Not long ago, the mere mention of socially-conscious gifts or green giving would likely provoke offers of “let’s not exchange gifts this year” by adults, tantrums by children. At best, it meant a packet of cards with flowers pressed in waxed paper, or a lamp made from popsicle sticks (no offense to either). But now, giving gifts that “give twice” (and I’m not talking about that fruitcake that gets re-gifted every year) has become almost commonplace and a lot of fun!
At the request of a couple of friends and followers, this week we present some of the places we know to find unique, good quality holiday stuff that are (bonus!) also socially-conscious or green gifts! This is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s just some of the stuff that have made us go, “Cool!!!”
Fair Trade Products
In brief, if something is certified Fair Trade, you have some assurance that the producer, from a developing country, got a fair deal — a fair price for his or her goods and services, has decent working conditions, and has a commitment from the buyer (the person or organization you buy through) for reasonable security or sustainability.
Novica – anyone who knows anything about gift giving knows Novica. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the items found on their website are true eye candy. I find that each piece is a work of art. And, I love that there’s a little bio on the artisans and a story card that can be included with each gift. Associated with National Geographic.
Ten Thousand Villages – if you haven’t yet discovered (and bought from) this organization that supports artisans from developing countries around the globe, you’re in for a treat. The quality of work is magnificent and you’ll be giving something beautiful and unusual, knowing that the artisan was paid fairly and is working safely.
A Bit of Everything
Global Exchange – their Fair Trade online shop offers everything from beauty products and clothing to chocolates and crafts. The Fair Trade program is merely one of the initiatives of this “international human rights organization dedicated to promoting environmental, political and social justice.”
Artisan Life is a London-based online eco-boutique (with a showroom in Islington) with a variety of jewelry, accessories, decorative items and furniture. All their products are sourced on a Fair Trade basis. I find their offerings unique in design and concept — I wouldn’t refuse anything from them :-).
Partners for Just Trade is a North American- and faith-based organization working with partners in Peru and Cameroon. Aside from having interesting products, their website, like Novica and others, features photos of the people and artisan groups that produced the pieces, making it a bit more of a personal shopping and giving experience. (they’ve got some really nice textile products!).
Saraye – I throw this one in because I personally love these bags. They’re “tatami mat style” of excellent quality and craftsmanship made in Cambodia.
For Animal Lovers
First off, lemme get on my soapbox for one minute and say that I strongly recommend against giving an animal as a gift unless it’s very well-thought out. Giving an animal is like dropping a child on someone’s doorstep. There’s a huge responsibility that comes with it.
However, there is such as thing as “virtual adoption”, which is a great idea for animal lovers or children. Your donation toward the adoption goes toward support of the sponsoring organization, the care and feeding of animals and/or assisting in conservation efforts. We see it as a perfect opportunity to help a young one appreciate nature.
This year, Nils and I are giving our three-year-old niece part ownership in a beehive in Germany. On Christmas day, a jar of honey from her “very own” hive and a small stuffed bee will be under the tree (if you like this idea, google “beehive adoption” and you’ll find any number of places in different countries). Our six-year-old nephew will receive a certificate of adoption and fact sheet on a bat from Defenders of Wildlife along with a book about these misunderstood creatures that we bought separately.
A few sites we’ve either “adopted” through this year or donated to include:
- Australian Orangutan Project where we’ve adopted Ugo Blanco a young, orphaned orangutan in North Sumatra.
- Defenders of Wildlife where there’s a variety of opportunities for “adoption”, many which come with really cute stuffed animals.
- Word Wildlife Fund has a great gift center that includes opportunities for “adoption” as well as other animal conservation gift ideas.
- Born Free is a foundation dedicated to the protection and conservation of animals in the wild. Along with opportunities for adoption, they also have a variety of other gift ideas.
These two words together no longer mean “granola-heady” products that you’ll never use — quite the contrary. A quick look at TreeHugger Holiday Gift Guide is proof. They claim “Low-Impact Luxury for High-Impact Giving” and in my opinion, it’s not just a catchy motto. Lots of really, really cool stuff for kids, foodies, geeks, animal lovers, outdoorsy types, health freaks, DIYer and more.
Helping Others Across the World
There are different views on giving to a charity as a gift to a friend of family member. As much as Nils and I are all for giving, we believe it’s everyone’s personal choice how, when and what to give. Of course, if a friend specifies that in lieu of gifts, he or she prefers a donation to a charity, then by all means, it’s a great gift.
The one exception for us is in giving to children. This can be a good idea, if done with care. Giving a donation in a child’s name toward a flock of chicks through Heifer or World Vision that will help a family in the Caribbean can be a good lesson in charity. However, the certificate and discussion about the value of that flock should also include a stuffed chick (made of cloth, not breaded) or a book about a baby chick — something tangible and of value to the child. The worst thing that we can do is make small children associate giving with, “I get nothing.” Yes, there is the concept of sacrifice for others that’s a valuable lesson, but it’s a different lesson.
A great example of helping to create a “giving philosophy” is illustrated by friends of ours with teenage nephews and nieces. Our friends have bought t-shirts as gifts through Common Threadz, a nonprofit group “helping orphans & vulnerable children in developing nations to reach their full potential…” Some t-shirts are designed by orphans or elderly people from developing nations, other by celebrities and leading artists. Lots of uber-cool and original designs with proceeds going toward any number of charitable efforts. With this purchase everyone wins!
By way of Kiva, you can lend to a needy entrepreneur across the globe. Again, a good strategy could be to give the gift of a loan in the name of the child or teen while including an unusual gift that comes from the entrepreneur’s country. This way, there’s also possibility of learning about another culture.
Other organizations where you can buy a gift card and allow the recipient to choose his or her charity:
Got Your Own Ideas?
This could turn into a very long posting if we were to include all the websites and organizations we know of where cool things could be found. This is our “short list.” If you have other ideas or organizations that could make for great gift giving, please submit!
p.s. – while I am mathematically challenged, I’m aware that I missed Week 47. The Impact Effort was made, I just haven’t had time to write up the posting. It’s coming … and it’s a good one.
p.p.s. – we’re on our way to S. Africa this evening. I’m hoping for better internet access than we had last year. If you don’t hear from us for awhile, you’ll know the result!