This is a guest post from Lisa Gansky at Mesh.
Much as I love the winter holidays, a season traditionally devoted to celebrating our strongest connections with family, friends and neighbors, there are times when I find myself shamelessly channeling my inner Grinch.
It was the Grinch, after all, who showed us that buying stuff isn't a particularly meaningful way to express our feelings for each other – yet many of us still feel pressured to exchange the kinds of gifts that add clutter our homes and ultimately bring precious little joy or meaning to our lives.So in the spirit of Charlie Brown – the round-headed kid who saw the potential in a droopy and unloved Christmas tree – I offer this selection of alternative gift ideas based on the values of resource-sharing, upcycling and community-building.
Let's lose the wrapping paper and ribbon this year and give our loved ones unforgettable experiences or re-used materials harvested from the rich soup of the Mesh economy.
1. For the Flea Market Futurist
Selling stuff you don't need any more is a good way to recycle/upcycle goods and materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.
The free EggDrop iPhone and Android apps were developed to help buyers and sellers connect locally and make deals without the need for yard sales or conventional online advertising.
Just snap a photo, set a price, and upload directly to the location-based EggDrop marketplace. (EggDrop, free)
2. For the Backyard Farmer
Use this free online tool to plan, plant and maintain an organic home vegetable garden, with custom garden plans and "to do" lists based on climate, available space and personal preferences. (Smartgardener, free)
3. For the DIY Surfer Dude
Sure, you could just buy one of Grain's custom surfboards ready-made in Maine from locally grown, sustainable white cedar, but you'd be missing out on half the fun.
Order a kit or book a Grain master class and the surfer on your gift list will get the satisfaction of carving the waves on a sleek and sexy ride of his or her own creation. (Grain Surfboards, starting at $400)
4. For the Student Activist and Short-order Cook
Members of this national youth movement aim to eradicate world hunger in our lifetime, one grilled cheese sandwich at a time -- not by delivering lunch to the hungry, but by running nonprofit college-campus delis that funnel 100% of proceeds to international aid programs. (Feel Good World, donation of your choice)
5. For the Savvy Explorers and Off-the-Grid Guides
Launch your own specialty guide service or gain a distinctly local perspective on your next travel destination: Register with this international networking platform where travelers hook up with independent local guides who like to show off the best of their home turf. (Vayable, starting at $3)
6. For the Lifelong Learner
Who says you need an ivy-covered hall and a credentialed professor to expand your mind?
Enrollment is free and open to all at this grassroots education project, which organizes peer-to-peer online educational opportunities and gives learners recognition for their achievements. (
7. For the Modern-day John Muir
This San Francisco startup is building a free interactive database for outdoor enthusiasts featuring Yelp-like user reviews of thousands of hiking trails in the United States and Canada, along with social networking tools for sharing advice and hooking up with other hikers. Free Android and iPhone apps available. (AllTrails, free)
8. For the Horizontally Mobile
Anyone on your holiday list preparing to relocate?
Consider giving the gift of a moving box rental plan from ZippGo, which delivers reusable plastic packing containers designed to divert disposable cardboard boxes from the waste stream. (ZippGo, starting at $99)
9. For the Up-and-Coming Restaurateur
Bay Area foodies who want to dip a toe in the restaurant business without risking a pile of money can sign up for a two-week stint at this new restaurant incubator, which offers temporary use of a fully equipped commercial kitchen and 20-seat dining room in North Oakland's popular Rockridge district.
Participants pay nothing up front except the cost of ingredients, and the business takes a cut of the proceeds. (Guest Chef, Price is your ego and the cost of groceries)
10. For the Gearhead Athlete
Download the RunKeeper iPhone or Android app and your mobile device becomes a handy tool for tracking workouts and making your fitness program a more social experience.
Also included: dedicated pages for organized foot races in more than 8,000 cities around the world. (RunKeeper, free)
For other great gift ideas this season, visit the Mesh Directory