Gift good: a holiday guide.
You can’t save the world by shopping, but it’s a start.
This holiday season, Americans are expected to spend an average of $1,250 on gifts, travel, and entertainment. Multiplied by our entire population, we’re looking at $720 billion over the next couple of months. That’s no chump change.
Now seems like the time to cite a litany of stats detailing poverty rates, the number of children dying of malnourishment, and the lack of safe drinking water faced by too many around the globe. But not today, because it’s not the point of this blog post.
Here’s what is: you, me, many of us are going to buy and give gifts this December. It’s a joyful part of the holidays – a way we mark their significance and appreciate and acknowledge the abundance we’ve experienced throughout the year.
There’s so much in this world that feels beyond our control, beyond our influence. But we do get to choose where we spend our money. And when those dollars support thoughtful brands doing truly incredible things, the holiday joy will be that much brighter.
So in that spirit, we’re sharing a curated holiday gift guide with impact integrated into every single item – not a bolt-on or an afterthought.
A note: what you won’t see in this list are products from companies that use “giving back” as a marketing strategy to an otherwise standard supply chain and production process. No impact-washing, no “buy one/give one” schemes, no “x% of profits go to charity.” More power to them, but that’s the easy way out.
For your mom, who has groovy stories from college, loves traveling alone, and a good craft fair.
Soko’s mission statement seems like an oxymoron until you dig a little deeper. They’re an ethical fast fashion company, innovating in the global supply chain to reinvent broken standards of production. The artisan craft industry is the second largest employer in the developing world – yet these producers are mostly disconnected from markets and distribution channels and often aren’t able to support themselves with their work. The three women co-founders of Soko have pioneered the decentralized factory using technology to coordinate artisans, deliver specs, conduct quality control, and create stunning jewelry. I could write a few more paragraphs nerding out on their model, but that would detract from adding most of their earrings and rings to my holiday wish list.
For your dad, who loves the movie Romero, is a prolific gardener, and drinks all his beverages out of huge insulated tumblers.
Dads are impossible to buy for. They have what they need, plus the Bubba Keg you sprung $8.98 for when you were in college and it ended up being one of the best gifts you could have given him, ever. But here’s what any dad can use, always: coffee. And when you gift it, you can fill him in on something he doesn’t likely know: the coffee he drinks every morning passes through many many hands from the farm to his cup, in a woefully outdated supply chain that adheres to traditions cemented in the steamship era. But not Vega Coffee. This social enterprise disrupts the traditional coffee supply chain by connecting customers directly to smallholder farming communities and partnering with farmers to roast their own coffee. Which means uber-specialty coffee at prices that rival Starbucks, crafted and roasted by the families who grow the beans in some of the most remote places in Nicaragua and Colombia.
For your husband, who takes the dog backpacking when you’re out of town, legitimately misses Anthony Bourdain, and builds backyard fires like an Eagle Scout.
Husbands are men on their way to being as difficult to shop for as your dad. But, like every other male of the species homo sapiens, they happen to love fire. EcoZoom is a remarkably diverse B-Corp social enterprise with many facets to their business. They sell super efficient, portable cookstoves and planchas to typical consumers while also partnering with NGOs, governments, and aid organizations who want to put clean cookstoves and solar lights into the hands that need them the most. And in doing so, EcoZoom reduces household air pollution (which kills four million people a year) and creates safer cooking environments and solar lighting solutions for people living without regular access to electricity.
For your wife, who insta-stalks the Queer Eye cast, loves trying new restaurants on date night, and is wise enough to never wear constricting waistbands.
ABLE is your typical cool-girl fashion brand, with lovely jewelry, bags, apparel, and denim. Typical, except they work with women to produce their products, with the goal of ending generational poverty. It’s been proven: when women are paid wages that meet their basic needs, it leads to better health, safety, and educational outcomes for them and their families across generations. We loved their launch of Publish Your Wages earlier this year – a bold call to the fashion industry at large to be completely transparent about what everyone in their supply chain earns.
For your brother, who rock climbs in Colorado, buys last minute tickets to Europe, and has a longstanding thing for cool kicks.
Ubuntu Life is a nonprofit business that uses the power of global commerce to create social impact for mothers and children in Kenya. Their story begins like many others: the co-founders saw a need in the village of Maai Mahiu, Kenya and dedicated their lives filling it. Together they built a center for special needs children, providing life-changing therapy and medical care for kids who suffer from physical challenges and social stigma. Then the mothers of the children had an idea: now that their kids were out of the house during the day – could they create their own jobs and support Ubuntu Life by making Kenyan products? The Afridrilles (and many other gorgeous wares) are designed and made in Kenya by the Maker Mums themselves, supporting and growing the work Ubuntu Life does for its community.
For your sister, who can tell you the meaning behind each Taylor Swift song, joins #EffthePatriarchy text chains, and has a grown-up apartment of her own now.
Yes, there are many companies out there with a mission to empower and connect artisans around the world. But few have achieved the staying power and the incredibly wide range of impeccably curated products as 31 Bits. Founded 10 years ago by a group of girlfriends still in college, they boldly remind their customers that “everything you buy either has a positive or negative impact on the world.”
For your best friend, who makes you potstickers at 2AM, has the best podcast recommendations, and is a badass mama who could use some time to herself.
Q: What has more Vitamin A than carrots, more protein than eggs, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, and some of the world’s best antioxidant power? A: The moringa tree. True Moringa – born from a partnership between an MIT engineer and Harvard economist – has its sights set on making this amazing tree a household name while growing their company to help solve poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. And in case you didn’t notice, this body scrub is a two-fer: a partnership between True Moringa and aforementioned Vega Coffee!