Skip the malls and retail folly…

oy to the world t-shirt…fa la la la la, la la la la!

Welcome to that time of year when gift giving is on the rise, along with increased anxiety to reach the retail finish line intact. For an alternative perspective on the high holy retail holiday rush, I have three questions that just might bring new perspective and joy for giving:

Do you wish to avoid crowds and traffic? (Hint: Does your idea of retail joy include being bonked by oblivious shoppers’ oversized bags ‘o loot and spending a half hour getting out of a mall parking lot?)

Do you wish to have less stress and a good conscience at the same time? (Hint: What!? Do something good for your soul?)

How do you feel about choosing gifts that are good for your recipients, good for the environment, and/or good for others? (Hint: What could possibly be “bad” about so much good?)

If you answered two yesses and got a feel-good tingle, then you are ready to start and finish your holiday “shopping” with ease. How? Make an effort to support local independent businesses and by thinking outside the pre-packaged highly mass-produced box. Let your creative thinking be triggered by some of the followings ideas that fall within the realms of experiential – for those who wish to minimize the quantity of “things” coming into their work and living spaces, tangible – for those who have an appreciation of and space for something material or edible, and financial – for those who appreciate a cause and/or a gesture without the fuss:

Tickets to a performance. Tickets to a music, dance, lecture, or theatre presentation are invaluable to a lover of the arts. Movie tickets count, too!

Food. A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or a place your recipient has been wanting to try is a palatable way to go. If you cook, how about a gift certificate redeemable for a homemade meal.

The benefits of membership. Think annual membership to a museum, the National Park Service, an environmental group or center, or even a share of a local CSA.

Body and soul treatments. The gift of a massage, a tarot or astrology reading, or even a meditation class can touch on the right trigger points.

The gift of a class or workshop. Does someone you know want to try yoga, cooking, dancing, or some other activity? Here’s a way to give them support and encouragement towards a new endeavor.

Support local artisans and craftspeople. Artists are everywhere! Their work comes in all shapes, mediums, and sizes, and can be functional, decorative, edible, and wearable – sometimes all at the same time!

Choose fair trade products. Fair trade purchases ensure fair price and labor conditions for artisans and farmers, supports sustainability, are good for the environment, communities, and more.

Shop vintage or antique stores. The ultimate in recycling!

Seek out eco-friendly products. Choose items carefully and ask or learn about their contents and manufacturing in order to make an informed decision.

• Tap into your own creativity. Perhaps you’re a knitter, a ceramicist, a photographer, a poet, or a creator in another medium. A “homemade” gift to some one who admires your work and vision will be treasured.

Donate to a cause your recipient believes in. Nonprofits always welcome contributions of financial and volunteer time and appreciate whatever you can give. Be sure to make the donation mode of your choice in your recipient’s name.

Volunteer. Volunteer your time to a local nonprofit, organization, or event your recipient respects and supports. Tell them about your experience in a note, accompanied by a photo of you “at work”.

Shares of stock in a socially-responsible entity. Think “green” and clean alternative energy, or think physical “stock” for a community through an organization such as Heifer International.

And what’s best of all is the versatility of this list. Use it as a guide for gift-giving occasions throughout the year!

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