Chances are that you are making your gift list and preparing to make purchases for your friends and family. Giving can help you feel good, no matter the circumstance. But there are some places you can buy gifts and feel extra warm and fuzzy about what you are doing. Before you decide on your gift list, and before you are overcome by the consumerism inherent in shopping sales at the mall, consider these options for making your gifts extra meaningful:


Donate to Charity in Another’s Name

One of the more popular alternative gifts is to make a donation to charity on someone else’s behalf. Some charities will provide a nicely printed card explaining the gift. Another option is use the site You can purchase a gift certificate for the site, and the recipient can get online and decide which charity to donate to with the gift card. This is a fun and unique gift that really gets the recipient involved more in the process. You will have to pay a service fee when you get a gift card from Just Give.

Shop at a Site with a Mission

Another option, if you are more into the giving of actual things, is to shop at web sites with missions. Purchasing unique gifts from third-world craftspeople, or gifts created from recycled items, or even just purchasing gifts from a site that donates to a cause you believe in can be a way to make the world a better place even as you do your holiday gift shopping.

Here are some interesting sites that can provide you with interesting gifts — and let you help with a cause:

  • Amnesty International: Buy a gift from the shop run by Amnesty International, and you will be helping efforts to improve human rights all over the world. You can find a number of standard gifts, from fair trade fashion accessories to candles to calendars and more, at reasonable prices. Free shipping if you spend more than $25.
  • Ecoist: If you are all about eco-friendly shopping, this site can help you find unique handbags, jewelry, and wallets made from a variety of interesting recycled materials. A coin purse made from candy wrappers? A handbag from soda can pull tabs? That’s some unique — and environmentally friendly — stuff right there.
  • UncommonGoods: Find interesting and creative gifts, some of them handmade. You can also find eco-friendly gifts to give as well. On top of that, when you make a purchase, a portion of the amount you spend is donated to a choice of charities. You can decide between City Harvest, RAINN, and others.
  • VivaTerra: This is another web site that focuses on eco-friendly products, as well as some handcrafted fair trade items. You can find stylish items made from recycled glass, as well as wood that has been reclaimed. You can also find organic gourmet food, for the epicurists on your list.
  • Out of Print: This is a really cool idea. Totes, clothing, accessories, and stationery feature iconic book covers — many of them out of print. These items make great gifts for the book lover in your life. Plus, Out of Print donates to Books for Africa. Each time you make a purchase, a book goes to a community that needs it.
  • TOMS: This famous footwear company offers unique and stylish shoes, as well as fashion eyewear. You can give an awesome gift, and know that for every pair of shoes you purchase, a child somewhere in the world is also getting a new pair of shoes that he or she needs.
  • B.Toys: These toys are unique and colorful — often educational. So you can feel good about giving them to a child. Plus, B.Toys makes an effort to be environmentally friendly, so you can feel good knowing that you aren’t having a huge impact. Finally, B.Toys donates to Free the Children with each toy sold.

As you can see, there are plenty of web sites out there that offer unique gift ideas that also help the world. Many of them even offer specials, free shipping, and holiday sales. As you give this holiday season, consider ways that you can keep giving, helping more than just the recipient of your gift.

Photo by Mr. Kris.