21 Gifts: A Woman’s Guide to Giving Back
December 3, 2018
21 Gifts Perfect for Giving Back
Each year, as Christmas lights appear on houses and irritating carols begin to drift through grocery aisles, I start feeling anxious and guilty. It’s not the lights or the music that stresses me out, it’s the impending commercialism with little concern for giving back that always accompanies the Christmas holiday. I struggle every year to find a balance between my discomfort with the commercial holiday and my love of the spirit behind it.
Giving gifts makes me feel happy—it is one of my love languages—but I hate all the pressure to buy, buy, buy. Shopping in a mall during the holidays makes me feel dirty. Spending money I don’t have on things people don’t need makes me feel complicit.
photo: via Wildfang.com
In the past, I’ve tried various alternative gift ideas as a means of assuaging my guilt: coupon books for free cleaning and babysitting when I was a kid, Hand-made oil lamps and beaded necklaces when I was in college, and cobbled-together baskets of tasty edibles when I was first married. But, as I got older, I had less and less time to spend making things for people.
When I was in my mid-20’s, my friend Janet introduced me to The Heifer Project. She told me that, instead of buying gifts for the adult members of her family, she always purchased livestock from Heifer International in their name. That way, she could feel good about what she was buying and give something that meant something (and gives back), instead of just more junk. “After all,” she told me, “the adults in my family have everything they need and want.”
A Better Way of Giving
That year, I copied Janet and purchased livestock to be donated to poor families around the world in my family members’ names. Beautiful cards with heartfelt messages of gratitude were mailed to them in lieu of a gift. Some of them appreciated it, and some of them didn’t, but I didn’t care. I felt a little better about Christmas.
Twenty years later, I still buy livestock from Heifer, but I also find other ways of satisfying my gift-giving needs while still maintaining my values. If you are like me, sometimes you just want to have some physical thing to wrap up and give people, especially people you are present with during the holidays. For those, I try to choose companies that give back in some way. And, there are a lot of them!
21 Gifts Perfect for Giving Back
If you are scrambling for last-minute shopping ideas, and want to make a difference with your purchases, here are 21 companies we recommend:
Wildfang is a clothing company founded and run by women, for women. Starting out as a dream between three friends, it is now a small business supporting 20-ish women. They seek to break out of gender norms with their unique line of traditionally-male sportswear and business suits, tailored for women—but that’s not all. Wildfang’s line of feminist t’s and accessories offer a perfect selection of stocking-stuffers, and as a bonus they donate a portion of all proceeds to various charities. So far this year, they’ve donated over $400K to charities like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Joyful Heart. With stores in NYC, LA, and Portland, you can check them out in person, or order online.
Give your daughter, mother or best friend the gift of a stress-free period with Lunette. Lunette makes vegan and earth-friendly, reusable period cups. They are made of medical-grade silicone and BPA-free. In other words, they are super vagina-friendly! There are so many reasons to love these cups. I mean, they give you up to 12 hours of worry-free use and they come in a variety of sizes and types that are designed to fit the different ages and stages of life as well as a variety of lifestyles. These cups are perfect as a gift or a stocking stuffer. And you’ll feel good about giving them because Lunette gives back. They have teamed up with organizations in an effort to make sure that everyone who needs one has a cup— and that everyone has a voice. Find out about how they give back here.
photo: Lunette via fb
3. Thinx underwear
Thinx are period-proof underwear. I know, it sounds weird, but these are a great option if you want to help reduce consumption and waste, and they are a company that is doing great things for women. Thinx can be used as an alternative to disposable period products (for light-medium periods) or as a backup (for heavy periods). They are washable and reusable and come in different styles and weights. Thinx partners with other grassroots organizations to empower and educate women in human rights, gender equality, and reproductive health, and to make menstrual products universally available.
Girlfriend Collective is a socially-responsible sportswear company that seeks to minimize their footprint. They aim for complete transparency in their business practices, and from what I can tell they have achieved it and more. The materials they use are responsibly-sourced, and utilize recycled materials such as plastic water bottles and fishing nets. Each step of production has been carefully developed to consider social and environmental impact and fair labor practices. Basically, if you buy a pair of their leggings, you are helping provide living wages and fair working conditions to poor women, while also cleaning up the environment. What could be better?
This is my current favorite thing. You can order a single box, but I signed up for the year-long subscription, which is delivered quarterly. Causebox compiles a variety of unique and useful items into each of their seasonal boxes; from jewelry and cosmetics to clothes and handmade accessories. Each item is sustainably-sourced, socially responsible, and gives back in some way. For instance, the fall box included a scarf from Bloom and Give (below) and a water bottle from S’Well, a woman-founded company that is socially conscious and gives back to a variety of charities. Gift a box to someone you love, or get a subscription like me – it will provide you with guilt-free gifts all year long!
6. Bloom & Give
Bloom and Give is a socially-responsible textile company. They source beautiful, hand-woven and block-printed scarves, bags, and home textiles from India. They use production facilities that operate under fair labor practices and give ~50% of their profits directly to support girl’s education in India. Bloom and Give products make unique, high quality, unforgettable gifts for your loved ones, and you will feel good about contributing to women’s education and empowerment around the globe. Win-Win!
Obakki is the brainchild of founder/designer, Treana Peake. In her shop, she carries a beautiful line of scarves, blankets, and elegant women’s clothing, designed for comfort, fashion, responsibility, and affordability. The Obakki Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Peake’s enterprise, and it is what really caught my eye about this company. Peake is an avid traveler and humanitarian, and she traveled extensively through South Sudan. Her charity provides education and clean water in Africa, including building a well for every 500 scarves sold.
If you want to have an impact closer to home, look no further than the Women’s Bean Project. This incredible organization exists solely for the purpose of helping and empowering women in the United States. According to the website, they are a social enterprise, committed to hiring every woman who comes to them looking for a second chance. With their insightful business model, they provide jobs for women recovering from addiction, abuse, and incarceration, helping them overcome these challenges to return to society as productive members. Their products are available online, or at select retailers across the U.S.
Founded by two women in 2007, this Chicago-based company trains young, homeless mothers to make candles. Bright Endeavors not only provides them with income through their candle-making business, but also training in life skills and other practical support. Their goal is for these young mothers to develop the skills and self-confidence to be independent, care for their children, and lead a happy, productive life.
Stacey Edgar founded this company in 2003 to help provide economic opportunities for women in developing countries. Today, she and her team of superwomen partner with more than 100 organizations of women’s artisans in over 30 countries. Global Girlfriend helps partner local artisans with fair trade retailers in developed countries, and donates a portion of their proceeds to support girl’s education.
11. Akola Project
Akola is a nonprofit jewelry company that employs over 500 women in Uganda and Dallas, TX. Their mission is to provide work opportunities and training for women living in poverty, and they reinvest 100% of proceeds back into their programs. Founded in 2006 by Brittany Merrill Underwood, Akola was inspired by a Ugandan woman living in Dallas, who cared for 24 street children in her home. Women in Akola programs support ~4,000 dependents.
Brave Collection features jewelry made by hand in Cambodia. The artisans are underprivileged and/or disabled, mostly women with children. The artists are able to work from home, are paid an above-average wage with benefits, and given a stipend for their children’s education. In addition, the Brave Collection donates 10% of all proceeds to help fight human trafficking and educate young women in Cambodia so they don’t become victims. Jessica Hendricks, the founder, made the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the Retail/Ecocommerce category, and was invited to the White House for President Obama’s speech celebrating “emerging global entrepreneurs”.
13. The Giving Keys
This cause holds a special place in my heart. The Giving Keys is a pay-it-forward organization that helps people transition out of homelessness. They also categorize themselves as a “social enterprise”, rather than a nonprofit. They sell products to create jobs, breaking a cycle of generational poverty and homelessness. In addition to their compassionate mission, their products are designed to be passed along in a pay-it-forward manner. Keys stamped with inspirational messages can be easily passed to people who need them, making your gift even more impactful.
14. Every Mother Counts
More than 800 women die every day due to complications with pregnancy and childbirth – more than 300,000 each year. Every Mother Counts believes that almost all global maternal deaths are preventable, with access to essential maternity care. Proceeds from the sale of their signature products are used to support the programs of everymothercounts.org.
Heifer is a unique program that combines economic development, food security and nutrition, and environmental sustainability to empower small farmers. Their programs also support gender equality, social responsibility, and education. They have some items you can purchase, like hand-embroidered ornaments made by women in India, but my favorite are the livestock options. You can buy a cow (or half a goat, or a flock of geese, or a basket of rabbits), which will be provided to a family along with training and capacitation to provide food and develop a business. Part of that program also helps the family pass the gift along to other members of the community, with further training and animal breeding.
I don’t know if you’ve ever come across a Lush store during your shopping escapades. If you have, then you know it is an unforgettable experience. They sweep you in, wash and moisturize your hands, peel your skin, make you feel smooth and lacquered and good-smelling, then release you with your various bags of things you don’t remember buying. Seriously, they have the system down. But, in spite of these marketing ploys, I love their products. Lush cosmetics are socially and environmentally responsible, made from healthy and sustainable ingredients, and truly luxurious. If you’re looking for stocking stuffers, we recommend Charity Pot – a philanthropic skin softener. 100% of proceeds from the Charity Pot go to grassroots organizations to help fight climate change, prevent environmental destruction, and protect wildlife in Indonesia.
I just received my first Cuddle and Kind dolls! I have 2 nieces, one 3 and one 4, and I wanted something special for them this year. These dolls are hand-made, ethically and sustainably, by women artists in Peru. Each doll sold also provides 10 meals for kids, and the company has a goal of providing a million meals each year. The dolls are beautifully-made, unique in every way, and come in a variety of characters to match your child’s personality. The dolls I ordered for Christmas also came with prints featuring a picture of the doll I chose and an inspirational message.
Everyone knows and loves Toms shoes, which provide a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased. But, did you know they also provide access to clean drinking water and safe birth? And even help prevent bullying? Toms is a great company. I love their sunglasses, trendy and stylish, which contribute to sight-saving surgeries, prescription eyewear, and medical treatment for people in need.
Their motto, Nonprofit Brew, Female Crew, says it all. The coffee is a social innovation fund (SIF) program that raises money to support Central City Concern, a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to help those impacted by homelessness. They help homeless people develop peer relationships and get access to safe housing, effective healthcare, and fair employment. I love their fun and inspiring coffee names, including Gutsy Goddess French Roast and Warrior Woman Medium Roast. You can’t go wrong with these tough ladies.
Conscious Step socks are made from sustainable materials, like organic cotton. They use ethical practices and are certified fair trade. There are a wide variety of styles and sizes for men and women, and you can choose what cause you want to support with your purchase. Choose a pair with books on them to support literacy in children, or a pair of argyle socks that feed kids. Maybe Aunt Janie wants to protect sharks, but Uncle Don wants to help people recover from the latest natural disaster. Don’t worry! Conscious Step has a unique pair of socks for each of your picky relatives.
21. One Hope Wine
One Hope was founded by 8 friends committed to making good wine and a difference in the world by giving back. You get to choose the cause you support with your purchase, and there are some good ones. So far, they have made more than $3 million in donations, providing 46,000 people with global health care, 49,000 forever homes for shelter animals, 1.8 million meals for children, and 163,000 life-saving vaccines. This Christmas, consider getting their California Brut Sparkling Wine, Rainbow Glitter Edition, for that one conservative relative who won’t stop complaining about all the gays. As they enjoy their delicious sparkly, you can enjoy the fact that their gift supports a crisis hotline for LGBTQ youth. Now, that’s what I call sweet satisfaction!