Everyone is on the hunt for deals for the beginning of the Christmas season.  This year is a little different — we have a new president-elect that requires vigilance, not just in politics but with our wallets as well.

I believe the way I spend my money is just as important as the way I vote.  I believe I’m not just buying the product, I’m buying into that company’s employee policy, environmental policy and the politics of the CEOs of that company every single time I spend a dollar.   I refuse to give individuals more money to lobby against my interests and treat their employees so poorly that the employees have to get government assistance for basic needs.   There are more organic and natural options without high fructose corn syrup because customers demanded it.  People shifted from conventional produce and artificial flavoring and forced companies to respond to market demand.  Likewise, I hope to make environmental and socially conscious business a requirement for business success.

This is the season of giving, light and birth.  It is the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and it is also the season of shopping and giving to charities.  I want to focus on supporting those companies that are doing the right thing. I want to recognize shopping as an opportunity to give to the retail workers and my community. I want to think of my shopping choices as voting for companies that will support legislation and policy with which I agree.  I want to do this in three ways: (1) give gifts that also give to charity, (2) shop at local, socially conscious and/or environmentally friendly establishments, and (3) give more meaningful, rather than purely consumer, gifts so I have more money to give to charity.

There are a lot of fancy, expensive and complicated ways to shop consciously but I tried to find gift ideas that aren’t too expensive or complicated.

Homemade Gifts

Not all gifts need to be bought.  Rather than stressing over crowded shopping malls, make the holidays a season for creativity by making more gifts rather than buying them.  With the money you save on gifts, you can give a little extra to charities this season.

  • Create a coupon book of certificates for your children or adults – ten gift coupons for them to redeem during the year. Your spouse may appreciate a “back rub coupon,” your kid, a “no room cleaning today” pass, and for a friend a “babysitting coupon.”
  • Do Pinterest Crafts:  you can make your own lemon sugar hand scrub, vases with photos, pillows with photos, banana bread in a jar, make your own coasters, make jam, jewelry, bath bombs, and the list goes on.
  • Everyone loves personalized gifts, so create a simple book about your child for your child, written and illustrated by you.
  • Make your own Christmas cards, maybe even with the help of your kids.

Gifts that Give Back

Small Bakery Gift sold by That’s Caring

That’s Caring Food Basket – Food Basket gives supplies for a weekend food bag to a child living in a food-insecure environment.  The company founders sourced unique gift items from local charitable organizations and fair trade, sustainable manufacturers, offering very high quality gift options with little to no non-biodegradable waste to consumers and businesses across the country.  Many of their gift baskets are centered around food, including gourmet chocolates, confections, cheeses, wines and more.  They currently work with Northern Illinois Food Bank, North Texas Food Bank and Food Bank of North Georgia.

Pantagonia – Pantagonia is a Certified B Corporation and is donating 100% of its Black Friday sales to environmental groups.  The donations will come from sales from both physical stores and online sales.  They also use organic cotton grown in the US and are fair trade certified.  Their mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Uncommon Goods – This is a collection of artisan crafts and art.  Uncommon Goods is a Certified B Corporation.  With every purchase you make, they donate $1 to a Better to Give partner of your choice.  They make sure that their products never involve any harm to animals – they don’t carry products made with fur, feathers, leather, or pearls.

Serene Meditating Frog Sculpture available at UNICEF Market

Better World Books – Better World Books is a Certified B Corporation.  Every time you purchase a book from BetterWorldBooks.com, they donate a book to someone in need. The books they donate go through hundreds of non-profit organizations.  In addition, organizations like Room to Read, the National Center for Families Learning, and Books for Africa receive funding from every book they sell.  As part of their commitment to environmental sustainability, they never, ever throw away a book. Any book for which they cannot find a proper home is recycled.  Sharing books is a great gift for kids and adults.  We get to share information and imagination.

One Hope Wine, Coffee & Gifts – This gift does double good because it provides a consumable gift that also gives to charity.   A portion of proceeds from each bottle of wine, gift set or bag of coffee goes to a good cause. The wine is from Napa Valley and the company was named Empact 100’s Social Business of the Year in 2012.  Their donations are given to nonprofits selected by using a 13-point criteria standard.

Giftback Baskets – Giftback has gift baskets that give 10% to the charity of your choice.  Like One Hope, I like that these are consumable gifts.  I don’t like giving gifts that clutter people’s homes.  While they have cookies, they also have fruit and other healthy options.  I enjoy food and love giving and receiving gift baskets.

UNICEF – UNICEF Market offers beautifully crafted items, including gifts and cards, with part of the proceeds going to talented artisans and to help UNICEF save and  protect children.  Unlike many non-profit shops, UNICEF has many beautiful items that are reasonably priced and have a general appeal.  It is not filled with items with brand recognition, but you can truly find a gift that your friends and family will enjoy.

Alex and Ani Lotus Blossom Charm Bangle Supporting Women & Infants Hospital

Charity Pot by LUSH –  Lush is 100% vegan, handmade, refuses to test on animals and supports various campaign organizations.  Charity Pot is a rich and generous body lotion.  With every purchase of Charity Pot, LUSH donates 100% of the price (minus the taxes) to small, grassroots organizations that could use the helping hand to continue the incredible work they do. Charity Pot supports organizations that align with LUSH ethics in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights.  All profits from the sale of their Error 404 bath bomb will be donated to Access Now and grassroots digital activism groups working to protect digital rights in areas at risk of government-enforced shutdowns. LUSH also gives a portion of the proceeds from their FUN line to a good cause.

Alex and Ani Jewelry – Alex and Ani’s Charity by Design line of bracelets are eco-conscious jewelry that is made in America and gives to non-profit organizations.

Good Cause Greetings – Give greeting cards that support charitable causes throughout the world. Good Cause Greetings donates a minimum of 10% of the revenue from the sale of each card directly to the specific charity whose work is described on the back of each card.  Every Good Cause Greetings card is eco-friendly. Chlorine-free recycled paper is used exclusively. All paper is certified by both FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative). The ink that provides the bold, bright colors is soy based.

Tiny Prints Operation Smile Partnership – Support Operation Smile through Tiny Prints.

Socially Conscious Shopping

Socially conscious vendors include fair trade companies, B Corporations, companies with high Corporate Equality Index (CEI) ratings and companies that with high employee satisfaction as measured by Glassdoor.com.  Fair Trade Certified™ products were made with respect to people and planet. Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses.  B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.  CEI is the Human Rights Campaign’s rating system for American workplaces based upon LGBT equality.  Glassdoor’s ratings are based solely on employees’ anonymous reviews of the company.  I realize that none of these are perfect standards but they are a start.

Shop Local & Used – If you aren’t able to find gifts that also give to charity, try shopping at small local shops that help keep the money in your community and support local artists and business owners.  Also, try shopping for used goods at thrift stores and stores that refurbish items.  Many bookstores, music stores and high-tech vendors offer used or refurbished items as well.

Etsy  – Etsy is a Certified B Corporation. They view their social, environmental and business goals as inseparable. They don’t just recycle and compost in every office, they know exactly how much their trash weighs and bike their compost to community farms every week. They provide entrepreneurial training for artisans looking for new ways to support themselves and their families. They give their employees five days a year to spend volunteering in their communities.

Junior Explorers – Junior Explorers is a Certified B Corporation.  Junior Explorers was developed as a program to develop kids’ understanding of our planet, its ecosystems and species through fun and interactive missions.  Junior Explorers is dedicated to educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards. As kids learn about our planet with Junior Explorers, they also learn about environmental conservation projects happening around the world today. For every sign up, Junior Explorers donates a percentage of its revenues to environmental projects.

Four Sisters Whimsey Pendant from Fair Trade Winds

Fair Trade Winds  –  Fair Trade Winds has reasonably priced fair-trade items made by artisans around the world.  They partner with artisan co-ops and small workshops that are mindful of the materials that are used and re-used.  They also pay a fair wage which helps ensure a decent standard of living and secure a future for artisans’ and farmers’ families.

Apple – Apple has a 4 out of 5 satisfaction rating from employees on Glassdoor.com, it has a 100 Corporate Equality Index score from the Human Rights Campaign and it is

Starbucks – They received a rating of 100 out of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign and employees have anonymously rated Starbucks with an average of 3.8 out of 5 on Glassdoor’s employment website.  They also care about the environment and ethical sourcing.  I love giving and receiving Starbucks gift cards.  I use them when I need energy on the go or I need water at the airport, and obviously some people go there every day.  In 2002, Starbucks began using and selling Fair Trade Certified coffee, and by 2009 they had become the world’s largest buyer of Fair Trade coffee beans.

Costco – Costco is the affordable way to take a stand. Costco has an average hourly wage of $12.49, a Glassdoor rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 and great healthcare benefits.  It is exactly the way we want corporations treating their employees.  Costco has a CEI Score of 80.  Although hourly part-timers at Costco have to wait a little longer than full-time employees for benefit eligibility (180 days instead of 90), the national wholesale retailer offers a competitive package that includes health, dental and vision care, and a 401(k) plan with employer contribution. Costco’s ethical sourcing goals include avoiding slave labor; selling sustainable seafood; avoiding conflict minerals (raw materials sourced from conflict zone countries where the materials are sold to finance the fighting groups, e.g. “blood diamonds”); protecting animal welfare involving on-farm living conditions and slaughter methods; and working towards 100% sustainable palm oil products.  Costco has a charitable giving program open to many not-for-profit organizations such as The United Way, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Red Cross, but they aren’t transparent on their website about how much they give.  Costco provides returning veterans with work with competitive wages and benefits, with either full-time or part-time positions available for those using the G.I. Bill to attend school.

Best Buy – Best Buy has an average hourly wage of $10.36, a Glassdoor rating of 4.0, and a 100 CEI ranking.  I think Best Buy is one of the best places for Black Friday shopping.  It always has one of the best deals and I think it is one of the most socially responsible companies of the Black Friday leaders.

Minted Holiday Cards – Minted’s community of independent artists and designers are located in 48 states and 43 countries.  Their core competencies are mobilizing and activating creative people, and enabling them to monetize their art by identifying the industries and products where their art is most interesting to consumers. Minted produces and sells winning designs, paying the designer a commission on every sale. In addition, winning artists and designers have stores on Minted. They can launch any of their creations into their stores, utilizing Minted’s manufacturing, fulfillment, and customer service capabilities to run their businesses.

There are many other companies that pride themselves on being conscious companies. I tried to include items that were economical and beautiful. I believe that conscious consumerism can be economical and conscious business practices can also be profitable.  I tried to provide a balance between conscious choice and practical choices.  I hope this helps families take the next step toward conscious consumerism and happier holidays.


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