Monday, December 07, 2009

It's that time of year again -- the holiday gift-giving season is upon us!

This year, as I do every year, I encourage folks to support their local economies and buy their gifts from local, independent retailers as often as they can. Even better -- buy items from your local retailers that are made in the USA and/or are compliant with fair trade guidelines (North Americans can look up companies and suppliers at the Fair Trade Federation).

Okay, I know, I know: this type of shopping isn't always realistic -- even for folks who trumpet it all the time -- especially with time constraints and while still in the midst of a bummer recession. But I think attempting to adhere to these guidelines is really important.

So with the realities of the holidays in mind, I always like to list a few great (and inexpensive) places online where your hard-earned dollars can get you a beautiful, quality gift, a clean conscience, and the knowledge that you are actively participating in philanthropy that is helping to build a better world.

My picks this year:

1) Rwanda Baskets

The vision of the Rwanda Basket Company is to empower the impoverished women of Rwanda to rise above their subsistence level existence by providing them with the training, tools and support needed to sell their baskets in the West.

The United Nations estimates that women make up 70 percent of those living in absolute poverty. Many of these women are cut off -- geographically, financially, or sociopolitically -- from fair and sustainable ways of making a living. Business ventures like Rwanda Baskets help bridge that gap.

Also, these baskets are stunning!

2) TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about.

I've admired this company for a long time. Their original slip-on shoe is IMO really cute, but admittedly isn't everyone's cup of tea; recently, they've expanded their shoe line to include sporty looking lace-up models and the like, as well as a full vegan line for the hippies. :)

Watch this video and see if you can keep from buying at least a couple of pairs.

3) Peacekeeper Cause-metics

Peacekeeper Cause-Metics is the first cosmetics line to give all of its after-tax, distributable profits to women’s health advocacy and urgent human rights issues. PeaceKeeper builds a bridge between extraordinary women in the land-of-plenty with extraordinary women who, by chance of birth, don’t have our resources or opportunities.

'nuff said? Well, not really.

Y'all know that women's issues are of particular importance to me. Y'all also know that makeup is a huge expenditure -- both financially and toxicity-wise -- for most women of means. Peacekeeper is dedicated to helping poverty-stricken women all over the globe, and they are funding it with the sales of non-toxic makeup. Righteous! They are part of a business model called "all benefit" (a term, for lack of sufficient linkalicious-ness, that is better explained by the "Paul Newman business model") that gives all of their profits after company costs to charity. Go get some!

4) Better World Books

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.

Before I get reamed by my independent bookstore friends for recommending an online retailer, let me just say that I am a big supporter of local independent bookstores, full stop. But if you've got to buy online (especially true for folks where the big bookstore bads have run every independent out of business) independently owned Better World Books saves books from landfills, supports literacy programs in the States and around the world, and gives you an option to ship your books not only for free, but also carbon-neutral. Excellent.


If anyone has some resources for other eco-friendly, fair trade, and/or cause-driven gift-giving, please feel free to post in the comments. Happy holiday shopping!

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