The holidays can be a blur of food, friends, parties and unfortunately give many of us endless frustration in gift giving. We all want to give that cherished person in our lives a gift that shows we care; that we really put some thought into his or her gift and we want that gift to have more than a superficial meaning.(For more, read 9 Meaningful Holiday Gifts.) TUTORIAL: Credit Cards
This year, escape the usual "plastic jungle" and give gifts that are meaningful, make a difference in someone's life, or help save precious natural resources.
Give "Moo" Juice
Heifer International has been sending cows, chickens, goats and assorted other farm animals to countries where hunger has been rampant for over 60 years. Its mission statement explains it well; "By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope."
Heifer International has been helping families become self-sufficient for over 65 years in 128 countries. You can make a gift in someone's name and his or her gift will continue to give for years.
Wish on a Star
The Star Foundation Network provides a certificate, the location of the star that you are giving, and 25% of its profits go to such worthwhile charities as Toys for Tots and The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to families battling terminal illnesses. Plus, this is a very romantic gift for someone special – give her a star with the ring. Or name a star in memory of someone very special.
Make a Twilight Wish
A 78-year old grandmother's only wish is for a washing machine, another wishes for a hot water heater so they don't have to heat water on a stove to bathe. These are the simple wishes of some of America's neediest senior citizens, and the Twilight Wish Foundation is working hard to make these wishes come true.
Started nearly eight-years ago, the organization's vision is to make the world a nicer place to age, one wish at a time. Twilight Wish honors and acknowledges seniors for all they have given to others by bringing comfort and joy into their lives through individual wish-granting celebrations. Twilight Wish grants wishes to deserving elderly, age 68 and older, who earn less than 200% of poverty level annually, or who live in a nursing facility. By treating the elderly with compassion, Twilight Wish restores their dignity and brings them hope.
You can make a gift donation to this worthwhile organization in the recipient's name and help a needy senior. (For other ideas, check out 7 Unique And Inexpensive Gifts For The Holidays.)
Send a Hero a Wreath
For a small moment of time, when the snow blankets the quiet of Arlington National Cemetery, a small green wreath will ensure that none will be forgotten. For 15 years, one man at one company has delivered a Christmas gift to American veterans who rest at Arlington National Cemetery. With donations, caravans and dogged determination this small, notable gift to America's fallen veterans is now a nation-wide project, Wreaths Across America, a quest by Morrill Worcester to ensure American veterans would never be forgotten, particularly during the Christmas season. Worcester Wreath of Harrington, Maine is a family owned business that each year provides the wreaths for Arlington National Cemetery. You can donate a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, or at a local veteran's cemetery or gravesite. Donations can be made in honor of a veteran, and can be donated as a gift in someone's name.
Adopt a Redwood
Want to give the biggest present this holiday season? They don't come any bigger than a giant redwood, and you can adopt one of these forest giants and give it as a gift, and you don't have to feed it, change it or send it to college – but you do get to see it grow. The Redwood Forest Institute donates 100% of its proceeds to protecting the giant redwood trees. You can choose to adopt one tree, become a member or be a corporate sponsor. Your gift helps prevent the redwoods from being cut down.
Adopt a Pony
How many kids want a pony for Christmas? Here's a way to give your child a pony, and save the wild Ocracoke Ponies of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For a $27 donation or gift in someone's name, the organization will let you adopt the pony of your choice. Photos of the ponies are available online. This money goes to feed the horses, provide veterinary care and ensure their home along the Cape is preserved. There's no hay, no pasture and no stable needed, but you will have one happy person and one happy pony with this gift. (For related reading, see 5 Holiday Gifts That Keep On Giving.)
Discover the Romantic in You
You and your significant other could be featured in an epic romance novel by From Romance by You; all you have to do is fill in a few details on a form. From Romance by You will create the "perfect romance" novel for you. There are several sub-genres to choose from, romantic western, space, fantasy and vampire are among the choices. This is a really fun, unique gift that will last a lifetime.
A Few Quick "No-Plastic" Ideas
Bus, Subway or Other Mass Transit Passes
Give bus passes to friends who commute to their jobs, students who commute to college or friends who ride frequently to shop. This is a great gift that will benefit the rider and the environment by adding a few less cars on the road.
Eco-Friendly Dog Goods
Giving a gift to someone who has a special "four-pawed" friend? Surprise him or her with a gift for his or her pet. West Paw Design is an eco-friendly, made in the USA pet store featuring unique and fun dog toys, bedding and apparel for dogs and cats. Its items are made from recycled materials, reclaimed cotton; even the packaging is recycled and recyclable.
The Bottom Line
When choosing gifts this holiday season, think outside of the "plastic jungle" of gift cards. There are many gifts that will be cherished while they help others in need, many gifts that will protect endangered animals and forests, and many gifts that will continue to grow long after this holiday has past. (For more, see DIY Gifts With Great ROI.)