Your Christmas all Wrapped-up: ivo’s Ethical Gift Guide (part one)

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The temperature’s plummeted, the mince pies are out and it’s finally time to stop complaining about the shops putting their decorations up earlier every year. Christmas is definitely in the air and it’s full blown gift-buying season. Whether you formulate an action plan in late September or prefer to do the frantic petrol station raid on Christmas Eve, chances are there are at least a few niggling people you’ve yet to buy for. The idea of finding something useful or beautiful for everyone on your list can seem overwhelming if not down-right impossible, so we’ve done the legwork for you and selected some great gifts and useful websites for your family, friends, and even the dog. And the real icing on the Christmas cake is that this gift guide is 100% ethical, all the products listed below are either sold directly by charities, or are made using fair-trade, organic or green practices. So, what are you waiting for –get ethical shopping!

Charity Products                       

Christmas shopping doesn’t get much more ethical than buying your gifts directly from a charity. Amnesty International has a particularly good range of products, including some beautiful and powerful posters. Oxfam sell a range of gifts from five pounds and up, which would make great Secret Santa presents. Cancer Research UK also has a useful online shop, and they have an especially good selection of mugs.

Homeware and food

Econcentric describe themselves as a ‘one-stop shop for gorgeous eco homewares’, and they have a large, varied range of products that often deviates from the bead-encrusted “ethnic” designs we might associate with ethical furnishings. Some of our picks from their site include a number of stylish, modern prints, a sustainable, UK-made elm cheese board and knife for the wannabe gourmand and striking cufflinks made from recycled circuit boards for the man about town. If that little lot isn’t enough to inspire you, they also do gift vouchers.

If you’ve got real foodies to buy for, this luxury fair trade hamper, featuring delicious treats including Palestinian extra virgin olive oil, burnt sugar fudge and wild blossom honey, could be an excellent option.

Tradecraft is a good place to look for fairly-traded gifts from gift-wrapped chocolates to handcrafted chess sets. They also have a good selection of fair-trade wines.

For the Kids

Children are unusual in that they often know exactly what they want for Christmas– unlike those of us who simply know what we definitely don’t want.  But don’t despair; there are a number of ethical yet extremely fun alternatives to the plastic, sweatshop-produced items that often feature on their lists. Ethical Kidz has a large range of lovely, inexpensive stocking fillers, while Holz Toys specialises in environmentally-friendly wooden toys including rocking horses, marble runs and train sets.

Jaysabrina Ethical Toy Shop is a small company that sells fair-trade toys made in Bangladesh, many of which are perfect gifts for pre-school kids. Let’s Play Fair in an ethical and fair-trade online toy shop that has a large range of rag dolls, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: from pixies to Alice in Wonderland. 

For young fashionistas, Aravoreis an award-winning and luxurious brand for ethical children’s clothing made from organic and fairly-traded fabrics.

Cosmetics

Makeup and toiletries are a common element of many a Christmas list, and ethical cosmetic companies offer a plethora of gift ideas that can help you look and feel great. Green People sell a large range of organic products, and their cherry red lipstick is a classic gift for women of all ages.

For many of us nice “smellies” are a go-to gift choice. Green Heart Gifts has a selection of lovely toiletries, including these beautifully gift-wrapped bath melts. They also have an impressively thorough Ethical Policy.

 Jewellery and Accessories

If you’ve got some fashion-conscious friends and family to buy gifts for this year, The Green Apple is a brilliant place to start your search. The site is full of stylish and unusual ethical gifts, and their bird-print scarf and recycled postage stamp charm bracelet particularly caught our eye.

Watches are a Christmas gift staple and Swomo sell simple, stylish and affordable designs. What’s more, for every fifty watches sold they’ll sponsor a disadvantaged African child to attend school for a year.

Made sells unusual jewellery and leather goods made in their own fair-trade workshop in Nairobi, and their “Gita” pendant with its distinctive guitar design would make a great gift for a hard-to-please teenage girl. 

Frillybylilly sell ethical jewellery made from reclaimed vintage pieces and recycled brass, and they currently have some beautiful rings on sale.

Underwear

If you’re looking for a more intimate gift, worry not – we’ve hunted down some great ethical underwear options. Pants to Poverty sell colourful organic cotton designs that are made in a very impressive-sounding factory in India, which is carbon-neutral, uses an extremely water-efficient dyeing process and has introduced an ‘empowerment and real  living wage programme’ for their employees. If you’re looking for a more luxurious collection, Ayten Gasson specialises in beautiful underwear made from peace silk (made using a process that is more humane to the silk worms) and organic silk. And, if you’re buying for someone who really likes underwear, Who Made Your Pants? sell a year’s supply of their ethical undies.

Cosy Clothes

What would Christmas be without a sizeable slice of cosiness? If you want to keep your loved ones wrapped-up warm, People Tree sell a selection of classic women’s pyjamas, while Green Fibres have a good range of men’s PJs and socks. For some luxurious comfort, Izzy Lane sell a selection of stylishly ethical sweaters for women – and the rest of the high-end brand’s collection is worth checking out, especially as the company prides itself on championinganimal welfare in fashion, and the British wool and textile industries. 

Bits and bobs

Sometimes we don’t know what gifts we’re looking for until we see them, so we’ve done some browsing to get you inspired.

Shared Earth – a company that aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities around the world by supporting local craft projects that build on traditional skills – sell some great fair trade gifts, we love their boat made from recycled cans, and wooden foot massager.

One Village also sells lovely things produced fairly by artisan cooperatives in Africa and Asia, as well as some very pretty Christmas decorations.

Ethical Superstore is full of green, fair-trade and organic gift ideas, like this men’s scarf made from Peruvian alpaca wool, or these quirky asymmetrical recycled wine glasses.

If you’re a doting pet-owner and like to include your furrier friends in the present-buying then The Natural Store has a number of ethical products to choose from – they even sell aromatherapy essences for pets.

Hopefully there’s something in that bumper list for everyone, but perhaps you can’t help thinking that your money might be better spent on people who really need it. In fact, maybe this year Granny would like to help an African war widow or some British children living in poverty, rather than receiving yet another scarf?! If that sounds intriguing, look out for our upcoming guide to the charities offering goats, hugs, libraries and other great gifts for you to send to disadvantaged people around the world – what’s more, they make excellent and hassle-free last-minute gifts! 

By Kate Turner

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Top answer

Very helpful article and in addition there are actually more stores and online shops where you can buy ethical gifts this holiday season, like stores that partnered with charities such as bond47.com, twin4peace, etc. A lot of choices for our loved ones and at the same time we can also help those that are less fortunate.

KTurner

I'm really glad you like it - and thanks for the extra tips!

I've just seen a ring that says 'I love Tea' on the Green Apple website...My two favourite things in one - tea and jewellery! Never mind Christmas prezzies for other people, I'm treating myself... :-)

KTurner

...well it IS ethical!