Spending big to save the planet

The World Wildlife Fund's new holiday gift catalog features extravagant donations, from $1,000 to fund education in Kenya to $1 million to adopt a park in the Amazon.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Charity for under the tree Charity for under the tree Charity for under the tree
The World Wildlife Fund's holiday catalog offers the chance to stop hippo poaching or eliminate logging in the Congo Basin.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- This year, why not put an endangered turtle under the tree?

Making a donation to charity has long been a popular alternative to the gift-giving orgy that comes with the holiday season. But now that age of excess has arrived on the charitable front.

The World Wildlife Fund recently unveiled its first ever catalog of extraordinary -- and very expensive -- holiday gifts.

The catalog has over 100 options, ranging from a $1,000 donation to help educate girls in Kenya and Tanzania, $1 million to adopt a park in the Amazon, a $100,000 gift to fund a covert investigation into the illegal ivory trade and a $3.5 million pledge to protect 9 million acres of land from logging in the Congo Basin. The total value of the conservation initiatives is roughly $18 million.

WWF's holiday catalog stemmed from an "increasing sense that people have enough," said John Donoghue, senior vice president of World Wildlife Fund. "Maybe it's particularly acute among the affluent," he said, but "there is something great about giving, not as great about getting."

"We encourage those planning to buy meaningful gifts in the near future to give an extraordinary gift that will make a real difference in the future of our planet."

Donoghue hopes the organization will sell all of the charitable gifts in the catalog this year, and it's off to a good start, since more than 30 of them have already been sold.

The Patterson Family Foundation donated $25,000 to fund the Girls Scholarship Program, which teaches general instruction, environmental education and family planning to young women in developing areas around the world.

Other individual donors have already funded a number of other initiatives ranging from Rhino Relocations to Amur Leopard Conservation Society Memberships. One couple gave their grandchildren the gift of a $10,000 elephant collar, which is used to track the location of a pygmy elephant across Malaysia and Indonesia and help ensure its survival.

But there are still plenty of pricey ways left to help save the planet. For $1,000,000, you can fund global warming research and endow a scientist to lead the WWF's newly created Center for Climate Conservation.

A $30,000 donation will help create and protect the largest herd of wild bison in a century at a reserve in Montana.

Alternatively, $60,000 will support a year's worth of research tracking the movements of polar bears in their Arctic habitats, while an $18,000 gift will help study the mountain lion's movement, prey and habitat.

More and more charitable organizations are spearheading gift-giving campaigns around the holidays in response to increased demand, more.

"While donations are becoming increasingly popular for all occasions, the trend is definitely the most profound during the holidays," according to Pamela Hawley, the CEO of UniversalGiving.org in San Francisco, which features links to charitable organizations around the globe that do everything from helping to sustain farming communities to supporting orphanages in Vietnam or Peru.

Hawley said UniversalGiving processes 40 to 50 times more gift packages during November and December than any other time of the year.

At the start of last holiday season, Oxfam America launched Oxfam America Unwrapped, an online catalog featuring gifts for people in developing countries like a camel ($175) or a cow ($75).

The organization raised over $1 million between October and and Dec. 31 2006. Oxfam's most popular gift were sheep -- 3,358 of them were ordered at $45 each.

For more tax-deductible gift ideas visit the websites Network for Good.org or JustGive.org.  To top of page

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