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5 Life-Changing Non-Material Gifts To Give Loved Ones This Year

December 16, 2015

Last year, a certain 8-year-old I know begged for one thing for Christmas. Amid mountains of tangible presents, including a skateboard and an iPod, piano lessons were the icing on the cake. A year later, she’s tickling the ivories like a pro.

It’s pretty easy for an iPod to get lost or broken over the course of 12 months, and within another year or two, it’ll probably become obsolete. Not so with piano know-how and other non-material gifts, which truly keep on giving long beyond the season.

Want to break the cycle of gifting more stuff year after year? There are lots of ways to get creative with holiday bounty that will touch the hearts of kids and adults alike. This year, instead of shopping for another tech item or the latest Elmo, consider one of these thoughtful ideas that your giftees might not even realize are on their wish lists.

School them

Education is the gift that keeps on giving. But we’re not talking classrooms and quizzes—we wouldn’t even think of bringing that up during holiday break. Gifting classes is pretty generous, and it gives someone a chance to learn new skills that they’re interested in, which can last a lifetime.

For kids whose wish lists include high-ticket items—a drum set for example—start with drum lessons. That’ll give them a chance to test out if they really like playing, and give parents’ ears a break before turning the garage into a rock arena.

Of course, adults love learning, too. From guitar lessons to horticulture to trapeze—pretty much anyone will appreciate the opportunity to pick up a new skill or hobby.

Seeds to sow

Another gift that will stand the test of time (with proper care): seeds. And not only can the end result bring endless beauty to a person’s everyday life—it can impact bees, butterflies, local wildlife, and soil. Give non-GMO wildflower seeds native to the recipient’s region, or choose heirloom vegetable and fruit seeds. It’s also fairly easy to get creative with the packaging. To add an even more personal touch, book some precious time to plant the seeds together.

Gifts that give back

For those in your life with a soft spot for nonprofits, consider donating to a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts.

Not sure where to start? Try Feeding America; the organization helps provide hunger relief to struggling, food-insecure families and individuals—a cause that’s really important, especially during the holidays. (Full disclosure: Thrive Market has committed to raising $200,000 for Feeding America before the end of this year.) For a more hands-on approach that also builds in family time, volunteer together at your local food bank—find one here.

To personalize a donation, do some research to find national or local nonprofits whose missions align with the values of the one you love. Maybe they’re passionate about animal welfare, ocean conservation, sustainable agriculture, or have a personal connection to cancer research. The National Park Service will celebrate its centennial in 2016—so donating to the National Park Foundation is a relevant way to help preserve the natural landscapes the outdoor adventurer in your life loves.

A share in Community Supported Agriculture

Find a local CSA and sign your loved one up to get a box of fresh, in-season produce direct from local farmers every week. This supports those farmers and sustainable agriculture, and gives your recipient the luxury of the best fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts delivered right to their door. It’s a win-win!

Access to healthy products (for a whole year!)

Not to toot our own horn, but a Thrive Market membership is definitely an awesome gift. For less than $60, you can give someone access to the best healthy, wholesome, non-GMO foods and natural household, personal care, and beauty products at wholesale prices for an entire year.

For $50, you can also donate a Thrive box to a Sioux family in need at the Pine Ridge Reservation here (read their story here).

Illustration by Foley Wu

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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