An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday

October 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Family, Front Page, Holidays, Slideshow, Sustainability

No presents, please. Support your favorite charity instead. Photo: © Stephen Coburn -

No presents, please. Support your favorite charity instead. Photo: © Stephen Coburn -

Dear Family,

My birthday is next week. I know, you don’t need reminding. You’re thoughtful that way. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter to you.

You see, although I do appreciate it when you acknowledge my birthday by coming over — or calling, if you’re far away — I don’t want you to spend any money on me. No flowers. No presents. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy such things. But I don’t need them to know that you love me.

If you want to do something to mark my presence in your life, please do something for someone else. I realize I’m not being original in my request. In fact, though I’ve thought of this for years, I never actually asked you to help me with my wish. Now, I’m asking.

So, if you feel the need to spend money on something that would make me happy, do this: Find a charity within the pages of this magazine, and donate to it. You don’t even have to do it in my name. Just give what you can to a cause that resonates with you. It will make me happy. Really.

Here’s the video from Charity: Water that inspired me to finally ask you to help me this year. I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from once you see it. They’re a great organization, doing lots of good for the world.

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.

I’d be happy to have you donate to Charity: Water. Or, choose another charity that you like. We’ve written about a variety of causes, many of which I’ve listed below. The list provides websites for a few nonprofits that are doing great work. Pick one of these, or one that’s dear to your own heart: Fed Up with Climate Change? Do Something!

American-Nepali Student and Women’s Educational Relief: ANSWER – A Sustainable Future for Low-Caste Children

Environmental Working Group: Environmental Working Group – A Nonprofit with Great ROI

Farm Sanctuary: Hog CAFOs Can Affect Human Health

Greensburg GreenTown: Rebuilding Afer Disaster – Greensburg becomes a Green Town

Grameen Bank: Grameen Bank – Working toward a Poverty-Free World

Healthy Child Healthy World: Healthy Child Healthy World – Inspiring Positive Action for Kids’ Sake

Heifer International: Heifer International – A Sustainable Solution to Poverty

Iowa Renewable Energy Association: I-Renew Executive Director Announces Renewable Energy Workshops and Tour

Ice Age Trail: Rescuing Hartland Marsh – A Six-Year Labor of Love

Jen’s Kitchen – Serving Up Sandwiches and Humanity to Survival Sex Workers

Kiva: Kiva – Make a Small Loan Make a Big Difference

AndePhotos: Children Raising Children – Documenting Africa’s AIDS Crisis

Rays of Hope: Renewable Energy – A Tool for Social Equity

ProjectGreenhands: Project Greenhands – Compensating the Earth

You don’t have to give a lot. Just do what you can. Every dollar makes a difference. Thank you for honoring me with your gift to another. You make me proud.

With love,


PS: I’m giving up my Christmas presents, too.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)


8 Responses to “An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday”

  1. An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday | Eco-FamilyFun - Green Living Tips On Saving Money For The Family on October 16th, 2009 9:11 pm

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  2. Belinda Geiger on October 20th, 2009 8:30 pm

    Since we are all now over “a certain age,” my dear sister, I think this is a great idea. I will happily make a donation to Ande Photos on your behalf, since Karen is a dear friend and we love the work she is doing. We absolutely know that every single dollar that she says will go to the kids, will actually go to the kids. It’s wonderful to feel like you’re actually helping another human being, and not just paying for another layer of administration in some giant charitable corporation.

    So, happy birthday sis, and happy Christmakah! We of the melded family salute you, and your excellent choice in gift giving (receiving).

  3. Julia Wasson on October 21st, 2009 4:19 am

    You couldn’t make me happier, B. I have one of Karen’s beautiful books, too. I enjoy it all the more, knowing that her work supports the kids she has photographed — and hundreds more like them. The book itself makes a beautiful gift, for those who want to do good while making a loved one feel special.

  4. Lindsay Render on October 25th, 2009 8:50 pm

    This is a wonderful idea. The gift buying tradition for birthdays and other occasions has become quite excessive in our consumer-oriented and material-obsessed culture. This is a great way to start a new tradition in which the gifts we give and receive actually help people, instead of adding to unnecessary clutter. For your birthday, Mom, I have donated to the Strongheart Group to help save Leandre.

    Happy Birthday!

  5. Julia Wasson on October 25th, 2009 8:52 pm

    Thank you, Lindsay. You make me proud.

    You can follow Leandre’s journey to the US when Todd Grinnell goes to Cote d’Ivoire next week. Todd will be blogging about the trip at

    I love you,

  6. Jake on October 28th, 2009 3:55 pm

    Happy Birthday, Mom! I agree that this is a good thing you’re doing. Would that I were so selfless on my birthday. I’ve decided to donate to Project Greenhands for you. I’ll give you a call tonight from my radiation leaking, cancer causing cellular phone. Love you and hope that your birthday is wonderful.

  7. Julia Wasson on October 28th, 2009 5:22 pm

    Thanks, Jake. I’m thrilled that you will donate to Project Greenhands. Planting trees is vital to the health of local people as well as the planet. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present.

    Keep that phone away from vital parts…!

    I love you,

  8. Child’s Play – Curing Hospital Boredom with Video Games : Blue Planet Green Living on November 18th, 2009 7:46 am

    […] posting An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday, my loved ones responded by donating to charities instead of giving me gifts. I was gratified and […]