5 Simple Ways to Make Your Holiday Giving Green

The holiday season can be filled with a lot of waste—in fact, according to Green Christmas, Americans throw away an average of two billion extra tons of garbage per week during the holiday season. In addition to the added trash, there’s also the stuff you keep but don’t really want (think about the quesadilla maker or ugly Christmas sweater you got last year).

Here are a few tips to make your holiday season more eco-friendly.

1) Use reusable shopping bags while shopping.

A few months ago, San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags went into effect, and shoppers now have to pay an extra 10 cents for every bag they take from retail stores. This will help eliminate some of the 3.8 billion bags used by myself and other fellow Bay Area residents each year. While your city may not have a legal ban on retail shopping bags, you can make a difference by yourself by bringing reusable bags with you for all your holiday shopping (these are my favorite—a gift from my mom last year!).

Eco-friendly gift wrap

2) “Green” your wrapping.

During the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday, Americans throw away 25% more garbage than they usually do, according to Green Christmas. Wrapping paper is often not recyclable, because it includes non-paper additives (such as gold & silver coloring, glitter, or plastics), and is laminated or dyed. It also usually has tape on it, left over from the gift wrapping. Give your gifts beautifully and sustainably by wrapping in recycled newspaper (comics work great), old maps or pages from an atlas, gift wrap saved from previous years, or these gorgeous fabric gift wraps. Or use colorful tea towels—they become an extra part of your gift.

3) Request alternative gifts

If you know that you don’t need any more stuff (that is, if you’re like me), why not ask your friends and family for something else? I set up a charity registry this year, and so can you. It’s a great way to raise money for your favorite organizations. Another idea is to ask people to donate items to needy families, or give to local shelters instead of buying a gift for you.

contigo reusable coffee mugs

4) Give eco-friendly items

Help your loved ones consume less throughout the year by gifting eco-friendly, reusable items. Looking for some great ideas? I love these paper towel alternatives. I bring my no-spill stainless steel coffee mug every time I get coffee, saving countless to-go cups. Or, help reduce plastic water bottle consumption by giving a great glass water bottle.

5) Give less “stuff”

Our consumer-based culture has a devastating impact on our society and our environment. For more about this, check out The Story of Stuff. You may be surprised by what you discover!

Instead of giving a physical gift and adding to the stuff in the world, give the gift of charity. It’s a green gift that makes a positive difference.

JustGive’s charity gift cards are a great option—you can choose the amount of the donation, and your recipient chooses the charity. We also offer unique charity “gift baskets” of four charities working toward a common cause (there are 16 to choose from that help animals, children, seniors and more.). Or, you can select a gift from the Holiday Gift Guide and make a donation in your loved one’s name. Each gift in the Guide shows the impact of your donation, making gift giving fun and inspiring. 

Give This, Not That

What’s your best or most unusual green holiday tip? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager 

5 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

Five Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

It’s already begun: it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and the holiday season is everywhere. Babies R’ Us was playing Christmas carols last week, and Target has the candy, decorations and gifts out in full force.

I find it a little bit exhausting, don’t you?

My goal for the holiday season is always the same: Simplify. This year I’ll be sharing how I do this, right here on the JustGive blog. For me, a big part of creating a simple and meaningful holiday season is about redefining the season itself—which means less stuff. With less stuff, I feel less stress.

One of the easiest and most impactful ways to bring meaning to the season is to give back instead of giving “stuff.” Here are five ways to give back this holiday season, taking the stress out of gift giving and making you (and your recipient) feel warm and fuzzy inside:

1 — Create a Charity Wishlist

Create a Charity Wishlist

I started working at JustGive earlier this year, and was thrilled to learn about Charity Wishlists for the holiday—it’s a totally new concept to me. As much as I love the thought behind gifts, I really don’t need anything. By creating a Charity Wishlist, I can raise money for my favorite charities instead of receiving gifts from my family and friends. And that makes me feel better than any piece of jewelry or retail gift card ever could. Here’s my wishlist for the season—check it out, and consider creating one of your own!

2 — Give Gifts of Charity 

Charity Holiday Gift Guide

This year at JustGive, we’ve created an exciting new Holiday Gift Guide to make giving more meaningful. It’s filled with charitable gifts that show you the impact your donation has on the world. Choose from 12 of the timeliest issues, including hunger, job support, LGBT rights, and peace—there’s a gift for every budget.

3 — Give Charity Gift Cards

Charity Gift Card for Holiday Gifts

Charity Gift Cards are perfect for someone you might not know that well (a holiday gift for a co-worker, for example), for a friend or family member who has a charitable heart, and for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list. You choose the amount for the gift card, and they choose the charity (or charities!) to receive the donation. There are email, print-at-home, and physical cards – and more than a million charities on JustGive they can donate to.

One of the coolest features (in my opinion) is the ability to buy your gift cards ahead of time, and then schedule them to be emailed whenever you’d like.

Another fun option is to upload your own photo, making for a very personal gift.

4 — Give a Charity Collection

Charity Gift Basket

If you know someone who cares about a specific cause, a charity collection is a unique and great gift. Each collection includes four charities working toward a particular cause. There are 16 causes to choose from, including Animals, Arts, Education, Homes & Jobs, and Military. Check them all out here. 

5 — Share the Message

What better way to create a more peaceful, simple holiday season than to get others involved too? After you make a commitment to help others this holiday season, spread the word to your friends and family. You can start a new tradition and include charity as part of your gift exchanges.

You can also join JustGive in the #GivingTuesday movement, which counters the consumerism and commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We’ll be offering an amazing deal to help you give more generously, too—so check JustGive on November 27 or sign up for our newsletter to hear all about it.

How will you celebrate the holiday season? Do you incorporate charity or volunteering? Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook!

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Straight from the Source: My Father talks about Father’s Day


image sources: author’s personal collection

My father is notoriously hard to buy gifts for. I’ve tried everything from homemade artwork to pruning shears, and …well, it always seems to fall a little flat. At the end of the day, these gifts are “stuff,” adding no value and more clutter.

This year, I’m embarking on a personal campaign: getting rid of the “stuff” in my life and only holding onto things that bring joy or provide purpose. With that commitment, what kind of daughter would I be if I gave my dad yet another picture frame—thus adding unwanted clutter to his life?

Giving a good gift isn’t easy, though, so I went straight to the source: I asked my dad what he would actually like for a Father’s Day gift.

As it turns out, my dad had the same problem with his father. “I used to buy him ugly ties because I didn’t know what else to get him,” my dad told me. “Giving gifts has certainly been the tradition, but…” He trailed off. I asked him if he thought the tradition should change, and I swear I could hear him nodding through my phone.

He told me the most thoughtful gifts he can remember involve quality family time. He talked about a wine-tasting trip to some local wineries, followed by dinner in the wine country. “That was great,” he said. “I think any gift of something a Dad likes to do (and the family agrees to) is the best.”

So there you have it, folks: quality time. Don’t live close enough to make that happen this Father’s Day? My dad said a meaningful card is a no-brainer. To give it more purpose, I’ll be slipping a charity gift card into mine this year.

Ask yourself what your father (or the man who mentored you like a father) truly cares about and enjoys doing. My dad obviously loves wine. What about yours? Share your comments and best ideas below, or post it on our Facebook page!

– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

JustGive’s Top 5 Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts

Image Source

For the first 27 years of my life, Mother’s Day was about giving gifts. Artwork when I was very little, handmade cards when I was a little older, and a nice pair of earrings as an adult.

I’m now a mom myself, and as I’m sure many new mothers can attest, giving birth often comes with a sudden sense of “OMG Mom, I totally understand every single thing you ever said to me.” We mothers truly feel every bit of the pain (and the joy) our children experience, in addition to a near-constant worry. This is both exhausting and an incredible blessing.

Here’s what I realized during my first Mother’s Day as a mom: while I’m sure my mom loved the earrings I got her, Mother’s Day is about appreciation, not about gifts. Motherhood is an amazing but often-thankless journey that involves a lot of sacrifice . . . and Mother’s Day is one specific day a year set aside to show her how much we appreciate all she has done for us.

A small gift and a big gesture

The best gifts for Mom show you care – so get her a small gift, and make it part of a bigger way your express your appreciation. To inspire you, here’s our countdown to a few of the Best Mother’s Day Gifts for 2012:

5. Offer a helping hand

Has your mom been asking you to help her with the computer, paint the house, or organize the garage? If so, Mother’s Day is a great occasion to actually do it. Making her life easier is a great gift. If your mom isn’t the type to ask for help, think of things in her life that are giving her grief. Can you remove the spyware on her PC? Teach her how to Skype? Send the family photos to be digitized? There’s a whole world of ways to make Mom’s life a little brighter.

image source

4. DIY a special book of memories

My friend Mary recently put together a book of photos and memories for her mother. What a great idea! Two thoughtful options: A book capturing her life (photos of childhood to current day) or a book of your history together (your birth to today). You don’t have to be crafty to make something special – use Blurb.com to easily create a custom photo book (just allow a couple of weeks to receive it from Blurb). Then sit down and go through it with her on Mother’s Day. She’ll love the trip down memory lane.

3. A spa day and nice family dinner

For a mom that doesn’t have time to herself very often, give the gift of a massage or a facial. While she’s out getting pampered, get in the kitchen and cook her a delicious  meal (and I mean cook – the effort you put into it means a lot more than a dinner out, even if you’re no gourmet chef!). Have a beautiful table set to enjoy it with her when she returns.

2. Show your support for what she cares about

What causes are close to your mom’s heart? If she loves animals, make a donation to an organization she cares about and take her to play with the pups at your local humane society. Is she passionate about the environment? Why not create a charity “gift basket” of four charities that work for her cause, and organize a beach cleanup of her favorite spot? What Mom doesn’t love seeing evidence that you’ve actually been listening when she’s lectured you about what truly matters? 😉

image source

1. Quality time

For people like Anneka (a friend of ours on Facebook), the best gift for Mom is time – her mom always asks to go on a hike with her kids. Making memories and having a close relationship – isn’t that what most mothers want most? Make a date to spend time with your mother doing something she loves this Mother’s Day – organize a hike, take her out for lunch, or go to a movie she’s been wanting to see.

Unfortunately, my mom lives in another state (just for now, though, right Mom?), but this Mother’s Day she’ll be receiving something extra special to show just how much her daughter and her granddaughter both love her and appreciate all she’s done for us–especially in the past few months.

What are you giving your mom this year? What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever given or received? Share it in the comments below, or post it on our Facebook page!


– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Wait. There are how many days ’til Christmas?

Twelve. (And Hanukkah is in just a week!)

Despite all the emails, ads, music, and festive decorations (not to mention the holiday clichés all around) – it’s easy to put off shopping while your list continues to grow. The stress of what to get, how much to spend, and the time it takes to wrap and send can be overwhelming….

Have no fear. Here are some great holiday gift options for any procrastinator. Unique, meaningful, and hassle-free–they may be last minute gifts, but they’re coming from your heart.

GiveNow Charity Gift Cards

You choose the amount, they choose the charity. And now, you can upload your own photo for that personal touch. Select an email card and schedule a delivery date or print the card at home to hand deliver. (And here’s a secret: On Tuesday December 20 all email and printed GiveNow cards purchased on the JustGive site will be fee free!)

They’re perfect for Hanukkah, Secret Santas, stocking stuffers, host gifts, client thank you’s and more.

Donate in their Name

It’s not hard to find a cause or charity that your friend or family member cares about. Maybe they have a love for animals, have served in the military, or recently ran a marathon to benefit breast cancer—try checking Facebook to learn about their favorite organizations and interests. Then just use the JustGive search tools and donate in their name for a personal gift that means more.

 Choose a Charity Gift Basket

Select from 16 Charity Collections that feature four nonprofits supporting a specific cause. From education to global aid, women’s rights to health, military to peace – there’s something for everyone!

Each of these charitable gift options shows you care. Even at the last minute—these are memorable gifts that share the true spirit of the season.

P.S. Follow us on Facebook for more holiday tips, ideas and stories.


– Michelle Koffler, Marketing Coordinator

This holiday, let’s reconnect.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard (and probably made) comments about the holiday season already: Why was jingle music playing while shopping for Halloween costumes? Why are snowy decorations overtaking stores before Thanksgiving? How will I afford gifts for everyone on my list and a sequined holiday outfit with my budget? And how much stuff do we really need for Christmas?

Hearing and joining in on the negative remarks has made me take pause. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed or get swept up in all the consumer hogwash, I’d rather enjoy the season. My sisters will be back from college and the holidays are the perfect time to reconnect—with my family, my community, and the true spirit of the holidays. Showing my loved ones I care in new and meaningful ways without breaking the bank or gifting unwanted items seems like a great place to start.

Here are some great charitable gifts that can change lives:

  • Charity Gift Cards. Take advantage of JustGive’s Cyber Monday promotion: fee-free GiveNow cards*. Pull out your favorite photos to upload, and on November 28th, create customized gifts for your friends, family, and colleagues – with ZERO fees. You chose the amount, they choose the charity (from more than 1.8 million on the site). >>Buy Gift Cards
  • Personal Charity Registry. Create a wish list and ask for charity as your holiday gift. It not only makes you feel good, but also spreads holiday cheer to others in need. Select organizations working to make a difference for your favorite causes, and share your wishes by email or on Facebook. It’s a selfless way to celebrate the holidays. >>Create A Registry
  • Charitable Donations. Donate in your friend or loved one’s name to a local charity that means the world to them. Or choose a collection of four charities supporting a specific cause like animals, the military, or children. Experience the joy of giving back. >>Give Locally   >>Select Charity Collection

Spending and cherishing time with family is another way of getting back to what’s most important about the holidays. I know that gifting charity will let them know this year is different. Imagine how things would change if we all did the same.

Spread the spirit—Like us on Facebook and share what you’re doing. We’re posting up creative and inspiring ideas for the holidays.

*Promotion Terms & Conditions – Eastern Standard Time

– Michelle Koffler, Marketing Coordinator

The Guy Who Has Everything

My Dad has everything.

A tie (one).  It has The Beatles on it, naturally. He wears it anytime he needs to wear a tie, which isn’t often due to a carefully planned career of self-employment, entrepreneurism and a California lifestyle.

Geeky Dad sandals that he appropriately pairs with socks and a Hawaiian shirt.  “It’s special,” he says, “because it is the same shirt Lieutenant Dan wore in Forrest Gump”.

*Caveat: The shirt in this photo is not THE shirt, but you get the gist.

The coolest, most brag-worthy and up-to-the-minute technology.  Literally, his watch pulls the accurate-to-the-second time from the Atomic Clock in Colorado and glows when he flicks his wrist (powered of course by a built-in solar panel which collects its energy from the sun).  Over the years, I have learned to expect no less from this savviest of Dads.

Three stupendous daughters, if I might say so myself, who make him proud with their education and do-gooding and to which he always repeats “don’t get me anything, I have everything I need.”  Sometimes when mom says this, it not-so-secretly means “you better get me my favorite flowers and a spa package,” but with my Dad, we comply and settle for a breakfast on the town and a cheesy card he’ll soon misplace in a pile of WIRED magazines.

Maybe this year we can get him something that’s not a “thing”…

One of the reasons we moved to northern California in my youth was for the unparalleled scenic beauty and the fact that there are “more trees than people” as my Dad always says. And one of the products my Dad developed in his long technology career is a programming language for kids that teachers are using in schools to get students learning, for instance, to develop and build games – not just play them.

Just by being himself, my Dad both appreciates the finer things in life like music, technology, and the environment, and he inspires me (and others) to do the same.

So I’m planning a unique tribute to him this Father’s Day – JustGive style – a charity Gift Collection that donates to the causes that embody what is best about my Dad. Like a Plant Trees  or Inspire Children & Change Their Lives gift collection that spreads support to four charities working to make a difference.

My sisters can upload a special photo of us and personalize a GiveNow charity gift card that lets him choose to benefit a special charity, like Bay Area Community Resources where he does IT work. We’re excited to celebrate the day with him in a special and unique way. Giving him something that means so much more than any “thing” we could ever find – that he would probably lose!  🙂

How are you celebrating with your Dad? Share your story on Facebook and let’s keep the great ideas flowing because our Dads deserve it.

Author: Michelle Koffler

A Gift from the Heart

Mother’s Day is a time when we look at the mothers in our life, appreciate all that they do for us, and try to give something back to them.

Turning 30 this year made me realize I have been giving funny little gifts to my mother and grandmother over the years. Not only is it hard to think up new gifts to buy them, but I find they no longer need or want things. They already have too much stuff as it is.  As a mother of a three year old, I also think about what I would really want from her on Mother’s Day.  Although it sounds cliché, a drawing or something that she makes for me—from her heart—would make me the happiest.

I’m older . . . and crayon masterpieces for my grandma or mom don’t quite cut it. Then there’s the flower option: Most women (including me) love receiving flowers. They brighten up your living space and are a nice treat. But for me, they’re not quite enough. So I’ve found another way to honor the special women in my life – with a gift that’s a bit more personal, from my heart.

My Grandma was a wonderful elementary school teacher for many years, so I made a donation in her name to DonorsChoose.org — a great organization that helps teachers raise money for special projects or classroom materials that they need. Since she doesn’t really like to use computers, I didn’t want her to have to go online and search for a project or an organization. So I printed the donation confirmation to enclose in a special card with the flowers I’ll give her, letting her know how I am honoring her on Mother’s Day.

I wanted to do the same thing for my mom. She supports organizations that protect the environment, and gives to local food banks and rescue missions. The arts and public education are also important to her. And I wasn’t sure which organization to donate to: What would she appreciate the most this year? So I decided to give her a charity gift card with a bouquet of flowers. Letting her make the choice. She can go to JustGive.org and find the charity (or charities) she wants to support right now…there are more than a million on the site. And I’ll know that her donation will make a difference for a cause that is both meaningful and personally close to her heart!

This Mother’s Day, consider a charity gift collection that gives back and says thank you from your heart—donating to a cause that’s special to your mother’s (or grandmothers, or wife’s, or…you get the point) heart!

If you’d like to honor all she’s done in a bigger way, all year round – make it a monthly recurring donation.

Enjoy a very special Happy Mother’s Day!

Marketing Assistant, Julia Hughes

Last minute holiday gifts? No problem…

It’s the last few days before the Christmas holiday and I’m in countdown mode. Given the traffic, craziness in grocery store and mall parking lots, I know I’m not alone. How does the holiday always seem to sneak up on us?

What I really want this Christmas is to make time stop and enjoy the season more. Pausing to take in all the wonder and joy. Having time to wander around and see lights. Talking with friends I haven’t caught up with in a while. Singing at a local convalescent center. And finding time to bake and fill the house with cinnamon and chocolate aromas.

Charity’s my choice

When it comes to gifts, I think less really can be more in some cases—For me, less shopping and less time in retail shops frees up time to do more of the things that make the season special.

It’s not a magic formula, but I’ll let you in on how I make that happen, even at the last minute: Charity gifts. Gifts I don’t have to leave home to buy, and that make me and the person I give them to feel good. Gifts that do so much more than anything I pick up in a store. Giving happiness and help while banishing holiday frenzy!

 

To thank a client of mine, I’m sending a GiveNow charity gift card. She can use it to donate to any charity she wants (JustGive has 1.8 million of them in the database). I like the online poinsettia thank you card, and sending it via email makes it easy for me to get this gift to her before the holiday.

  • A charity Gift Collection is perfect to honor my future mother-in-law’s love of animals. And giving to four charities in the “gift basket” that protect and prevent cruelty to animals helps me spread the giving around to nonprofits whose work I know she appreciates.
  • For a good friend who’s passionate about helping stop the spread of Aids, I’ll make a donation in her name to the Palo Alto Face Aids charity, which is engaging youth from around the world to help fight HIV/Aids.

     

    With only days to go before Christmas, I can take a few minutes tonight and get these gifts without driving anywhere. Wrapping up my giving before I start baking….

    Do you still have gift to buy? Follow my lead and choose charity. These gifts are truly in the spirit of the season and will generate smiles, joy and hope. Taking away stress and frantic last minute shopping—with gifts that matter more and leave you more time to enjoy special once-a-year activities and time with family and dear friends.  Making sure you have a very Merry one.

    Pass it on!

     

    Gifting Outside The Box

    Do I already have plenty of stuff? Yes. Do I care deeply about a cause and want to make a difference? Yes. Am I looking forward to opening brightly colored boxes with my name on them? Absolutely.

    This year, since money is tight – I’m approaching the holidays in a different way. Many of my friends and family members like opening tangible gifts so I’m putting together “packages” they’ll enjoy and including charity too!

     

    Charitable gifts don’t have to be all or nothing.

    I care about making charitable giving a part of everyday life. (That’s why I choose to work at JustGive.) During the holidays, I know people want to wrap (and unwrap) presents. And I know we really want to give gifts that make our recipients’ faces light up.

    Whether we participate or not, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 24 hour deals, and last minute doorbusters are here to stay — through financial highs and lows. And I appreciate good deals just as much as the next person. But I also think there are clever ways to embrace both ways of giving, with gift thoughtful, personal gift packages. Giving smiles and making the world better at the same time:

    – Have a foodie friend? A box of gourmet treats, or dinner at a new restaurant is made meaningful when paired with a donation to the recipient’s local food bank (find local charities here).

    – Shopping for the handyman in the family? When you wrap up the power tools and fix-it gadgets, include a donation to Habitat for Humanity.

    – If you buy a Christmas tree this year, consider giving to the Arbor Day Foundation. $10 is all it takes to plant 10 trees in a National forest.

    – Pay it forward and donate some the money you saved shopping for the best deals. Buy a GiveNow Charity Gift Card and your recipient can easily choose from more than 1.8 million charities to support their favorite cause. For as little as $15*, you can give a great stocking stuffer, hostess or teacher gift that makes a big impact.

     

    Do you plan on giving to charity in combination with a traditional gift?

    We’d love to hear about it! Share your ideas with us on Facebook or Twitter.

     

     

    * GiveNow charity gift cards never expire and are available in any quantity. Minimum fees apply.