Ethical Shopping – A Gift Giving Guide

If you’re like me and trying to be a more ethical consumer, shopping during the holidays can become overwhelming or frustrating. It’s hard enough finding ethically and environmentally conscientious items when shopping for myself, but when I have to consider the tastes of someone else, my brain suddenly becomes stuck!

Well, to keep you from feeling the same way, I’ve done a little bit of the work for you. Below are some of my top ethical / ecofriendly gift ideas for any upcoming birthdays and present-oriented holidays. I’ve created a few categories and listed a couple of items for each one. Each category contains at least one “affordable” option ($10 – $60) and one “indulgent” option ($60 – $200). I tried to keep most items gender neutral in tone. I hope this helps you during the holiday grind!

For the animal lover/pet owner:

  • Affordable: Love Thy Beast’s pet toys are made in the U.S.A. from natural or ecofriendly materials. Try their dust “bugs” (filled with catnip) for a cat or their sir fox a lot plush toy for a dog; they’re both adorable!
  • Affordable: Bambeco’s made-in-USA wine charms feature a gorilla, sea turtle, whale, rhino, and elephant, and would make a great gift for the wine and animal lover! If your recipient isn’t a wine drinker, there are also ornament sets, one featuring the same five animals and another featuring a different variety of critters.
  • Indulgent: This beautiful black ombre collar, from Found my Animal, is made in the U.S.A. from hand-dyed rope and vegetable-tanned leather; someone’s lucky pet will be the most stylish creature on the block! Buy the matching leash for a even more stylish set! Bonus: The boutique that sells these collars, Zady, offers free shipping and returns within the U.S.

For the athletic/sporty type:

  • Affordable: American Apparel’s Nylon Pack Cloth gym bag isn’t manufactured with ecofriendly materials, but it is made in the U.S.A. and would be a practical gift for the gym/pool/barre/yoga studio frequenter. Choose a unique colorway, like emerald+silver, to distinguish it in the locker room.
  • Indulgent: Fibre Athletics’s Pursuit Top (available for both men and women) is made in Chicago using recycled polyester and has a slim fit, hidden pockets for when you want to be unencumbered, flatlock seams for comfort, and moisture wicking so that you’ll be sure to stay comfortably dry.

For the baker/cook:

  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s tea towels are made in Portland, Oregon, using organic cotton, and will help keep the kitchen nice and clean. I particularly like the tropical fruit tea towel in salmon.
  • Affordable: Yellow 108’s limited edition apron is made from salvaged and recycled materials in Los Angeles. Its stylish exterior will protect your favorite baker or cook from the messes of the kitchen!
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s reclaimed wood and salvaged leather cookbook/iPad holder would look beautiful on any kitchen counter and keeps a favorite recipe propped up and within view.

For the beauty obsessed:

  • Affordable: Rue de Marli’s No. 27 Body Lotion is a nourishing lotion that is made in Canada using natural ingredients. The company has its beginnings in an old bookstore, where the company’s founder became inspired after learning that Marie Antoinette had opened the France’s first parfumerie.
  • Affordable: Flynn and King’s Groom hair treatment is a nourishing serum for the scalp and hair that is made in the U.S.A. using argan and rosehip oils.
  • Indulgent: Rituel de Fille’s Rare Light Luminizer collection offers three different shades that can be applied anywhere on the face or body to add an intriguing glow. According to their about page, all of Rituel de Fille’s offerings are 99% natural. (Psst: They also have amazing eyeshadow and lipstick colors.)

For the DIYer:

  • Affordable: This bookbinding kit will bring out the DIYer’s creativity even after the kit is put together: the resulting blank 60-page journal can be used to jot down ideas for the next DIY project.
  • Indulgent: This recycled cardboard boombox kit will surely provide hours of DIY entertainment. Once the “boombox” is built, it plugs into your phone to deliver music through its German engineered speakers. And because the boombox is cardboard, the recipient can customize the exterior!

For the foodie:

  • Affordable: Raaka’s organic gourmet chocolate bar gift set is made in Brooklyn and includes the flavors smoked chai, mint and nibs, pink sea salt, and coconut milk. Taste buds are guaranteed to be tantalized.
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s Quattro Stagioni gift set contains four tins of small-batch Italian olive oil in plain, lemon, chili, and basil flavors. Delicious and perfect for dipping some bread into, tossing into a salad, etc.

For the globetrotter:

  • Affordable: Apolis’s leather luggage tag is made in the U.S.A. using vegetable-tanned leather. It features a snap to keep your contact information secure, a buckled strap to keep the tag firmly on your bags, and a beautiful set of natural colorways that will make your cargo stand out in the luggage carousel.
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s mini cork globe would make a nice decoration for the bookshelf or desk and allow your favorite globetrotter to mark all of the locations they’ve set foot in!

For the homebody:

  • Affordable: Sockdreams’s marled slouch socks are made in the USA from recycled yarn and are perfect for lounging around the house during the cooler months. Bonus: you get free shipping within the U.S.! If you want to make the gift more personal and also get a little crafty, turn the socks into slipper socks using puffy fabric paint and Sockdreams’s own tutorial!
  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s small lumbar pillow is made in Portland, Oregon, using organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles (for the insert). The sideways rain print will go with a variety of decors, and this cushy pillow will be much appreciated on days when the elements keep the recipient indoors.
  • Indulgent: Lina Rennell’s sheared “fur” throw is made in California from organic cotton and imitates the look and feel of shorn fur without actually being fur. It’s plush and soft, perfect for the person who likes to spend the weekend in bed with a book or a good movie.
  • Indulgent: If you/your recipient are not into the faux fur look, In2Green’s Chunky Cable throw, in aluminum, is another beautiful blanket option that is still soft and luxurious but a little more understated. It’s made in the USA from recycled cotton and polyester!

For the jewelry lover:

  • Affordable: Craighill’s made-in-Ohio Wilson Keyring technically isn’t jewelry, but this brass keyring is so lovely in its simplicity that I couldn’t help but include it here.
  • Affordable: We Dream in Color’s recycled glass beaded bracelet is made in Massachusetts and will add boldness to any look. The goat’s headshaped brass hook closure is an eye-catching detail.
  • Affordable: Soko’s Kazi Cuff features a really unique way to make a quiet but impactful statement. The cuff is personalized, not just with the recipient’s initials, but also with the initials of a woman who has made her mark in Kenya. If personalization isn’t your (or your recipient’s) thing, Soko has plenty of other impactful jewelry in their storeimpactful because this company connects independent artisans to a global market they might never have accessed otherwise. (Check out the Talon and Cord Lariat for a more on-trend gift idea.)
  • Indulgent: Natalie Frigo’s large claw and black lucite necklace looks simple in construction but is sure to make a statement with its long length and large focal point (it’s certainly in my “covet” list for those reasons). It’s made in NYC from recycled brass and vintage lucite.

For the little ones:

  • Affordable: Pact has a great selection of adorable bibs, onesies, beanies, and teeny tiny socks, all made from fair trade, organic cotton.
  • Affordable: Tree Hopper Toys’s Whoa Bots are made near Chicago from sustainably-harvested wood. Each set comes with eight bots, but if you really want to increase the fun factor, buy two or three sets and watch how many configurations the kiddo can put them into. As a plus, with their simple silhouette and neutral colors, the bots can double as a fun display piece.
  • Affordable: For a fun weekend project, this build your own birdhouse kit requires no glue or screws and is made in Athens, Georgia.
  • Indulgent: This reclaimed wood tree swing for one is handmade in Pennsylvania and will provide hours of fun and relaxation for the young and old.

For the outdoorsy type:

  • Affordable: Tree Hopper Toys’s Log Cabin 3D Puzzle brings the outdoors, indoors! Whenever your recipient can’t make it out to the hiking trail, this little cabin, perched on a table or bookshelf, will provide a moment of solace. The cabin, made from sustainably harvested wood, can also be personalized with the recipient’s name (which will be printed/etched into the sign on the cabin’s door)!
  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s dopp kit, in the cross stitch colorway, features an organic cotton exterior and a water resistant interior, perfect for storing the toiletry basics while camping or hiking!
  • Indulgent: Yellow 108’s limited edition Wander Blanket and Strap is made in Los Angeles using salvaged wool and leather. The green plaid colorway evokes the woods and mountain trails, and the handy carrying strap makes for easy carrying while hiking or while heading to the beach.

For the plant lover:

  • Affordable: This adorable, made-in-Brooklyn terracotta cat plant waterer will keep the recipient’s plants nice and hydrated.
  • Affordable: This beautiful lavender growing kit is made in the U.S.A., the pot is constructed from bamboo, and the lid serves as a drainage dish!
  • Affordable: 1% Talent’s unisex, hand-screenprinted Happy Plant Pocket tee would be great for the gardener or plant lover who wants the world to know how much s/he appreciates our green friends!
  • Indulgent: Group Partner’s made-in-Brooklyn planter has a bold and charming theme, boobs! (There’s also a male form here.) If the gift recipient isn’t one to display the human form in the living room or on the front porch, there’s also a planter with a silly face theme.

For the significant other:

  • Affordable: Pact underwear. Yes, giving your significant other underwear may seem a bit cliché, but wait until you take a peek at Pact’s offerings (men’s here, women’s here). All of their underwear is made with fair trade, organic cotton, which is super soft. I swear by their boyshorts. This is not the traditional sexy lingerie gift; this is a gift all about comfort and relaxation. (Well, actually, it is kind of sexy because that underwear still looks goood.) ($ – $$)
  • Indulgent: But…if you want to go the traditional sexy lingerie route, Only Hearts does ethically made lingerie very well. Make sure your recipient will actually like what’s in the box though; if you know your partner isn’t the lacy underthings type of person, Only Hearts does have a lovely selection of pajamas and organic cotton offerings too. Unfortunately, Only Hearts’s offerings are only marketed toward women. If you are looking for an indulgent option for the more stereotypically masculine, I’d suggest the Flint and Tinder Heritage Boxer Briefs Three-Pack, which is made in America from long staple supima cotton.

For the style guru:

  • Affordable: Oak Street Bootmakers’s horsehair shoe brush. This brush is made in Chicago out of natural materials, and is perfect for a shoe lover or a person who is very fastidious about appearances.
  • Affordable: Baggu’s copper-colored small leather pouch. Baggu’s leather goods are currently all made in the U.S.A., and the simple shape of the pouch combined with the brightness of metallic copper make for a stunning and utilitarian piece. Use it for coins, cards, buttons, you name it. If your recipient isn’t into metallics, there are more subdued colorways, like black or sea glass.
  • Indulgent: Est Wst’s Kullu Scarf. The slate colorway will go with so many different outfits, works with both masculine and feminine styles of dress, and has a simple but striking pattern. And the purchase of this scarf helps at-risk women in Nepal support themselves and their children!
  • Indulgent: thread & paper’s waxed cotton canvas tote is made in the U.S.A. using organic cotton canvas. This simple black tote is both hardwearing and visually intriguing thanks to the waxed coating, and would make a great daily use bag for a stylish loved one.

For the tea/coffee drinker:

  • Affordable: CoffeeSock’s organic cotton coffee filter is made in Texas and can be reused up to a year. Save the recipient a trip to the store during the cold winter months when the disposable coffee filters run out!
  • Affordable: Bambeco’s Milano porcelain teapot is made in Portugal at a factory with environmentally conscious practices and would be a striking addition to a tea lover’s table. Get the matching tea cups for a really generous gift!
  • Indulgent: La Chuparosa’s Xolo Mug is a beautifully sculpted dog-shaped mug that is made by hand in California. It would look just as good in a display case as it would holding hot tea on the kitchen table.

For the writer:

  • Affordable: Michael Roger’s made-in-USA spiral bound notebook is manufactured from recycled paper, with a unique shadow puppet print. An intriguing cover to hide (or enhance) your recipient’s intriguing thoughts. 😉
  • Affordable: Midori’s beautiful, refillable, made-in-Japan brass ballpoint pen is small, with a ring on the end that you can loop a string through, for easy carrying.
  • Indulgent: One of a kind naked wire people bookmarks, which are handmade in Seattle. Why? Because writers need to read too! And isn’t writing about celebrating the human form? Oh wait, I might be thinking of something else…

If you’d like even more ideas, I’ve updated my Guide to Ethical Shopping page. There are now three separate pages that branch off from the main page: one for online retailers selling clothing and accessories, one for online retailers selling beauty, home goods, and other miscellany, and one for physical store locations. I’ve even created a color-coded key! Curating a list of ethically and environmentally conscientious stores has been a labor of love—I’ve been working on this list for over a month! My hope is that it will be a simple and quick resource for those of you who are interested in ethical consumerism. Please feel free to pass the link to this guide along (!

I’ll continue to update the shopping guide over time (two of the pages are still being revised as I post this!), and I’d welcome any suggestions for things to add to my list. I actually bought a few things from some of these retailers recently, so keep an eye out for some review posts in the near future!

S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.


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