Friday, December 07, 2007

The spirit of giving without the "stuff"

If you're looking for a way to make your holidays a little more environmentally friendly and a little less commercial, why not try giving some gifts this year that won't create any clutter? Here are a few suggestions:

*Cooking lessons: Branches Holistic Health and Wellness Center offers lessons tailored for individuals and families, including vegetarian cooking. This would be great if you're just getting started as a vegetarian and not sure about what to cook -- or you're a longtime vegetarian stuck in a rut. They also offer classes in which a nutritionist helps you learn to shop more healthily or stock a healthy pantry.

*Give a gift of charity: There are quite a few places where you can "buy" an item in honor of someone for charity, such as a cow or goat for a needy third-world family. A few of these are Oxfam America (a gift of $30 represents planting 50 trees), MercyCorps ($20 for a "Children's Food Kit" to help poor children eat better) and Heifer International ($20 for a flock of chicks to provide eggs for a family).

It's always wise to check out a charity's reputation on a neutral site, such as CharityNavigator, which shows how much of the donations are actually used for the intended purpose, how much goes toward fundraising and salaries, the charity's overall rating, etc.

*The gift of your time: Give your friend or family member a coupon booklet with coupons they can redeem for things like a night of babysitting, your uncomplaining company at a movie or concert of their choice (even if you know you'll hate it!), a foot massage or fixing dinner for them. (It should be things you might not normally do!)

*Memberships: Buy them a membership in a group or organization they're intererested in, such as The N.C. Zoological Society (you can adopt an animal, too!), Friends of Old Salem, SciWorks or a professional association they can't afford to join. These usually come with such benefits as free admission, special offers or members-only times.

Do you have any other ideas for a clutter-free gift?

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