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How to Use Old Amazon Boxes to Make Free Shipments to Goodwill

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The end of the holiday season is near, which means (in an ideal world) all of your gifts have been purchased, wrapped, and are ready to tear open. If one of the last bullets on your to-do list is disposing of the empty boxes from your online shopping haul, you should reconsider taking them to the curb. Amazon offers customers an ingenious way to reuse their boxes while giving back to the community at the same time.

Through Amazon’s Give Back Box platform, an old box can be used to ship donations to Goodwill for free. To take advantage of the program simply empty a used Amazon box, refill it with clothing, shoes, appliances, or any other items you wish to donate, and slap a customized shipping label on the front. Donors can print out a sticker addressed to their local Goodwill by entering their zip code at GiveBackBox.com. From there, UPS or the United States Postal Service will take care of the rest—free of charge.

Amazon also gives you the option of receiving a tax deduction via email, which is something worth considering as the year comes to an end. Here are some more charitable gift ideas that can be used to spread the cheer around this holiday season.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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The U.S. Postal Service Is Making Holiday Dreams Come True, One Letter at a Time
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Each Christmas season, the United States Postal Service (USPS) receives millions of letters from kids writing to Santa Claus. To help make children's holidays brighter, the postal service runs “Operation Santa,” a program that allows members of the public to play St. Nick and pen responses.

The USPS first began receiving Santa letters more than 100 years ago. In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock gave local postmasters the go-ahead to open and reply to these missives; by the 1940s, charities, corporations, and volunteers were also providing responses and sending gifts to kids.

Today, the Operation Santa program is headquartered in the James A. Farley Post Office Building (the main USPS building in New York City) and has select satellite locations across the U.S.—and a brand-new website and platform is helping do-gooders around the country spread holiday cheer by allowing them to “adopt” a letter online.

Visit Operation Santa’s website, and browse the virtual mailroom to select a letter. Choose one you love, and the USPS will email you a letter ID. Write a response or send a gift (or both!), and bring your package or letter to the nearest drop-off location. In place of an address in the upper left-hand corner, use the provided ID number (this protects people's identities), and be prepared to provide both a completed Adopter Form and a photo ID [PDF].

Not all post offices participate in Operation Santa, as some might not have the requisite facilities, staff, or location to join the program. To see if your neighborhood location is joining in the fun this year, visit Operation Santa’s website for a list of registered locations.

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