11 Thoughtful Gifts That Give Back

One World Play Project
One World Play Project

Giving feels great—so great that there’s an entire holiday season devoted to it. This year, instead of limiting yourself to conventional presents, give a gift that extends that warm and fuzzy feeling to your loved ones. Making a donation in someone else’s name or gifting an item that benefits a charity is the perfect way to brighten the holidays for those who need it most. And when your friends and family feel included in the effort, a little generosity can go a long way.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. One World Futbol; $39

For every soccer ball purchased from the One World Play Project, one ball is given to children in a disadvantaged community. The organization’s model is simple but effective: So far over 1 million balls have been distributed in the name of “the power of play.” Each ball is ultra-durable, making it a great gift for any roughhousing kid.

Give Back at One World Play Project.

2. Whole Turkey For a Big Cat; $20

Tiger carrying raw chicken.
Big Cat Rescue

More than 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, and other exotic cats call the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida home. After rescuing the abused or abandoned animals, BCR provides them with shelter, healthcare, and plenty of fresh meat to eat. One of their favorite treats to enjoy around the holidays is poultry. For $20, you can make a big cat’s day with a whole turkey given in someone else’s name. The sanctuary also lists cheaper gift options: $10 for a chicken or half turkey for medium-sized cats and a $5 Cornish game hen for even smaller cats. If your donation exceeds the cost of the bird, that money will go to meeting other needs around the sanctuary.

Give Back at Big Cat Rescue.

3. The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir; $17

Whether you’re a part-time pirate, superhero, or cryptozoologist, there’s an 826 chapter out there for you. The national organization of themed tutoring centers has been inspiring kids to read and write since 2002. If you’re looking for a way to give back to the nonprofit, include The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir on your holiday shopping list. This how-to guide is full of precious nuggets of advice from accomplished writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, and Sarah Vowell. In addition to upping your memoir writing game, the proceeds of each purchase will directly benefit the student programs offered at 826 centers across the country.

Give Back at Amazon.

4. ROMA BOOTS; $69 AND UP

Roma rain boots
Roma

Roma makes giving back look good. Every purchase of a pair of their sleek boots results in a new pair donated to an underprivileged child. The shoes come in a variety of styles and designs, with the cheapest classic boot pair priced at $69.

Give Back at Roma.

5. ALPACA; $150

Boy with alpaca in a field.
Heifer International

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning an alpaca but don’t have the yard space, buying one for someone in need is a great alternative. Heifer International does more than provide livestock to families—they also empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to turn animal products like milk and wool into a source of income. Alpacas are some of the more fun items in their gift catalogue, but gifters have their pick of farm animals ranging from $20 for a flock of ducks to $500 for a heifer. After selecting the gift, donors can send a personalized card to the person who inspired it.

Give Back at Heifer International.

6. WATER PURIFIER; $35

Card showing someone bathing in water.
Oxfam

For families living without access to a safe water source, a basic water purifier can be life-changing. With a donation of $35 Oxfam can provide the gift of clean water to someone in one of the many impoverished communities it works with around the world. If you want to donate the purifier in honor of someone else, Oxfam gives you the option to send them a physical or digital card or print one out at home.

Give Back at Oxfam.

7. Narwhal Adoption Kit; $55

Narwhal plush doll.
World Wildlife Fund

Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for a reason—they’re mysterious, elusive, and famous for their horn-like teeth that grow up to 8.8 feet long. For just $55, you can symbolically adopt the sea creature for yourself or someone you know. An adoption kit includes a photo, a plush toy, a gift bag, a species card, and an adoption certificate from the World Wildlife Fund. Donors looking to make an even bigger impact can choose to opt out of the gifts with more of the proceeds going towards WWF’s conservation efforts around the world. And if you don’t have any whale lovers in your life, WWF has dozens more “adoptable” species to choose from.

Give Back at World Wildlife Fund.

8. Mosquito Net; $10

Box wrapped in mosquito net.
Nothing But Nets

One of the easiest ways to save a life is by providing a mosquito net to a family that needs one. According to Nothing But Nets, a campaign from the UN foundation, bed netting reduces malaria rates by 90 percent. After donating $10, the organization will send a insecticide-treated net to a home in sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is especially prevalent.

Give Back at Nothing But Nets.

9. HOMEMADE COOKIE GIFT BOX; $29

Box surrounded by packaged cookies.
That's Caring

If you don’t have the energy to bake cookies for everyone on your gift list this season, buy them a box of pre-made baked goods instead. This package includes three cookie varieties: white chocolate macadamia, sugar caramel, and oatmeal raisin. The cause it benefits makes this sweet treat even more satisfying: For every purchase, That’s Caring will donate a weekend food bag to a child facing food insecurity.

Give Back at That’s Caring.

10. The Unexpected Pit Bull 2018 Calendar; $25

2018 calendar with pitbull model.
The Unexpected Pitbull

This 2018 wall calendar shows that pit bulls are just as deserving of love as any other breed. The calendar includes photos of the dogs jumping, snuggling, and striking handsome poses, and each month features a true story from a human owner who’s taken a pit bull into their home. All of the proceeds go to helping dog rescue and advocacy groups. For animal lovers who can’t adopt a pet of their own, hanging up this wall calendar is a simple way to show support.

Give Back at The Unexpected Pit Bull.

11. Waterproof Hiking Boots; $140

Hiking boot on white background.
Keen

A pair of tough, water-resistant boots from Keen makes for handy hiking gear year-round, but the best time to buy the shoes is around the holidays. Through December 24, the footwear company will donate $5 from every pair purchased to the Portland, Oregon-based charity organization Mercy Corps. The group works in dozens of countries around the world, including Syria, China, and Haiti, to help victims of humanitarian crises. Sandals, winter boots, and other apparel are also included in Keen's Pair With Purpose program.

Give Back at Keen.

All-Marshmallow Boxes of Lucky Charms Are Back, But Not Everyone Will Be Able to Get One

Lucky Charms
Lucky Charms

Hot on the heels of a Virginia brewery's cereal-inspired marshmallow beer, another way for grown adults to feel like kids again has emerged. Marshmallow-only Lucky Charms are back—this time with unicorn and rainbow shapes. Unfortunately, only 15,000 boxes of the sweet stuff are up for grabs.

If you were already planning on treating yourself by picking up some regular Lucky Charms from your local supermarket, be on the lookout for promotional boxes that say “You could win a box of only marshmallows” on the front. The inside panels of those boxes contain codes that can be entered at MarshmallowOnly.com for your chance to win one of the rare pure-marshmallow boxes. The promotion will run through the summer, so you’ll have plenty of time to enter up to 30 codes. Here's a list of participating retailers carrying the coded boxes [PDF].

This isn’t the first time that General Mills, the maker of Lucky Charms, has held this sweepstakes. In 2015, the company gave away 10 boxes of marshmallow-only cereal (or, as it calls the sugary shapes, “marbits”). Based on the popularity of that promotion, it handed out 10,000 boxes in 2017.

"It's no secret that Lucky Charms fans love the marshmallows," Scott Baldwin, director of marketing for cereal at General Mills, said in a statement. "Consumers have flooded our inboxes and swept our social feeds begging for Lucky Charms Marshmallow Only to return. You asked, and we listened!"

If you’re not feeling especially lucky, you can buy similar versions of the marshmallows on Amazon. Retailers like Medley Hills Farm and Hoosier Hill Farm (which are apparently unrelated companies) sell one-pound bags of cereal marshmallows for $11 and $10, respectively. You can also order an 8-pound bag, or, if you’re feeling especially peckish, a 40-pound case of dehydrated marshmallows for $228. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, it's “just the right amount."

Start Your Morning Right With the Alarm Clock That Makes You Coffee

For those who can't function in the morning, a cup of coffee is key. For those who can't even function enough to make that cup of coffee, there's the Barisieur. This innovative alarm clock (now available at Urban Outfitters) awakens the sleeper with the smell of coffee and the gentle rattle of stainless steel ball bearings as the water boils.

Take sugar or milk? There's a special compartment for milk so the liquid stays fresh and cool until you're ready to use it in the morning. On the front, there's a drawer for sugar. The whole tray can even be removed for easy cleaning.

Not a coffee fan? The Barisieur also brews loose-leaf tea.

The milk vessel of the coffee alarm clock
Barisieur, Urban Outfitters

The gadget also has an actual alarm that can be set to sound before or during the coffee making process. 

This invention was thought up by product designer Joshua Renouf as part of his studies at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Though the idea started as just a prototype for class back in 2015, Renouf managed to make it a reality, and you can now buy one of your very own.

At $445, the alarm clock is quite an investment, but for coffee lovers who have trouble forcing themselves out of bed, it might be more than worth it. Go ahead, picture waking up slowly to the smell of roasted coffee beans and only having to sit up in bed and enjoy.

Buy it at one of the retailers below:

[h/t: Design-Milk.com]

A version of this article first ran in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the product's current availability.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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