the Thought, and the Research, that Counts
to shop for the activists on your list without violating their
Gifts are about being thoughtful. At least, ideally, they
are. When it comes to gifts, George Bernard Shaw’s comment
“Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto
you. Their tastes may not be the same” becomes the ruling
But what if you have someone on your list who spends the day
after Thanksgiving celebrating Buy Nothing Day, protests the
labor practices of your favorite clothing manufacturer, or
tsks-tsks at your virgin-forest-derived wrapping pa per? If
it’s not your worldview, it can feel daunting to navigate.
But it’s not really that hard to find gifts that will support
your giftees’ values and still bring them the joy of receiving
something they’ll actually use and enjoy. Here’s some tips
for those on your list:
Geek: Not exactly headed back to nature, but forward into
the gloriously efficient and sustainable future, the eco geek
will enjoy anything that both works better and is more
environmentally sound than its usual counterpart. To set her
heart aflutter, try a solar panel backpack so she can charge
her laptop while she bikes to work.
Chic: Dedicated to proving that the finer things in life
are even finer when recycled and nontoxic, the denizen of
eco chic will go gaga over the latest in organic cotton or
hemp fashion. Try something beyond the usual “natural” color
T-shirt with an environmental logo. Everything from jeans
to suit jackets to make-up cases come in low-impact fiber
now, many with different “grown-in” colors.
Lover: A neighborhood leader and downtown champion, the
local-business lover cringes at the thought of holiday shoppers
crowding the big-boxes for the supposedly easier parking.
To win his heart, find the closest non-mall, non-chain retail
center near either his house (if he lives within striking
distance of you) or yourself. Find the locally owned businesses
there (extra points for ones selling locally made products)
and go to town. Be sure to get some sort of story about the
business owner or the maker of whatever you buy to detail
in your card.
Rights: Rather than adding one more bottle of cruelty-free
bubble bath to her shelves, delight your favorite vegan with
some of the things that are a little tougher to accommodate
animal free. Non-leather shoes, especially attractive, dressy
ones, are a treat. Or if she hasn’t yet mastered the fine
art of substitution in baking (it’s more complicated than
just two tablespoons of arrowroot to one egg, trust me), give
her a helping hand like The Voluptuous Vegan, by Myra
Kornfeld and George Minot. Her roommates may thank you as
Not limited to any one particular cause necessarily, this
is the person who never feels like he’s doing enough, do nating
enough, protesting enough. For him, seek out the best of the
fund-raising goodies for good organizations. You may have
to sort through a lot of mugs and key chains, but plenty of
groups are selling some nicer stuff to raise money for their
good work. A loon-print tie from the Adirondack Council, for
example, can provide a little bit of solace to the nature
lover trapped in a suit-and-tie job. Or consider springing
him from the burden of an AAA membership that unwittingly
supports anti-environmental lobbying with a membership to
the irreverent but highly competitive Better World Club.
Not just anyone who opposes the Republicans, but someone who
owns at least one thing with a donkey logo, the die-hard Democrat
on your list will love that copy of the latest best seller
twice as much if you tell him you avoided buying it from Amazon.com
because of their big contributions to the party of Bush Jr.
Got a present in mind, but want to know which companies to
seek out for your blue buddies? Check out buyblue.org.
First: Much like for your Democrat relatives, when shopping
for the union supporters among your family and friends, where
you buy is more important than what you buy. The American
Apparel clothing brand was started specifically to provide
a sweatshop-free, union-made, American-made clothing option.
Know anyone teetering on the brink of getting a cell phone?
Cingular is the union option. To check out your product of
choice, see www.shopunionmade.com.
Simply: In contrast to the pick-your-company-wisely folks,
for the simple livers, overwhelming consumerism and consumption,
cluttered spaces, and having to get rid of yet more stuff
they never use is what makes them anxious about the season.
Relieve their worries with tickets to local theaters and performance
venues, gift certificates for massages or yoga classes, or
gourmet (organic, fair-trade) food items that will take up
space in the pantry for only a transitory moment.
Maybe hardest to shop for, the simple liver’s more hard-core
cousin really means it about wanting to drop out of the capitalist
system. If you’re dead set against acquiescing to her call
to spend your traditional gift-giving time volunteering with
Food Not Bombs instead, you can still offer an olive branch
or two. Blackspot products, the “anti-enterprise” started
by culture-jamming gods Adbusters, are producing sneakers
with a black spot instead of a logo. Any purchaser becomes
a shareholder in the company, and you can be sure the proceeds
will go to subversive uses. Or spend some time searching for
unusual thrift-store finds. Honestly, it’s not tacky if it
makes them happy.
Gift Guide Home