Mindful Giving: Ideas with more purpose, less waste
By Tina Chadwick
Blink and the holidays will be here. A time filled with lists of gifts to buy for family, friends and, if you’re in business, clients. Blink again and you’ve spent hundreds on the gifts themselves, the paper to wrap them, tape, labels, bows, ribbons and the ever-increasing postage for it all.
In the aftermath, the thank you cards and more postage. Not to mention the carbon footprint that would dwarf a giant. One million additional tons of garbage is produced during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas – a 25 percent increase over any other time of year. It can have you wondering where the warm feeling is you’re supposed to get from giving. Where is that sense of charity and family you see portrayed in It’s a Wonderful Life? The answer is in the gift.
Mindful giving is not a new concept, but it is picking up much needed adoption by more and more families and companies. The term simply means taking a harder look at what you’re buying to assess sustainability, impact on the planet, purchase impact (who will this help or what will this solve) and then adjusting shopping behaviors to accordingly.
It does not mean that everything you give has to have a global purpose greater than simply showing someone you’re thinking about them but it might mean opting for a pair of mittens knit by a local artist rather than mass-produced or, donating to a favorite charity on behalf of clients rather than spending the money to ship expensive food that usually ends up in pecked over in break rooms – the card never opened.
“If you are not being thoughtful about your giving, especially at a time like this, charities that are doing really good work are not going to get all of the resources they should get,” says H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
Kate Atwood, Founder of Living by Giving, which helps individuals find creative ways to give back that fit best one’s own life, (www.kateatwood.com), offers these creative, local, easy and fun ways to capture the true spirit of the holidays when giving.
Support the troops through Operation Christmas Tree: Operation Christmas Tree allows individuals and families to donate $25 (or more) to have a tree delivered to our military men and women who can’t make it home for the holidays. www.operationchristmastree.com.
Set aside family time and build a playground with your kids. Help build a playground in a park or school around Atlanta. It’s a great family moment that you can cherish throughout the year; kids often love to go back and visit the play space and see what they helped build. Check out www.Kaboom.com to find a project in your area.
Celebrate Hanukkah with a tzedakah box: Devote at least one of the eight ceremonial nights to giving back by placing money into the family’s tzedakah box for the charity of your choice. Enjoy the family time of decorating your box and teaching the importance of helping others in need.
Make decorations and deliver them to a senior center. This is a great idea for a family or a classroom to do together. The gift of the time together making the decorations and delivering them to the seniors is a great bonding experience.
Have a Mindful Holiday Party. Ask people to bring donations in honor of your favorite charity or collect clothes and toys for children in need. Atlanta is the poorest city in the U.S. for children, meaning more children live in poverty here than in any other city. Take this time to help them out, and give them a chance to enjoy these special days, too.
Support the Arts. Give a loved one tickets or even an annual membership to any of Atlanta’s wonderful art venues. From the High Museum and 14th Street Playhouse to the Georgia Aquarium or Zoo Atlanta, your gift will last all year and support the arts and non-profits that have taken a hit during the economic struggle.
If you’d like a little help deciding which deserving organization will benefit from your smart giving, you can review charities that are evaluated by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org. That way you can be sure your gift goes to use and not to waste.
So this year, as the 19 billion cards, letters, and packages are being delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas, take a moment to make sure the people getting yours will know it comes from the heart more than a store. After all, It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called The Greatest Gift.