Christmas....aaaaaargh!!! It's just around the corner! It's a time of year when we, in the privileged west, spend spend spend insane amounts of money. Wouldn't it be preferable for some of that money to go to helping others?
Many of us are much more connected to what's going on in the world now through social media. The downside of this awareness can be emotional overwhelm, there was just as much suffering in the world before we were seeing hourly updates on our phones and laptops but we just didn't hear about it as easily and especially didn't see it as much we do now. It was much easier to disconnect. But the upside outweighs the downside. This awareness is encouraging a large amount of people to be more conscious of the people in the world around them and also who they give their money to. We associate big, faceless brands with bad business practices, tax avoidance and even borderline slavery. It's easy to feel powerless in this world but the most potent power we have is our spending power.
If you are going to be buying gifts this Christmas, go out of your way to shop with your heart - support small businesses and look for businesses that give back to charity. And also, for the love of the environment, buy less but buy better quality gifts that will be cherished rather than novelty tat that goes into landfill after Christmas. I've found some really stylish, charitable gift ideas out there in the inter-world. See below for some inspiration.
The first port of call at Christmas is the card! If you're not buying charity Christmas cards already....well....tsk tsk! For the last 5 years, The Guardian have declared that Sreepur Cards are the only true all-charity cards. The average return on a UK charity Christmas card is around 10% whereas Sreepur donate 100% of their sales to charity.
Their beautiful, hand-crafted cards are made from locally sourced, natural products. They are made by the women of the Sreepur Village in rural Bangladesh, a home for destitute women and children. All proceeds from the sale of these cards go back to these families in need.
For the decor-lover
Two things I feel passionately about are rehabilitation in prisons and the life-changing powers of creativity. So I was bowled over when I came across Fine Cell Work at Made London last year. Volunteers from the Embroiderers and Quilters Guild train prisoners in creative needlework which they undertake in their cells. The prisoners are paid for their work so it's very empowering. I can attest to the anti-depressant qualities of making beautiful things and I love that these individuals have been introduced to a path that they may not normally have stumbled across. And, on top of all of that, their work is genuinely beautiful and of high quality.
For the beardy ones
Been hinting for him to get rid of that beard for a while....hmmmm? This gorgeous shaving kit should make him jump at the chance to shave it off!
I have spent a lot of time in India and a big chunk of my heart is left behind there, especially with the people there at the bottom of India's societal structure. Dalit is the brand of the Life Association charity, a charity which builds children's homes and schools within the Dalit community of India. You can find out more about the Dalit people in a free booklet downloadable on their website and I highly recommend reading the novel Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand (which would make a great gift to give alongside one of this charity's lovely products)
For the health-foodies
I'm a sucker for a good smoothie and the more superfoody, the better. Aduna is a health and beauty brand and social business. Their aim is to bring under-used natural products to a much larger audience. Their award-winning business model supports small farmers in rural Africa. They are currently working with 700 women in 13 communities in Upper East Ghana, who are all benefiting from a life-changing, sustainable income. Read more about their mission here.
This beautiful, African-inspired tin set contains 3 different super-ingredients. The much-loved cacao, nutrient-dense "super-leaf" moringa and the antioxidant-rich baobab (all in powdered form). After reading a bit more about the benefits of baobab, I'm looking forward to including it in my smoothies and I know where I'll be buying my cacao from now on.
For the sun-worshippers
Who doesn't need a bit of sunshine at this time of year? My own Gold Sunburst earrings are one of my most popular items, probably due to the fact that most of us are always pining after the real thing. As well as being little rays of light, these golden earrings are symbols of vitality and positivity.
I donate 10% of all of my sales to the charity CalAid, a grassroots movement meeting the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced peoples. You can't fail to have been struck by the plight of all of the displaced people desperately trying to find refuge in Europe over the past year. I have been so impressed with the work of all of the grassroots charities who've been doing all they can to make the lives of these people as comfortable as possible. 2016 has been a crazy year and many other stories have taken over in the news but this is still a very desperate situation and these small charities need all the help they can get.
For the poets
I'm sure there are many people like me out there who like to keep it old-school by handwriting everything. I have notebooks all over my home filled with to-do lists, dreams and ideas. The paper in these beautiful sari-covered notebooks is handmade from cotton rags and recycled woollen blankets making them incredibly eco-friendly.
Global Seesaw is a social enterprise that works to create sustainable employment for women who have been trafficked into prostitution. All profits are re-invested into the business to ensure greater freedom is offered to women and their children who have been victims of human trafficking.
For the chef of the family
If I didn't work with precious metals, I'd most definitely be getting all sawdusty working with wood. It's such a beautiful, alive material and this is one gorgeous slab of it. I love the natural grain in this elm chopping board. I have my chopping boards out on my kitchen surface so it's a bonus when they look this attractive.
Aerende sell a beautifully curated selection of handmade items, all made in the British Isles by crafters who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment due to social challenges. The meaning of the name is beautiful as well, it means "care' in Olde English.
For the bendy ones
Ooooh....I LOVE a jazzy legging! Can't get enough. And these are some of the nicest I've seen in ages. A great gift for your yoga-loving friends and family or gals who, like me, have forgotten that you can wear anything else on your bottoms except leggings.
Samanata (which means "equality" in Hindi) are a gorgeous brand who support local suppliers and donate 10% of their profits to Project Futures. Project Futures are a not-for-profit organisation working towards the eradication of human trafficking and giving support to it's survivors.
For the outdoor types
For your inner and outer environment, everyone should have a steel water bottle. Plastic packaging is the scourge of the earth and aren't too kind to our bodies either. This water bottle is great to throw in your bag at all times or stick in your car.
Jerry's profits go to funding clean water projects around the world. A really lovely touch is that, on the base of each bottle, are the coordinates of the specific village that your purchase has funded.
For the stylish businessman
Do all little boys dream of being firemen? Well, as a grown up, they can now get a little closer to that dream with these wonderful bags by Elvis & Kresse. There is something very special about things which used to be something else in a previous existence. It adds soul to them, gives them a story and a past. These bags have been made out of decommissioned fire-hoses and look gorgeous. They are really amazing quality creations and are lined in military-grade parachute silk. This would make such a special gift and can even be personalised with a laser-etched message.
On top of being ecological marvels in their recycling activities, Elvis & Kresse donate 50% of their profits to various charities. The donation from the fire hose range goes to the Fire Fighters Charity, who enhance the life of serving and retired firefighters (aka Ninjas).
For the gourmand
Recipe books make such great Christmas gifts, they're the kind of thing many people don't buy for themselves. This book has gotten rave reviews, even the cover makes me drool.
Zaytoun is a community-interest company working to create and develop a UK market for artisanal Palestinian produce, sourced from small-scale farming communities. A great place to buy the ingredients you need to cook all of these yummy recipes!
And, to wrap it up
And now, to the last bit....the wrapping paper. I love this wrapping paper by Peter Andrews so much. It's outsider-art wrapping paper and you can't get much cooler than that. It's artistic and abstract and I really love being able to read about the man behind the design.
Art House Meath is another enterprise harnessing the life-affirming properties of creativity and producing fantastic, quality items which provide revenue to sustain their enterprise. The artists are a group of men and women living with complex epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties. Have a look through their extensive online shop for more things to wrap up too, they have some gorgeous gifts.
I hope I've given you a little bit of inspiration when it comes to gift buying. When you see all of the amazing ways your money can make a difference, it seems insane to spend it in impersonal shops, especially when the products are this good.