Socially Responsible Holiday Shopping

Even though I really love giving and getting presents, the material worth of gifts has ceased to be important to me.

This was burned into me one year in college, by a friend who told me that the poem I wrote for her wasn't a good enough present, and despite being a penniless student I should have at least shelled out for a $5 gift.

But when your pockets are empty, $5 is worth more to you than a trinket that will inevitably be thrown away with this season's gift wrapping. Of course she and I are no longer friends.

So this year my friend Emi and I have decided to collaborate on how to spend your holiday dollars wisely (and locally and morally).

See each of our suggestions below. Mine were inspired in part by being underemployed: we simply do not have a lot of dough to spend this year. But my husband and I are also on a mission to shed our home of the stuff we've acquired throughout our lives that only take up space and collect dust.

Dawn's Gifting Ideas:

* Donate to your favorite non-profit or public media organization. The work they do is priceless, but they need help keeping their lights on just like the rest of us. (We love WMNF, WUSF, YES! Magazine, The Nation, Sea Shepherd, and more.)

* Buy a present for a child in need. Contact your closest YMCA or public school for more info.

* Spread your wealth by re-gifting! You probably have some great books, shoes, art, and other stuff that have lost its sentimental value or your changing tastes, but are still too good to throw away.

* Be crafty! Use your talents to make something. I love reading to my friends's kids via Youtube or an easy-to-make iMovie dvd.

* Eat, Drink, Be Merry! Buy gift certificates at the Tampa Theatre, or mix & match fancy beers at Vintage Wine Cellars. Catch dinner and some music at Ella's or the New World Brewery.

Emi's Gifting Ideas:

* Started by National Geographic to make sure that the most money gets back to local artisans world wide.They have an amazing selection of gifts that give you an artist biography so you know exactly who made your gift.

* Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite ways to give back for the holidays. You are providing a shoe box filled with small gifts and essentials to a child in need across the globe. It is very affordable to do and makes a huge difference in their lives.

* Everything on Etsy must either be hand-made, "up-cycled" from it's original state, or vintage. This ensures that your gift is unique and most likely one of a kind, all while supporting independent artists.

This set of Star Wars coasters and record album bowl makes the perfect gift for a movie/music lover. It is made from a recycled album and you are sure to not find it in stores.

Emi also proposes a challenge to you hard-core shoppers:
Instead of giving money to socially irresponsible corporations, why not shop local, or only from retailers that are making an effort to make a difference?

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