Better Gift-Giving: Annual Shopping Guide

Holiday shopping is upon us in just two little days; and there's no shortage of jacked-up consumerist sensibilities. But while there are inevitably going to be items each holiday season you're compelled to buy—like that video game your kid's dying to have, or a new flatscreen for the home, or a certain tie/dress/sweater/coat/fill-in-the-blanks that your spouse/cousin/parent/etc. has specifically asked for—there are also plenty of other gifts you're going to buy this season. You've got stocking stuffers, little gifts for people you love, the obligatory gift for your boss, co-workers, mailperson, dry cleaner, sanitation worker, and child's teacher.

So why not do something different this year? How about, instead of buying mass-produced stuff, you use your money to make a difference?

There are millions of ways to make real change with your money this holiday season. Whether you want to support artisans, shop local, or buy from organizations that will use your money to help people (

or animals

) in need, gifts this year run the gamut from sending young women to school to purchasing handwoven baskets from an underpriveleged person in Nepal. You can donate to a non-profit you believe in on behalf of someone you care about or in memory of a loved one; or simply buy a from a company you believe has ethical business practices. Here's a short list of some of my favorites this year (full disclosure: shameless plug for

Better Farm gear

to support sustainability outreach is of course included in the roundup):

  • Better FarmAll sales support sustainability and arts outreach
  • Amy's Smart Girls — Nearly 3 billion people around the world lack access to financial services that the other half of the world takes for granted. Through Amy Poehler's Smart Girls organization, you can supply a business loan to your choice of business start-ups (we recommend the "green" sector!).
  • Dragonfly PotteryAnn Donovan makes beautiful, handmade pieces that can be shipped anywhere. Check out the Facebook page here.
  • EtsyHand-crafted items supporting artisans of every ilk
  • The Gentle BarnThis group rescues, rehabilitates, and gives sanctuary to severely abused animals; then supports interaction between them and children who have suffered similar traumas. Animal and child share an extraordinary healing process
  • Gifts With HumanityThis is the retail component of Global Fair Trade Crafts, a web-based business designed to support individual artisans around the world
  • Global GirlfriendThis online shop helps women worldwide gain economic security. The fair-trade products are made by women around the world suffering from disadvantages that can be turned around by an income stream
  • Global Goods PartnersThis non-profit works with almost 40 artisan groups employing more than 3,000 women in close to 20 countries
  • Kari Zelson Robertson BetterArts board member Kari is an accomplished potter who has a gallery space outside her Rutland home. She will ship pieces anywhere and is happy to do custom work!
  • La Mia DesignsStephanie DeJoseph has run two upcycling workshops at Better Farm and excels at repurposed textiles and needlework.
  • Little Dresses for Africa —  You can go to this website to print out templates for dresses that you make and send in for distribution to girls in African orphanages, churches and schools.Or, you can make a donation to support the creation of dresses.
  • SokoSoko is an online store that connects online consumers to global makers and handcrafted jewelry from the developing world. All items are made with natural and upcycled materials.
  • The Shop for ChangeAn online marketplace enabling disadvantaged sellers around the world to sell online and sustainably grow their livelihoods
  • Ten Thousand VillagesThe founding organization of the Global Fair Trade Movement, this store has got tons of amazing gifts for everyone on your list
  • ThredUp  ThredUP is an online consignment shop that resells once-worn, practically new kids and women's clothing unbelievable discounts. You can also sell your like-new clothes to them for cash.
  • World VisionThis Christian humanitarian organization provides support to individuals and families worldwide regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. From their website you can purchase goats or chickens for families in need, supply a village with seeds for gardens or money to dig wells, or furnish a school with supplies

Any individual retailers and/or artisans are encouraged to leave their own website/store information as a comment below for holiday shoppers.


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.