The Ripple Effect
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give" — Winston Churchill
Everything we buy has a ripple effect in the world. Everything. And this season that we are entering—called the holidays—is the largest consumer event globally. It’s an opportunity, really, to spend consciously and leverage this special season to benefit the marginalized and support the inspiring.
With that in mind, we set out to curate a list of wonderful gifts with even better stories. We hope this will help us—together—leverage holiday consumerism to benefit inspiring, vulnerable people and important causes.
As organizations reimagine what it means to create meaningful work, let’s consider reimagining what it means to give.
With Ocean Sole, a piece of artwork takes care of our environment—Washed-up flip flops transform into pieces of art and create an economic engine for beach clean-up off the coast of Kenya.
With Giving Keys, a piece of jewelry creates hope—Homeless individuals find purpose and employment by fashioning old keys into necklaces that share a message of hope to be passed on from giver to giver.
With Thistle Farms, a bar of soap restores dignity—Survivors of human trafficking and prostitution discover healing and empowerment.
These stories take the bitter and make them sweet. And make giving meaningful again.
Each year, we find inspiring new organizations creating meaningful products and making a positive impact on our world. This year did not disappoint. Here is a collection of our new favorites.
United By Blue
For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world's oceans and waterways. It began out of a desire to preserve the place where we play. Instead of writing checks or accepting donations, United By Blue wanted to make a real, tangible impact on our oceans—and there are few things more tangible than hauling tires out of riverbeds or picking up plastic bottles along the shoreline. So the company pledged to remove a pound of trash from the earth’s oceans and waterways for every product it sells through company-organized cleanups. United By Blue hosted its first cleanup the same week it sold its first T-shirt.
Impact tally to date: 202 cleanups. 27 states. 1,035,605 pounds of trash removed.
From sustainably sourced paper to vegetable-based ink, the materials that make up Barefoot books are selected to minimize the impact on our environment. Barefoot Books is also committed to giving back by partnering with other organizations to serve the underserved, inspire a love of reading and bring people together.
Our favorites: Will You Help Doug Find His Doug?, $14.99 / Kids World Atlas, $19.99 / My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words, $19.99
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BAREFOOT25' for 25% off your purchase through Dec. 8, 2017.
Thistle Farms' mission is to heal, empower and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence and a strong community of advocates and partners.
MiiR products are simple and functional—designed with thoughtfulness and sustainability in mind. But beyond that, these products give back. For every product sold, a portion of the proceeds go towards empowerment projects. And with your unique Give Code, you'll have the chance to track and learn more about the project your purchase supported.
Global Goods Partners
Global Goods Partners (GGP) is committed to providing sustainable jobs for women—widely proven to be the key to community development and family wellbeing. In partnership with women-led, community-based organizations, GGP taps into the rich well of skill and artistry that is passed from one generation of women to the next. All proceeds from product sales are invested in developing sustainable market access as well as providing training and funding to enable its artisans to prosper and thrive.
Our favorites: Stripe and Falseria Cosmetic Case, $34 / Woodland Friends Kids Puppet Bag, $26 / Bone Inlay Coasters (Set of 4), $28
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET' for 10% off your purchase.
Sackcloth & Ashes
After Bob Dalton’s mother—a hardworking single mother—found herself living on the streets in 2013, Bob realized that not everyone chooses to become homeless—some people just need a second chance. Dalton was inspired to help the homeless population, and when he called shelters to ask what they needed, the answer was the same every time: blankets. Sackcloth & Ashes sells high-quality blankets, and with each purchase, donates a blanket to a local homeless shelter.
Harry's founders combine simple, yet high-quality shaving products with a desire to contribute to making the world a better place. The company donates 1% of sales and volunteers 1% of its team's time to organizations like its current partner City Year. Want to know more about City Year? Read the Bittersweet story: Addressing the Dropout Crisis in DC.
Bears for Humanity
With every purchase, Bears for Humanity donates a bear to a child in need. Whether it's to children with a life-threatening illness, an underprivileged home, or a needy veteran's family, these bears deliver love and a smile to kids who need it most. Bears for Humanity is the first 100% organic and fair trade teddy bear, so you can rest easy, knowing your gift keeps children's health and safety in mind.
Some organizations are just too good not to feature again. They continue to do what they do, and do it well. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight some of our standbys in this year’s list again. These companies have stood the test of time and shown themselves to be committed to excellent and ethical goods.
Kicheko is a socially-conscious brand that designs and makes beautiful accessory pieces, using its profit to invest in education for marginalized children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Our favorites: Rose Gold Druzy Earrings, $36 / Elastic Heart White Necklace, $45 / Gilded Deer Tine Necklace, $45
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET' for 17% off your purchase (it is 2017 after all).
The Giving Keys
It started with a New York hotel room key. The Giving Keys founder, actress and singer/songwriter, Caitlin Crosby, wore the key as a necklace and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words and employing homeless individuals in need of a job to do it. Realizing that in a way we are all like these keys —unique, flawed, scarred, and at risk of being discarded—she wanted these keys to have their purpose renewed over and over again. Their message is yours for a time, but once they've served their purpose with you, pay it forward to inspire another.
Krochet Kids teaches the art of crocheting to women living in poverty and empowers them with the resources to rise above poverty. Today, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future in creating gifts that give back.
Amani Ya Juu
Amani began in 1996 with four refugee women sewing placemats together in Nairobi, Kenya. Amani's founder became a refugee herself after fleeing war-torn Liberia. Sewing is what she knew how to do and how she started a fledging business partnering with fellow refugee women. Today, Amani provides job-skills training, employment, self-esteem and a fair and living wage for marginalized women in Africa.
Our favorites: Olive Wood and Bone Flat Spoon Set, $16 / Tea Towel Set, $22 / African Olive Wood Bowl, $34
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET17' for 15% off through Dec. 16 (the last day to order and receive the package by Christmas).
SOLO Eyewear is a line of handcrafted sunglasses made with recycled bamboo. Each pair purchased funds eye care for people in need through prescription eyeglasses and sight saving eye surgeries. One billion people do not have access to eye care in the world, and nearly 80% of the world's blindness is preventable.
Every candle creates opportunities for women refugees building a brighter future in the U.S., and supports women’s entrepreneurship around the world. Handmade with the finest ingredients (from high quality wax to all natural wicks to luxurious fragrances) by a woman artisan building a brighter future for herself and her family, each candle comes with the portrait and story of the woman who crafted it.
Ecojot paper is 100% post-consumer recycled, made entirely from old waste paper. All inks and glues are vegetable based, and all black and kraft boards are sourced sustainably. Over the years, Ecojot has donated thousands of books to kids in need all over the world with the Buy 1 / Give 1 campaign.
Perhaps the most memorable gifts are the ones that reflect the thoughtfulness of its giver. Consider these creative options for alternative gift ideas with a personal touch and handmade twist, while still supporting organizations working to contribute to social change.
Make It Personal
Add meaning with a personal touch. Write an inscription inside the front cover of one of these classic or contemporary novels from Better World Books. Or gift a cookbook, but be sure to include a favorite recipe of your own.
Better World Books is a triple bottom line company—one committed to making a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the world. The company uses environmentally sustainable practices and partners with 80 literacy partners—for every book purchased, one is donated.
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'GOODGIFT' for 10% off when you buy two or more used books through Jan 1.
Get your hands doughy, baking these delicious, healthy Breakfast Cookies using Good Spread's Organic Salted Honey Peanut Butter or try the more indulgent White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies using Natural Peanut Butter and Honey.
For every Good Spread product sold, a packet of RUTF (basically peanut butter filled with essential nutrients) is provided to kids suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. With just 3 servings of RUTF a day for 4-6 weeks, malnutrition is completely eradicated in over 98% of children.
A few favorites: Organic Salted Honey Peanut Butter, $8 / Natural Peanut Butter and Honey, $7 / Organic Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Spread, $8
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET' for 15% off your first purchase. Free shipping on all orders $20 or more.
The Gift of Words
Tell someone what they mean to you or offer a simple word of encouragement by writing a note in one of these ethically hand-crafted cards. Add another layer of creativity by selecting a Color Your Card option—color it yourself or send it blank and let the recipient do the coloring.
Ten Thousand Villages empowers local artisans to rise above poverty and create lasting change for themselves, their families and their communities. Every design is hand-crafted using local materials (usually natural or recycled) and time-honored skills by the makers it partners with.
A few favorites: Color Your Lotus Card, $4.99 / Peace Dove Ornament Card, $8.99 / Correspondence Card Set, $24.99
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET30' for 30% off one regularly-priced item online through Jan. 1.
Denik gathers artists from across the globe and puts their work on journals, notebooks, and sketchbooks. Then, with every product sold, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to building schools and to support the artist that designed it.
Chocolate for Dinner and Breakfast
A little chocolate goes a long way... especially when it is high quality, ethically-sourced, environmentally-sustainable chocolate. Try your hand at this Chocolate Beer Chipotle BBQ Sauce or these Chocolate Stout Waffles with Chocolate Peanut Butter Syrup using Divine Chocolate—chocolate bars that provide economic opportunity, training, and a livable wage for cocoa farmers in Ghana.
Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.
A few favorites: 85% Dark Chocolate Bar, $3.99 / 70% Bittersweet Baking Bar, $4.99 / Dark Chocolate Bar with Toffee and Sea Salt, $3.99
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEETMONTHLY' for 10% off your purchase until January 30, 2018.
Upcycle Keepsake Threads
Collect those old t-shirts that are piled in a drawer for sentimental value or that bin of baby clothes that you can't part with even though you suspect someday your kid will ask you why you saved so many old onesies. Instead, put them to use and give them a second life by turning them into a keepsake blanket.
Project Repat upcycles used t-shirts and baby clothes into high-quality t-shirt quilts with minimum carbon impact. Did you know that 5% of the world's trash is used textiles or that the average American trashes 65 pounds of clothing per year? Project Repeat turns this would-be trash into a keepsake treasure.
Give the Gift of Giving
Give a GlobalGiving gift card to a loved one and let them choose to direct the money to a project they care about. Or send a Kiva gift card and allow them the opportunity to invest in a micro-enterprise of their choice.
GlobalGiving connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world, helping local nonprofits access the funding, tools, training, and support they need to become more effective.
Kiva leverages the public to provide low or no interest loans to individuals working to grow a business and create opportunity for themselves. Fund a loan, get repaid and fund another.
Every month, Bittersweet Monthly tells the story of an organization addressing social needs in unique and life-changing ways. Some of these organizations also offer opportunities to support their work by offering good gifts of their own. Buy a gift and become part of their story.
Running into the places others are running from, Redeeming Grounds purveys fine coffees (92Q grade beans, if that means anything to you) grown by farmers in conflict zones who are restoring their communities. In Colombia, Redeeming Grounds partners with farmers in a guerilla conflict zone who cut down their coca (cocaine) fields, began growing rich coffee, and now encourage villagers still growing coca to transform their communities by transitioning to coffee.
Beautiful Day (formerly Providence Granola Project) is far and away the easiest, most delicious way to care for refugees who have overcome a tremendous amount and found their way to America. Made from scratch and hand-packed in Providence, Rhode Island each bag of granola helps provide a first-job for newly arrived refugees. Buy some granola for family and friends or consider gifting a Team Granola membership to support on-the-job training for refugees while they make granola.
Read the story: The Very Best Granola Made by Refugees
Our favorite: Keith's Originola (12 oz bag), $8.95
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET' for 15% off all products and 25% OFF the first month with Team Granola.
Sole Hope provides shoes to people in rural Uganda where little burrowing bugs, called jiggers, live in the dust. Without shoes, feet of all sizes become infected and often lead to avoidable amputations. Shoes make all the difference in this context—so let’s help make some.
Every day thousands of flip flops wash up on the shores of Kenya, and every day teams of people comb the beach picking them up. Ocean Sole upcycles flip flops into art sculptures, simultaneously cleaning up Kenya’s beaches and creating economic opportunity.
Free Minds Book Club
Free Minds Book Club is a simple concept: book clubs and poetry pen pals for youth in the adult prison system. But the result is quite dramatic: Youth who would otherwise be forgotten and written off by society find a voice, discover community and are empowered to then give back, using their own past to make a difference in other people’s lives. As they write, they process and make sense of their own experiences. Then, they share these inner thoughts with the outside world. And the outside world speaks back.
Old Skool Cafe
Fifteen years ago, Teresa Goines was working as a corrections officer in Los Angeles. After seeing the same kids re-entering the system over and over, she began searching for real, long-term solutions to the root causes of incarceration, violence and poverty. At Old Skool Cafe, kids who were at one point in handcuffs, in jail or on probation are now running one of the most incredible restaurants in San Francisco's Bayview District.
I am a gift-giver. I derive a great deal of joy from finding just the right gift that reflects thoughtfulness and makes a person feel cared for. But I have to be honest, sometimes the holidays steal that joy and replace it with stress, as I scramble to buy something simply for the sake of checking the box.
What I love about our annual gift guide is that it offers simple ways for me to be thoughtful in my giving — to find quality products or creative ideas and causes that matter, and then match them with the people I love, knowing that each gift carries with it a positive social impact.
My hope is that our 2017 Good Gift Guide helps you — our readers — in the same way. So here's to restoring joy, promoting socially-conscious choices and making giving meaningful again.
Editor, Bittersweet Monthly