[This article was originally published for The Daily Alternative here.]
With the holiday season upon us, companies everywhere are vying for a chunk of your hard-earned cash. The average American will spend close to $1,000 on gifts for the holidays this year. Instead of finding the trendiest items and helping just one recipient, why not help an entire village while you’re at it? This holiday season, bring out your inner hippie and shop to make an impact.
To give you a leg-up, here are some buzzwords to look out for on your gift-seeking quest:
- Fair Trade Certified™: Products that are good for people and the planet. These goods promote healthy working conditions, protect the environment and empower communities.
- Recycled: Made from tossed paper, glass, plastic, tin, metal and more.
- Organic: Made without the use of harmful pesticides.
We love gifts that give back and add another dimension to holiday spirit. Here are some awesome ideas to add to your shopping list.
1. Shoes and apparel from TOMS
With every product you buy, the TOMS team will help a person in need in one of the 70-plus countries they serve with their “One For One” model. The company sells shoes, sunglasses, bags and more. Want to help out animals too? They even have vegan products.
2. Bracelets from Wanderlust
These handcrafted bracelets give sustainable, long-term jobs to artisans in the rural communities of Bali, Indonesia. Plus, you know, they’re adorable. If you need that little extra for someone special, the company takes custom orders too.
3. Candles from Thistle Farms
These bath and body products have quite a story. The 1,500 women employed by this company are healing from prostitution, human trafficking and addiction. Your purchase provides steady jobs and healing. Check out some of their natural gifts, from candles to personal care products.
4. Socks from Bombas
Chilly inside your home? These colorful, cozy sock designs are great for the entire family. For every pair you purchase, Bombas will donate a pair to someone in the homeless community through one of 300 partners across the nation. So far, they’ve donated 1.5 millions pairs. Keep it coming!
5. Home decor from Local + Lejos
These striking hand-weaved home decor pieces are made by artisan women as part of the Kwizero Cooperative in the Muhanga District of Rwanda. Your purchase supports their community by providing income for local families.
6. High-fidelity earplugs from Vibes
For every pair of earplugs you buy, Vibes will donate part of the proceeds towards the Hear the World Foundation, an organization that provides hearing aids and surgeries to those in need around the world. LSTN has a similar program, with proceeds going towards the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
7. Toy bears from Goodbye Malaria
For the little one on your list, these cute and colorful stuffed animals are great gifts that give back in two ways. First, your purchase provides jobs to African entrepreneurs. Second, your monetary support goes towards programs that help end malaria in Mozambique.
8. Dogsbutter with flaxseed from Dog For Dog
Don’t forget about Fido! This affordable, all-natural peanut butter blend is specially formulated for dogs. The recipe doesn’t contain sugar, salt or hydrogenated oils. But that’s not even the best part! For each treat you buy, the company will donate the same amount of food to hungry dogs in need.
9. Poo-based paper products from Mr. Ellie Pooh
This company makes Fair Trade paper products and exotic gifts from 30 percent elephant poo fiber and 70 percent recycled paper. Your purchase will help save elephants, create jobs and protect trees. Plus, that’s quite a conversation starter.
10. Bamboo bicycles from HERObike
The folks over at HERO are working to end rural poverty in the Alabama Black Belt by producing sustainable bikes, providing job training, affordable housing, economic development and more. Aside from looking cool, these bikes are great for the planet.
For another bicycle option, check out Pure Cycles. Everytime someone buys The Yankee Bike, the company donates $100 towards sourcing clean water in developing nations. Green Star Bikes also makes a sustainable bamboo bike to help reduce your carbon footprint.
11. Natural soaps from Hand In Hand Sustainable Suds
Buy a bar, give a bar. That’s this company’s motto. These all-natural soaps, lotions and candles make great stocking stuffers. Plus, with every purchase, you can help prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. The company’s soap donations go straight to the children of Haiti.
12. His and hers footwear from Nisolo
This ethically-made footwear collection is great for the trendy men and women in your life. Your purchase supports more than 500 Nisolo employees in Trujillo, Peru. Thanks to you, they’ll have fair wages, benefits and a healthy work environment.
13. Paper-based jewelry from 31 Bits
These hand-beaded necklaces and bracelets support workers in Uganda and Indonesia. The beaded projects are all crafted from rolled-up paper, a technique found throughout Eastern Africa. We know, you can’t even tell! Talk about eco-friendly.
14. Men’s tees from Lazlo
In partnership with the Michigan Department of Corrections, this modern collection of men’s t-shirts is made by men in Detroit who learned how to sew in prison. Your purchase ensures that each former inmate earns a living wage to build a better future.
15. Engraved necklaces from The Giving Keys
These classic necklaces are made by those transitioning out of homelessness. Shoppers are encouraged to wear the necklace with the message they need most, then pay it forward to someone else who could use a boost. You can even shop by word, such as “believe,” “love” or “hope.”
16. Natural wooden watches from WeWood Watch
These sophisticated watches are the first of their kind and made of exotic wooden remnants from around the globe. They are 100 percent natural and free of toxic chemicals. Plus, every time you buy a watch, the company will plant a tree. Since 2010, the company has planted more than 442,000 seeds worldwide.
17. Punjammies® sleepwear from Sudara
These bright loungepants are made by women in India who have escaped the horrors of human trafficking. Sustainable jobs, like those at Sudara, help women work their way out of the sex trade. Your purchase gives women a steady source of income to provide for their families.
18. Printed shirts from Sevenly
Each time you buy a printed shirt or sweatshirt, part of the proceeds go to the charity of your choice. You can shop for whatever it is you’re passionate about, like autism, education, kindness, veterans, humanitarian efforts, the environment, cancer and families.
19. Handmade gifts from Snow Leopard Trust
If you’ve got someone who loves animals on your list, consider “adopting” a snow leopard or buying a handmade gift from the online shop. Proceeds go directly towards research and conservation efforts to help save the endangered species.
There’s dozens of other animals to “adopt” from other organizations as well: rhinos, elephants, orangutan, penguins, tigers, sea turtles and more. You can also shop at the Whale Sanctuary Project’s online gift shop, which will help build the world’s first ocean sanctuary for whales and dolphins.
20. Organic Lucy’s Bru coffee from The Alternative Daily
Named for our CEO Jake Carney’s beloved pup, Lucy, this special blend is for the coffee lover in your life. Our specialty brew is organic, shade grown and Fair Trade. Buy a bag (or two) and you can be sure that you’re buying beans that are good for the environment and good for the local communities they come from. And yes, it’s delicious.
Fair Trade online outlets
If you’re not all tuckered yet out from socially-conscious shopping, visit these online outlets for more gifts that give back. You’ll find thousands of handmade, Fair Trade or recycled specialty gifts for everyone on your list.
- Ten Thousand Villages
- Society B
- The Little Market
- Fair Trade Winds
- Global Girlfriend
- One World Fair Trade
- Fair Indigo
- Far And Wide Collective
- Ethical Market
The bottom line is, your dollar is powerful. With your holiday gift list, you have the opportunity to ensure small businesses thrive, help those in need and conserve the earth’s resources all at the same time. Now that’s the best way to spread holiday cheer, don’t you think?
If we left out any gifts that give back, be sure to let us know in the comments. And from all of us at The Alternative Daily — happy holidays!
— Hilary Lebow