Holiday Guide 2008: Guilt-free gifts

Pub date November 18, 2008
WriterKatie Baker


It’s that time of year again: stores are hanging up wreaths of holly, people are stringing Christmas lights and taking their menorahs out of storage, and you’re scrambling around the city, without enough money or time, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and cursing mindless consumption. Before you renounce all things holiday themed and decide to hide under the covers until January, though, check out our ideas below, which include small local businesses, nonprofits, charities, and other organizations that give back to society. As corny as it sounds, by shopping at any of the places listed below, you’re not just giving to your friends and family; you’re giving to the community as a whole — while reducing your own consumerist guilt. And after all, isn’t feeling good about giving what the holidays are really all about? (Well, that and copious amounts of eggnog.)


If you love supporting local farmers but hate jostling your way through the crowds at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, why not order a package of Black Forest ham and Gruyère turnovers ($24 for six) or a seasonal fruit sampler ($38 for six pounds of hand-selected fruit) straight from Frog Hollow Farm’s Web site? An organic farm just an hour outside San Francisco, Frog Hollow will ship baskets of fresh fruit, olive oil, chutneys, and pastries to whoever your lucky recipient may be — a friend, a family member, or even just you (now that I know I can get cherry galettes and pear, Gorgonzola, and walnut tartlets delivered straight to my house, I’m not sure I’ll have enough money to send any packages out this year). Plus, this way you won’t feel guilty for forgetting to bring your reusable canvas bag to the market, again.


Don’t lie: your childhood dream of having an elephant or a monkey for a pet never completely went away. Unfortunately, it’s illegal in the state of California to own such exotic animals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt! The San Francisco Zoo offers Adopt-an-Animal gift certificates, which include a personalized certificate, a framed photo, information about your adoptee, and an invitation for two to the zoo’s annual Zoo Parent Day. The recipient gets to select his or her own animal, with options ranging from the traditional (polar bear, alligator, penguin) to the unique (laughing kookaburra, Nigerian dwarf goat, Mexican red-kneed tarantula) to the endangered (snow leopard, Magellanic penguin, Siberian tiger). All animal adoptions cost $50, which helps support all zoo residents of that species for a year.

(415) 753-7117,


If you’re gifting an art lover but lack the cash to buy a piece from an expensive gallery, visit the Annual Holiday Art Sale at Creativity Explored, San Francisco’s premier gallery showing work by artists with developmental disabilities. These virtuosos, whose work has been called some of the most imaginative, original, and sophisticated art in San Francisco, include not only painters and sculptors but also T-shirt designers and pillow makers. And even if you have less than 10 bucks to spend, you’ll walk away with something special. Check out the selection of blank note cards, which come in sets of six or eight, cost between $7 and $12, and have names like "San Francisco Icons," "The Sky Is Falling," and "Bottlecap Ferris Wheel." Half of the proceeds go directly to the artist, so no need to feel guilty when you tell your significant other that his or her new piece of artwork is "priceless" — it may have been cheap, but it was for a great cause.

Dec. 5–30. Opening-weekend hours: Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m.; Dec. 6–7, 1–6 p.m. Regular gallery hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. (415) 863-2108,


Everyone has that one annoyingly hip fashionista friend who’s impossible to shop for. Surprise yours this holiday season with a piece of jewelry from Kittinhawk, a one-of-a-kind clothing and jewelry line handmade from vintage and recycled materials. Designer Allysun Dutra describes her wares as perfect for "people who love to be extravagant and fancy while still being conscious of the environment." Whether you decide on a pair of dangly feathered earrings, a choker adorned with pearls and vintage keys, or a whimsical charm bracelet, there’s no doubt it will be your friend’s favorite new statement piece.

Bell Jar, 187 16th St., S.F. (415) 626-1749,


As painful as shopping malls are during the holidays, there’s something to be said for the convenience of doing all your gift buying under one roof. Still, who wants to deal with pushy fellow shoppers, corny decorations, and gross food court cuisine? This year, check out the first annual Eco Holiday SF, presented by the Urban Alliance for Sustainability, a nonprofit co-op in San Francisco. This localism extravaganza (all products will be from within 100 miles of the city) will offer items like earth-friendly RocknSocks slippers, handmade jewelry, and organic fair-trade chocolate truffles. The celebration will also feature the Bio-Shuttle, a bus service to and from BART; valet bike parking; "healing spaces"; healthy food; and cocktails. Hopefully some Macy’s representatives can drop by and take a tip or two.

Dec. 14, 11:11 a.m.–8:08 p.m., the Galleria, San Francisco Design Center, 101 Henry Adams, S.F. (415) 255-8411,


Show your opposition to the passing of Proposition 8 by giving your loved ones marriage-equality–themed presents this holiday season. Oakland-based Marriage Equality USA will be selling holiday CDs ($20) featuring slightly altered versions of your seasonal favorites. Expect lyrics like "Wedding bells ring / Are you listening / No more second class citizens, / We’re happy tonight / Our goal is in sight / 1100 federal marriage rights." Order the CD on the Web site or stop by Union Square, where MEUSA employees will be caroling throughout the holiday season. You can also pick up locally made equality- and Castro-themed T-shirts, as well as Christopher Radko–designed holiday ornaments, at the Human Rights Campaign’s San Francisco store. Regardless of what gift you choose, your money will be going to a great and important cause.

Marriage Equality USA, HRC Action Center and Store, 600 Castro, SF. (415) 431-2200, *

More Holiday Guide 2008.