A (Sorta) Gift Guide

Oh, December. Month of gift guides (guilty), shopping bags (guiltier) and free shipping deals (guiltiest, because I just bought approximately one thousand rolls of toilet paper, thank you, Amazon). I picked the wrong month to re-read this book, because with every box that arrives at my door, the pit in my stomach deepens.
The stuff. There is so, so much.
Here’s a truth I recently read: If your household makes $35,000, you are among the tip-top 4% of the wealthiest people in the world. You spend more each year on trash bags alone than nearly half of the world’s households spends on all purchased goods combined.
I don’t know what to do with that information, because it just sits there and settles under my skin for a time. I just cannot wrap my head around what to do, where to start. How to melt a snowball of consumerism that I feel like I’ve played a part in perpetuating.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m spending some time this month to talk it over with the ones closest to me. For now, here’s something I can do: trust those who are melting these snowballs in their own ways, creating goods that are doing good. You won’t find something here for everyone on your list (hello, hole in the market for 4-year-old pirate-loving boys), but you’ll find something for a lot of them. And if it’s not too late, you can tack these on to your own wish list and rest easy knowing that you’re receiving something while giving something remarkable.
Can I also mention something? The goal of these gifts isn’t to package our good intentions with ribbon and twine, presenting a better image of ourselves as someone who is “charitable.” I’m encouraging myself to choose just one or two of these causes I’m passionate about and find a way to further the momentum – long past December, long after the pine needles have fallen and the marshmallows are stale. And that looks like a lot of things: spreading the word to friends and family, sending kind and encouraging emails to each of these hard-working founders, educating myself on the cultures surrounding each cause, sending prayers to many corners of the world.
Charitable gifts are trendy these days, but some trends have staying power (here’s looking at you, leggings). And some are life-changing (here’s looking at you again, leggings). Here are a few I’m rooting for:

The Gift: Panama Hat ($49+)
The Founder: A compassionate thirty-something Argentinian woman.
The Cause: To help support, promote and maintain the weaving community of Sig Sig in Ecuador.
The Bottom Line: Hats are purchased directly from Sig Sig to be sold online with 2% of total sales donated back to Sig Sig.
Perfect For: Your father, currently dreaming of sandy beaches and full-time retirement.

Elephant Landing Co.

The Gift: The Grace Pillow ($50)
The Founders: Two lifestyle photographers traveling the world.
The Cause: To provide employment and educational opportunities for the women in the villages of Andhra Pradesh.
The Bottom Line: 100% of all profits are used to develop more training/sewing centers in villages throughout Southeast India.
Perfect For: Your sister, who just moved homes (and can move mountains, too).


The Gift: The Genet Scarf ($65)
The Founder: One visionary man in Nashville, TN.
The Cause: To provide sustainable employment opportunities by offering an alternative income for women.
The Bottom Line: FashionABLE partners with Women at Risk in Addis Ababa to counsel, train and rehabilitate former sex workers.
Perfect For: Your mother-in-law, who always wants to know where you score those great scarves you sport weekly.


31 Bits
The Gift: Sweet Tart Necklace ($28)
The Founders: Five carefree college girls following their gut.
The Cause: Channeling a love for fashion and design to empower people to rise above poverty.
The Bottom Line: Employs a five-year holistic development program in Uganda with over 120 woman receive health education, finance training, counseling, and business training.
Perfect For: Your fashionable niece who hasn’t yet unlocked her loads of potential.

The Gift: Tea Towel ($12)
The Founder: A prospective adoptive mother passionate about orphan care.
The Cause: To create economic opportunities for the vulnerable.
The Bottom Line: Employing a trunk show model, ambassadors can sell jewelry and accessories made from over 1,000 international artisans with good working conditions and fair living wages.
Perfect For: Your beloved neighbor going through the early stages of adoption, knee-deep in stress-baking.

Raven + Lily
The Gift: Wood-Printed Journal ($22)
The Founders: Two best friends collaborating with artisans to create ethically made and fashionable goods.
The Cause: Empowering women through design.
The Bottom Line: Proceeds go back toward supporting women artisans in Ethiopia, India, Cambodia and the formerly homeless women in Los Angeles and refugees in Austin.
Perfect For: Your favorite faraway fried who believes in the art of handwritten letters and womens’ rights.


Sseko Designs
The Gift: Black Leather Hobo Bag ($150)
The Founder: A budding journalist living overseas.
The Cause: Using fashion to educate and empower the women of Uganda.
The Bottom Line: Sseko Designs hires high potential women in Uganda, enabling them to earn money to go directly towards their college educations.
Perfect For: Your assistant who is passionate about women and education (and is forever searching for the perfect bag).


The Gift: Oat Milk Bath Tea ($12)
The Founder: A New Zealander tastemaker-turned-Texan.
The Cause: To build profitable businesses inspired by handmade traditions.
The Bottom Line: 1% of sales goes toward Aid to Artisans to create opportunities for low-income artisans around the world.
Perfect For: Your grandmother who taught you how to knit – and who never turns down a warm, milky bath.


Stone + Cloth
The Gift: The Lucas Backpack ($74)
The Founder: A mountain-climber with a vision.
The Cause: Providing scholarship needs for children’s schooling in Tanzania.
The Bottom Line: Stone+Cloth partners with The Knock Foundation, a non-profit near the foothills of Kilmanjaro, to offer scholarships and development projects for children pursuing an education.
Perfect For: Your high school-aged nephew who loves the great outdoors and needs a fresh perspective.


Rose + Fitzgerald
The Gift: Bell Jar Lamp ($150)
The Founders: A California couple transplanted to Kampala, Uganda to start a design/craft studio.
The Cause: Investing in local artisans while offering handmade, sustainable goods.
The Bottom Line: Founder Courtney offers builds relationships with local Ugandan artisans, challenging them to create high quality products and exposes them to foreign markets.
Perfect For: Your best friend who is the sunshine in your world and the light for her family.


Yellow Leaf Hammocks
The Gift: Newport Hanging Hammock Chair ($149)
The Founders: An unlikely pair of hammock connoisseur and hammock-phobe.
The Cause: Encouraging afternoon naps to provide impact families halfway around the globe.
The Bottom Line: Every hammock is 100% handwoven by hill-tribe artisans; the shop allows for greater demand and higher wages in rural northern Thailand.
Perfect For: Your mother, who is always encouraging you to take the day off from work and relax.


The Gift: Mens Custom Adibos ($99)
The Founders: A filmmaker with a dream and the Invisible Children crew.
The Cause: A social enterprise geared toward improving the quality of life for women in Gulu, Uganda.
The Bottom Line: Women directly affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict produce high-quality bags while being offered post-conflict trauma, literacy meetings and financial training.
Perfect For: Your passionate husband, who viewed and shared the Kony 2012 video approximately 10,132 times.


Crane & Canopy
The Gift: Pintuck Duvet Cover ($119)
The Founders: An innovative SF-based designer duo.
The Cause: Crane & Canopy partners with Safe Horizon to refresh womens shelter’s resources or gift bedding to women affected by domestic violence and abuse.
The Bottom Line: For every duvet cover and sham set purchased, Crane & Canopy donates a duvet cover, sham set and comforter to women and their families leaving their residences.
Perfect For: Your older sister who works the night shift and deserves a good, good night’s sleep.


LSTN Headphones
The Gift: Cherry Wood Bowery Headphones ($50)
The Founders: Two social enterprisers with a whisper of hope.
The Cause: To help provide hearing aids to the 275 million+ people worldwide who are hearing impaired.
The Bottom Line: For every purchase, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
Perfect For: Your son who may not always listen, but always hears your words.

Psst: A few other retailers, shops and movements worth taking a peek at: Enrou, Servv, Connected Goods, Pure Charity.


  • This is wonderful, Erin. Thank you. I too am struggling with the stuff that oftentimes distracts from what this holiday season (and a compassionate life, in general) is all about. I appreciate how much attention you’ve given to sharing social enterprises you believe in and support.

  • Erin, thank you for including Enrou! We love all of these picks and brands, and are especially excited to see our partnered brand Greenpacha & our good friends at Mend on your list! Happy Holidays!

  • Love this post! I just recently started a blog dedicated to companies who have well designed pieces that you’ll feel good about buying. There are several on this list that I hadn’t found yet. It’s amazing how many fantastic options there are for ethical shopping yet so few people are aware of them. So glad you posted this :)

    Happy holidays!

  • Erin! Thank you for taking time to post this. It’s so true, gifts that do good… really do make a difference. Okay… shameless plug here… but I just started a company that designs formal clutches covered in textiles sourced from around the globe (laurenoliviaco.com). All the the pieces come together in SoCal… and are hand assembled States side. It is truly rewarding to know that the full business model goes to a good cause and promotes a good cause, too. Love it :)

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