Black Friday has come and gone, but the frenzy to find the perfect gift for friends and loved ones continues at high pitch. And the current supply chain crunch compounds the stress with fears that desired items will be unavailable or delayed for delivery.

    This year, why not approach your holiday giving from a different angle? Instead of rushing to buy the latest must-have toy, high-tech gadget, or trendy trinket, all wrapped in fancy paper and ribbon only to be forgotten after the New Year, think about giving gifts that reflect an open heart rather than an open wallet.

    Consumerism is the Great American Pastime, but as consumers we rarely stop to think beyond the urge to shop til we drop and fail to consider the environmental and social consequences of our shopping. According to J.B. MacKinnon, author of “The Day The World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves” in a recent interview on NPR, our insatiable need to buy things accounts for 70% of US GDP (more during the holidays), which has a huge impact on the natural environment, including deforestation, toxic pollution, climate change, mining, fisheries, and the extinction of species.

    McKinnon points out that during the pandemic lockdown, “we saw the biggest and deepest drop in carbon emissions ever recorded through that global slowdown in [the] production and consumption system. We saw the resurgence of the natural world.” To return to that positive trend, he recommends adopting “the model of fewer, better things or buy less, buy better.” That means not only consumer products, but also energy-intense events like travel.

    With that advice in mind, consider making a donation to a meaningful charity in the name of someone on your holiday gift list. Here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling.

    • Donate to the American Nurses Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses, which launched a variety of urgent relief initiatives to care for nurses’ mental health and well-being, offer direct financial assistance, provide education and evidence-based information, and advocate on behalf of nurses.
    • For adults and kids who love wildlife, make a donation in their name to the World Wildlife Fund’s Adopt a Species A $60 donation gets a symbolic adoption certificate plus a 12” plush animal representing the chosen species (the blue-footed booby is especially cute).
    • Along the same lines, Heifer International provides real livestock such as a chicken, alpaca, goat, heifer, or other productive animal to help people in poverty around the world become self-sustaining. You can fund the entire or a portion of an animal, help fund a child’s education, or individual dream basket.
    • Friends of the Earth and its network of grassroots groups in 77 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Its current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to global warming, protecting people from toxic and new, potentially harmful technologies, and promoting smarter, low-pollution transportation alternatives.

    To check out these and any other organization you support financially, Charity Navigator is a reliable source of verified information about an organization’s finances and management. (It’s also a nonprofit worthy of support for the invaluable service it provides!)

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