With the gift-giving holiday frenzy bearing upon us in no time flat, many people are stuck between awareness of the worldwide recession and its effects, and the trend over the last couple years to be more conscientious about environmental and social concerns. Some of us are flat broke. Some of us can’t face the thought of giving something kitsch and useless to our traveling friends and loved ones.

On the social side we’ve covered DreamBank.org, Kiva.org, and, through Liz’s Passports with a Purpose postings, Heifer Foundation.

The environmental gift option might not be as glamorous as funding a 9-month Buddhist retreat dream for someone, or as satisfying as buying a share of a llama for an impoverished family. But it is, nevertheless, effective. The organization Carbonfund.org got the snazzy idea of giving carbon offsets as a gift this season. It might not be as cute as an alpaca, but for the impoverished environmental traveler of your acquaintance it might give the same warm fuzzy feeling.

The average American produces 50,000 of CO2 a year, and that’s not even counting the travel-hungry, according to Carbonfund. For as little as $10 you can offset 1 ton of CO2. And a roundtrip flight from, say, London Heathrow to Murmansk in Russia uses 0.59 tons of CO2. That only costs $5.85 to offset, which, in an economy like this, starts looking like a pretty good bargain gift.

It’s neat, it’s cheap, it’s satisfying to the progressive heart, and if you’re scrambling for gifts at the last minute, it’s about as fast as you can get.

Now if only someone could make the flights to Murmansk both carbon neutral and cheap