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A conscious consumer’s guide to holiday shopping

Wikimedia Commons- Zygmunt Put

Your inbox is overflowing with discount offers, “Jingle Bell Rock” is on heavy repeat, and your local pharmacy smells like a mint/cinnamon explosion….

It must be holiday shopping time!

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Here are some facts:

In the US the average person spends around USD $700 on Christmas gifts. In Europe that figure is $440 Euros.  

In total, Americans spend over $456 BILLION DOLLARS (that was in my Dr. Evil voice) on holiday gifts and goodies.

Not to state the obvious, but that’s a lot of money. And if money talks, then we might as well make sure it has something good to say.

It seems that as I get older, the list of gifts I need to buy gets longer… and pricier. I’m suddenly expected to buy actual, substantial presents for my sister and parents. At holiday parties, Secret Santas, or Snowflakes, or whatever PC term your group of friends opts for.

The number of places you can go and things you can buy is overwhelming at times, especially when you're trying to be ethical! So I did myself a favor and narrowed down the list of possibilities to products or brands linked to a good cause. And even categorized it by the type of gift you’re looking for…. Let the shopping begin!  

For the person you don’t know that well…

Need to bring a gift to someone who is hosting? A kind-of distant cousin? You can count on these safe bets….


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Twice as Warm: Scarves, gloves and hats are some of the safest and best holiday gifts out there, so might as well get ones that are not only cute but give back to others! Twice as Warm operates under a “Wear One, Give One,” policy, where for every product purchased a piece of winter clothing is donated to local shelters and organizations to provide for people in need.

FEED:  From simple and stylish totes, to wine bags, scarves and travel purses, FEED has tons of cute and useful items, all of which are connected to the fight against world hunger. Each FEED product is stamped with a number that indicates the number of meals or micronutrient packages that are provided with its purchase. FEED also works with artisans from cooperatives in countries like Cambodia and Haiti to support local economies. All products are made under fair labor conditions and with environmentally friendly materials. 

Hand in Hand: Created by two social entrepreneurs in 2011, Hand in Hand donates a bar of soap and provides a month of clean water to children in need for every product purchased. Beautiful bar soaps, lotions, candles and even special holiday gift boxes, Hand in Hand is a no brainer.  

Better World BooksYou can never go wrong with gifting a book, and if you buy them at Better World Books, you’re contributing to an incredible triple bottom line. First, whenever you buy a book from Better World the company donates a book to someone in need. Next, a piece of your purchase goes to funding a non-profit that supports literacy. Plus, Better World Books never throw a book away--either a book finds a home or it’s recycled. Thus far Better World has donated over 17 million books and raised over 20 million for literacy projects including the construction of libraries worldwide.

For secret snowflake, or as stocking stuffers….

Think cheap/ lil somethings...


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Yoobi: Hooray for color-coordinated office supplies and stationery that makes you want to write everyone you know! Yoobi (meaning “one for you, one for me”) has every school and office supply under the sun, and with every item purchased the company donates a Yoobi item to a classroom in need.

MAC VIVA GLAM lipstick and lipglass: When you purchase a MAC Viva Glam product (like this amazing shade) every cent of the proceeds go to the brand’s AIDS Fund. One tube of lipstick can provide 18 birthday cakes for people living with HIV/AIDS, a pair of shoes for a child orphaned by AIDS, a month of transport for a woman travelling to and from doctors appointments, or a rapid oral HIV test, among other needed resources.

Rosie’s Place: Founded in 1974, Rosie’s Place was the first women’s shelter in the United States. The center provides food, shelter and support for thousands of poor and homeless women in the Boston area. The shelter also sells ornaments, bookmarks, and holiday cards which help fund new beginnings for 12,000 women every year.

For the trendy fashionista....

Your sister with the awesome wardrobe, or friend who’s always got the best, unique finds….


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The Fashion Project:  A website that let’s you donate OR shop for a cause?! Two birds, one stone. At the Fashion Project shoppers can either peruse tons of brand name shoes, clothes and accessories at a good price knowing that 55% of the proceeds go to charity, or can donate clothes to a charity of their choice. From iPhone cases that support packH20 to sunglasses that support Project HEAL, there are lots of amazing options. In total the Fashion Project has raised over $600,000 and supported over 2,000 charitable organizations.

Liberty United: Inspired to stop gun violence, Liberty United takes illegal guns and ammunition confiscated by the police and turns them into handcrafted jewelry. Additionally, 20-25% of proceeds from each purchase go to programs, such as after school music and art classes, that help protect at-risk youth from gun violence. Peep the skinny grip cuff or skinny gunmetal cuff for a trendy piece that makes the perfect statement.

Lemlem: Beautiful handwoven goods from Ethiopia, Lemlem has scarves, tops, bags, home goods, you name it, and employs traditional women weavers in Ethiopia. Since its founding in 2007, Lemlem has helped break the cycle of poverty in a country where weavers no longer had a market for their goods.

Falling Whistles: Powerful and simple whistle necklaces, Falling Whistles was inspired by one man’s journey to the Congo where he met with child soldiers involved in the country’s armed conflict. As one boy told him, children too small to even carry guns were sent to the frontlines of the conflict, armed with only a whistle. In the simple silver and gold necklaces, the whistle takes on another meaning: whistleblower, indicating that the world will not be silent in the face of this tragedy. Besides raising awareness about the conflict in the Congo, Falling Whistles invests in Congolese visionaries and leaders looking to rebuild their country, helping them to raise money for their projects and mentoring them throughout the process.

Josie Maran Argan Oil: An amazing, nourishing, moisturizer for skin, hair and nails, every ounce of argan oil used in the product is purchased from all-female co-ops in Morocco. The collaboration not only empowers Moroccan women with a steady income, but also helps the environment by ensuring argan forests stay safe.

For your mom, or artsy aunt…

Whoever she is, the woman in your life that always seems to be wearing a scarf or chunky jewelry… or at least appreciates a great candle.  


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Ashley Pittman: Rings, bangles, necklaces and more...each piece of jewelry is entirely handcrafted in Kenya and features materials native to East Africa such as repurposed horn, bronze, and semiprecious gemstones. Dedicated to creating a sustainable company, Ashley Pittmann employs over 75 artisans in Kenya, providing them with fair wages, expansion opportunities and business training.

Noonday Collection: A collection of jewelry and accessories made by artisans around the globe, Noonday Collection envisions a world where women are empowered, children are cherished, and people have jobs. Noonday hires artisans from Uganda to Guatemala to Vietnam, ensures they have a fair salary, that their children go to school, and that materials are sustainably sourced. Plus Noonday hosts trunk shows were 10-20% of proceeds go towards supporting a family that is adopting a child. Thus far the organization has impacted over 4,000 artisans, and supported over 1,000 adoptive families.

Far & Wide Collective: As the name suggests, Far & Wide searches the globe for the beautiful and unique crafts, clothes, home decor, and jewelry you normally would not stumble upon in an average department store. From walnut breakfast trays and lapis lazuli earrings crafted in Afghanistan to woven clutches from Peru, Far & Wide has tons of beautiful, thoughtful gifts.

For a dude…

It’s hard to shop for men’s clothing/ accessories… here’s a go-to spot.


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Apolis:  Well this is a brand name that I can get behind. Apolis literally translates to “global citizen.” And their website has it all, from tasteful leather key chains and belts to jackets, pants, sweaters and tees! Apolis is a “Certified B Corporation” meaning it maintains high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Through its model of “advocacy through industry,” Apolis partners with manufacturers around the world.

For the eco-friendly hippie….

The person in your life that rides a bike, loves their reusable water bottle, or maybe just has that boho look down pat.


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WeWood: Very, very cool all-wood watches and sunglasses made out of cotton (who even knew that was possible?!). For every product purchased WeWood plants a tree. Thus far they’ve planted over 400,000 trees around the world.

Vaalbara designsBeautiful fabric and leather clutches, messenger bags, wallets and more, Vaalbara’s products are made with recyclable materials and an emphasis on local sustainability (it’s all handmade in Cali). Plus Vaalbara donates a portion of all purchases to the Surfrider foundation, which works to protect the world’s oceans.

Lush:  Ethical buying practices, fighting animal testing, 100% vegetarian (and 100% effective) skin care products…. there are tons of reasons to love Lush. But the biggest is its Charity Pot Body Lotion. 100% of the Charity Pot purchase price goes towards supporting humanitarian, environment and animal rights causes. So far Charity Pot purchases have brought more than $10,000,000 to over 850 grassroots charities in 42 countries.

Eminence Organic Skin CareDedicated to providing healthy and “green” skin care products, like this great hand cleanser, Eminence plants a tree in a developing country for every retail product sold. As of May the brand had planted over 4 million trees in countries like Ghana and Tanzania.

The Elephant Pants: From big, comfy, harem pants to leggings with (you guessed it) elephant prints, The Elephant Pants company donates $1-$4 from every product purchased to the African Wildlife Foundation to help save elephants!  

For the techie…

Anyone who would opt for a digital device before anything else.


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1 Face: A watch company with a simple yet profound belief: one person can change the world. Each 1 Face watch supports one of nine different causes, and through the website you can see exactly what your watch purchase will go towards. For example, for every two purchases of this white and gold watch, 1 Face can provide a lifetime of water for 1 person through a charity partner that constructs wells on the ground. Thus far the company has provided over 4,000 mammograms, found over 4,000 animals homes, fed over 12,000 victims of disaster, among many other important contributions!

SMS Audio: Who doesn’t need headphones? Headphones created by 50 Cent? Even better. Plus SMS audio is partnered with Feeding America, and donates some $50,000 (the equivalent of half a million meals), to the domestic hunger-relief organization every year.

For a baby!


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Baby Teresa:  A line of 100% organic cotton baby clothing and accessories, Baby Teresa is yet another company that operates under the “buy one, give one” model. For every baby outfit sold, Baby Teresa donates another outfit, and for every accessory sold Baby Teresa donates a portion of the proceeds towards buying formula for babies in orphanages.

Desenyo:  An adorable and creative fair trade stuffed animal company, Dsenyo provides employment opportunities for women and artisans in Africa and Brazil. Among its ethical and environmental commitments, Dsenyo pays its artisans 3-4 times minimum wage, offers free training classes, and uses low-impact dyes and sustainable fibers in its products as much as possible.  

For the “hipster”...

If you can see someone liking retro books or oversized, quirky glasses....


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Out of PrintPerfect for the voracious reader or “vintage” lover, Out of Print takes iconic and usually out of print book covers and puts them on sweatshirts, tees, totes and more. For every product sold Out of Print donates a book to a community in need through their partner Books for Africa.

PandaUnique and trendy sunglasses and watches made out of bamboo and cork! For every pair of sunglasses purchased Panda provides an eye exam and distributes a pair of prescription glasses through Optometry Giving Sight. For every watch purchased Panda donates to Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds schools and creates programs to promote education worldwide.

Your one-stop shop….

ZadyWomen’s, Men’s, Home, Jewelry, Beauty...Zady has it all and it’s all geared for the conscious consumer. Zady took a stand against the uber-destructive fast fashion craze and focuses on products that are eco friendly and corruption free. It’s sustainability that benefits people and the planet.


If you’re like me, a certain amount of holiday shopping is pretty much inevitable. Looking to brands and products that give back is an easy, tangible way to make a positive difference. The world’s shopping addiction has many costs, from destroying the environment, to unsafe and unfair working conditions. But our power as consumers can help change the dynamic.

So go forth global citizens, and instead of fueling the harmful fast fashion craze, go spread holiday cheer the conscious consumer way!

And make sure to make the Global Goals your New Year's resolution in TAKE ACTION NOW.