happy holidays: commercialism for good


Have you guys heard that today is Giving Tuesday?  The premise is simple: that rather than succumb to the commercialism that runs rampant during the holidays, this day is set aside to focus on giving, rather than spending.  And given that I've also been hearing a statistic that 79% of people would rather have a donation given to a charity in their name than receive a gift they wouldn't use, Giving Tuesday seems like a great idea.  Indeed, in my immediate family, we've had (an admittedly infrequent) practice of giving charitable donations in lieu of gifts, so I totally love the spirit behind Giving Tuesday, and will likely partake before the day is up.

However.  (Can I say however? It feels wrong to say however.  But however.)

I, selfishly, love giving gifts.  I love them.  I love keeping the secret about what I got friends and family (I don't always succeed), and I love watching folks open the gifts on Christmas Day.  I love giving gifts more than I love receiving gifts, and that's a fact.  And this might make me an awful person, but the truth is that for me, it's not the same watching someone read a note that says a donation was given in their name.  

(The one exception to the paragraph above:  I admit being absolutely thrilled one year when Marcus bought me a goat for my birthday.  Because COME ON.  A goat!!)

Anyway, in recent years, I've been working really hard to give gifts that people can unwrap on Christmas Day, but also have the added benefit of helping the world in some way.  So I thought I'd share some of my favourites here with you, if you happen to feel the same way I do -- and I'd love if you'd share some of your favourites with me in the comments.  Together we can really use this commercialism thing for good, don't you think?  So here we go:

FashionABLE.  I've told you about this wonderful organization before, and seriously, I can't get enough of them:  their scarves are truly stunning, literally handwoven on simple looms (shown above), and the fact that purchasing scarves helps get young Ethiopian women (many of them girls) off the street is just straight up awesome. The best part: these stunning scarves are reasonably priced, and come with a personalized note from one of the women weavers.  They're just stunning.

JoinRED.  A subsidiary of the ONE Campaign, this very awesome organization partners with some of your favourite retailers to ensure that some of the profits are given to the Global Fund, the world's leading financier for programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  The variety of retailers who participate is impressive, from Apple products to girl skateboards. Last year I got Marcus a pair of Chuck Taylors.  I'm sure I'll be visiting again this year.

Ten Thousand Villages.  This is one of my favourite little stores in Houston to find unusual gifts for friends, especially jewelry or something for their homes.  I love that they have an online store now, and as one of the world's largest Fair Trade organizations, they improve the livelihood of impoverished artisans in over 38 different countries.

FEED.  I found these bags through the ONE Campaign and I love them -- this grey one has become my everyday tote.  The best part is that the purchase of FEED products provides meals and medicine to children in impoverished countries.  They're beautiful and they're sturdy, and feed children?  YES PLEASE.

And finally, if you do go the purely charity route, do check out that organization Marcus used, Oxfam Unwrapped -- they do great work, and besides:  watching your family members on Christmas morning open an envelope revealing that you bought them a goat, honey bees, or even manure has got to be as fun as watching them unwrap any other gift.

Got to.

Okay, friends, your turn:  what is your favourite store that sells items that help make the world a better place?   Please share in the comments below -- and together, we'll create the most awesome list of organizations that give back on the web.