12 Days of Green Shopping: Donation gifts that keep giving

Photo: istockphoto.com

There is not better gift than one that keeps on giving. Gift the gift of building a community, preserve an ecosystem or conserve an endangered species.

Of course, there is also a payback for you -- these gifts can be bought online so there's no shopping mall traffic to deal with. Buy a recycled card and bow to complete your green gift.

Feed a village
Looking for an unusual gift? Skip the bling and buy something from Gifts that Matter. Pick out a a goat, some chickens or a home garden. Don't worry, they're not shipped to your home but actually go to under-privileged villages around the world to help them break the cycle of poverty. If you're not keen on giving animals you can fund a new rickshaw or bicycle. The program is offered by the Canadian non-profit organization CHF, which has implemented over 800 projects in more than 40 countries throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas.

The American company Heifer International also works along the same lines where your animal gift is passed on to a family who receives training on how to care for that animal. In turn that family promises to pass the offspring along to other needy families and share their knowledge of how to care for the animals. The organization also funds other projects like providing bees farms and developing solar power systems. Started in 1944, Heifer has helped 8.5 million people in more than 125 countries.

Join the global community
Why not purchase a membership to Global Exchange and join a network of global supporters to build a positive and sustainable future through their ethical travel tours, fair trade stores and their campaigns for green community building around the world.

Support the Global Fund for Women through a variety of donor gifts and planned gifts. This international network providing seed grants and financial support for an number of women's groups around the world. Projects such as building schools, medical and legal support, radio shows and leadership training are geared towards helping out of poverty and oppression.

Plant some trees
Plant a forest in Niger, Africa. Tree-Nation is an ecological project with the goal to plant 8 million trees to fight desertification and they've planted 5,000 trees so far. Pick one of the four species and help grow a forest. You'll become part of the Tree-Nation community and be signed up with Spot Your Tree, a GPS system that lets you track your tree on the internet.

Put a Cork in it! Plant a Tree is a World Wildlife Fund project that is working to protect, manage and restore the natural wealth of cork oak landscapes across the Mediterranean region so that we can ensure we don't lose these treasures forever.

Save the rainforest through Adopt-A-Rainforest handled by the Rainforest Alliance. Your donation helps to stop rainforest destruction by the purchase and sustainable management of tropical forest lands.

Save an ecosystem
In 1991 the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation (PCRF) started a mission to preserve coral reefs through innovative programs in science, education and technology. They've been mapping and monitoring the coral reefs. Your donation will help their ship and crew at sea to continue their important reef preservation. Join the voyage and have access to the data, films, dive logs and educational programs of PCRF.

The Conservation Organization has launched the Future for Species campaign that is working towards preserving ecosystems, species on land and water, places and indigenious communities under threat. The Friends and Family Challenge will match all donations dollar-for-dollar until December 31, 2007.

Canada's Boreal Forest, one of the largest intact forests left on Earth, is under threat. The Boreal Songbird Initiative is a network of conservation and birding groups interested in raising awareness in the U.S. and Canada about the importance of the Boreal Forest to North American migratory birds. Your donation makes that possible.

Whether it's a campaign against toxic chemicals or a drive to save our beaches, Environmental Defence is our tireless champion and watchdog with the biggest environment challenges we face today. Donate to your favourite cause and help innovative environmental and health campaigns continue.

For animal lovers
Is the person you are buying for an animal lover? Adopt an animal for them or get them a donation to a conversation organization.

Become a Chimp Guardian. Chimpanzees in the wild are on the brink of extinction for a variety of reasons including habitat loss and being killed for illegal bushmeat. The Jane Goodall Insitute works tirelessly to provide sanctuary to orphaned chimps as well as helping locals develop sustainable businesses and agriculture practices. Budding conservationists might enjoy a membership to the Roots 'n Shoots Network.

The Snow Leopard Trust has been working for the last 25 years to preserve this endangered big cat that lives in Central Asia. Their conversation efforts cover the five snow leopard range countries with an network of researchers and conservationists. But the trust also helps the local communities develop and create sustainable businesses.

The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) works to preserve and protect Africa's wildlife and wild landscapes. You have the option of buying a membership or adopting one of the many African animals. Baby Elephant anyone?

The World Wildlife Fund also has an online adoption centre with over 80 endangered animals. Your gift helps support conservation efforts for animals around the world. Who wouldn't want to be the proud parent of a baby polar bear?

This holiday season give a green gift that will be appreciated all year long.

Anne Colvey is an environmental journalist who contributes to Green Living Online on a regular basis.