Change the World with These Gifts That are Not Things

2013 Nature collage

The best gifts are not things. I’ve spent the last few years divesting myself of things. My favorite room in the house has only three items in it. Space and simplicity simultaneously calm and lift my spirit. So, when it comes to holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations where gifts are customary, I usually ask my family not to give me things.

The best gift I ever got (and am still getting) was from my husband, who – for my birthday – changed his lifestyle in order to live a healthier, longer life with me.

When it comes to giving, I like to give home-made things like breads and other food items that can be nourishing and fun or experiences/adventures we can share, like hiking a trail or canoeing or going to see a concert. In recent years I’ve come to think of gifts as two-part opportunities – to honor a friend or loved one and to honor this amazing planet that supports us. By giving gifts that not only reduce our impact on the planet, but actively support protection of our environment and wildlife, we can change the world, make it a better place.

As we approach yet another holiday season where it is predicted that US residents will spend $602 billion on holiday shopping this year, I’m looking for ways to counter the madness of a resource-depleting, consumer-driven economy and support a more sustainable, earth-friendly economy. How?

  • Give the gifts of time, talent, adventure, experience.
  • Purchase recycled, re-purposed products from local crafters.
  • Make my dollars count by supporting organizations/causes and businesses that are working to protect the planet and all of its inhabitants.

Here are some of my favorite ways to make gift dollars count for people and planet: help plant a tree, save a species, protect a watershed, defend the oceans, or support sustainable economic policies by supporting one or more of these worthy organizations…

  • Green America – One of my all-time favorite non-profits. Green America focuses “on economic strategies—economic action to solve social and environmental problems.” Gift memberships are BO-GO at $20. They have THE best action-oriented quarterly magazine of any organization I know.
  • Rails-to-Trails Conservancy – this group’s mission ” to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people” has become more important to me since I’ve taking up bicycling as my favorite way to exercise. We have enjoyed many rails-to-trails multi-use paths all over the country. A great way to meet people and see a different side of some really cool small towns. They have gift memberships, trail guides, and even riding apparel in their store.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council – Their mission: “to safeguard the Earth: its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.” Through science, grassroots support, lobbying and the courts, this group has made a huge difference. They offer lots of gifts, from memberships to adopting a wolf, to saving old growth forests.
  • Give annual state or federal Park Passes – a great way to support our federal or state parks while encouraging friends/family to get outdoors and enjoy them. The National Park’s Annual Pass gives access to 2000+ recreational sites in the U.S. Florida’s State Park Pass allows entry to all the state parks. I’m sure other states have a similar pass.
  • Your local Land Trust – like the CREW Land & Water Trust here in southwest Florida. Land Trusts help preserve and protect important wildlife corridors, watersheds, rivers, and landscapes that provide ecosystem services that make our lives as humans more livable and economical. Keep your dollars local and connect with your local land trust. You can search for one here.

Support the frogs and deer and water and land, and our spirits and health and economy.

What other green, healthy, sustainable gift-giving strategies might you suggest?


  1. Amen Deb! I have been doing the same thing and clearing out the clutter. I have also been working on it for years. It never ends, but I am making headway…..thanks for the reminder of \what is important!

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