Gifts That Give Back: Shop Intentionally for Products that Matter

This morning I woke up and was feeling a little down about the holidays.  I have been thinking about people who aren’t financially or emotionally prepared for Christmas this year.  I am struggling a little bit this Holiday season because it will be the first Christmas ever without my sister (who is in perfect health, but living in a different state with her husband and my nephew and won’t be able to come home this year), and I have been thinking about some people who we lost this year whose families will be celebrating without them for the first time. I was once told by a therapist that I have a tendency to “over-empathize” with others.  I believe that to be generally true, and it makes me very emotional around the holidays or when someone passes away, even if they weren’t a major part of my life.

In addition to that, I have been on this journey to sustainability and minimalism, and I just despise the consumerism surrounding the holidays.  I can’t help but feel gross purchasing pointless gifts just to be able to give something.  That’s not what the Holiday are about, but I don’t want to come off as a Grinch or a Scrooge or a Miser, and I don’t want people to feel unloved, so I have been slowly purchasing a bunch of “normal” holiday gifts.

Anyways, I was feeling sad for everyone, and generally a little down, when this email popped up in my inbox, titled “My 10 Alternative Christmas Gift Ideas”.  All 10 ideas were honestly fabulous, but what really hit me was the 10th item.  It was a suggestion to buy a beautiful, handmade clay mug from Haiti.  It was beautiful, so I clicked on the link. To quote the product description directly from their website,

In desperate times, extremely poor families in Haiti will mix clay from the ground with water, oil and salt to create a clay “cookie.” These clay cookies are eaten by adults and children in order to fill their stomachs when food is not available.”

I had even seen a video on Facebook months ago where people were eating these clay cookies to survive starvation, so hearing about it again today in the emotional state that I was in just shook me to my core.  Immediately I felt guilty, and thought to myself “What the f*ck have I been thinking, purchasing stupid nick-knacks from massive corporations, when I could have been giving money to people who truly need it?” Not only would my money have gone so much further, but the gift would be SO much more interesting, unique, and valuable than the fairly stupid stuff that I already bought as gifts.

As I am writing this, I’m still crazy irritated at myself for not planning ahead and taking the time to think more carefully about the items I demanded and consumed this holiday season.  You can bet it won’t happen again.

Here is a very short list of websites where we can all find some inspired, meaningful items to spend our money this holiday season, and on any other future gift-giving occasion.  These gifts are in the true spirit of the Holidays, regardless which ones you celebrate.

Feed My Starving Children [FMSC] Marketplace This is a Christian nonprofit dedicated to providing nutritious meals to children all around the world.  They have many, many beautiful items produced by artisans all over the world, and over 90% of their total donations go directly to feed children.  If you order by December 19 you can still receive your items before Christmas!

Heifer International There is a survey that says 79% of Americans would rather receive a donation in their name than a gift for Christmas.  This is certainly true for myself. You can help struggling families around the world (including here in the US) lift themselves out of poverty with a gift from Heifer.

One Hope Wine Want to imbibe this season?  If you’re going to drink, you may as well drink for charity. One Hope lets you shop for wine based on the causes that they support, which includes education, environment, veterans, health, animals, and more!

TOMS – We all know this company, as they are a well known advocate for people in need worldwide.  One of the best charitable large-scale companies, I keep TOMS on my list of companies who give a f*ck, and I will happily keep giving them my money.

Adventurist Backpacks – For every awesome backpack sold on this website, 25 meals are provided to a family who needs them.

Mud Love – Every product you purchase gives one week of clean water to someone in need who is living in the Central African Republic, one of the most neglected countries in the world.

Warby Parker – Their “Buy a pair, Give a pair” program helps people with impaired eyesight by supplying them with a pair of glasses so they can see – a luxury that many of take extremely for granted. You or a loved one is left with a super cool pair of shades, and a good feeling from making conscious consumer decisions.

Love Your Melon – You may have heard of this one!  Love your Melon gives 50% of all profits to fight pediatric cancer.  They sell more than just beanies!  Blankets, scarves, and mittens are just some of the recent additions to the family.

State – For every backpack sold, one backpack will be hand-delivered to a child who needs it.  Their backpack will be packed full of “essential tools for success”.

Cuddle & Kind – This one is for the kids!  For every handcrafted doll that is sold from this website, 10 meals are provided for hungry children. The dolls are created by female artisans living in Peru, so it’s a double-whammy on good causes.

Starling – The Starling Project is on a mission to provide solar energy to communities around the world.  Each candle is made with love in Brooklyn, New York.

If you are looking to openly donating, not in exchange for a product, I suggest you visit this list of top charities from Give Well to find a “evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, underfunded organization” to give to. This list of charities is believed to be outstanding and responsible with funds.

If there is a cause or organization that is important to you, I can bet there is a product that you can purchase to support it. Give it a quick Google search and make sure that you’re putting your money where your heart is this year, and every year.

Ethical gifts are wonderful, but the real gift to give on any day is love.  If we all gave a little more love, there wouldn’t be much else to ask for.  Thank you for reading this special article, and I wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season!

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