We live in a fast-paced jungle. Or, at least, it feels that way these days. Waste of all shapes and sizes is rapidly taking the place of the proverbial trees and streams. No gorillas, just consumers or, rather, you and me. What we lack in responsible shopping, we make up for in fast fashion.
But, all is not lost... What I am impressed by, and what is becoming more and more commonplace, is a counter-cultural approach – companies that are as committed to the environment and mankind as they are to their bottom line. Or, in some cases, even more committed to the former. It’s heartening, and makes it all the more satisfying to purchase with them. To vote with your dollar in a place that makes your dollar count.
This guide is a collection of thoughtfully-curated products that check so many boxes – beautiful and meaningful, and also responsible. May we give and receive gifts from places with integrity this holiday season, and the ones still to come.
This year, we have partnered with Bridget Hunt to curate an extensive list of socially-conscious opportunities that will allow you to use your purchasing power for good. Whether you are searching for a gift that is stylish, outdoorsy, memorable or fun… these are a few of our favorite ways to celebrate the season by giving good.
Fair Trade Home
Each year, we compile a list of inspiring organizations creating meaningful products and making a positive impact on our world. Here is a selection of hand-crafted goods that will make your home and the world a more beautiful place.
Grace Crafted Home
Grace Crafted Home offers classic beauty, heirloom quality, fair trade goods. What's more, 100% of the proceeds go to empower artisans around the world and support homes for young women and their babies in crisis pregnancies in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Each purchase means dignity, opportunity and a chance to overcome poverty for these women. So grace your home with quality hand-crafted goods and invest in a better future for their makers.
Our favorites: Raashi Mug, $18 / Caro Caro Wide Serving Board, $60 / Bahari Turkish Towel, $64
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET2019' for $10 off your $50 minimum purchase through November 17, 2019. (One use per customer; cannot be combined with other offers.)
Azizi Life partners with more than 500 artisans in Rwanda... and growing! Rising from the horrors of genocide, artisans from all backgrounds have joined together once again through their art. With their fair trade income, parents are caring for the health, nutrition, and education of their children. Families are building better homes. Women are empowered to become leaders and contributors in their communities. Azizi Life offers a range of products skillfully crafted from locally-sourced, natural fibers such as sisal, banana leaf, and forest grasses. Its line of baskets highlights some of the best of Rwandan traditional and modern design. Artisans and designers collaborate to create new designs and products in its lines of baskets, home goods, and holiday décor.
Our favorites: Neri Woven Bowls, $22 / Zuba Woven Bowl, $44 / Akazi Woven Bowl, $22
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'bittersweet' for 10% off your entire purchase through December 31, 2019. (Gift cards excluded.)
Fair + Simple
This company believes that when you invest in a woman, an entire community reaps the benefits. Why? Because she invests right back into her children and those around her. Fair + Simple focuses on woman-made products with artful, simple design. A portion of all profits goes to The Made by Women Fund which supports women artisans and makers around the world through skill development, proper equipment, and education so their businesses can flourish. Also, check out their line of comfortable, simple and sweet children's apparel.
Our favorites: Classic Linen Apron, $48 / Reusable Beeswax Wraps, $12 / Organic Wash Cloths, $28
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'bittersweet25' for 25% off your purchase through December 21, 2019. (Excludes gift cards.)
Artfully hand-poured candles made of soy wax and without phthalates. Each candle is crafted by young moms in a paid job training program, and 100% of proceeds are invested into providing transitional jobs and professional skills training for young moms.
Our favorites: Lavendar Sprig Retreat Tin Candle, $13 / Chicago Edition Candle, $24.99 / Lemon Tea Signature Glass Candle, $22
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'lighttheway19' for free shipping on purchases over $25.
Every piece made by Jimani Collections is handcrafted by women in Kenya. Through unique training programs, Jimani offers customized opportunities to learn product design and product creation for all of its artisans. The mothers, sisters, daughters and widows who carefully craft their collections come from many different backgrounds, but all have one goal: to make a better life for others and themselves. Each purchase supports these emerging entrepreneurs and helps promote global sustainability through the careful use of ethically-sourced materials.
Ames & Oates
Ames & Oates set out to provide an alternative to boring, transactional, throwaway gifts. By seeking the best makers from around the world who take pride in their craft, its in-house design team curates gift collections that are as unique as the people who will receive them. The company uses sustainably-sourced materials for all packaging and its keepsake gift boxes are made to last and be reused. In addition, 10% of the proceeds from every gift purchased are donated to GlobalGiving.
VivaTerra is a retailer with a heart and a vision for both globally-inspired modern design and goods created with sustainability and integrity in mind. Talented, expert artisans around the world share their contemporary, artisan-crafted aesthetic with consumers through unique and earth-friendly goods. VivaTerra prioritizes ethical and sustainable practices, believing that the who, what, where and how matters. Each piece created exemplifies social consciousness, global inspiration, quality workmanship and one-of-a-kind style.
Tea was originally a food and medicine long before it became a steeped beverage. Rishi offers tea and botanicals imported directly from gardens across the world, made according to ancient artisanal practices using organic cultivation techniques and Fair Trade standards. The company is founded on long-standing, personal relationships with growers who cultivate ecologically sustainable gardens in remote locations around the world. You can also learn about the origins of your tea or try some of these creative tea recipes.
This is global curation at its finest. Accompany scours the globe for the coolest, most beautiful and one-of-a-kind finds, merging human impact and thoughtful style. Its products are fair trade, artisan made, ethically sourced and well designed. Traditional crafts and indigenous methods for making are being lost every day, but Accompany helps small communities thrive economically so that traditions and skills of the region can be handed down. In addition to their home goods, these Handpainted Safari Pencils are a fantastic kid-find.
Equal Uprise is a lifestyle brand that merges responsible production methods and simple modern design to create timeless housewares and accessories. Each product creates and sustains jobs for marginalized artisans from rural communities in Ecuador and Tunisia. The income created helps fund education for the children of the artisans and, in some cases, for the artisans themselves. In addition to beautiful housewares, this travel tote and convertible mini bag are simply brilliant.
In a world dominated by fast fashion, these companies are breaking with industry standards of faster and cheaper in favor of a philosophy that values both the producer and consumer, crafting ethically-produced quality goods that will stand the test of time.
Nani Pani collaborates with skilled artisans to help preserve the art of hand block printing while creating something beautiful and supporting artisans, their community, and this ancient craft. Block printing is a centuries-old method that has been used in the state of Rajasthan, India since at least the 12th century. A design, either traditional or modern, is drawn onto paper and then transferred to a smooth block of wood. Master carvers work with hand tools to carve out each intricate design. Through a meticulous and time-consuming process, the designs are printed onto prepared cotton fabric using only natural dyes. Each and every piece reflects the hand of the artisan, and no two pieces are exactly alike.
Each Joya piece is hand-crafted by expert artisan jewelers using traditional jewelry making and textile techniques. Joya creates products with authenticity, quality, and history behind every piece. Every item that bears the Joya name is created from high-quality, natural materials, and the proceeds from every purchase go toward a women's charity that is striving to improve women's lives every day.
Our favorites: Dewdrop Moonstone Earrings, $58.95 / Serena Ring, $58.95 / Compass Medallion Necklace, $49.95
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET25' for 25% off your first online Joya purchase through December 31, 2019.
Nisolo combines style, comfort, artistry and ethical practices to produce beautifully-crafted shoes and handbags. Shoemaking is an artform that has been passed down through generations, and Nisolo’s artisans take pride in sustaining this long-held tradition. For every Nisolo product sold, a contribution is made to help protect rainforests in the Amazon Basin. The company also participates in a shoe reclamation program, collecting used shoes and donating them to be repaired and resold by micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries. Nisolo’s vision is to change the fashion industry, creating a marketplace that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer. Also, if you're in the market for a new carry-all, check out the Lori Tote below, handmade in Peru with soft and sturdy leather and a simple and classic design.
Our favorites: Women's Chelsea Boot, $228 / Lori Tote, $168 / Men's Andres Boot, $288
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BSWEET20' for 20% off your purchase through January 1, 2020. (Nisolo products only, excluding The Essentials Collection.)
Outerknown was started by surfers who grew up with surf brands, but grew out of logos and wanted to wear clothing that’s made better and looks better. From seeds to suppliers to circular design, Outerknown’s mission is to protect natural resources, empower the people crafting our clothes and inspire change within the industry and beyond.
Everlane eschews the world of fast fashion. Not big on trends, this company produces timeless classics—pieces designed for you to wear for years, even decades. Partnering with ethically-committed factories around the world, Everlane sources only the finest materials to create high-quality, long-lasting goods — like Grade-A cashmere sweaters, Italian shoes, and Peruvian Pima tees. And you can see the cost breakdown of each item you buy. Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical transparency.
Fewer, better is the foundational philosophy that leads all aspects of this brand. With a strong belief in conscious consumption, sustainability is deeply ingrained in its business practice. Customers are encouraged to purchase fewer, but better quality pieces that they will love and treasure for years to come. Carefully selected fabrics, precise silhouettes and attention to detail create timeless collections. To ensure products do not end up in landfills, each piece is crafted in small batches by skilled global artisans from the highest-quality materials. Cuyana’s Lean Closet program helps customers recycle the pieces they no longer need, bringing new life to beloved styles and enriching the lives of women with philanthropic partners like H.E.A.R.T. Pieces are manufactured in the same place or in close proximity to their material sources to minimize its carbon footprint.
Suunday is a small-batch clothing line that features simple, high-quality pieces that are easy to wear and easy to love. Timeless wardrobe staples, the designs are simple, uncomplicated and ethically-crafted. A homebody-at-heart and inspired by nature, Stacie pairs earthy colors with easy, comfortable silhouettes that can be dressed up, dressed down and loved for years.
Pact sources only 100% organic cotton, grown without fertilizers, crafted without harmful chemicals in fair trade certified factories. It also saves gallons of water on every item it makes by utilizing processes that require significantly less water than conventional cotton. Plus, it offers ways to recycle or reuse your old clothing, towels and linens, which frees you to consume consciously. And if you’re in the market for soft, comfortable and sustainable basics (like men’s white tees), this is the place to stock up. And be sure to check out their certified organic and fair trade sheet and towel sets. Also, how adorable are these $9 baby tees?!
The number on each purchase signifies the number of school meals it provides. Consistent school meals not only provide children with the nutrition they need to grow, learn and thrive, but also incentivize parents to send them. Research shows that when children are given school meals, attendance doubles and performance greatly improves. Girls with just a few years of education have fewer children, have them later in life and are better prepared to care for and educate them. For many children, a school lunch is the only meal they receive all day.
Kicheko Goods is about creating beautiful pieces, meaningful engagement, and bridging access to quality education for children who are vulnerable and at risk. Each piece of jewelry funds one month of school for one child. Concepts for the brand’s small batch collections are inspired by geometry, nature, creative conversations and travel. Kicheko's aesthetic shares an unrefined boldness, sophisticated earthiness and playful simplicity. Since its founding, proceeds from Kicheko were used to help construct a six-classroom brick school building for Mango Tree Primary School in Eastern Congo and has provided scholarships to over 150 students in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Our favorites: Solstice Jacket Earrings, $85 / Tribal Botanical Lariat, $97 / Elastic Heart, $50
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BITTERSWEET' for 19% off your purchase of $50 or more through December 25, 2019.
In the words of Hans Christian Andersen, “Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." Be it the thrill of adventure or the simple joys of nature, we can all find inspiration in the great outdoors. Find something for the explorer in your life and support organizations working to create social change.
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.
Our favorites: Speckled Camp Cup, $24.95 / Pouragami, $29.95 / Kid's Wide Mouth Bottle, $24.95
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'MiiRxBittersweet25' for 25% off your purchase through March 31, 2020. (One use per customer; cannot be combined with other offers.)
United by Blue
For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our world's oceans and waterways. These waterway cleanups also build community, spreading the idea that if one business can make a difference, so can one person. The company prioritizes sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing and facilitates easy ways for people to generate less waste by creating products like reusable straw and utensil kits. In addition to the featured items, check out this Guppyfriend bag ($29.75), specially designed to reduce pilling and fiber loss on your clothes AND to help protect our waterways! Also, the laptop compartment in the Arid Backpack below is a game-changer for frequent air travelers.
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. Also, be sure to check out their new selection of coffee beans when they come back in stock.
Read the story: The Very Best Granola Made by Refugees
Our favorites: Keith's Originola Granola, $8.95 / Granola Bar Variety Box, $14 / Ethiopian Dark Roast Coffee, $15
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'BSWEET' for 20% off your entire purchase through December 31, 2019.
Forestbound uses found and salvaged textiles to create a unique line of tote bags and carryalls, Forestbound Originals. It does so in hopes of bringing a piece of history back into the spotlight with every new item created. Many hours are spent scouring the Northeast for the storied textiles that used in its bags. And many more hours are dedicated to thoughtfully and carefully re-working these materials into something new you can use every single day. These timeless, go-to pieces reuse quality textiles, reduce waste and pay tribute to all those beautiful canvas bags from days of old.
All of Bureo’s products are made from recycled fishing nets. Why? Because 18 billion pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year, and one of the most harmful culprits is fishing nets. By working together with fisheries and local communities, Bureo provides an incentivized program to collect, clean, sort and recycle fishing nets into its NetPlus™ material, creating positive solutions for end-of-use fishing nets, employment opportunities for local workers, and funding for community programs. Though its focus is narrow, it’s a major piece in the puzzle to solve the plastic pollution crisis: the need for a circular economy to prevent waste from entering our oceans in the first place.
Whether camping, backpacking or hiking, Cotopaxi offers outdoor essentials that give back. Cotopaxi’s creed is Do Good. From its giving model to company culture and sustainable product design, business at Cotopaxi is viewed as a vehicle to make an impact. Through its grant program, Cotopaxi contributes to organizations working to alleviate poverty and support community development. And we love that some of their products (like this Nomadix Ultralight Travel Towel) are made from recycled products!
S’well was created with the mission to rid the world of plastic water bottles. Fashion and function combined to produce these reusable water bottles. The less people buy disposable bottles, the more we reduce single-use plastic consumption worldwide, keeping it out of landfills and waterways. S’well also partners with UNICEF and many other charities to help provide clean water to vulnerable communities around the world. The design is simple, classic and quality. We especially love their entire Stone Collection. But did you know S'well makes more than water bottles?!
Sea2see designs and produces optical frames and sunglasses made entirely with recycled marine plastic waste collected in collaboration with thousands of fishermen in Spanish ports. Envision the change you want to see… and wear it!
Transform your memories into a beautiful piece of art. Each Wanderwide product is designed to stylishly commemorate the many adventures life has in store for you. It's your adventures, as art. Every product is made in small quantities by experienced local craftsmen, using premium materials. And $1 from every register print sale is donated to ensure that the places we love to adventure will still be beautiful for the next generation.
Love Your Melon
Fifty percent of net profit from the sale of all Love Your Melon products is given to the Love Your Melon Fund to support nonprofit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer, create therapeutic experiences and fund charitable programming initiatives for children and families battling cancer.
Finding the right gift for exactly the right person is part of the fun of giving. Consider the products below for unique gift ideas that support organizations working to make a positive difference in our world. Feel good and give good this holiday season.
Each jewelry piece is hand-crafted and designed to serve as a reminder of a special place. Becoming is about small things with big meaning: a word that becomes a mantra, a place you wish to remember, a gentle nudge to pick you up, a deep breath, a person you hold in your heart, an occasion you’ll never forget. It’s about celebrating both the everyday moments and the milestones. A Becoming piece is a reminder to find joy in the little things, an invitation to pay attention and a way to memorialize these special moments. Remember a special person or place with this customizable line or find a meaningful message to share with someone you love.
A few favorites: I'll Stand By You Necklace, $54 / Coordinate Bar Necklace, $80 / Double Ovals Necklace, $52
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code "BITTERSWEET" for 20% off any purchase through December 31, 2019.
Public-Supply gives 25% of profits from every sale to a teacher in a high-need classroom who will use the money for a project that drives creativity. Whether students are painting, acting, singing, writing, or coding, creativity helps students become more engaged in the classroom, at home, and in the world. Check out the full list of classrooms funded so far. And for the journaling enthusiasts out there, you'll appreciate the option to choose between dot / lined pages.
For every pair of boots sold, a brand new pair is donated to a child living in poverty. Why rain boots? When children lack proper footwear, their feet are exposed not only to harsh weather conditions, but other harmful elements as well such as cuts, insect bites, infections, or parasites. Rain boots provide that protection. ROMA’s goal is to keep children’s feet safe and dry so that they can be healthy, go to school, pursue education and enjoy and live their life to the fullest.
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'HOLIDAY30' for 30% off your purchase. (Gift cards excluded.)
A seed-bearing lollipop is an organic candy with edible herbs and flowers that weave throughout. After devouring, you can plant the biodegradable stick in soil horizontally, cover with a layer of top soil, water daily, and grow a herb or flower. Each heirloom herb or flower grown has a connection to what you just ate; Sage & Marshmallow grows a sage plant, while Peach & Marigold yields marigold. Amborella creates a fun way for kids and adults to connect with nature. You can also add a whimsical plant-inspired card to your gift for $4.50.
Our favorites: Peach & Marigold, $6.75 / Garden Lover's 8-Pack, $20 / Strawberry & Basil, $6.75
Bittersweet exclusive: Use code 'SWEET19' for 10% off your purchase. (Free shipping on orders over $108, no code necessary.)
Love heals. Thistle Farms' provides a safe space for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction to heal. By providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence and a strong community of advocates and partners, Thistle Farms has created an effective and successful model that empowers vulnerable women and changes lives.
Read the story: A Healing Place of Gritty Love and Lavender
Global Goods Partners
Buy handmade, change women's lives. Global Goods Partners is a sustainable lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women around the globe. Sustainable employment for women is a key indicator for community development and family well-being. GGP taps into the rich well of skill and artistry that is passed from one generation of women to the next to create unique, hand-crafted goods that empower female artisans around the world.
BAGGU has a bag for every occasion. The company first set out to create a reusable bag that was functional, affordable and nice-looking. The result was the Standard Baggu: based on the construction of a plastic shopping bag, made from lightweight ripstop nylon, and built to hold 2-3 times as much as a disposable grocery bag. All of its bags are made using recyclable materials, and it partners with the American Textile Recycling Service to collect and repurpose nylon or canvas bags.
Finn + Emma
Finn + Emma®’s designs are as classic as they are contemporary and as sophisticated as they are whimsical. Its collections feature fresh prints, modern colors and always have a unique spin. Apparel and toys co-ordinate, allowing for easy mix-and-match. Heirloom quality construction makes for excellent gifts, hand-me-downs and keepsakes. All of its products are organic and fair trade. Additionally, its wood toys are made from untreated Indian hardwood, finished with vegetable seed wax, and filled with little beans. Hand-knit toys are made by an artisanal women’s collective in Peru with certified organic cotton yarn and wool stuffing.
Sudara is a certified B Corp and apparel brand that makes pajamas and loungewear for the whole family. Every purchase helps provide jobs and training for women in India who are at risk or survivors of human trafficking. Even though Sudara’s clothes are made to be worn at home, we think they are too beautiful – especially the kimono-style robes – to just wear indoors. Each item comes in a matching fabric bag that is perfect for gifting, too!
Project Free2Fly employs and empowers women transitioning out of homelessness, addiction, abuse or poverty. Each handbag, accessory or apparel item is hand-crafted and sewn by these women. Your purchase helps restore dignity and sets these women on a path towards a different future.
Read the story: Stitching Together New Futures
Did you know Bittersweet has swag? Buy a tee and spread this very needed message or purchase a hat and support Bittersweet with style. Or if wearing the Bittersweet mission isn't your thing, give the gift of story by pre-ordering Bittersweet's limited edition Reflections Coffee Table Book.
A few favorites: Bittersweet Tour Tee, $22 / Pre-Order Bittersweet Reflections Coffee Table Book, $60 / Bittersweet Trucker Cap, $28.50
This guide is the result of a collective effort – one that wouldn't have been possible without the work of our talented and generous contributors. These creatives don't get paid. They volunteer their time and skills to help craft a different narrative, to counter the commercialism of giving in favor of ethical, responsible, thoughtful and meaningful giving opportunities. Together – as a team, as artists, as readers, as consumers – we refuse cynicism, defy apathy, and celebrate the right and good that the world needs more of.
Thank you to Whitney, Angela and Bridget for lending your creative eye to bring this guide to life! We could not have done this without you. Thank you to all of the organizations featured here for believing in more than the bottom line. This guide would not exist without you. And most of all, thank you to all of our readers and supporters for believing in a better way. You are the driving force, the reason we do what we do. Now, let's celebrate by giving good!
Editor, Bittersweet Monthly