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Innovative Internet guide

Myspace and Facebook are student staples when browsing the Web, but there are innovative pages outside of e-mail and social networking sites dedicated to social progress.

CHARITABLE uses the Web as a tool in the fight against world hunger. The Web site’s humanitarian effort draws more than 220,000 visitors a day and has donated more than 300 million cups of staple food since its launch in 1999.

The home page links visitors to a small yellow sign that reads, “Click here to give – it’s FREE!” Sponsors donate food for each click, then hunger-relief organizations such as Mercy Corps and America’s Second Harvest distribute the food. Also, the proceeds from advertising on the site are distributed to charities.

More than 74 countries on five continents receive food from Site owners and longtime environmental activists Tim Kunin and Greg Hesterberg “realized the power of providing busy Internet users with a fast, free and easy way to make a difference,” according to the site.

Additionally, the Web site features an online store. Aside from environmentally conscious jewelry, clothes and accessories, customers can purchase life-changing items for others. For $20, shoppers can send two girls to school in Afghanistan, or buy high-efficiency stoves for Darfur refugees or an infant-feeding kit for children in Africa. For $50, a Haitian student can be sent to school for one year. For each purchase, the site donates a certain amount of food. Under the “Gifts that Give More” section, visitors will find similar ways to make a difference.

T-SHIRTS BY YOURS continues to ride a popular wave among students. “Threadless is a community-based T-shirt company with an ongoing, open-call for (shirt) design submissions,” according to the site. Users can submit T-shirt designs, and those who have their designs chosen receive $2,500 in cash and gift certificates up front, as well as $500 per reprint.

The Web site is both an aspiring graphic artist’s and poor college student’s dream. Visitors can rate and purchase original designs at reasonable prices. Many featured shirts have a play on words, like “Push my Buttons,” on which every button drawn has a different command. A design titled “Dragon Flavor” depicts an order of lo mein exploding out of its carton in the form of a dragon.

Site owners Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart created Threadless after Nickell won a London T-shirt competition. The first Threadless store is now open in Chicago.

GIFTS WITH A is the perfect last-minute gift stop, particularly during the holidays when shopper procrastination is at its peak. The site sells creative items that give a personal touch to even the most belated gifts.

All items sold have a little twist to them. Shoppers can send in their old vinyl records and have them made into personalized dinner bowls. Animal-shaped lamps, a Mona Lisa clock and recycled tin roses make affordable dorm decorations for $20. Other unusual gifts include thermostat earrings, an electric guitar lamp and Freudian slippers.

While these Web sites offer more ways to spend the money that college students often lack, they do so at reasonable costs and inspire visitors to put their money toward either giving or receiving items that break the common mold.