I just discovered this wonderful site which just launched a special section called GlobalGiving Green. The site lets you give your loved ones a meaningful gift that gives back both to the environment and to local residents in one of 30 projects around the world. The founders have carefully pre-screened grass-roots organizations, which provide much-needed "on the ground" services. They take a small transaction fee of 10-15% and funds are distributed in less than 60 days. Here's how it works:
Projects range from tree planting in Brazil ($50 buys 50 seedlings) or forest conservation in Australia to installing a hydraulic pump that can provide fresh water to an entire village in the Philippines ($100). A photo gallery and detailed write-up accompanies each project, and GlobalGiving guarantees follow up reports to let you know how the projects are progressing.
It's such a simple concept, and it is made "giftable" through an e-card gallery (few choices, but nicely designed). You can also create a registry online or do a fundraiser by placing a widget on your Facebook or Myspace page. I hope these kinds of charitable gifts take off, especially as people look for more ways to give something meaningful without spending a lot of money on unnecessary objects. Check out the GlobalGiving site to learn more.