Giving Gifts That Give Back

When I spend money I want my purchases to help real people have successful businesses. I would love to see more choices made this year to support artists, crafters, local companies, and ethical businesses. The things we buy can do more than make a giant corporation even wealthier and fuel social injustice. I want to purchase items that don’t simply look good but also spark goodness to happen.

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Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on holiday gifts this year. While we don’t have control over the country’s buying habits we can certainly make better choices as we check off our own shopping lists. Shopping for the holidays is a a chance to keep a local business open, support a charity, supplement the income of a part-time crafter or artist, and expose someone to fair trade. If we’re already spending the money why not do it in a way that gets us a better world, one that’s more consistent with the Scriptures?

As Anna Lappe put it, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

Where are the gifts that give back? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Local Businesses: support a local salon, photographer, bakery, bookstore, restaurant, or coffee shop. Pick up a gift card for someone on your list and they may become a regular customer! Bonus points for a salon selling handmade soaps or cafes using local produce or fair trade coffee.

Farmers Markets: if there's one still open in your area you can buy edibles directly from their growers. Non-perishables like honey, jams, preserves, luffah gourds, and popcorn make lovely gifts. For a foodie friend a winter squash or pumpkin makes a great hostess present.

Local Health Stores: these are great for soaps, teas, essential oils, and more. Small stores are more likely to carry products from small companies; in my local health store they have locally made soaps, lip balm, and local honey. Buying at the health store supports both local businesses at once.

Do Good Companies: lots of businesses are doing excellent works around the world! You've probably heard of TOMS but what about Sole Rebels, Lush, So Worth Loving and Tribe Alive? Whatever you're passionate about there's a company who feels the same way.

Fair Trade: buying items that are fairly traded support small businesses, jobs for women, and education around the world. Head to a local fair trade shop or a website like Ten Thousand Villages  for jewelry, purses, musical instruments, house wares, and more.

Local Non Profits: if there’s an organization that you’d like to keep around you might considering supporting them with your gift giving dollars. Tickets can be purchased to local theatre productions, the ballet, or a symphony, a membership or gift card can be given to an area zoo or YMCA/JCC. If you want to make a donation in someone's honor most non-profits will provide a certificate saying that you did so.

Online Gift Shops: plenty of non-profits have their own stores where you can purchase shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, stickers, and other fun items. Liberty in North Korea, Nightlight International, and Rescue Her are a few charities that sell beautiful items to support their cause.

Etsy: this is a market filled with beautiful handmade and vintage items! Etsy is composed of thousands of small business owners selling everything from clothing to home d├ęcor to children’s toys to spa products to kitchenware. If you have your eye on something in the home goods or organization section at a box store, chances are there's a quality, unique version on Etsy. You can purchase items online or give an Etsy gift card.

Music: artists signed to record labels like Columbia, Capitol, and Roc-a-Fella don’t need your financial support but there are plenty of lesser-known musicians that would be thrilled if you purchased an album! If possible buy directly from the bands website or in person.

Craft Shows: these are great for finding local small business without a store front. Craft shows often feature pottery, handmade soaps, scarves, and accessories, jewelry, fine art, and baked goods.

What are some of your favorite things to buy that give back? What's your favorite ethical company?

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