Gifts That Give Back—That Your Friends Actually Want
There was a time when you had to choose between giving an awesome gift and making a small move for social good via a donation. But now you can win on both counts. This guide features 15 great gifts for everyone on your list (from your child’s teacher to your mother to the brother who loves to hike) and includes practical gifts (like a baby cream travel set or clean water straw) and those who love nothing more than a little pampering (they’ll love the plush knit beanie with fur pompom or silk eye mask). For your fashionable friend, try Songa’s gorgeous bib necklace made with sisal and upcycled fabric. For the musically-inclined kid, check out the DIY ukulele set which is bound to inspire sounds from the beach. For the tween girl, take a look at Cuddle + Kind’s inspirational prints with sayings like “Anything is possible when you believe in yourself,” and “Leave a little sparkle wherever you go.” And for the impossible-to-buy-for friend, we’ve got you covered with a mulberry silk eye mask from The Ethical Silk Company. This batch of hand-picked beauties will delight and inspire your friends and family, while also boosting really worthy causes and organizations like The Humane Society, World Vision and St. Jude’s. Some gifts offer a portion of proceeds to these noteworthy causes while others simply provide a way for artisans in places like Rwanda and India a chance at a stable and steady job. Read, get inspired, click, and give. Everybody wins.
cuddle+kind ‘Give Life Meaning’ Print
Ideal for a child’s bedroom or to brighten up a family member’s desk, these adorable prints provide inspiration in the form of gentle reminders. A few examples include “The meaning of life is to give meaning to life,” and “If you can be anything, be kind.” Each print sold provides five meals to children in North America and around the world through the WFP School Meals Program, which provides nutrition to 18.2 million children in 65 countries. Cuddle+kind also provides meals in the USA and Haiti through Children’s Hunger Fund. What’s more, each 10-inch by 10-inch unframed print contains 30 percent post consumer waste, so they’re environmentally friendly, to boot!
To buy: $20, cuddleandkind.com.
Kindness Doll, by The Doll Kind
These soft, huggable dolls, available in three styles, offer a double dose of generosity. First, each doll comes with 10 tokens for children to give out as acts of kindness. Each token is imprinted with “Pay it forward” to lift spirits and encourage recipients to commit their own act of kindness. The doll creators say this helps children to grow into charitable and compassionate adults. Secondly, for each doll sold, The Doll Kind will donate a doll to a less fortunate child. Donation sites include orphanages, hospitals, shelters, and more throughout the United States and across the world.
To buy: $59, thedollkind.com.
The Ethical Silk Company Mulberry Silk Eye Mask
Give the gift of a pampered night's sleep with this silk eye mask, available in three patterns printed by hand using the artisanal technique of block printing. The eye mask is 100 percent eco-friendly mulberry silk with organic cotton filling for extra comfort. Each mask comes in a beautiful eco-friendly mulberry silk drawstring bag, making it an ideal gift for a friend who travels often (or a new mom who deserves some luxury). Five percent of proceeds go to the Jeevan Jyothi AIDS Centre in Theni and Focus Ireland, a charity that works to prevent people becoming, remaining or returning to homelessness.
To buy: $30, thethicalsilkcompany.com.
Capiz Shell Windchime
What’s that sound? It’s the soothing noise of a breathtaking turquoise-colored shell wind chime. Give this to the friend who could use a little serenity on their back porch. This capiz-shell-and-bamboo beauty is handmade by Indonesian artisans earning fair trade wages. Each gift purchased includes a card (available as hardcopy or in e-card form) explaining how that gift will help children and families around the world. All proceeds benefit World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization which partners with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
To buy: $125, worldvision.org.
Gunn Beanie in White Lie
This knitted beauty will keep a beloved friend’s head toasty (and fashionable) during the icy winter months. The hat is made with soft Peruvian merino wool and features a removable fur pompom. The story of its creator’s charitable mission will make you feel warm and fuzzy, too. For every purchase Shit that I Knit will give a Kn*t Sh*t kit to young adults undergoing cancer treatment. Each kit contains wool, needles, and a pattern for the recipient to complete a knitted project. Even cooler? Their website features step-by-step videos for learning how to knit, purl and even make a pompom.
To buy: $125, shitthatiknit.com.
Songa Designs Arabella Choker
Fit for an artsy friend, teacher, or anyone who could use a bit of flair, this bib necklace is made with upcycled fabrics and blue and white sisal rope, meaning no two necklaces are the same. It’s cute with a plain white tee and jeans for day, or to dress up a little black dress for a Friday night out. Songa (which means “the path forward” in Swahili) helps Rwandan women by offering them stable employment and paying fair wages negotiated by the artisans themselves. Each piece is handmade and is as unique as the woman who crafted it.
To buy: $52, songadesigns.com.
Two Can Art Jellyfish Tumbler
This tumbler is a gift that would be great for anyone on your list. Crafted by Tervis and made in America, the tumbler is great for hot and cold drinks and is microwave and dishwasher safe. The backstory on its creation is pretty neat, too. Two Can Art is the collaborative collection between artist Patti Gay and her son Noah, who is autistic. Noah paints the backgrounds of each piece and then Patti scans them in and creates an image to appear over it. Five percent of the proceeds will be donated to bring awareness of and support to those with autism.
To buy: $13, tervis.com.
Audubon Birds of Prey Collection
For the animal-loving niece or nephew try this adorable (and educational) stuffed bird collection from the National Audubon Society. It features a Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl and a Peregrine Falcon. Each bird plays a recording of its song when gently squeezed. Even sweeter, the box includes an adoption certificate and a personalized letter from Audubon CEO, David Yarnold. Proceeds go to Audubon's mission to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. Other birds available include the Snowy Owl, Northern Cardinal, and American Robin.
To buy: $100, audubon.org.
Inspire your child to make groovy Hawaiian music with this soprano-sized ukulele set. The unfinished wood kit easily assembles (the body arrives in one piece, you attach the neck and strings using only glue and sandpaper), and is ready to be decorated with paint, a stain or even stickers. “The ukulele is the famous four-string Hawaiian guitar that was widely popular in 1960s. It is enjoying a renaissance as yet another generation realizes they are fun and easy to play,” the website says. It might even inspire a love of strings in your little one! Each purchase supports National Public Radio programming.
To buy: $40, npr.org.
These eclectic pajamas are as comfortable as they are stylish. The delicate print on the Mina style features bright pinks, yellows, oranges and reds across a black and ivory patterned background. The loose fit and 100-percent rayon fabric is pure comfort, without sacrificing style. Each pair is made proudly in India by women working to forge a new path, free from sex slavery. “Our punjammies inspired by the beauty, colors and textures seen throughout the local culture and are crafted by brave women in the community who wish to remain free from the trade they escaped,” the website says.
To buy: $54, sudara.org.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
A supremely useful gift for the hiker, camper, or general outdoor enthusiast, the LifeStraw makes dirty water drinkable (it removes 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella). Here’s how it works: dirty water enters the straw, pathogens are trapped in its inner fibers, allowing clean water to flow in. The straw, good for up to 1,000 liters, is a great addition to an emergency preparedness pack. And for each straw purchased, one school child in a developing community receives safe drinking water for an entire school year. Talk about a win-win.
To buy: $20, lifestraw.com.
Green Goo Mama & Baby Travel Set
Not sure what to get an expectant parent? Give the gift of practicality with this mama and baby travel pack. It features one-ounce containers of Green Goo’s popular necessities, including belly balm (to soothe skin and moisturize stretch marks), baby balm (to treat diaper rash, cradle cap and dry skin), nursing comfort (for breastfeeding tenderness) and a sitz bath to pamper a mama postpartum. Part of the proceeds from the set will go to supporting charitable organizations like World Vision, Mercy in Action, Mandela Foundation, Snowball Express, Summit for Soldiers, the Pacific Crest Trail, Johns Hopkins, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
To buy: $25, greengoohelps.com.
Conscious Step Sock Collection
Yes, we know what you’re thinking…the gift of socks for Christmas? But this trio of unisex socks is made with soft organic cotton and crafted in fair trade conditions, along with sporting cool striped and argyle patterns (talk about a conversation starter). The money from each collection purchased goes to three causes. The yellow and black pair donates the equivalent of two books to schoolchildren in Asia, the argyle pair provides 18 months of safe water for a person in need, and the red and black pair raises awareness around the issue of poverty. Awesome.
To buy: $45, consciousstep.com.
Uzma Recycled Notecard Set
A pretty present for anyone who values written correspondence, this set of 12 willow-and-bonsai-print notecards is made by artisans at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. By purchasing the set, you’ll support 1,500 artisans around the world who, through Raven + Lily, gain access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, and education. “Women transform cotton and paper, once discarded and seen as waste, into something purposeful and beautiful. Military tents, denim jeans, newspapers, and cotton rags now find new purpose as the women create paper products from these recycled remnants,” says the website.
To buy: $16, ravenandlily.com.
The Home T Hometown Hoodie
Great for a college grad who is moving out of state, or for a friend relocating for work, this wonderfully soft hoodie allows the recipient to wear their home state on their sleeve. The grey and white unisex pullover is made in the USA and crafted with the coziest of fleece. Giving one to a world traveler? There’s even an option featuring the contiguous United States, in addition to the individual 50 state versions. Something else to smile about: 10 percent of every purchase goes to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and is specifically earmarked for research.
To buy: $65, thehomet.com.
Rainbow Chocolate Set
One man’s sweet treat is another man’s meal. Offer this to the friend who has a big sweet tooth and an even bigger heart. Each of these intensely delicious bars—made of chopped toasted cocoa beans sweetened with a coating of dark chocolate—translates into a serving of food for someone in need. JCoCo partners with organizations like Northwest Harvest, the Food Bank of New York, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and SF-Marin Food Bank to make it happen. He’ll love trying out the different and unique flavor combinations, including dark chocolate nib, orange white chocolate chili, edamame sea salt milk chocolate, and black fig and pistachio dark chocolate bar.
To buy: $65, mouth.com.
The current Pope is pretty popular, thanks in part to his more modern views on hot-button topics that are important to people around the world. Whether you need a little extra something for your Catholic grandma or a few emergency items for hipster friends, this guy delivers. It’s a funny, whimsical tchotchke that will look good on a bookshelf or side table (as long as it’s near a window). When he’s in the sun, he gives a happy little wave. A portion of each purchase goes to Unicef. Because that’s the kind of guy he is.
To buy: $25, amazon.com.
Romantic Red Wine Gift Box
A set containing Real Simple-vetted Cabernet, along with rosemary-thyme chips, fig spread, dukkah dipping sauce, salami, and Swiss cheese. This one is perfect for budget-minded people living on ramen, parents of little ones whose palate has become all too used to macaroni and cheese, or your own folks who would never dream of indulging themselves this way. And if they’re not a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, you can swap it out for a bottle of equally refreshing Pinot Noir. They can use it to wind down during the weekend, or to celebrate a special event. Every box sold helps fund ABA therapy for a child with autism.
To buy: $69, onehopewines.com.
The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day
Tracey and Jon Stewart recently announced that their New Jersey family ranch will become an outpost of Farm Sanctuary. That makes four locations for this incredible organization that rescues pigs, cows, goats, and sheep—and welcomes humans as visitors. The guy who started the whole thing, Gene Baur, has written this beautiful new book with another heavy-hitter in the field, Gene Stone (author of the vegan mainstay Forks Over Knives). It’s a celebration of health, creatures, and vegan food. There are over 100 recipes selected by some familiar names, like Zooey Deschanel, Chef AJ, and Moby. Proceeds benefit animal rescue at Farm Sanctuary.
To buy: $30, amazon.com.
These stunners promise a jaw-dropping response (and maybe even tears of gratitude) from a daughter, mom, or best friend. She can wear these to dress up a work or casual outfit, or as a finishing touch when she’s going to a cocktail party or wedding. Choose from a pair in white, yellow, or rose gold, depending on her personal style. While everything on this well-curated site is tempting, we especially love this pair because during the holiday season, 25 percent of its profits go to girlswhocode.com, the superstar nonprofit that’s creating a powerful new generation of female engineers.
To buy: $240, iconery.com.
With uniquely beautiful patterns on both sides, palettes to inspire floor-to-ceiling redecorating, and a mission of goodness—all profits go to educational training programs for the African women who craft the items—these soft blankets are simply too good to resist. If you’re bored with your current bedding, these unique quilts will be a wonderful bedroom update. Since there are patterns on both sides, you can turn the quilt over each season or whenever your tastes change. They’re all made by hand and each one has slight variations in color and design, so you’ll have your own unique piece.
To buy: $150, shop.indegoafrica.org.