Certain times of the year see gift-giving go into overdrive. Whether it's the holidays, a birthday, a celebration or an excuse to treat yourself, it's not hard to find a reason to spoil your loved ones (or yourself). We take a look at ways you can be kind to others as well as the earth.
Gift giving is an art form. Finding something one-off, meaningful and that caters to your recipient's taste all while trying to stay within budget – it's more than a little headwork. Factor in trying to find gifts that are ethically-sourced and produced and are still attractive to the giftee and, ugh, we might as well just stay at home. Better yet, stay at home...and shop online. Here are some suggestions for where to buy gifts that have minimal environmental impact, give a little something back to the community, support supply chains where every person along the chain has been fairly remunerated for their work and can be purchased with the click of a button.
An oldie but a goodie, making a donation to a charitable cause in someone else's name is an easy, thoughtful way of putting your gift money towards a worthy cause and spreading some good cheer around.
Oxfam: Make a donation to a number of causes in need across the world in the name of your loved one. Donations can be made towards initiatives which help alleviate poverty, tackle climate change and improve the rights of disenfranchised communities among others. The person under whose name you made the donation will receive a small giftcard from Oxfam thanking them for the support.
RESET: RESET works with a hand-picked array of projects around the world. Via our online platform, you can donate directly to projects which support sustainable development, such as promoting computer literacy in Tanzania and Mozambique or bringing solar energy to villages in East Africa. We accept no intermediary fees meaning 100 percent of your donation goes where it's intended.
You can also support RESET with a donation and help us continue to work towards building a sustainable future.
Gifts the Old-fashioned Way...with a Twist
Thanks to the so-called green and dotcom revolutions, a number of organsations and companies have sprouted up over the last decade selling goods online that are sustainably and ethically made and sourced. If you're looking for a more traditional gift (think clothing, handbags, household items) whose impact on the environment is as minimal as possible, the following outlets purvey a range of must-have items that'll make you toy with the idea of keeping the gift for yourself.
Inhabitat Upcycled handbags from Shabby Love via Inhabitat
Modavanti: There is an outdated notion that to prioritise sustainability and ethics is to do away with design. Modavanti blows this concept out of the water with their carefully-curated range of clothing, accessories and footwear which go through rigorous checks to prove that they have been ethically produced and have minimal impact on the environment. Modavanti really earned its fashion stripes in 2013, hosting the first-ever sustainable flash runway shows in three locations as part of New York Fashion Week. Ships internationally.
The IOU Project: Created in May 2010 by a team of designers and based in Madrid, the IOU Project sells exclusively-designed garments using ethically-sourced madras from India to people worldwide. Before the company’s launch, the team behind IOU set about procuring quality, handwoven materials that would last, immediately establishing a working relationship with 246 artisan families in India, while simultaneously developing a business model that focused on fair wages for artisans and minimal impact on the environment. Ships internationally.
Household Goods (Among Other Items)
Hipcycle: The Hipcycle team have a simple mission: to make the planet and our homes as beautiful as possible. How do they achieve this? By selling upcycled goods for house and office. Think coffee tables made from recycled touring cases or wine bottle drinking glasses. If you're looking for the ultimate one-off gift, you can even browse their selection by material. Ships internationally.
Uncommon Goods: Featuring a range of artisanally-produced goods such as furniture, jewellery and clothing, Uncommon Goods places an emphasis on securing eco-friendly, handmade products. Not every item of theirs fits this description however, every sale sees them donate a portion of the proceeds to one of a group of non-profit organisations. Ships internationally.
Inhabitat Shop: Curated by the savvy folks behind green design website Inhabitat, this marketplace doesn't sell products directly, instead showcasing a selection of 'green' goods (furniture, toys, gadgets, clothing etc) that can be purchased elsewhere online (i.e. Amazon), saving you the trouble of trawling for trinkets that aren't mass-produced and environmentally harmful.
Ebay: Ebay's 'green' section is a treasure trove of one-off items that have either been recycled, upcycled or ethically produced.
New Internationalist Shop: A division of the New Internationalist magazine, this online shop takes the ethics that the publication is known for and fuses it with the retail game. Offering products such as homewares, clothing and stationery., the team works to ensure that each item is made of durable, non-toxic, organic or recycled materials; is powered by renewable energy, and supports all participants in the supply chain fairly. Ships to some international locations.
The idea is simple: you buy something and the organisation you bought it from will, in turn, donate or "gift" something to people in need.
Photocircle: Giving new meaning to the term "snap happy", Photocircle allows you to upload a photo, have it professionally printed and shipped to your loved one and donates part of the proceeds of the sale to one of its numerous aid partner projects across the world. Ships internationally.
Caleb's Hill: Towels might not sound like the most exciting present (unless you're bath-loving me) but we'd wager you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't delight in their bathroom being decked out in quality, organic cotton towels from Caleb's Hill. For every purchase, the team donates the exact same amount of cotton to aid projects across the world. Ships within the EU. Ships outside the EU in certain, on-demand cases
Tom's: The team at Tom's started out originally selling shoes with a simple mandate: for every pair sold another would be donated to a child in need. The model proved so successful, they now apply the same one-for-one thinking to glasses. Purchase a comfy pair of shoes for a friend or family member by visiting the website here.
Impact Investing and Crowdfunding
A little different from straight up donations, investing in social businesses (called impact investing) or contributing to their crowdfunding efforts has the immediate effect of helping out a worthy initiative and providing a worthwhile "gift" to your loved one. The idea behind this is to facilitate measurable social and environmental impact as well as financial return and therefore applies the corporate world model of seeking investment capital to get going to the non-profit sector. In short, you could make an investment in a positive cause in the name of your loved one and, depending on the success of the venture, they could end up reaping some financial benefits down the line.
Check out our article on impact investing and visit Global Impact Investing Network's website for more information and useful resources or check out crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo for non-profit ventures seeking a leg up.