Local gift ideas that make the world a better place

Alternative gifts that might actually make the world—and your city—a better place.

Credit: Hope in Shadows / James Montroy

Alternative gifts that might actually make the world—and your city—a better place 

It seems that the holidaze have once again officially arrived, and if you’re like me, this means polishing up some nicely worded emails explaining why you’re not buying into the whole “multinational-consumerist-society-that-will-destory-the-fabric-of-humanity-long-before-2012.” All right, I might be exaggerating a little, but the second I enter a mall I can feel my body stiffening from early onset rigor mortis.


With that in mind, I would like to offer up some alternative holiday gifts ideas that might actually make the world—and your city—a better place. The organizations mentioned are based in Vancouver, and all would greatly benefit from your good intentions.


Holiday gift idea: So you want to educate humanity:


Education Generation

Education Generation is “a community dedicated to providing access to education for students around the globe.” Think Kiva but with a focus on education. It’s amazing how little money is required to send another child to school. If you believe that education is the silver bullet for fixing many of the world’s issues around poverty and empowerment then definitely check out this organization.

How to give: This year Education Generation has setup a gift card that allows you to donate to organizations on behalf of your recipient. Whoever “opens” your gift then gets to go to the website and choose which child they would like to support.



Imagine1day works directly with projects in Ethiopia, allowing donors to decide which elements of an education venture they want to support. You can help build a roof, water system, buy desks, etc. Instead of focusing on an individual child you can help a community grow and prosper.

How to give: Imagine1day has gift certificates that can easily be purchased through their website and then the recipient gets to choose where to focus the money.

You’d prefer to help out in your own backyard:


STAND Foundation

It is so easy to focus on the world’s problems while forgetting that we still have many issues that need addressing right here in Vancouver. The STAND Foundation is focused on supporting “the enhancement of skills, knowledge and livelihoods of marginalized young adults in the Greater Vancouver area,” helping them succeed with second chances.

How to give: Click through the donate screen on the website to the Vancouver Foundation Endowment fund. You can then direct a donation on someone’s behalf towards STAND.

Hope in Shadows

The Hope in Shadows calendar is one of the most creative solutions I’ve seen in helping Downtown Eastside residents help themselves. The community project is based around a photography contest for residents in the area, with the prize-winning photos featured in an annual calendar, which residents themselves sell for a profit. There’s also a Hope in Shadows book that tells the stories behind the photographs.

How to give: You can buy these amazing calendars from street vendors or various retail outlets around the city. You can also order them from the website and have them shipped to your friends and family.

Holiday gift idea: You’d rather save the whole world


Rose Charities

Rose Charities supports “community-based projects that have strong local leadership and dedicated volunteers. We work with them as they find their own solutions to the problems of poverty.” They currently support projects in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Kenya and Madagascar. I really like that they focus on helping local groups leverage the skills they have to create their own solutions to poverty.


How to give: Using their donation form you can donate on behalf of someone else. They also have a really cool program you can sign up for that sends 2 percent of any purchase from Husky or Mohawk stations to Rose Charities.

World Wildlife Foundation Canada

This one may be a bit of a cheat, but they do have offices in Vancouver. The World Wildlife Foundation allows you to adopt a super cute animal of your choice. These gifts can be a little more expensive but they do come with an entire kit, including a cuddly toy and information about the animals you are helping to save.


How to give: Go to their website, click on the picture of the animal you find the cutest and follow the steps.

Holiday gift idea: You want to support the arts because your government won’t



eatART is an art lab that makes “audacious and improbably large-scale kinetic, robotic and mechanized sculptures that investigate our human relationships to energy use.” Although not always the most practical choice, they do have some pretty damn cool toys. Who wouldn’t want a mechanical Mondo Spider, giant solar-powered tricycle, bio-diesel-powered Dragon Bus or Helliomatrix, a massive solar-powered video display?

More gift ideas to support the arts

Blogger Diane Selkirk offer her picks


How to give: Head over to their website and click the one button that works.


The Pacific Theatre

A great versatile gift that suits most giftees is a gift certificate to the theatre. While many of the city’s theatre’s offer this option, Pacific Theatre gets some serious bonus points for currently running “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and for having regular tickets priced in a range I can actually afford.


How to give: Head to their website, click “Buy Tickets Online” and look for the Passes/Gift Certificates at the top of the page.


Holiday gift idea: You want to be invited for dinner


Vancouver Farmers Markets

The cold weather doesn’t mean that the Farmers Markets are all closed for the winter, there is still a ton of tasty local food to be eaten (every second and fourth Saturday of the month through April). Help your friends fulfill last New Year’s promises of eating more local food with a gift certificate. 


How to give: Hit up the website and order online. You may want to act fast though because it looks like they are already out of $20 gift certificates!


Spud! Vancouver

Spud! Vancouver allows you to do your grocery shopping from the comfort of your own home. With just a few clicks of a mouse you can have your order filled out and then quickly delivered to you. Best of all Spud! buys local and organic whenever possible and is carbon neutral.


How to give: Spud! has a number of gift baskets and certificates available through their website. They also allow you to donate to local charities with every purchase.


Holiday gift idea: You still have absolutely no idea


Green Zebra Guide

If you still have absolutely no idea what to give, why not try the ultimate green catch-all gift: a coupon book. “Green Zebra Guide’s recycled pages are loaded with 300 exclusive offers from eco-friendly and community-minded restaurants, markets, spas, wellness centres, bike shops, bookstores, theatres and more.” 


How to give: Hit up the website, click buy online and you are set.  


A final note: Think outside the box

I’ve tried to be thorough but this is by no means an exhaustive list of alternative gift ideas floating around the city. One of my most favourite things about Vancouver is that every time I turn around there is an amazing new cause or charity that is taking great strides to save the world. 


If nothing else, I hope this list gets you thinking outside the box a little and snaps you out of the winter consumerist blues. 


Chris Walts


Chris Walts is a Renaissance man appropriated into a Millennial body who likes to keyboard jockey in his spare time. When not playing sports or co-hosting The 49th Parallel he tries to save the world with whomever will dialogue. Blog | Twitter