Ethical Christmas Shopping

Yes, it is that time. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas before, which means we really need to get on our Christmas shopping. What do Christmas shopping and justice seeking have in common, you ask? Well, a time of this much spending is also a good time to figure out where our money is going. While you’re buying awesome Christmas gifts, why not buy awesome Christmas gifts from great ethical sources?

Consumables

Chocolate and coffee, two things that make the world go ’round. Unfortunately, they’re also two products that support pretty horrible labor practices. I’ll be writing more on this in the future, but for now, keep in mind that certified fair trade goods help ensure that those in the supply chain receive fair wages for their work. Starbucks sells ethically sourced coffee, which you can read about here. If Starbucks doesn’t float your boat, Fair Trade USA has an extensive list of partner coffee companies here.

As far as chocolate is concerned, Slave Free Chocolate lists companies that source cocoa from places unconnected to child slavery, as well as providing some seals you can look for on labels. Unfortunately, a lot of the larger chocolate companies have longer supply chains that are much harder to trace.

Clothing

The factory disasters in Bangladesh made some of the issues in clothing production much more visible. Some large clothing brands use sweatshop practices for cheap labor, among other issues. There are a number of organizations dedicated to finding and promoting ethical clothing brands. The Good Trade lists 35 ethical/fair trade certified clothing brands whose missions ensure good sourcing practices here. If you’d like more information about what to look for in an “ethical” clothing brand, the Clean Clothes Campaign has a guide here. Fair Trade USA also provides a list of partner companies, as well as its standards for certification.

Another option is to buy vintage/secondhand. This way, you can get around the supply chain issues, and a lot of these stores support non-profits. Check out the consignment shops in your area–I know one of my favorites in college used its profits to support a local women’s shelter.

Jewelry

Jewelry can make a fabulous gift, but unfortunately, a lot of gemstones are the result of civil war, child labor, or other conflict or human rights abuses. Look for stones that are Kimberley Process Certified, meaning they didn’t finance civil wars, à la Blood Diamond. Companies like Tiffany & Co. have committed to sustainability in their supply chains.

This is another place where going vintage can be a great option! And, like with clothing, see if you can find vintage shops whose profits go to a good organization.

Books

I love books. I especially love great books whose profits go to awesome organizations. There are lots of these, but here are just a few options:

If you have specific books you’d like to buy already in mind, my favorite place to buy books is Better World Books. They sell both new and used books, shipping is always free, and they use their profits to donate books and fund literacy programs, in addition to being environmentally and economically conscious.

Other non-profit-supporting gifts

  • If you, like me, love subscription boxes (they’re like getting presents every month!), you will probably also love Faithbox. Faithbox is a monthly subscription box with a devotional and a curated collection of socially conscious products. I’ve received a candle, an amazing dark chocolate bar, and some fabulous books, for example. Every box they sell feeds three hungry kids through their partnership with Rice Bowls, and many of the organizations from whom they buy products also donate some of their profits.
  • Causebox has a similar idea, except it’s a quarterly subscription box filled with beautiful products that give back, as well as occasionally products from Sevenly, their partner company.
  • Another great option is International Justice Mission’s gift catalogue, which allows you to donate in someone’s name to combat human trafficking. Have enough stuff of your own? Ask loved ones to buy you something from the catalogue!
  • UNICEF Market sells tons of great gifts, including some beautiful home decor games, with the proceeds, of course, going to UNICEF.
  • NOVICA works with National Geographic to empower artisans around the world and deliver some truly beautiful and unique gifts.
  • Stone & Cloth makes backpacks, totes, and other bags, with proceeds going to the Knock Foundation to provide scholarships to students in Tanzania.
  • Photography nerd? Check out this gorgeous camera strap from ONA, with part of the proceeds going to charity: water.
  • Grab some SWAP mismatched socks to support Seva Foundation’s vision projects.
  • Amnesty International sells cool stuff, too, at their Amnesty Shop, which is all fair trade and supports their human rights work. I’m especially partial to their Christmas ornament from Thailand.
  • BoxLunch gives a meal to someone in need for every $10 you spend on their fun pop culture items.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read):

  • Today: Click around the links and see if you find any gifts you want. Also, if you know of other awesome justice-conscious gift ideas, send ’em on!
  • This week: Whether you’re Black Friday shopping or not, start buying gifts, or making lists, with some of these ideas and companies in mind.
  • This year: These don’t just make great gifts–they’re great companies and products to support all year round!
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