Have you heard of Kiva? The microloan lending service allows anyone to loan $25 or more to help people in developing countries start or expand their businesses. And you can give the gift of lending by giving someone in your life a gift card to lend on Kiva. There is even a nice printable card to wrap up explaining the gift and how to give it. (Kiva.org, $25 and up)
FEED bags date back to 2005 when model and activist Lauren Bush created an organic cotton and burlap FEED bag to benefit the United Nations World Food Programme's (WFP) School Feeding program. These days there are dozens of styles and price points — and all the bags. Profits from the bags are used to support programs that feed kids around the world. (Feedprojects.com, $10 and up)
You've probably heard of the organization Save the Children which is dedicated to improving the lives of kids throughout the world. If you want a gift that really gives back, you can choose a specific present and give it in the name of your recipient — like goats, health-related products, soccer balls and more. Someone in need gets the gift and your recipient gets a special card telling them about the good you did in their name. (Savethechildren.org, $15 and up)
A beautiful piece of jewelry is a great present. But what makes the Same Sky jewelry so incredible is that these beautiful bracelets, necklaces and cuff links do a lot of good. Made in Rwanda with Rwandan fabric and hand-blown glass beads, these pieces of jewelry are the work of HIV-positive women who are being given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. (Samesky.com, $30 and up)
A fabulous charm bracelet, and a good cause? Yes. This is a present that's both special in its personal-ness and because giving it means supporting an organization that does good. The company that sells these bracelets and charms is Altruette. Altruette donates 50 percent of the net profit from the charms they sell to different causes like education, children and more through organizations like DonorsChoose. (Altruette.com, prices vary)
LUSH, the cruelty-free bath goods company, has partnered with a nonprofit called Re-Work to raise awareness about cruelty-free testing. LUSH also supports the work of the nonprofit, which employs women in India to create their product packaging. Be sure to stuff your stockings with a few LUSH bath bombs or other pampering treats this holiday season. (LushUSA.com, prices vary)
You've probably heard of TOMS, the company that sells those quirky cool shoes and gives away a pair to someone in need for every pair sold. But did you know that TOMS sells eyewear now too? And cooler yet, they have extended their one to one program to the eyewear — so for every pair of eyeglasses purchased, they provide eye services — prescription glasses, surgeries or other medical interventions — to someone in need. (TOMS.com, prices vary)
The story behind 31 Bits is nothing short of inspiring. An American woman met women in Uganda who were creating beautiful paper beads but had no plan of how to make a business from it. She went home, inspired, and eventually created 31 Bits, a jewelry company that buys from women in Uganda. So when you gift a beautiful 31 Bits necklace you are also empowering women from across the globe. (31bits.com, $10 and up)
Need a present for him? The fine 100 percent silk ties from the Life Tie Project will look amazing on him. But that's not all. Buying one will also mean giving to great causes such as cancer research. The company donates at least 25 percent of profits to causes that support healthier and more illness-free lives. (Thelifetie.com, $49 and up)
Not sure what to buy that gives back? Whether you have a big budget or small, you can also give the gift of Fair Trade products. The Fair Trade designation means that the products are created using ethically grown materials. Everything from chocolate and coffee to lip gloss carries the Fair Trade certification these days, so there's a lot to choose from. Learn more and find Fair Trade certified products and retailers at fairtradeusa.org.
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