Whether you intend to celebrate the holidays at all or in part, in a secular fashion, or with lots of religion and tradition, there will probably be at least one gift that you need to buy this season.
If you’re looking to purchase a thoughtful gift and need some ideas, here are a few suggestions for presents that help the world (or at least don’t utterly ruin it):
1. Support independent businesses
Don’t just shop in small businesses on Small Business Saturday, and don’t just shop there looking for gifts It’s rough out there, and people want to save money where they can, but supporting small businesses creates jobs, a stronger community, and a thriving local economy. Capitalism isn’t going anywhere, but the best way to change the system is to support a new system. Small businesses have great staff who can help you pick a gift; they have a selection that you wouldn’t necessarily see online or in a chain store, and they often do incredible gift-wrapping. Whimsies Incognito in Tarrytown (RIP) was my gift destination for decades, because their gift-wrapping would make the angels weep.
You don’t necessarily have to buy a physical gift, either. You can support an local yoga studio or massage therapist by gifting a session or class.
2. Sponsor an animal at a shelter or sanctuary
Buying a gift for an animal-lover? How about someone who loves animals but can’t have one? Allergies, mental health, physical ability, rental agreements, and myriad other reasons can keep someone from welcoming a pet into their home. Why not sponsor a cutie at a shelter or sanctuary in your loved one’s name? You’re saving a life and bringing the love of animals into someone’s world.
Also, hopefully it goes without saying, but please do not buy live animals as gifts. They’re living beings, not accessories, and you don’t know if the recipient is prepared to deal with them. And don’t buy from breeders, ever, ever, ever.
3. An indie media gift
Got a friend who loves podcasts or other indie media? Buy them an episode, or make a dedication in their name. Many podcasts will do shout-outs to their donors– get your loved one’s name recorded forever by their favorite podcasters. Independent media is struggling and needs our support. Some podcasts are not-for-profit, so your donation may be tax-deductible.
4. Buy a service
Pay ahead for a personal organizer, house-cleaner, cook, or babysitter.
Make sure you won’t offend the recipient by implying anything about their need for such a service. Businesses in domestic industries (homemaking, child-rearing) are often owned and operated by marginalized people, because society teaches us not to value work traditionally done by women. The best way to help give a trade value is to pay for it, and I know there are plenty of people who would love to have an extra hand at home.
5. Local food
You can’t exactly wrap up a basket of produce from the farmers’ market. But you can buy a half pound of coffee (or quarter pound of tea) from a local roaster or tea supplier. Literally no one hates that. Buy decaf coffee, or tea, or herbal tea (or tisanes) for friends and relatives who are caffeine-free. Also, freshly-ground coffee in the morning is the cat’s velvety-footed pajamas, so buy your loved ones a grinder while you’re at it. Giving people the gift of a morning cup of hot wake-up could very likely contribute to world peace.
Also, lots of local places sell fancy salt or olive oils, for your friends who love to cook.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!