A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Five Top Tips for Holiday Gifts that Benefit Animals

Simple last-minute shopping that “helps animals” and avoids pitfalls!

By Penelope Oglethorpe-Davies

First, though, what not to do!

I used to like buying gifts where the tag said that, for example, “10 percent of the profits will go to help animals.” But then I learned that this doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t mean that $10 of a $100 gift is going to the animals. You see, if the “profits” from the sale are just $20, then only $2 will go to the animals.

It’s even less clear when the tag says “A portion of the profits …” That doesn’t mean anything at all.

The only thing that does means anything is if the tag says something like “10 percent of the gross proceeds …” That really does mean that out of the $100 you spend, $10 goes to the cause.

So I’m not a huge fan of buying those kinds of items. I prefer 100 percent of my gift to go to the animals. And my two favorite ways of doing that are:

Donate to an animal protection group in the name of your giftee.

Sponsor an animal at a sanctuary or wildlife program in someone’s name.

Sponsor an Animal in Someone’s Name

This is a great way of helping the animals and sending a real gift to a friend. Your donation goes to support a particular animal, and the person receiving your gift gets a photo and some regular updates throughout the year.

Many local shelters and wildlife centers have programs like this, and you can do it all online. National groups include Farm Sanctuary, Best Friends Animal Society, World Wildlife and the Jane Goodall Institute, but there are many more. Look for a local group if you can.

Donating in Someone’s Name to an Animal Protection Group

Another simple way of sending a gift and helping a cause.

But which group do you choose?

The answer is simple: The big ones are already having a holiday bonanza, mostly bringing in more donations than at any other time of year. Meanwhile, the smaller ones are being squeezed out. Many people assume, for example, that when they give to “the humane society,” they’re giving to their local shelter, when in fact they’re sending money to a far-away national organization. Check out your local shelter or rescue group. And look for a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center – they could really use your help.

Many of them will send a card or e-mail to the person you’re gifting, saying something like:

“A gift has been made in your name to help animals at the ABC Wildlife Center.”

If they can’t do that, just send a regular holiday card yourself and say something like:

“This year, we’ve made a special donation in your name to the ABC Wildlife Center. We hope you enjoy receiving their newsletter and knowing that you’ve made a big difference. Much love from Jane and John.”

You can also do something creative like sending a donation-in-kind – maybe food or other supplies – to a shelter in the name of your friend.

You can make a donation to Zoe, too, and support this site and our mission of kindness to animals and respect for all of nature. Just go here, and we’ll be happy to send a gift card to someone who’s special to you.

Buying a Gift where No Animals Are Harmed

Gifts like these include:

Cosmetics where none of the ingredients were tested on animals

Vegan goodies like dairy-free chocolates and gelatin-free Turkish delight

Leather-, fur-, and wool-free clothes

Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe has a wide variety of products.

And eBay has a whole department that asserts that their “Animal Friendly products are a positive force for animals. In both materials and production, no animals are killed or harmed and natural habitats aren’t disturbed. We are proud to help save animals from extinction.”

Fair Trade Gifts

Fair trade companies focus on ensuring safe working conditions (no child labor, etc.) and fair wages. Since many of these companies are comparatively small and are run locally, they’re also better for animals and their environment.

Fair trade awareness has increased tremendously in recent years, expanding from coffee and chocolate to clothing, home décor and sports equipment. There’s a good list of fair trade goods on the Mother Nature Network.

Stuff-Free Gifts

Finally, neither of the following gifts will end up in the trash or in a closet:

Buy a Carbon Offset: You’ve heard about these but still can’t make sense of all the jargon about carbon emissions. Carbon offsets help compensate for atmospheric pollution. By buying someone a carbon offset, you’re helping them (and yourself) to understand what this is all about, as well as to make it personal. It’ an unusual kind of gift, but someone on your list might really appreciate it. Learn more here.

Or, for something, almost anyone will understand and appreciate:

Stop Junk Mail: Here’s an organization that will save trees by stopping your junk mail – or someone else’s: 41pounds.org. They’ll do all the work. For $41 ($8.20 per year) They’ll take care of it all for five years, and they’ll also donate $15 to your favorite charity. Not a bad gift!

All in all, it’s easy to enjoy the Holidays while helping animals and their environment. Here’s wishing you and them a delightful holiday season.