Global Gifts

Christmas is about a week away. For many people, this means there’s plenty of time to get shopping of all the pretty shiny things done and get them under the tree. I am definitely one of these people. Not exactly a Christmas Eve shopper, but absolutely a the-best-deals-are-the-week-of-Christmas shopper.

My Giftless Tree — 12.15.10

And while it may be true that the best deals are yet to come, we are running out of time for shopping that involves shipping. I always like the idea of buying as local as possible when you can. Especially with the economy being hit so hard, it’s nice to know that you’re helping to keep local businesses pumping. Also, the less distance products have to be shipped, the better it is for the environment. Knowing your gifts sucked up less gas to get to their recipients is a definite bonus. An extra gift even.

But if you aren’t going to buy mom-and-pop local, I think the next best thing is actually purchasing goodies from faraway lands. Maybe not next best, depending on how you look at it, but still one of the best choices, for many reasons.

Yes, I know this is the opposite of what I just said, and this will obviously use more energy to get to you. But buying fair trade items are still a gift to more than just the person you’re handing that pretty scarf off to.

Silk striped scarves from Cambodia

Items purchased fair trade are made by people in developing countries who earned a fair wage for their work. It’s giving them a way to make a fair, honest living, giving them a chance at getting out of poverty.

It doesn’t even matter which person on your list you have yet to think of a gift for. The variety of items offered on the sites I’m about to mention are amazing. Things for people of all ages and interests. Really.

A lot of fair trade items are eco-friendly or made from recycled items like magazines, fabric, glass, and tire rubber — or even seat belts, rice and Motherboards. As much as I hate this phrase because it’s so overused, there really is something for everyone. This is especially awesome for someone like me who would prefer a one-of-a-kind item any day.

Some of the coolest items I have seen are fair trade because they’re usually handmade, meaning they also off that one-of-a-kind quality. In many cases they’re also brightly colored, reflecting the cultures they come from and made of resources found in the area.

I love free trade pieces for all of these reasons and more. There are so many organizations and websites selling them to support good causes.

GreaterGoodNetwork sells everything from jewelry to clothing to kitchen items and more to benefit a variety of organizations in the form of grants. Through, shoppers can even choose items based on the cause they’d like to support. The causes include hunger, breast cancer, literacy, animal rescue, the rain forest and child health. The site explains where each item is traded from and how it will help the selected cause. Standard shipping in the U.S. is $4.99 every day too. It’s nice to not be about to hit “purchase” and be knocked over by crazy high shipping costs you didn’t expect.

Peruvian Sheepskin Slippers

Through eBay, the site says people can “shop for great products that also do good, so you can align your personal values with your buying decisions.” On each item you click on, you can read the story of where it came from and who it helps. The detail provided is pretty impressive. Through its Goodprint labels, shoppers can see whether the pieces they’re perusing are “People Positive,” “Eco Positive,” “Animal Friendly” or “Supports a Cause.” Again, these items include clothing, accessories, jewelry, household items and so much more.

Handmade Mirrored Bangles - Fair Trade From India

Another great site is Global Good Partners, which sells handmade items from groups of artisans led by women in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The organizations it partners with to help the items reach a global marketplace pay fair wages, hand make items, create sustainable livelihoods and have eco-conscious production. It works with 47 community-based organizations in 24 countries.


Mens silk ties from Cambodia

What I’ve mentioned here hardly makes a dent in all the impressive information there is about these organizations, but it’s at least a start. It’s worth mentioning that these items are often incredibly affordable by not only American standards, but also by struggling 20-something journalist standards as well. Gifts as low as $3 that are still beautiful. In doing the research, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Perhaps it doesn’t only have to be gifts for others that I buy this way…I could use a pretty new scarf or bracelet…

I can’t say which items I’m buying for gifts this year (don’t want to spoil the surprise, right?!), but I have to mention, I’m also looking forward to being able to give a beautiful, unique gift from Poland or Brazil or India that is in-line with the culture, which is so special, even though I couldn’t visit there myself. At least when I say it’s from there, it will be helping a good cause and not made on an assembly line.


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