As if we needed another named shopping day, but this final one of the batch has a good purpose, I swear. Giving Tuesday is a time to support charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. If you hate Black Friday, this is the day for you. And it's even got a hashtag so you can brag about it and encourage others to participate: #GivingTuesday. In honor of this lovely new tradition, I've rounded up five ways to get involved that are truly in the spirit of the season, as it was originally intended: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. Drop Off Food at a Food Pantry

Food pantries are being hit hard Federal cuts to food stamps, and could use even more supplies than normal. Clean out your own personal pantry of unopened nonperishables, or head to your local grocery store to pick up some fresh basics to donate. Here's a handy way to find the one closest to you in NYC.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an organization with excellent management that will use your donation wisely.

2. Donate to an Environmental Organization

There are more threats than ever to our waterways, air, wild animals and national parks. And it takes money to defend them legally, clean them up and perform advocacy on their behalf. So donate a little or a lot to organizations like Environment New York, NRDC, The Forest Foundation, Beyond PesticidesBrooklyn Botanic Garden, Chesapeake Bay Trust, EarthJustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the High Line, Greenpeace Fund, GrowNYC, Gulf Restoration Network, New York Restoration Project, Rainforest Alliance, Riverkeeper, Transportation Alternatives, or the Union of Concerned Scientists. Or, like I just did, find a four-star rated charity on Charity Navigator that fits your interests and/or is local to you. car1

3. Help a Developing Country

Fund projects with a proven track record of helping people out of poverty. Take an entrepreneurial bent with Kiva, get back to the basics with charity: water, or personalize it with a project chosen at GlobalGiving. Mounds of evidence proves that the best way to lift a country out of poverty is to hand resources and education to women, who will turn and use that to start businesses, nourish their children and give back to the community. You can do that through the excellent charities Women for Women International. givengoods

4. Buy a Christmas Present That Has a Giving Element

I bet you haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet. So kill two birds with one stone by buying a gift that gives back. I especially like Given Goods, because it's a small company that specializes in beautiful items that give back to the community here or abroad in some way. For example, these lapis lazuli studs support artisan jewelers in Afghanistan. Plus, as you can see, they are giving EcoCult readers a discount today! Use code LOVETOGIVE to get 30% off. 
Credit: Green City Force

Credit: Green City Force

5. Buy a Present for Someone Else

Or if your recipient doesn't need anything physical but a card indicating where the money went, go for gift for someone in need. Like earthworms for injured or orphaned birds through the Wild Bird Fund Center ($20), a year of literacy classes for an Afghan girl through Afghan Institute of Learning ($65), green energy training for a low-income New Yorker through Green City Force ($250), or a year's worth of start-up capital for an urban garden through Slow Food NYC ($3,000). Letter to senator

6. Advocate for Those Who Need Advocating

It's one thing to talk about it, but today is the day to do something. If you believe that the cuts in food stamps should be rolled back, that the minimum wage should be increased, or that struggling single mothers should be given financial assistance instead of having their children taken away, let your representative know in an articulate and impassioned letter. The people who struggle to provide for themselves and their family are too busy working two jobs to spend their time lobbying. But you can.