alternative giving (share the love this Christmas)

If you're anything like me this year, you've only done about half of your Christmas shopping thus far. I found myself perusing a few websites that I had nearly forgotten about until this morning, and thought I'd share some ideas. They're all more "alternative" gifts, which means you donate to a non-profit instead of giving a present to someone who already has everything, or you buy something from an organization that supports a good cause.

Better World Books is an online bookstore that sells both new and used books and supports world literacy programs. They recently started a Book for Book program: for every book purchased, BWB gives one to someone in need. Buy a book or gift certificate, or donate to this wonderful company! When buying books online, I always check here first.

New Community Project is a Christian organization dedicated to "promoting peace through justice, care for creation, and experiential learning." Their alternative gifts page provides links to fair trade partners offering jewelry, stationary, bags and t-shirts. You can also choose to give a donation to NCP to support their global projects in girls' education, women's development or reforestation. I spent a summer as an NCP sustainable urban gardening intern a few years ago, and can attest to what a great organization it is!

Heifer International helps impoverished families by not only giving them livestock and/or seeds, but also by training them how to care for their gifts sustainably. Families are asked to then share their training and the first female offspring of their livestock with another family.

You can donate where most needed, or choose something more specific within the following categories: Promote Women's Empowerment, Support Sustainable Farming, Provide Basic Needs or, my personal favorite, Donate an Animal. The last category ranges from a flock of chickens ($20) to a camel ($850), or even a gift ark ($5,000).

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer offering gifts from around the world, including jewelry, scarves, bags, tableware, wall decor, home accents (picture frames, vases, lamps, rugs...), soaps and lotions, toys, and holiday decorations. And for the bookworms and writers: journals, bookmarks and bookends. If you're lucky enough to have a store nearby, you can even find chocolate, tea and coffee. This may sound like an advertisement, but I love this place. Really.

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