I am becoming a minimalist. I want to get rid of half of the stuff in our house to create a more stress-free life.

I figure a lot of my friends feel the same way. They don’t want to get more things at Christmas that they might end up returning to the store or donating to Goodwill.

My annual meaningful gift guide offers tangible things to give your friends and family. But this particular stuff will never clutter your gift recipient’s house, and it should bring them a sense of generosity and hope.

Adopt A Beehive

How about giving a friend or family member an active beehive in Hilo humming with thousands of hard-working honeybees?

Chef Alan Wong has teamed up with entomologist Lorna Tsutsumi at the University of Hawaii Hilo to create an Adopt-A-Beehive program to give people the opportunity to become directly involved in promoting and sustaining Hawaii’s honeybee industry.

Beekeeping students at UH Hilo with an adopted hive. From left are Noelani Waters, Mandy Horiuchi and Danielle Tateishi.
Beekeeping students at UH Hilo with an adopted hive. From left are Noelani Waters, Mandy Horimoto and Danielle Takeshita. Courtesy of Lorna Tsutsumi

There is no creature more important for food production than the honeybee. Most food is either directly or indirectly associated with honeybee pollination

The program allows donors to adopt a beehive for themselves or as a gift for friends. The hive adopter gets a certificate of adoption as well as a picture of their beehive and periodic written updates from the student tending the hive, as well as a shipment of fresh honey from the UH Hilo apiary.

In addition, all hive adopters are invited to an event once a year in Hilo to visit their hive and meet with the student beekeepers. And each fall, Wong hosts a special dinner at the Pineapple Room for beehive adopters, at which he offers an array of original food he’s created with honey.

The three choices for annual adoption are: Worker Bee, $300; Drone Bee, $500; and Queen Bee, $1,000. Beehive adoption is not inexpensive, but almost all of the donation is tax deductible. As a gift, it could create a lot more buzz than an aloha shirt or a scarf.

Lorna Tsutsumi , a beekeeping professor at UH Hilo’s teaching farm in Panaewa outside of Hilo.
Lorna Tsutsumi , a beekeeping professor at UH Hilo’s teaching farm in Panaewa outside of Hilo. Courtesy of Lorna Tsutsumi

Donations from hive adoptions go to scholarships for beekeeping students and for research and development of healthy beehive practices to sustain today’s hives and create more beehives in the future.

This is particularly critical now in the face of threats from pests, insecticides and loss of bee habitat all over the world. Here in Hawaii, more and more bee colonies have been collapsing since the invasion of the varroa mite on Oahu in 2007 and in Hilo in 2008.

Tsutsumi has been teaching beekeeping at UH Hilo for the last 30 years.

She says, “The beehive adopters feel personally connected to the bees. An ordinary charity sends you a letter thanking for your donation and then another letter a year later soliciting more money. But with the Adopt-A-Beehive program, you can see and even touch the bees you are supporting. You are in regular contact with the student beekeepers. The adoption program plays to all the senses, even the sense of taste when you eat the bees’ honey and the honey-based foods chef Wong creates.”

Since the program started five years ago, 60 hives have been adopted, raising more than $150,000 for the UH Hilo bee program.

Help Reforest Hawaii

Since 2010, the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative has planted 350,000 endemic Hawaiian trees on the slopes of Mauna Kea near Paauilo.

Jeff Dunster, the nonprofit’s executive director, says 2 million more trees have been sponsored and await planting.

Endemic trees
Endemic trees are being planted to reforest the slopes of Mauna Kea. Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative

For $60, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative will plant a koa seedling or for $100 a sandalwood tree. Twenty dollars of each donation is redirected to a charity of the donor’s choice.

For $110, you can give both a tree sponsorship and a trip to the forest to plant by contacting Hawaiian Legacy Tours.

Dunster says he has been amazed at how fast the koa trees are growing.

He says, “I thought we would be old and gray before the trees grew very much higher but some of them are now 60 feet tall and reforested areas are starting to attract native Hawaiian hawks, owls and Nene geese.

Each Legacy Tree sponsor receives a certificate of planting with a GPS/GIS (global positioning system/geographic information system) number to track his or her tree on Google Earth and watch it grow.

Legacy Trees expects to make the tracking easier soon with a new process to allow tree sponsors to insert their tree’s number on the Legacy Trees’ website and go directly to an image of the forest and zoom in to their particular tree.

If a sponsor’s tree dies, Legacy Trees will notify the sponsor and give them the wood from the dead tree. It will replant another koa tree in the sponsors’ name at no extra cost. Only about 1 percent of the trees die.

A Flock Of Chickens, Ducks Or Geese

For $20, through Heifer International, you can buy in a friend’s name the gift of a flock of chickens, ducks or geese to help a family work its way to a better life.

For a larger donation, you can buy a family a goat, a cow, alpacas, a water buffalo or even bees.

The gift of livestock can help a needy family.
The gift of livestock can help a needy family. Heifer International

Heifer International believes that giving livestock to needy families enhances their self-worth and self-reliance much more than a single handout of food.

Alex Chokbengboun of Heifer says, “The animals provide a steady source of nutritious food and also income with their eggs, wool, milk and honey, which the family can then sell or trade. A single chicken can lay up to 200 eggs a year. The animals’ manure means free fertilizer for gardens.”

Heifer provides training for livestock recipients on how to manage the animals and breed them to produce more animals to sell.

Chokbengboun says it’s about providing lasting change to a family with a gift of livestock that increases in value each year. Since 1944, Heifer says it has helped 4.5 million families in 125 countries.

Underpants For A Homeless Person

Sometimes even a very small gesture can help alleviate daily discomfort. Another gift with meaning that I also mentioned last year is a fresh change of underwear or new socks for one of the homeless men who regularly come to the River of Life Mission in Chinatown to shower.

River of Life general manager Merrie Susan Marchant says all of us like to change into fresh underwear after showering, but something that basic can be difficult for a person living on the streets. The homeless can wash their clothes in a restroom sink, but they have few places to dry them.

River of Life is best known for serving 15,000 free meals a month to the hungry, but by providing a change of clothing the mission is also offering its homeless clients human dignity. Even a donation of $10 will help the mission buy a homeless man underwear or socks or new rubber slippers.

Donations can be made through the mission’s website.

About the Author