADE AND ECO-FRIENDLY
When you choose gifts marked with the Fair Trade Certified seal, you’re saying “yes” to:
- Strong social and environmental standards that respect people and planet
- Additional money paid directly back to farmers and workers with every Fair Trade sale
- Unique products with a story to tell
“As Executive Director of Global Gifts, a non-profit Fair Trade organization, and the Campaign Organizer for Fair Trade Columbus (Ohio), I have a lot of favorite Fair Trade products,” said Alissa Head, an Optimist Emissary. “Here are just a few of them:
Maggie’s Organics: Fair Trade and organic from farm to finish! They offer flattering and comfy cotton knits for women, and they have great socks for the whole family!
Level Ground Coffee: Based in Victoria B.C. Canada, their coffee is both fair trade and direct trade, and they offer delicious varietals.
Manos Zapotecas: Traditional, handwoven wool bags from Zapotecas, Mexico. These bags are gorgeous and are made to last.”
Conscious decision-making. Check out these great resources before making your sustainable purchases:
GoodGuide – A free online source for the social and environmental ratings of brands and companies.
Where Am I Wearing – A resourceful site created by author Kelsey Timmerman based on his book about where our clothes comes from and the people who make them.
FOR THE PLANT & ANIMAL LOVERS
Many of these nonprofits survive on donations and need help feeding and caring for animals that they rescue throughout the year. If you have an animal lover on your list, a donation to any of these nonprofits is sure to please.
Muttvillle Senior Dog Rescue – Older dogs in shelters often do not find a home, which is where Muttville steps in. A $65.00 donation provides care for one rescued dog for an entire month.
Gentle Barn Farm Sanctuary – Rescues, rehabilitates, and gives sanctuary to abused animals. Children and other farm guests learn reverence for all life when they meet and learn the stories of the animals here. Adopt an animal for life!
African Wildlife Foundation – Since 1961, the AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage.
EcoHealth Alliance – A global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.
Grow your gifts. Plants and flowers can be a great gift for a friend, neighbor, coworker, family member or anyone else during the holidays. With proper selection, presentation and care, it will be a living reminder of friendship, love and thoughtfulness long after the holidays have passed. Not only that, plants have been shown to boost your mood and filter your air.
Here are some more gift ideas for plant lovers:
Back to the Roots – A Northern California start-up offering a variety of products including a Gourmet Mushroom kit grown from coffee grounds.
Seed Savers Exchange – For the gardener on the list, the exchange is dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.
National Forest Foundation – The NFF will plant a tree for every $1 you given to tree-planting programs, helping restore National Forests damaged by wildfire, insects, disease and other impacts.
United Plant Saver – Protects native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their natural habitats while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come.
There are limitless ways to give back to the world while giving to people you love. You can donate in someone else’s name, or buy a gift that supports charity. Some resources to explore:
GuideStar – An information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies.
Charity Navigator – Offers an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 9,000 of America’s best-known and some lesser known, but worthy, charities.
Goodshop.com – An innovative website blends charitable giving with online shopping.
GIVE YOUR TIME OR SERVICE
Consumption is an enormously influential force. It affects behavior patterns of individuals at the personal level in such a way that whole societies are transformed. Instead of giving an item that someone already has or doesn’t need, give them a “coupon” for a service such as dog walking, yard work, or childcare.
It’s within our power to stop the environmental damage, social injustice, and health hazards caused by polluting production and excessive consumption, says Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the Stuff in your life forever.
The Story of Stuff (2007) was written by Annie Leonard, Louis Fox, and Jonah Sachs, directed by Louis Fox and produced by Free Range Studios. Executive Producers included Tides Foundation and the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption.
The Story of Stuff Fact Sheet
ECO-FRIENDLY GIFT WRAPPING
Don’t forget to think sustainably while wrapping gifts as well. Remember the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.
Earth911 has some creative ideas for wrapping gifts, think fabric and old calendar pages.
Eco-Chic has reimagined gift wrap to be reusable, shareable and socially accountable. According to Eco-Chic if every family wrapped just three gifts with reused materials we would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
CLEANING UP AFTER THE CELEBRATION
Once January 1 rolls around, you’re probably looking to dispose of your Christmas tree. If you purchased a real tree, there are plenty of eco-friendly options for disposal. Here is a guide on how to recycle your tree from Earth911.