[Image source: Belle Clementine]

Though you wouldn’t know it by the retail craze that descends upon our lives every November, most of us are already bogged down with too much stuff. However, at the end of each year, we consistently add to the stockpile of things in our lives.  For the past few seasons, we’ve blogged about design-focused and locally-procured gifts to give (or ask for). This year, however, we’re shifting our focus a bit. The costs of producing, buying and having stuff are far-reaching, and the benefits are limited. Instead, our 2012 Gift Guide aims to take a small step towards tapping into the joys of giving that reach beyond the recipient alone.

Theme: Animals

Make a donation to Heifer International or Oxfam on behalf of a loved one. I do this on a semi-regular basis as a gift for my mother. I think she’s just in it for the cute animal pictures. The upshot of those cute pictures is families around the world can build sustainable futures for themselves. Sounds like a win-win to me.

[Image source: Heifer International]

Go camping/hiking. When my father was younger, he would take week-long trips with family and friends throughout the Cascades. Due to the large number of humans and the length of the trips, the hikers would use a team of pack horses and mules. This is an experience I’ve thought more and more about recreating for my father, since it seemed to be such an integral part of his early life. Plus, mules. The best part is that we live in an area abundant with natural beauty, as well as several outfitters willing to take you through it (and deal with the mules).

[Image source: Cascade Wilderness Outfitters]

Theme: Gifts Multiplied

I love the idea of giving a subscription as a gift for any occasion. It’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, and if chosen to suit the recipient, it’ll be a treasured one. For the local food lover who may not have the time to garden or head to the farmer’s market regularly, a CSA subscription is the perfect option that accomplishes the same objectives. And for those with even less time (or less adept in the kitchen), restaurants like Belle Clementine have meal subscriptions for dinners and brunches made with fresh market ingredients — a twist on the traditional restaurant gift certificate.

[Image source: Local Roots]

And for those who just love getting mail that isn’t all coupons and bills, there are a ton of inventive options now for arty care packages your friends and family will treasure. A couple of my favorites are Rad and Hungry and LxWxH. RAH combines two things I love: travel and stationary. LxWxH supports local, emerging artists by curating shipments with their unique pieces of written and visual art.

[Image source: Rad and Hungry]

Theme: Charity/Luxury

The truest of clutter-free giving: Make a donation in the gift recipient’s name. Some of our favorite non-profits are The Hope Center, Washington C.A.S.H, Shelterbox and Coyote Central.

[Image source: Washington C.A.S.H.]

And inject a dose of classiness to the average night out by giving the gift of Uber car service. It’s a useful, affordable, seriously slick way to get around the city.

[Image source: Uber]

Theme: Peace

This one isn’t very exciting (especially for the kiddos), but they’ll thank you later. Give the gift of investing. Buying someone younger stock in a company they love  not only helps them save for the future, but it is also a way to help them understand what it means to invest and gain a better grip on the financial world. When it comes time for college or time to buy that new car, it will be nice for them to have that little bit of backup.

[Image source: Newspaper.li]

So, it’s the end of the year and we have all been working super hard, so why not give the gift of serenity? A nice relaxing day at a sauna is perfection on these gloomy Northwest days. Banya 5 is a great urban spa located in the shadows of the Space Needle. They offer a ton of amenities, like a Russian sauna oven.

[Image source: Banya 5]

Theme: Urban Culture

Support urbanity with an annual membership to the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye, the Henry, or whichever museum is near you. It gives people a great excuse to get downtown and foster the civic institutions that are the glue of our cities.

[Image source: Henry Art Gallery]

Support community by giving the gift of urban experiences. Seattle is fortunate to have some stellar happenings like the Seattle International Film Festival.

[Image source: SIFF]

Got any favorite non-consumer gifts? Hit the comments button and let us know what makes your list.

Cheers & Happy Gifting from Team BUILD