In years past we've shared fun, unique holiday gift ideas for your friends and family that also resonate with MPC's mission of building a more socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically competitive region. For the next three weeks we'll be adding new ideas to this list—so check back often—to get you in the giving spirit (and the transit-riding, stormwater-absorbing, quality housing-investing and great urban spaces-building spirits as well).
Of course, first and foremost, we'd suggest a donation to smart planning in the region, but once you've struck that off the list, there are plenty of great ideas below. And don't be shy—we'd love to hear your ideas too!
- MPC Associate Kara Riggio (find her on twitter at @K_Riggio) suggests a gift certificate to a store near one of Chicago’s nine People Spots. The local business owners and chambers of commerce are investing in public spaces to create parklets for all of us to use. We can help return the favor by supporting their businesses. A gift certificate will be an exciting reason for friends and loved ones to get out and treat themselves when the weather warms up again!
- What better way to spend cold nights than at the theater? MPC Project Manager Breann Gala (a.k.a. @BreannMPC) recommends heading to the 2014 Annual Music Box Christmas Show or giving the 2014/2015 Steppenwolf Theater pass for a great night out and to support the arts!
- If you live in the Chicago region, you know two surefire conversation starters are weather and traffic (extra points if you combine the two.) No media outlet covers our region’s transportation woes like Streetsblog Chicago. Recent headlines have tackled topics as varied as bike parking at McDonald’s and new residential developments made possible by Chicago’s improved transit-oriented development policies. Streetsblog Chicago understands that transportation can make or break a community and a region. The blog is supported in part by its readers, so for the holidays, MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth (@MandyBurrell) suggests making a donation in the name of your favorite transportation buff.
- Know someone who is excited about the opportunity to camp in the County Forest Preserves next year? MPC Development Director Scott Farley suggests heading to a local retailer like Uncle Dan’s—which encouraged a People Spot on Southport in front of its Lakeview store—to stock them up on appropriate outdoor supplies. A tent, sleeping bag or lantern would all make great gifts to help ensure folks spend a comfortable night in the outdoors!
For the boat, bridge or just plain map nerd in your life, MPC Assistant Communications Director Ryan Griffin-Stegink suggests the book of Illinois Waterway Navigation Charts! Published in 2013 by the Army Corps of Engineers, this 218-page bundle of awesomeness charts the entire waterway from the Chicago and Calumet Rivers, down through the Des Plaines and the Illinois River to the Mississippi. The detailed charts also let you explore the history of the I&M Canal and the many railroads that follow the waterway. The maps even include detailed elevation drawings of every single bridge: road, rail or otherwise. You’d think such a hefty, comprehensive book of charts would be prohibitively expensive, but the Army Corps sells it for only $12.98! It must cost nearly that much just to print each copy, so this is literally a steal.
- Urbanful is a website for city lovers, and their market place has the goods to boot, from bike accessories and map decorum to leather goods and grow-your-own food kits. Erin Evenhouse of Transportation for America suggests anything in their well-curated selection, which includes handmade cards and prints, along with some quirky offerings like tactile watches and artisanal pickles. Most goods are made in U.S. cities by local entrepreneurs, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to support Smart Growth America, a national organization that conducts research, develops policy and brings together the MPCs of the world to advance smart growth issues nationwide.
- Kiva is a nonprofit organization with a mission to alleviate global poverty through micro lending, a system of multiple small loans to fund impoverished businesses or organizations. MPC Associate Yonina Gray suggests a $25 gift card to a friend, which will introduce them to the 1.5 million people across 84 countries that have been supported through Kiva’s online micro lending platform. This modest investment can help a farmer in Argentina buy fertilizer or a seamstress in the Philippines to purchase a new sewing machine. When the $25 loan is repaid, funders can then reinvest it in another borrower. This is the gift that truly keeps on giving.
- Those in the know know that MPC Program Director Josh Ellis (follow his adventures at @MPCJosh) is a bit of a National Parks buff (last year’s MPC gift suggestions provide some evidence of that). This year he joined the Midwest Advisory Council of the National Parks Conservation Association, where they’re making the final push (they hope) for Pullman to become America’s 402nd National Park. Throughout the course of the year he also visited something like 30 National Park sites throughout the country, from lesser-known gems like New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Lowell National Historical Park (which, like Pullman will, honors urban, industrial and labor legacies), to the granddaddy of em’ all, Yellowstone. As much as the differences between parks partially define the various experiences of visiting them, so do the perspectives of those that visit and appreciate them. While Josh certainly has his own memories and photos, he's also fascinated by what others take away from these iconic public spaces and places. All of which is why he suggests prints, cards, t-shirts and more from See America, a crowd-sourced art campaign from the Creative Action Network and NPCA. Whether you’re a Lincoln lover, a dunes wanderer or a closet geologist, there’s something there that will speak to you (and if all goes well, by this time next year Pullman will be in there too).
- Don’t forget the thousands of furry Chicagoans in need of a home this holiday season. MPC Director of Research and Evaluation Chrissy Mancini Nichols (a.k.a. @ChrissyMPC) suggests bringing those sweet faces into your home by adopting a pet at one of Chicago’s many rescues: PAWS Chicago, One Tail at a Time, FOUND Chicago, Chicago Canine Rescue, the Anti-Cruelty Society or Animal Care. If you’re looking for a specific breed, you can adopt those too at Boxer Rebound, Chicagoland Lab Rescue and many others. These rescues have lots of gift options too: 2015 calendars, holiday wreaths, wine and even discounts at retailers are all available with proceeds going to help the animals. So don’t shop, ADOPT!