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2011 Holiday Gift Guide: Socially Responsible Gifts

It can be overwhelming to buy only fair trade, environmentally sustainable items — it involves a lot of research and significant shifts in the way you shop. Like any change you make, it’s best to do it a little at a time — first finding fair trade sources of coffee and chocolate, then looking for sustainable and ethical clothing, and so on — rather than jumping in with both feet 100%, which is likely to leave you overwhelmed and unable to sustain your commitment.

Below are some gift ideas to help you get started. I’m the last person who will put guilt on you for not doing enough, and even choosing one fair trade or environmentally responsible gift can make a difference. But with all of these great gift ideas — and plenty more to be found — you may be surprised by how many gifts you can check off your list!

31 Bits is one of my favorite companies. Started by four friends, 31 Bits works with artists in Uganda to make a fashionable line of paper bead jewelry. These girls have an eye for style, and I love almost everything they sell, but the Holly Braid Bracelet is my current favorite! With each purchase, you are literally helping a woman work her way out of poverty.

Three Avocados is a non-profit organization also working in Uganda to provide clean water through the sale of Ugandan coffee. Up to $3 from every bag of coffee sold is used to provide clean water and this Three Avocados Coffee & Tumbler gift set is a great way to support the mission and share the work that Three Avocados is doing with other people as well!

I’m pretty sure magnetic wooden blocks are the coolest concept ever, and Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks have the added draw of being an eco-friendly, fair-trade company. Made from trees harvested from sustainable hard-wood forests in Ecuador, Tegu encourages entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship and social change throughout their entire process.

Kristen from We Are THAT Family and her husband founded The Mercy House in Kenya last year to provide support and prenatal care as an alternative to backstreet abortions. These Funky Paper Earrings are made by artists in Kenya and would make a colorful addition to any collection!

Love146’s vision is clear: “The abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. Nothing less.” However, they are committed to fighting for not only the abolition of slavery around the world but also providing restoration and hope for its victims. By purchasing gifts such as the Love 146 Mission Love ID Cuff, you can be a part of the incredibly important work they’re doing AND share that mission with other people.

There’s nothing cozier than curling up with a hot cup during the cold winter months, and Mighty Leaf offers a wide variety of organic teas in biodegradable tea pouches as well as beautiful teaware to add to that experience.

As much as I’d like to ignore it, the fact is that much of the chocolate we eat is harvested by tiny hands doing back-breaking work instead of embracing their childhood because of forced child labor around the world. My goal for the upcoming year is to buy only certified fair-trade chocolate, and this Equal Exchange Fairly Traded Chocolate Bar Collection would be a great start. (Hint, hint!)

These White Pearl and Metal Hoop Earrings from the Starfish Project are classy and elegant. Even better, each purchase helps and empowers exploited women in Asia by providing counseling, medical care, education, training and income.

I’m not a huge Toms fan — although I am looking forward to the ballet slippers expected in the spring — but they are a company who is committed to making a difference around the world through their unique style. They’re commitment to donating one pair of shoes for every pair purchased remains strong, and when you buy a Fashion Gives Back product this Christmas, Toms and Glamour will donate an additional $5 to charity as well.

See the full 2011 Holiday Gift Guide here.