Green Your Holidays: Gifts that Give Back


Fair Trade gifts help empower low-income artisans around the world. Pictured here, two artisans from Tara Projects, whose high-quality products are available through SERRV International.

One of my favorite articles in the “Go Green for the Holidays” issue of the Green American was Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist’s piece on giving “gifts that give back.” Gifts that do good in the world are easy to find, simple to buy—and they’re guilt-free!

Last year, I decided to spread my year-end charitable giving around. I volunteer with a couple of after-school groups, and I gave each of the kids in one of those groups $10 gift cards (the minimum) from The site has hundreds of charities that do everything from providing leadership training to girls in the Dominican Republic to rehabilitating abused horses to cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. The kids went home and surfed the site to find a charity that meant something to them, entered the code on their card, and sent the $10 on its way to support their chosen cause. When we came back together after the holidays, we shared information about the charities we’d chosen. It was a great family activity, and it was a powerful way to celebrate the season of giving.

I have to confess, the parents seemed more excited about the gift cards than the kids did at first, but when we discussed it afterwards, they all agreed that it had been “fun to give something to people who are doing cool stuff.”

With families whom I know will be into it, I’ve given gift cards to, which helps lift up low-income communities around the world through microlending. These small, low-interest loans give impoverished people a hand up by helping them go back to school or start or improve a small business. In fact, you can watch your “borrower” pay his or her loan back via the website!

As Martha noted last week, as much as we try to simplify the holidays, many of us will still end up buying a gift or two. Consider giving a Fair Trade gift, and accompany it with a copy of Green America’s Guide to Fair Trade to let the recipient exactly know that the gift helped empower workers around the world. A friend of mine recently got married, and instead of buying the mortar and pestle she had on her registry from a department store, I found a nearly identical Fair Trade version from SERRV International and sent that instead. It even cost less than the original, and the bride was happy to know that her gift supported low-income (or, rather, formerly low-income) Fair Trade artisans in India who work under a community development NGO that also fights against child labor and works to prevent deforestation in the country.

Fair Trade … more bang for your buck.

I also had a $5 gift exchange a few nights ago with my local herb gardening/study group. My gift of choice? Two Fair Trade Divine Chocolate bars and a sampler box of Fair Trade Numi Tea. I got to share two of my personal favorite indulgences while letting others in my group know about the power of Fair Trade.

If you’re really excited about Fair Trade, you can throw a Fair Trade house party. Sarah’s article has step-by-step instructions on how to do just that. In a nutshell, you order a consignment box from organizations like A Fair World, Grounds for Change, Partners for Just Trade, or SERRV. They send the box, you display the items, and your party guests can shop—or not—as they see fit. Whether they choose to buy or don’t, you’ll have met your goal of spreading the word about the high quality and high impact of Fair Trade. Serve Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, and sugar-laden items, and you’ll hook your guests even more.

And don’t forget, a membership to Green America also makes a nice gift!

What are your favorite “gifts that give back?” And would you ever consider throwing (or have you thrown) a Fair Trade house party?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAComment below for a chance to win a Fair Trade gift basket from Higher Grounds Trading Co., featuring a bottle of Fair Trade olive oil, a bag of Fair Trade coffee, and a Theo Chocolate Fair Trade cherry and almond chocolate bar.

Congratulations to Rachel, the winner of last week’s rainbow organic soap basket!

Categories: Fair Trade, green holidays


    • Also, I love shopping Craig’s List for gifts– I get away with giving someone what they want or need but don’t feel guilty for buying a new item, reuse something that might otherwise end up somewhere not very fun, and put some money in the hands of a neighbor. 🙂

  1. If I can’t make a gift myself, I try to buy things secondhand (like used books), or else I’ll go with a Fair Trade store. I’ve also gotten things from The Rainforest Shop and such. I’ve been thinking about doing away with gifts entirely, though, and donating money to charities in people’s names instead.

    • Mariana, you might really like the gift cards from There are so many great causes to choose from. I have family in Honduras, so it’s near and dear to my heart, and I even found a charity on Global Giving that runs leadership programs for young people in the country.

    • Hi Mariana, congrats — you won our fair trade gift basket! Email us at editors (at) greenamerica (dot) org so we can have your prize shipped to you.

  2. I’ve been making a lot of gifts this year. We also look to giving to others. Higher Grounds is a great company if you look for buying Fair Trade and depending on where you live local. We have friends who make up gift baskets of local fair trade goods every year.

    • Allison, would love to hear more about what you’re making. I need to get on the herbal body care stuff I wanted to make this year! I love giving Fair Trade gifts when I need to buy something new.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s