Holiday shopping can be tough. We all want to buy unique holiday gifts that demonstrate thought and care. However, if you prioritize supporting brands with socially conscious and eco-friendly policies, you know you can’t always get that from big-box retailers. Endlessly searching through products and brands can make a fun holiday tradition like shopping for loved ones stressful. To make things easier, we put together a socially conscious holiday gift guide of ethical brands and sustainable gift ideas that your friends and family are sure to love this season. For more social good guides like this, follow us on Instagram!
1. Thistle Farms
Thistle Farms was our first pick for the ethical holiday gift guide because it’s more than a socially responsible company with a give-back program. Thistle Farms is a full-fledged social enterprise. A sanctuary for survivors of abuse, addiction, and sex trafficking, Thistle Farms houses women while helping them transition to independence, offering safety, counsel, community, schooling, and a path to financial independence. The non-profit makes ethically sourced candles, homemade soaps, essential body care, handcrafted jewelry and textiles, and home décor, offering socially conscious holiday shoppers lots of options for gifts that give back. Our personal favorites are their soaps and lotions, candles, and handwoven scarves, but browse through their catalog of ethical products and choose for yourself.
It’s not just a set of premium headphones. Founded to change lives through music, LSTN launched in 2011 with its give-back program in mind. Proceeds from every sale go toward giving hearing aids to people in need through LSTN’s long-term charity partner, the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
The story goes that music publicist Bridget Hilton saw a viral video of someone hearing her own voice for the first time; Hilton was so moved, she created the world’s first social good electronics company with co-founder Joe Huff. The intent: make the experience of sound accessible to more people. So far, the socially responsible brand’s give-back program has helped give the gift of hearing to more than 50,000 people worldwide. If that doesn’t sound like a perfect pay-it-forward socially good holiday gift, then I’m no good at making cheesy puns effective.
3. Cuddle + Kind
If you’re shopping for a child in your life, this socially conscious gift idea may be right for you. Cuddle + Kind’s handmade, fair trade stuffed animals and dolls are soft, cozy, super cute, and—if your kid is like mine—positioned to become a cuddle-time favorite. They’re also ethically sourced and handcrafted by Peruvian and Nepalese women earning fair trade living wages. On top of that, Cuddle + Kind offers a program to feed hungry children around the world.
The husband and wife team behind Cuddle + Kind (Jennifer Woodgate and Derek Woodgate) wanted to “create a sustainable stream of giving that wouldn’t rely on donations.” So they established a give-back program: for every doll purchased, the ethical brand delivers 10 meals to feed children, in partnership with respected non-profit partners like the United Nations World Food Program, Children’s Hunger Fund, Breakfast Club of Canada, and WE Charity’s School Nutrition Program.
4. First Book Marketplace
If you’re not into cuddly stuffed animals, here’s another socially conscious holiday gift idea for the kids in your life. First Book Marketplace isn’t a socially responsible brand with a give-back program, but a non-profit that supports 500,000 educators in low-income communities. As a social enterprise, First Book Marketplace sells books, arts and crafts products, and learning-oriented toys and activity sets for children of all ages (even teens). Purchases support the non-profit’s network of educators with resources and supplies so that poverty isn’t a barrier to quality education.
The First Book Marketplace website allows you to search for gift ideas by age or browse products based on target growth areas (e.g., language development, reading, STEM). But, don’t worry, even though these are socially responsible gifts, they won’t feel that way. We’re talking fun gifts, books, and toys that teach without, well, teaching.
5. United By Blue
Outdoor fashion is very popular these days, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that our ethical holiday gift guide features a sustainable apparel company like United By Blue.
This outdoor-meets-everyday apparel and accessories brand was launched in 2010 by founder Brian Linton as a certified B Corporation focused on the environment. Items are top-notch and quality because United By Blue prioritizes making durable products that last, so we consume less in the long haul.
And, this American-born small business gives back. One product purchased means one pound of trash is removed from our oceans and waterways. So far, United By Blue has helped remove 3.7 pounds of trash from American waters.
Ethical supply chains, sustainable materials, conservation projects, and the best flannel shirts make this socially conscious brand a go-to for sustainable gift ideas.
6. Charity Pot Body Lotion
There are several socially responsible brands in the cosmetics industry. Lush made news when it introduced its Sustainable Lush Fund (“SLush Fund”), a give-back program that goes beyond responsible buying practices and ethically sourcing fair-trade materials to making active investments in the communities that produce those materials. So far, the SLush Fund has invested approximately $5M in community agroecology projects in 20 countries.
Enter Charity Pot. Velvet-buttery smooth and delicately fragranced with ylang-ylang, and rosewood oils, seven of the body lotion’s ethically sourced ingredients come from the SLush Fund’s regenerative agriculture projects. On top of that, 100% of Charity Pot’s purchase price is donated to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of human rights, animal protection, and environmental justice.
7. Matr Boomie
A fair trade collection inspired by Indian art forms and Indian women, Matr Boomie made our ethical holiday gift guide because they offer an array of socially conscious gifts perfect for the holidays. Quality pieces of handcrafted jewelry, frames, home décor, and accessories make unique gift ideas for friends, family, or yourself. The best part: the ethical brand’s products are made of natural and upcycled materials by 1,500 artisans across India to create sustainable, dignified living opportunities for marginalized women living in some of the country’s most impoverished areas.
Matr Boomie was founded as a socially responsible company by Manish Gupta and Ruchi Agrawal a little over a decade ago. The small business has since grown to offer vocational training and literacy programs and invests in local development projects founded on sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
8. Redwood Empire Whiskey
As a socially conscious holiday shopper, you can drink and feel extra merry when you choose Redwood Empire Whiskey as your spirit of choice, whether you’re making a hot toddy or drinking on the rocks. Inspired by California’s redwood forest ecosystem, this eco-friendly whiskey brand aspires to achieve the same sense of harmony and grandeur in each bottle, incorporating a complex blend of 60% rye and 40% bourbon, matured in casks of port and California wines. What’s more, this John Muir-loving independent small business doesn’t just talk big about trees. It also plants them. In partnership with conservation NGO Trees for the Future, each bottle of Redwood Empire Whiskey sold means one tree gets planted. Talk about drinking responsibly.
9. Larry’s Coffee
Here’s another socially good gift idea you can drink: Larry’s Coffee. You may think you’re settled when it comes to your java, but you may change your mind after trying this fair trade, organic, small-batch coffee that’s as delicious as it is sustainable (that’s pretty delicious).
Larry Larson started the ethical coffee brand in 1993 to make a premium cup of joe using eco-friendly, sustainable agriculture practices that don’t harm the ecosystems and communities from which his beans are sourced. 30 years later, the small independent business is a certified B Corporation and founding member of Cooperative Coffees.
Founder Larry Larson has established partnerships with select farmers to uplift growers that employ sustainable agriculture practices. And he goes beyond sustainable farming. Even their roasting facilities and corporate offices are green, using rainwater in washrooms, relying on solar energy, and incorporating composting, reusing, and recycling practices to achieve zero waste.
10. Uncommon Goods
Our ethical holiday gift guide wouldn’t be complete without a catch-all. If you’re an, “I’ll know it when I see it,” holiday shopper, head to UncommonGoods, an online marketplace, which is also a B Corporation. The social enterprise offers toys, gadgets, kitchen tools, décor, interesting objects, and other unique gift items.
UncommonGoods’ story starts at a craft show, where founder Dan Bolotsky felt inspired to build a different kind of e-commerce company. Today, UncommonGoods actively seeks to showcase the works of independent designers and small business brands. And, through the socially responsible brand’s give-back program, Better to Give, UncommonGoods donates $1 for every purchase made to one of their chosen non-profit partners (American Forests, International Rescue Committee, RAINN, Thurgood Marshall College Fund).
An item we’d like to highlight is one of the amazing coffee table books sold on UncommonGoods. We suspect your friends will love NYT – History of Civil Rights, a collection of articles covering the fight for civil rights over the years. $5 from each purchase goes to Black Girls Code, a non-profit that teaches technology skills to African American girls.
Kudos on Your Commitment to Socially Conscious Holiday Shopping!
Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired to introduce your friends and family to a new set of products, brands, social enterprises, and B Corporations that do well by doing good. We hope our ethical holiday gift guide of socially responsible brands and sustainable products helps you find unique gift ideas they’ll love. But, don’t forget, the fact that you’re putting this much thought and effort into your gift-giving puts you way ahead in terms of touching someone’s heart. When it comes to presents, it is truly the thought that counts.
This article was written by Neda Azarfar.
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