It's often impossible to avoid the message to spend, spend, spend, but if you look for opportunities to buy presents that offer something in return, you'll feel better about dropping the cash—and help someone else feel better too.
Open Someone's Eyes
Famous for its “one for one” business model, Toms launched in 2006 with the aim of providing a pair of shoes to a child in need with each pair sold, and in the intervening years, the company has expanded way beyond footwear. Bag purchases support safe births, backpacks benefit anti-bullying initiatives, and there’s even a Toms coffee-roasting company that offers a week’s supply of safe water with each bag of beans. We particularly love the sunglasses, which are available in an array of styles, colors, and sizes and help provide underserved communities with access to eye care.
Sunglasses, $80–$229, toms.com.
Ease Someone's Burden
This one-of-a-kind, made-to-order embroidered strap does double duty on the social-good front: Handmade in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, from a repurposed vintage belt and discarded materials, it serves as a sustainable fashion statement and offers job opportunities to the female artisans responsible for its creation. (If this one’s sold out, don’t fear—the shop is restocked weekly with new designs that range in price from $69–$109, depending on embroidery and hardware).
Custom embroidered strap, $98, hiptipico.com.
Alleviate Someone's Pain
These minis are mighty: Thistle Farms’ shea butter and beeswax–based balms not only soothe and heal chapped lips, they’re also made by a community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction to become experts in all areas of the manufacturing process, from bookkeeping to production. Sales provide these women with a stable income that helps them move toward financial independence, allowing them to become first-time homeowners, buy their own cars, and support their families.
Lip balm, $3.50, thistlefarms.org.
Courtesy Thistle Farms
Light Up Someone's Life
A headlamp isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when packing for a trip, but anyone who’s been caught too far up the trail as sunset approaches, navigated late-night trips from the campsite to the bathroom, or gotten up early to catch the sunrise from a distant peak will vouch for its handiness—no pun intended. This itty-bitty version from Cotopaxi packs a big punch, both in terms of specs (170 lumens that illuminate up to 50 feet for 20 hours at a stretch, rechargeable via USB) and social initiatives. In keeping with the company’s commitment to alleviating global poverty, Cotopaxi earmarks 2% of its revenue for grants to advance health, education, and livelihood initiatives around the world, so your gift will help brighten someone else's day too.
Claro headlamp, $30, cotopaxi.com.
Quench Someone's Thirst
If your favorite traveler has far-flung destinations with dodgy tap or backcountry water on their 2018 agenda, a personal filtration device could be just the ticket. This one can’t do anything about chemicals, viruses, or salt water, but it claims to remove 99.9% of bacteria and parasites via mechanical filters—no batteries or moving parts required. On top of that, it’s tiny, lightweight, and for each one sold, a child in Africa receives clean water for a school year: The company puts a portion of its proceeds toward the donation of institutional water purifiers, with more than 600 schools in rural Kenya benefiting since 2014.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, $20, eartheasy.com.
Fill Someone's Belly
Perfect for the itinerant lady in your life, this little leather pouch not only corrals those loose ends for an organized day pack, it also provides 25 school meals for a hungry kid.
Wander Woman Pocket Pouch, $58, feedprojects.com.
Help Someone Hear the Music
Though these reusable earplugs were designed to improve the concert-going experience by decreasing the volume of both high and low frequencies without blocking or muffling the sound, they’ll lower decibel levels in loud locations like airplanes as well. Equally suitable for both the frequent flyer and the music lover who always stands too close to the speakers, each pair bought helps finance projects that provide hearing aids to the disadvantaged, thanks to the company’s partnership with Hear The World Foundation.
Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs, $24, discovervibes.com.
Make Someone's Holiday
If you’re shopping for someone who has everything, consider making a purchase in their name for someone who’s lost everything. The U.K.-based humanitarian-aid organization Help Refugees funds more than 80 different projects in countries from Italy to Iraq and Syria to Serbia, and its store, Choose Love, offers direct support to refugees: Shoppers around the world can buy meal ingredients or school supplies, pay for a family’s monthly rent and living expenses, contribute to volunteer search-and-rescue teams’ fuel costs and boat repairs, or donate to the NGO itself. It'll make a tangible difference: The full purchase price goes toward aid for refugees and within weeks, your gift will reach the people it’s intended to help. "Spirit of the season," indeed.
Choose Love, choose.love.
Courtesy Choose Love
Feeling a bit Scroogey? Try putting your shopping dollars to work for a cause. These eight gifts benefit communities large and small, domestically and internationally, and they come with a feel-good glow that'll get you into the spirit in no time.