MEGATech Showcase: Alternative Gifts With a Tech Twist Beth Snyder November 22, 2012 Features 5 Flares 5 Flares × The holidays are coming, and with them the annual panic associated with having to buy gifts. Some people are so easy you could spend a million dollars on them before you reached the end of your ideas, while others end up with a gift card to somewhere generic because they already own everything. Here are some ideas that not only solve your gift-giving dilemma, but also help the environment, developing countries, people or animals around the world. Gift-giving with a conscience: one of my favourite ways to do it. First, let's look at a place called Gifts That Give. As seen above, they offer cameras, but they also have hundreds of other gift items to choose from. Each item's price also lists how many dollars of the purchase goes toward charity. What I like about this one is you get to choose your charity from an incredible list of 1.2 million GuideStar approved organizations. The problem won't be finding a charity you want to benefit from your purchase, but rather narrowing it down to one. The camera I'm showing above is the Lomography Holga 'Jack Edition' Package. Lomagraphy has teamed up with Jack Holga from the White Stripes to produce an actual film camera which includes a Fisheye Adaptor lens, 3 plastic lens filters (one solid red, two colored soft-surround), exclusive Peppermint lens filter, plastic filter mount, The World Through a Plastic Lens softcover book, AA batteries, opaque tape, and one roll of 120 film. The camera sells for $180.00 US, of which $36.00 goes to your charity. There are plenty of gifts to choose from, all found at Gifts That Give. One of the companies I've done business with for years is Heifer International. The only thing they offer in the way of something to put under the tree is a card explaining what gift you've given in the name of your recipient, but don't let that stop you. In keeping with the tech end of things, one of the items you can choose to donate is a Biogas Stove. These stoves use methane gas captured from animal waste for fuel. This not only is a cheap (if not free) fuel source, but also helps prevent deforestation in developing countries. It also prevents potential illness or death from inhaling smoke in an enclosed area, as well as burning cleanly, reliably, and efficiently. You can choose either to donate an entire stove at $1,000.00 US, or a share of a stove for $50.00 US. Again, if the stove doesn't strike your fancy, there are plenty of other options available in a wide range of prices, from Heifer International. Another option is World Vision. They also offer a wide variety of items for every price range, from animals to shelter, from clothing to medical care, and from job training to education. You have options for letting your recipient know what they've gotten; either a card will be mailed to them through the postal service, you can customize and email a card, or you can print one out yourself. The picture above shows their Promise Pack - a special backpack full of basic school supplies, hygiene items, and a warm blanket sent to a child in need. All you need to spend on this one is $25.00 US, or as much as you choose to give. The Promise Pack as well as many other items can be found at World Vision. We're all relatively familiar with Habitat for Humanity, right? They're the people who build houses for those who are homeless. Of course, they do a lot more than that. Did you know they also have a gift catalogue? That's right... you can not only have something to put under the tree for your loved one, but you can help Habitat provide a home for someone less fortunate while you're at it. Above is pictured their Travel Media Sleeve, which is a sturdy padded sleeve designed to fit a notebook, iPad or Kindle. The front has a zippered pocket with the Habitat logo on it. Pricing starts at just $7.50 US, and decreases the more pieces you buy. As I said, they have an entire gift catalogue if that's not what you had in mind. Browse through and find something that works for you at Habitat for Humanity. Then we have Alternative Gifts International. In exchange for your gift from their collection to a country, region or person in need, you get an insert explaining the gift that can be enclosed in a greeting card and mailed to your recipient, or mailed directly to you so you can handle it. They offer a wide variety of items that developing countries desperately need, for a variety of prices. Pictured above are Bikes for Healthcare Workers in Africa. Your donation of $40.00 US will send one bicycle, while a donation of $110.00 US will send three. If you can't find something in their catalogue, or can't decide on one thing, they also offer gift cards. Just like regular gift cards from a store, these can be redeemed by your recipient for whatever donation they would like. You can either have a physical gift card mailed, or one can be sent through email. Bikes for healthcare workers in Africa, as well as hundreds of more items, can be found at Alternative Gifts International. Global Giving has this really cool system where you donate toward a good cause (such as building a well), and you get LEGOs. Who can say no to LEGOs? The gift is free with a donation of at least $50.00 US, and $40.00 of that gift is tax-deductible. This is possible through their Gifts For Good program, and provides funding for projects in Ghana, Haiti, and China. If wells (or LEGO, heaven forbid) are not your thing, there are other items to choose from. Or, you can choose a gift card and your recipient can decide which project to support. You can find the LEGO well and all of their other gift items at Gifts for Good. The Nature Conservancy is another organization with which I do quite a lot of business. Your loved ones get something to open and the environment gets a helping hand. Everybody wins. Why not look into one of the laptop sleeves above? These are Tread brand, which recycles old tires into usable, attractive accessories. They are available for 15" and 17" MacBook Pros, or anything else of a similar size. Normally, this would cost $80.00 US, but they are currently on sale for the ridiculously low price of $29.99 US. And of course if you're looking for something that isn't this, there are lots of other things to choose from. The entire catalogue can be viewed at The Nature Conservancy Marketplace. Oxfam America is another pretty well-known organization, helping developing countries and people in need worldwide for as long as I can remember. As with several other organizations, you can donate animals, clothing, shelter, education, transportation, and even computer training to those in need. Shown above is a cooking stove you can purchase for just $25.00 US. It does use wood for fuel, but is very efficient, cutting down on not only the time spent gathering wood, but the dangers of going into risky areas to gather it. Your recipient will receive an email telling them about the gift given in their name. All donations are tax deductible. The Oxfam collection of gift items in its entirety can be found at Oxfam America Unwrapped. How about a gift that will keep on giving virtually forever? Defenders of Wildlife has teamed up with SolarCity to come up with a home solar power package that pretty much can't be beat. We all know the benefits of going solar, right? A huge reduction in fossil fuel usage, reduction of your power bills, and an overall reduction in global warming to mention just a few. SolarCity will custom-design a system to fit your needs, and they'll do the installation for free! You still have a monthly electric bill, but it will be greatly reduced, and your rate is locked in for years. Plus, they offer in-home storage of energy as well as electric car charging. They also offer direct financing. Pricing obviously is going to vary depending on what you need, so you'll have to contact them if it's something you're interested in doing. One drawback: it is only available in CA, OR, WA (southwestern), AZ, CO, DC, MD, PA (eastern), DE, NJ, NY (Hudson Valley region), CT, MA and HI. If you're interested, details can be found at Defenders of Wildlife. I'm something of a cook, so I couldn't resist this one. Save the Children also has an online shop where you can not only donate to various causes or buy things for various people and countries, but you can also get something to put under your tree. This particular item is a Chef set. What you get is a child-size apron, hat, wooden spoon and recipe. What you donate is money toward helping children and families in need worldwide. This costs just $35.00 US. Of course, as with the others, there are plenty of other things to choose from if this doesn't strike your fancy. All of them are available at Save the Children - Gifts of Joy. You've heard of this one, right? One Laptop Per Child, which as its mission statement says, aims "to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future." How do you argue with that? This is one of those where you don't get anything in return, other than the tax deduction and knowing you've helped a child further his or her education through technology. But for just $199.00 US, you can provide a laptop to a child who otherwise would not have one somewhere in the world. And that can't be a bad thing, right? Information on how to donate can be found at One Laptop Per Child. Finally, let's take a look at Global Goods Partners. The deal here is that everything you can buy is not only fair trade, but handmade by women to help get them out of the potential dangers they face every day simply by nature of their gender. GGP works with 40 different artisans groups in 20 different countries, employing over 3,000 women. Each item is labeled with its country of origin and GGP guarantees that each artisan is being paid a living wage for their products. Pictured above is a recycled tire cell phone case, which measures 5 1/2" L x 3" W, has a snap closure, and includes a 2 1/4" hook strap. At a cost of just $18.00 US, you really can't go wrong. As with the other organizations listed here, there are many, many products to be had, in just about every price range imaginable and for pretty much everyone on your list. Check out the full selection at Global Goods Partners. A Different Kind of Gift I'm not saying you all have to buy something from one of these organizations. I am also not saying there aren't other organizations equally deserving. But these are some of the ones I found, that can fulfill our need for giving in more ways than one. I should note that any mention of tax exemption applies only to the US. It's not that your donations may not be eligible for tax exemption in other countries; it's that I don't live there so I'm not sure. You should check it out for yourself if you want to be positive before donating.