Photo: The Annenberg Space for Photography
Giving the perfect gift doesn't have to mean spending the entire month of December at the mall -- and then showing up with the same chocolate-scented candle you got your hard-to-buy-for cousins last year.
It doesn't have to mean giving a thing at all: Instead, philanthropic donations and symbolic adoptions help you put your gift budget toward a good cause. And if you want to have something to wrap, then choose books, videos, and apparel that support these seven non-profits that are making the world a better place year-round.
1. The Annenberg Space for Photography
The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles shows off works from established and emerging photographers in its chic gallery; you can bring a little of that cultural impact to your own living room with a lineup of striking nature books that includes Polar Obsession, Into the Volcano, Last Place on Earth, and Through the Lens.
2. Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council has one succinct mission: "to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends."
Find out more about the history of the NRDC in A Force for Nature, the new book from founder John H. Adams. The non-fiction tome spans 40 years of environmental action, including "courtroom battles, legislative triumphs, natural wonders, and personal memories," and includes a foreword by Robert Redford.
And if you're not buying for a bookworm, you can also donate to the organization's programs that support clean energy, save wildlife, clean up oceans, and protect rainforests.
3. The Nature Conservancy
The tiny birds migrate more than 2,000 miles each year to nest on the exact same branch they staked out in the past -- and with donations of $50 or more, you can make sure they have something to come back to.
Give the water-lovers in your life gifts from Oceana -- including symbolic adoptions of dolphins, sharks, turtles, whales, and other sea life; donations that support the end of oil drilling and pollution in the Gulf of Mexico; and cookie cutters or stuffed animals that show off your favorite creatures.
5. National Wildlife Federation
If the kids on your list couldn't get enough of the animated film "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole", then extend their knowledge with an owl adoption from the National Wildlife Federation.
The film will be available in stores on December 17 (just in time for Christmas), but the NWF already offers online activity guides, stories, and game suggestions that help teach kids about the conservation of Great Horned Owls.
6. Fate of the World Game
Though TckTckTck doesn't sell merchandise, their partners do -- and the organization is especially excited about the launch of the computer game "Fate of the World."
Pre-order the game -- which lets you try to save the world by making smart environmental, financial, and developmental choices -- now, and you can play the beta version until the full game is released in early 2011.
7. Global Inheritance
Forty Los Angeles artists worked on making over pint-sized recycling bins with one-of-a-kind results (that you can purchase starting at $40). Feeling inspired? You can also buy a blank bin and put your own personal touches on it.