Eco Beauty & Fashion

How to Give A Holiday Gift That Gives Back

holiday gift braceletOne year, when my kids were small enough to boss around, I strategized our holiday gift giving around an arts-and-crafts activity that I knew they’d love to create—and our family would love to receive. We made organic playdough* and used assorted animal cookie cutters to make cows and chickens, which we then painted and decorated with upcycled feathers, sequins, ribbons and cloth. Then we made a donation to Heifer International—creating a holiday gift that gives back. 

Heifer has transformed the lives of more than 25 million families, but there are one billion people still in need. You can help by giving a holiday gift that gives back—and even win one for yourself! Heifer International is a non-profit organization that is helping to end poverty and hunger in countries around the globe—including the United States. Just as with the proverb, the idea is simple: If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him forever. Families in need can apply to receive the gift of life-sustaining livestock—for example, a cow that can give milk, fertilizer and the strength to pull a plow, or a sheep that provides cheese and wool, which can be knitted and sold.

In turn, the family pledges to give the first female offspring of their livestock to another family in their community. The gift that gives back is passed on, and the entire community has a chance at forging a sustainable livelihood—what Alton Brown calls in this video, “a recipe for lasting change.” 

For the past 70 years, Heifer International has helped more than 25 million families lift themselves out of hunger and poverty—but there are one billion people around the world who still live in extreme poverty. With a holiday gift that gives back, Heifer International can help.

Our family’s donation to Heifer International was commemorated by the animal ornaments that we created. We packaged them in plain brown cardboard boxes that I “borrowed” from Whole Foods—hey, it’s a good cause, right?—nestled in shredded newspaper, with a card that described how our family had given a gift that gives back. Each year, we hang those ornaments on our trees and today, many of our family members also support Heifer International with a holiday gift of their own.

This year, Heifer International has made choosing a holiday gift that gives back a whole lot less labor intensive. Through their gift catalogue, you can give a flock of ducks to Bangladesh ($20), honeybees to Guatemala ($30), a goat to Zambia ($120, or one share for $10).

Or you can show the love with this wrap bracelet or necklace ($16), fair trade made by female artisans in India. Before meeting with Heifer International representative Allison Stephens to talk about their new initiative, I got a chance to preview the bracelet—I haven’t taken it off since.

Want to win one for yourself? I bought five to give away to our community, in hopes that you’ll also be inspired to give a gift that gives back this season. Enter here!

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*You can DIY your own non-toxic play dough by mixing one cup salt with two cups organic flour, then slowly adding one cup warm water and mixing it with your hands until it moves from paste to dough. If you want colored dough, separate the flour and salt mixture into parts, and use natural (no artificial food dye) colorants added to the water, then add the water to the mixture. Use toothpicks, knives, pizza rollers to create shapes, then cook in a 100 degree oven for several hours (depending on thickness) and paint to decorate.


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