Kevin Bacon-approved last-minute gifts

If you’re too late to do your holiday shopping online (or just don’t want to), there’s still time to hit up your local shops for that perfect Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Years present.

Shift Your Shopping, a national grassroots campaign to promote strong local economies and businesses, will even sweeten the deal if you decide to keep your purchases close to home before tomorrow. Shop at one of 40,000 participating local and independent businesses across the country and they’ll donate a portion of that sale toward a charity of your choice.

By giving twice through Shift Your Shopping, you’ll also get on Kevin Bacon’s “nice” list (which you’ll have proof of if you print off some of these “Kevin Bacon approves the charitable nature of this gift” tags).

The actor/celebrity/philanthropist’s charitable initiative has teamed up with Cause Town, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and American Independent Business Alliance (AMBIA) to get tons of local businesses and shoppers on board for Shift Your Shopping.

You can learn more about how Shift Your Shopping works by watching this fabulous video starring the totally-not-Kevin-Bacon “Melvin Macon.”

Need some ideas for socially-conscious gifts before you hit the stores? Check out our Idealist “good” gift guide.

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Our Top 10 “good” gift ideas

Hanukkah came super early this year, but if you’re still shopping for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s presents, we have a few tips on where to find “good” gifts at the last minute.

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1. The NYC Taxi Drivers 2014 Beefcake Calendar: Featuring sexy/silly photos of the city’s most awesome cabbies as captured by freelance photographers Phil Kirkman and Shannon McLaughlin. All sales benefit the University Settlement which helps immigrants find housing and educational opportunities.

2. You Be My Heart: This indie music treasure trove is a compilation featuring artists like Horsefeathers and Maps & Atlases. All sales benefit 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers’ nonprofit which fosters creative writing skills in children.

5. Artlifting: An online art gallery featuring iPhone covers, paintings, and other original pieces made by participants in Common Art, a Boston-area art therapy program for homeless and low-income individuals.

4. The Tutu Project: When photographer Bob Carey’s wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer, he started taking pictures of himself in pink tutus to make her laugh. Compilations of his gorgeous self-portraits are available as Ballerina (book), calendars, and photo prints benefiting The Carey Foundation for Women with Breast Cancer.

3. Teal Cats: Make it a “Meow-y Christmas” with a spray-painted ceramic vintage cat figure. With every purchase, The Teal Cat Project will make a donation to one of their partnering kitty-cat rescue organizations.

3. The Wire Poster Project: Your favorite quotes from “The Wire” illustrated as typographic posters designed by artist Oliver Munday. All sales benefit the Baltimore Urban Debate League.

7. Adventures in Feministory “Groundbreakers” Mug Set: Cozy mugs decorated with portraits of inspiring women, like Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Sales support the feminist nonprofit Bitch Media.

8. That’s So Gay! trivia game: Perfect for the game nerds in your life, this trivia game features 2,400 questions on LGBTQ history and current events. LGBTQ groups are encouraged to sell the game as a fundraiser.

9. Shop Clean List: A directory of clean-powered U.S. retail brands, how much renewable energy they use, and where it’s sourced (some top-scorers are Toms of Maine, Fat Cow, and Venture Snowboards).

10. Mighty Girl Gift Guide: A girl empowerment holiday gift guide with toys to encourage “smart, confident, and courageous girls.” Search by age or by category (like building toys, science, arts and crafts, and dolls/action figures).

For more gift ideas, check out this GOOD post on how to shop with a conscience this holiday season.

What “good” gifts are you excited about this year? Join the conversation on our Idealist Facebook page or in the comments below!

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Cyber Monday is Green Gift Monday, too!

featuredFolks are all a-Twitter today over Cyber Monday, the start of the online holiday shopping season. Did you know that last year on Cyber Monday, consumers spent nearly $890 million online? And that The Nature Conservancy has also dubbed today Green Gift Monday, to encourage all of us to green our holiday shopping?

Why not direct part (or all) of your shopping funds this year toward responsibly manufactured goods or donations to your sister’s/neighbor’s/partner’s favorite cause? For ideas for some causes to support, take a look at The Nature Conservancy’s gift guide. (Diana’s hoping for someone to adopt a Coral Reef in Palau on her behalf – hint, hint!)

Additional resources that might help guide your Cyber/Green Gift Monday and the rest of your holidays:

  • Climate Counts scores all kinds of companies (from airlines and hotel chains to toy and electronics manufacturers) on their sustainability efforts.
  • Low Impact Living rates green holiday gifts.

Do you know of others? Share them in the comments below!

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Online shopping for the socially conscious

Shopping cart

From Flickr user Andrea de Poda

I love online shopping. The fact that in a few clicks I can get a T-shirt, a tube of toothpaste, and the latest DVD set of Glee delivered to my doorstep from Amazon or that I can use eBay to search for used versions of things I don’t need to buy new makes me never need to step foot in a store again. My latest favorite is Groupon, offering local deals to groups of buyers (as well as ways to support nonprofit groups).

We recently came across a few online shopping sites that let you add a bit of social conscience to your cart.

  • Shopping for free stuff. What could be better? This site is an online marketplace for people that want to offer their stuff up for free to local consumers instead of letting it go to the dump. Helping push forward the local “reusing” movement, the site enables people to reduce waste and save money.
  • Blissmo is similar to GroupOn but it focuses its offers entirely on sustainable and organic products and services. With weekly discounts of up to 50%, buying sustainable doesn’t have to be expensive anymore.
  • This online global marketplace from eBay allows sellers to reach consumers who are interested in products that are good for artisans, good for the planet, good for animals or good for nonprofits. You can also search for Fair Trade products. Did you know that October is Fair Trade month?

Do you know of any other sites for socially conscious shoppers? Tell us about them!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Does this Backpack Come in Green?: A New Semester Brings New Ways to Save (the Planet)

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at


From Pink Sherbet Photography (Creative Commons)

Back-to-school time can bring on a flurry of spending, from kindergartners’ crayons to college textbooks. Several campaigns are underway to help you be a green consumer as you shop for supplies and begin your new routine.

Be a “Back-to-Cool” Consumer with

If you’ve ever wanted to compare companies easily so you can vote for climate-friendly products with your dollars, you’re in luck. Climate Counts is a nonprofit that scores companies on their environmental practices and impact. So far they’ve scored 140 companies (from airlines and hotels to media and pharmaceuticals). By searching the site’s scorecards you can see the scores for several companies in each category, and whether they are “striding,” “starting,” or “stuck.” You can also quickly send companies a message to let them know that climate change is important to you as a consumer.

Climate Counts’ Back-to-Cool Campaign is examining back-to-school advertising across a number of categories (apparel, food products, internet/software, electronics), and educating consumers about how they can express their values to companies making these products.

Chegg Textbook Rental and Re-sale

Chegg—that name is a combination of “chicken” and “egg”—is a company that rents college textbooks, and plants a tree each for each student who rents. Chegg also allows you to resell your textbooks, putting cash in your pocket while diverting your books from the landfill and saving trees.

In my day we borrowed textbooks from the library, but in case that’s not possible where you are, Chegg might be a brilliant alternative.

Teens Turning Green and Project Green Dorm

Teens Turning Green is a network of young people who actively seek a greener way of life. They’re running Project Green Dorm, a campaign that offers on-campus students a no-frills guide to establishing and sustaining a green lifestyle at school: Buy antique and/or vintage furniture instead of newly manufactured stuff; steer towards organic and natural-fiber linens for your bed; and don’t forget to create a recycle bin! The Project’s tips range from using energy-efficient lightbulbs in your study area to carrying the “e-gadgets” with the best carbon footprint.

What are your tips for greening your school year?

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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