11 Thoughtful Gifts That Give Back

One World Play Project
One World Play Project

Giving feels great—so great that there’s an entire holiday season devoted to it. This year, instead of limiting yourself to conventional presents, give a gift that extends that warm and fuzzy feeling to your loved ones. Making a donation in someone else’s name or gifting an item that benefits a charity is the perfect way to brighten the holidays for those who need it most. And when your friends and family feel included in the effort, a little generosity can go a long way.

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1. One World Futbol; $39

For every soccer ball purchased from the One World Play Project, one ball is given to children in a disadvantaged community. The organization’s model is simple but effective: So far over 1 million balls have been distributed in the name of “the power of play.” Each ball is ultra-durable, making it a great gift for any roughhousing kid.

Give Back at One World Play Project.

2. Whole Turkey For a Big Cat; $20

Tiger carrying raw chicken.
Big Cat Rescue

More than 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, and other exotic cats call the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida home. After rescuing the abused or abandoned animals, BCR provides them with shelter, healthcare, and plenty of fresh meat to eat. One of their favorite treats to enjoy around the holidays is poultry. For $20, you can make a big cat’s day with a whole turkey given in someone else’s name. The sanctuary also lists cheaper gift options: $10 for a chicken or half turkey for medium-sized cats and a $5 Cornish game hen for even smaller cats. If your donation exceeds the cost of the bird, that money will go to meeting other needs around the sanctuary.

Give Back at Big Cat Rescue.

3. The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir; $17

Whether you’re a part-time pirate, superhero, or cryptozoologist, there’s an 826 chapter out there for you. The national organization of themed tutoring centers has been inspiring kids to read and write since 2002. If you’re looking for a way to give back to the nonprofit, include The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir on your holiday shopping list. This how-to guide is full of precious nuggets of advice from accomplished writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, and Sarah Vowell. In addition to upping your memoir writing game, the proceeds of each purchase will directly benefit the student programs offered at 826 centers across the country.

Give Back at Amazon.

4. ROMA BOOTS; $69 AND UP

Roma rain boots
Roma

Roma makes giving back look good. Every purchase of a pair of their sleek boots results in a new pair donated to an underprivileged child. The shoes come in a variety of styles and designs, with the cheapest classic boot pair priced at $69.

Give Back at Roma.

5. ALPACA; $150

Boy with alpaca in a field.
Heifer International

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning an alpaca but don’t have the yard space, buying one for someone in need is a great alternative. Heifer International does more than provide livestock to families—they also empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to turn animal products like milk and wool into a source of income. Alpacas are some of the more fun items in their gift catalogue, but gifters have their pick of farm animals ranging from $20 for a flock of ducks to $500 for a heifer. After selecting the gift, donors can send a personalized card to the person who inspired it.

Give Back at Heifer International.

6. WATER PURIFIER; $35

Card showing someone bathing in water.
Oxfam

For families living without access to a safe water source, a basic water purifier can be life-changing. With a donation of $35 Oxfam can provide the gift of clean water to someone in one of the many impoverished communities it works with around the world. If you want to donate the purifier in honor of someone else, Oxfam gives you the option to send them a physical or digital card or print one out at home.

Give Back at Oxfam.

7. Narwhal Adoption Kit; $55

Narwhal plush doll.
World Wildlife Fund

Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for a reason—they’re mysterious, elusive, and famous for their horn-like teeth that grow up to 8.8 feet long. For just $55, you can symbolically adopt the sea creature for yourself or someone you know. An adoption kit includes a photo, a plush toy, a gift bag, a species card, and an adoption certificate from the World Wildlife Fund. Donors looking to make an even bigger impact can choose to opt out of the gifts with more of the proceeds going towards WWF’s conservation efforts around the world. And if you don’t have any whale lovers in your life, WWF has dozens more “adoptable” species to choose from.

Give Back at World Wildlife Fund.

8. Mosquito Net; $10

Box wrapped in mosquito net.
Nothing But Nets

One of the easiest ways to save a life is by providing a mosquito net to a family that needs one. According to Nothing But Nets, a campaign from the UN foundation, bed netting reduces malaria rates by 90 percent. After donating $10, the organization will send a insecticide-treated net to a home in sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is especially prevalent.

Give Back at Nothing But Nets.

9. HOMEMADE COOKIE GIFT BOX; $29

Box surrounded by packaged cookies.
That's Caring

If you don’t have the energy to bake cookies for everyone on your gift list this season, buy them a box of pre-made baked goods instead. This package includes three cookie varieties: white chocolate macadamia, sugar caramel, and oatmeal raisin. The cause it benefits makes this sweet treat even more satisfying: For every purchase, That’s Caring will donate a weekend food bag to a child facing food insecurity.

Give Back at That’s Caring.

10. The Unexpected Pit Bull 2018 Calendar; $25

2018 calendar with pitbull model.
The Unexpected Pitbull

This 2018 wall calendar shows that pit bulls are just as deserving of love as any other breed. The calendar includes photos of the dogs jumping, snuggling, and striking handsome poses, and each month features a true story from a human owner who’s taken a pit bull into their home. All of the proceeds go to helping dog rescue and advocacy groups. For animal lovers who can’t adopt a pet of their own, hanging up this wall calendar is a simple way to show support.

Give Back at The Unexpected Pit Bull.

11. Waterproof Hiking Boots; $140

Hiking boot on white background.
Keen

A pair of tough, water-resistant boots from Keen makes for handy hiking gear year-round, but the best time to buy the shoes is around the holidays. Through December 24, the footwear company will donate $5 from every pair purchased to the Portland, Oregon-based charity organization Mercy Corps. The group works in dozens of countries around the world, including Syria, China, and Haiti, to help victims of humanitarian crises. Sandals, winter boots, and other apparel are also included in Keen's Pair With Purpose program.

Give Back at Keen.

7 Ways to Take Advantage of the Bullet Journal Method

iStock.com/Neustockimages
iStock.com/Neustockimages

If you haven't heard of the bullet journal, it's the productivity method du jour—one that combines the features of a planner, calendar, to-do list, diary, and more. It's not a specific product (although the founder of the method, Ryder Carroll, has created a special notebook for it) as much as a way of creating a journaling system that works for you.

Proponents say the method helps you focus your time and your goals, in part through periodic "migration" sessions that force you to review how you've been spending your days. And yes, it's popular on Instagram—because many bullet journalers have filled their notebooks with colorful flair. (But that part is entirely optional.)

While core components of the bullet journal system like monthly spreads and daily logs are great, many bullet journalers like to add other features that fit their own life. After all, the beauty of the method is the customization and flexibility. We've rounded up a few ideas for new and not-so-new bullet journalers alike to try.

1. Track—and fuel—your creative projects.

Let's say that, like most people, you have a day job. But at night, you're writing the next Great American Novel—or at least some short stories. You might get an idea related to one of those projects on your morning commute or while taking a walk in the park at lunch. There's no time to pull out the manuscript, and if you email yourself the idea it might get lost in a jumble of newsletters and other alerts.

Instead, just start a new page for the project in your journal, note it in your index, and scribble away. You can come back to it later, and fill in other, non-sequential pages in the journal as the mood strikes. Your journal probably isn't the best place to write whole stories, but it's perfect if you just had a mini-breakthrough you want to take down, or even as a way to keep track of potential prompts and inspiration.

2. Improve your habits.

Habit trackers are some of the most popular add-ons to the regular bullet journal time-oriented spreads. You can make yours cute—tracking the number of glasses of water you drink a day by coloring in a big glass, say—or more minimalist, perhaps by listing the habits you want to build (yoga, waking up early) on the left next to a chart of days and coloring in the days you manage to do the habit. You can also create a page just to log you often you do one particular thing—drinking alcohol, for example. Some people even use their bullet journals to track food and digestive symptoms, either by creating a section for a food journal or just noting in their daily log when they eat a certain food and how it makes them feel.

3. Save money.

You can create a custom spread for your monthly budget, track all your expenses, or just track your purchases in a particular category (say, eating out) if there's a particular type of spending you're trying to curb. The design can be as crafty as you like—whether you're coloring in bricks that represent each $50 saved toward a house or just filling in columns noting every time you make a purchase. The key is that, as with health habits, writing something down can serve as a powerful motivator and/or deterrent, since you know you'll have to come face-to-face with yourself at the end of the month.

4. Plan your meals.

Nothing combines health and finance goals quite like planning your meals. You can make your meal plan a section of your weekly spread: Carroll, the bullet journal's creator, likes to set up a list of meals on the left page of his notebook and a shopping list of ingredients on the right. Dividing the items by categories (like meat, produce, and pantry staples) can speed things up at the store, too. It's great to do this at home so you can check the fridge and see what you're missing. Then, when you're done shopping, note how much you spent at the bottom of the list. You can track that to develop insights about your grocery budget.

Over time, you can also create lists to help you with meal planning, perhaps "Favorite Weeknight Dinners," "Easy Work Lunches," etc. Some people also like to create a master grocery list of frequently bought items they can consult whenever they're at the store, just in case they forget to write staples down on their weekly shopping list.

5. Remember the good things.

In our flurry of to-do lists, project deadlines, and meal plans, it can be easy to forget about the things that brighten our days, whether it's an especially funny joke from a colleague or a milestone in a child's development. Create a "memories" page (don't forget to log it in your index!) where you record the great stuff that happens, and pull it out to reflect whenever you're having a gray day. Some bullet journalers like to put pages like this toward the back of their journals to separate them out from the time-oriented spreads. A memories page is also a great opportunity to bust out some thematic artwork.

6. Track your reading lists.

Another great way to encourage better habits is through a reading log. Like a memory log, many people like to put this toward the back of their journal, although ultimately the placement is totally up to you. You can keep track of all the books you read this year, perhaps with notes on what you thought of them—a definite resource when you're drawing up those year-end best-of lists to share with other reading pals!

7. Pair it with an app.

While the bullet journal is touted as "the analog method for the digital age," most of us don't want to go full-on analog. There's now an official companion app that will help you organize and search your old bullet journals, help you learn the method, offer prompts, and serve as a log for when you're away from your journal. It's designed as an addition to the journal, not a replacement, so you still need to put in that time with pen (or pencil, or watercolor brush) and paper.

Bullet journals also pair well with apps like Evernote—for example, you can use Evernote on your smartphone to snap photos of text you scrawl down to save digitally for later use. (Maybe those on-the-fly notes on your novel go into an Evernote notebook that you consult when you have a bit more time, for example.) That's a good option for longer-term projects that might span a couple notebooks.

Many people also use both bullet journals and an online calendar, using the latter for fixed events like birthdays and doctors appointments and the former as more of a way to time-block the day and focus on goals. After all, the beauty of the bullet journal is that unlike digital space, the paper in your notebook is finite—which helps you realize that so is your time and energy. That makes it easier to plan accordingly.

This Ingenious Hanger Makes Hanging Pants a Breeze, No Clips or Folds Required

Hurdle Hanger
Hurdle Hanger

Get ready to clean out your closet. No, we don’t mean going all Marie Kondo on your clothes. There’s a new type of clothes hanger that promises to change the way you store your clothes, taking the headache out of hanging up your pants.

The Hurdle Hanger, which has currently raised more than $33,000 on Kickstarter, calls itself the “one-second pants hanger.” Rather than relying on cumbersome clips or requiring bulky folding techniques, the hanger design employs one very simple change: It hooks into the belt loops of your pants.

The angular hanger is open on one side so that you can slide the bar through the belt loops of your pants, letting you secure your pants in one smooth motion rather than struggling with the pant clips that will just wrinkle your waistband anyway.

A person slides the Hurdle Hanger through the belt loops of a pants to hang them.
Hurdle Hanger

Just slide the hanger bar through the belt loop (or loops) farthest from you, then hang the belt loop closest to you from the hook. There is another hook midway across the bar that secures the middle belt loop, keeping your pants from drooping while they hang. In another subtle touch, you can use the same hook to hang smaller items, like belts or hats, off the side.

The Hurdle Hanger is an example of smart design at its finest—the kind of idea that, when you see it in action, makes you think, “Wait, how did no one think of this before?” It takes a once-cumbersome task and makes it seamless, eliminating at least some of the burden that may be keeping you from accomplishing the chore of hanging up your clothes. No more messing with clips or trying to shove pants through the cramped hole in the hanger to fold them over.

There are already open-end pants hangers that make it easier to slide a folded pair of slacks into your closet, but the belt loop hooks take the Hurdle Hanger to another level. You might even get inspired enough to start hanging your jeans.

A 10-pack of hangers is $20 on Kickstarter—though anything that makes you actively excited to organize your closet is priceless.

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