The Alternative Holiday Gift Guide 2014


(Many thanks to Melibee’s own Sarah Dilworth, Maria Snyder and Lisa Zenno for collaborating on this blog post!)

As the gift giving season takes off and the commercial pressure ratchets up to its most intense levels, the hive here at Melibee hopes to share a different kind of buzz. In the past, we have shared some tips on shopping ethically and gift ideas for international travelers. Today, we are combining the two to share some gift alternatives to the typical post-Thanksgiving special offers and shopping sprees.

Give experiences, not things. Consider pubnightgift

supporting your (or your friend’s) local community by giving experiences such as memberships to an area museum, athletic club, or zoo. Volunteer in your friend’s name (or with your friends) at a charity, non-profit, or school. Surprise them by paying for a class in the area or even online ( offers virtual classes in writing, cooking, photography, and more). Offer to babysit for family or friends so the adults can spend a child-free evening together. Or simply have an honest talk to see if your friend, relative, or a child in your life would like to get together for a “date” (for coffee, for lunch, to go to a concert or play, visit a museum) instead of exchanging presents. If you have a group you’d like to share more time with try creative get-togethers such as a mini book club, a recipe swap cooking evening, or a nostalgia night watching old favorite movies together.

Share what you’ve got. In addition to volunteering, there are many worthy organizations that need funds. Giving Tuesday (held on December 2nd this year) is a globally recognized day to give back, however donating to worthy causes, charities, and nonprofits can occur any day of the year. If you are interested in supporting international experiences then consider The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) or Amizade. The FEA provides grants and scholarships for students while Amizade designs and organizes a variety of international programming based on the concept of Fair Trade Learning. Fair Trade Learning puts the focus of the experience not only on the student but also the community where she goes, creating a “mutual learning partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect.” Consider donating to, starting a fundraiser on, or simply helping spread the word on social media about the GoAbroad Foundation, which aims to “connect individuals with good intentions to sustainable development initiatives around the world”. The Foundation for Sustainable Development also works on projects that prioritize skill building for both student and community with long term projects around the world. If you’d classroom

prefer to give to education within the USA, Donors Choose offers the opportunity to donate to a vetted classroom project in schools across the country. Microlending or fundraising sites are a way to directly help people with their project. Check out Kickstarter to donate to a creative project. Oxfam Unwrapped allows you to buy a “present” and sends a card to your friend. “Your symbolic gift is actually a donation that will be used where it is needed the most—to help people living in poverty around the world.”

International Innovation Give the gift of international innovation! Melibee offers a variety of tools that encourage international and cultural knowledge and growth.  We offer international ed career oriented webinars, accessible online at any time, devoted to topics such as negotiating your salary, handling stress, social media marketing, and resume tips. Really want to know more about subjects like quality study abroad and volunteering, planning an international volunteer trip, funding international travel, and more? Check out what’s offered and the free interviews here. Our founder, Missy, also provides personalized career and resume coaching.

Red and GREEN Think ecological and environmental.* Check out your local library for a used book sale. Support local charities and organizations by finding vintage, kitschy, and sometimes antique pieces at charity shops and thrift stores such as Oxfam, Barnardos, Salvation Army, and more. Buy from local artists and craftspersons and shop for handmade gifts at art and craft shows, galleries, or stores that showcase local artists’ work. Stores like Ten Thousand Villages can be a terrific spot to find unique, meaningful, and ethically responsible gifts for the globally-minded folks in your life.

And for the environmentally conscious traveler, there are a number of recycled gifts and environmentally friendly gifts that can be useful while travelling like a reusable water bottle like sigg

the ones sold by Sigg or Klean Kanteen. A solar powered charger is ideal for when you are not near a power source, or those times when you forget your electrical converter! Re-usable canvas tote bags can be a fun way to show personality or add a bit of memories to your style, and are always useful while traveling (or at home). Or give the gift of memories and give your fellow traveller a handmade journal to document their adventures. Gifts like this scratch-off globe made of recycled material are a fun way to showcase and quite the conversation starter on where you have been.

For extra information on buying less and living more check out The Story of Stuff.

*If giving physical gifts, take your environment-friendliness to the next level when wrapping gifts. Use old newspapers and magazines or maps, burlap, cloth, or 100% post-consumer recycled wrapping paper.

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