I’m obsessed with gift guides–certifiably obsessed. From Oprah’s Favorite Things to NYMag’s Annual Run-Down, I read them all and I do so gleefully.
I very rarely actually buy or ask for anything that is featured or really benefit from these guides in any way whatsoever but I love scouring them all the same. Maybe none of my friends would need or want a backpack that doubles as a chair but I’m glad that I know that such a thing exists and I’m thrilled it comes in multiple colors.
Despite my irrational soft spot for well-curated gift guides organized into cleverly-crafted categories, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with the consumption overload that is the Holiday Season.
I mean, let’s think about it: as kids, our grandparents got a single orange in their stocking but today American families spend more on holiday gifts each year than they do on things like books and booze all-year long. (I’m not entirely sure why the American Research Group chose ‘books’ and ‘booze’ as their two comparison points but I’m into it.)
I’m not suggesting we should ditch the gratuitous gift-giving in favor of depression-era citrus, just that there has to be a more thoughtful and tempered way to be a buyer than the model we’re currently subscribed to… and I really think there is.
20+ years of browsing gift guides, 4 years of writerly education, 3 years of working for non-profits and more days of my life than I’d like to admit spent perfecting my googling skills have all been a build up to this moment of sorcerous synthesis. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you what will likely be a very anti-climactic experience after this grandiose and frankly over-embellished lead-up: Presents With A Purpose: A Guide to Gifts that Give Twice.
My goal in making this gift guide was to highlight items that make a tangible, positive difference in the world. BUT the second and equally important qualifier was that all items also had to be really cool in and of themselves. No PETA Cook Books or Unicef Card Decks permitted.
PRESENTS WITH A PUPOSE: A GUIDE TO GIFTS THAT GIVE TWICE
For Your Favorite Thumb-Sucker:
The coziest, cutesiest baby sweater that benefits women and children in the Andes of Peru. $75 Buy Here: https://makiwomen.org/store/index.php
Have you ever tried putting a wool sweater on a baby? It’s not a pretty picture. While you might remember politely wearing the itchy atrocity your grandmother knit for you when you were a kid, today’s babies just aren’t as thoughtful as you were. So how can you get a handmade, warm, actually adorable sweater that your ungrateful but still favorite munchkin won’t protest? By buying one of these MAKI creations, of course! This adorable line is made with top-of-the-line baby alpaca which is warm, soft AND hypo-allergenic. MAKI pays fair-trade wages AND donates all profits back into it’s awesome programming designed to give women in Peru the resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. (PS they also make stuffed animals and sheep-mobiles.)
For The Demanding Diva or The Downton Abbey Addict:
A Scottish ‘Lady’ or ‘Lordship’ benefitting the environment. $49.99 Buy here: http://www.highlandtitles.com/
So maybe you can’t buy your friends happiness but you CAN buy them the legal right to be called “your lordship” which is pretty much the same thing as happiness. Those clever Scots across the pond have come up with a noble way to restore their forests and woodlands–donate to preserve a piece of the Scottish highlands in your friend’s name and they will officially (and legally) be named a ‘lady’, ‘laird’ or ‘lord’ of Glencoe, Scotland. (I’m pretty sure this new title is going to revolutionize my LinkedIn profile–stay tuned.) At only $49.99 a pop (including a frame-able legally binding certificate) you can afford to have a flush of royal friends.
For The Fashionista or The Bear-Phobic:
A stylish statement whistle necklace that helps bring peace to the Congo. $34-$54 Buy here: http://store.fallingwhistles.com/
Big, statement pendants are all the rage and this beautifully designed necklace is totally on trend. Big Bonus: all proceeds go to Falling Whistles, a young and innovative non-profit that is working towards peace in the Congo. Falling Whistles invests in local visionaries who have creative and efficient ideas for moving their country forward. This whistle is not just for decoration–it is highly functional and can be VERY loud which makes it a perfect present for outdoorsy types who are terrified of bears or urban types of are terrified of douche bags. Fashionable, philanthropic and functional–now THAT is the gift-giving trifecta.
For The Guitar Player or The Grade-A Groupie:
A cool and compact tool that turns trash into guitar picks. $25 Buy here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/pick-punch
About the size of a stapler, ‘The Pick Punch’ transforms expired credit cards, used-up gift cards and other similar items into the perfect, eco-friendly guitar pick. Purchasing ‘The Pick Punch’ doesn’t directly benefit a charity but it DOES benefit Mother Earth by recycling what would have been trash into jamming-out treasure.
For The Yogi or Pilates Practitioner:
A hand-embroidered mat sling that benefits women and children in Ayacucho, Peru. $47. Buy Here: https://makiwomen.org/store/scarves-and-accessories/maki-mat-strap/prod_63.html
Help a friend take their practice on the road (or just to the studio down the street) by giving them this beautiful and practical yoga mat sling. An awesome carrier handmade by female artisans in Peru, this gift doesn’t just make the lucky recipient life’s easier, it helps to radically change the lives of impoverished women in the Andes. A win-win and something to ohm about.
For The Music Afficionado or The Celebrity Junky:
An upcycled bracelet with a star-studded twist benefitting a variety of charities. $75-$200. Buy here: http://www.wearyourmusic.org/store/famous_artists
‘Wear Your Music’ makes these sleek and simple bracelets out of used guitar strings–but it’s who used them that makes this such a clever operation. Musicians from John Mayer to Trey Anastazio donate their old strings to ‘Wear Your Music’ and you get to choose which celebs strings you want to rock around wrist. A portion of the proceeds from your purchase go to your chosen musicians favorite charity. Prices range from $75-$200 based on who you choose. (Unfortunately Bieber hasn’t signed on yet.)
For The Wannabe Bad-Ass w. a 9-5:
Rad Temporary Tattoos benefiting orphans in Kenya. $5.50-$12.50 Buy Here: http://www.dogoodbuy.us/products/temporary-tattoo-project
These are not the temporary tattoos from your childhood cracker jacks. Distinguished by intricate designs and fun colors, these temps make for cool, big-kid make believe. This small-scale project was created by 6 top tattoo artists who wanted to raise funds for Flying Kites’ Child Sponsorship Program and Flying Kite’s Leadership Academy–both which aid Kenyan orphans. Help your friend be a weekend warrior without needing a sunday lazor removal all while giving needy kids a shot at a brighter future. (Also a winning Hanukkah present for your jewish friend who wants to try a tat without invoking the wrath of her bubbulah.)
For The Writer, The Doodler, The List-Maker or The Note-Taker
Globally-designed notebooks that build schools and benefit artists. $12 Buy Here: http://shopdenik.com/store/
Let’s face it: Moleskins are kind-of boring. A blank canvas for creativity is pretty nice but who wouldn’t benefit from a little splash of color or design? DENIK journals and notebooks are simple on the inside but have fun and inspiring covers created by talented artists from around the world. A portion of proceeds go to the cover-artist and another portion goes to building schools… so you get to support artists, education and your BFF’s writer’s block for a meager 12 bucks. Money well spent.
For The Foodie, The Chef or The Health Nut:
Some of us live down the street from great, local farms and then there are those of us who live in the city. For us urban folk, fresh and local produce can be inconsistent and EXPENSIVE. The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) connects small family farms with interested eaters who can ‘subscribe’ (pay-in-advance) to receive baskets full of fresh, seasonal produce either monthly or every other month. Purchase a subscription as a gift to help sustain a family farm and you can be sure that your lucky recipient will be thinking of you as they stew their freshly-delivered rutabagas. Delish.
For The Traveling Techie:
A backpack add-on that turns sun into talk-time and translates into greener gadgets. $129 Buy Here: http://www.voltaicsystems.com/fuse4w.shtml
Solar-powered chargers aren’t a super new invention but if you’re on-the-go they can be a bit of a challenge–this device straps on to a backpack so moving around and juicing up your gadgets doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Now your hiker friend can instagram for hours and your significant other can stay in touch with the office on your couples camping trip. (Err–you’re welcome?)