Updated for 2013!
Some folks already have everything they need and you just don’t want to add to their load of stuff. Consider making a donation in their name to a good charity. If you don’t have a favorite local, national, or international charity, use the Charity Navigator to find one. It lists a great many — like Oxfam, Women for Women, Care, and many more. It also rates these and lets you see how much of their money is spent on salaries, expenses, if they hire fundraisers, etc.
If you’d like to be a more socially conscious consumer, here are some organizations, some local , some online, where you can purchase gifts while making a difference in the lives of real people. Avoiding the “big box” stores is a place to start. Buying from local merchants (Co-ops, CSAs, Farmer’s Markets, etc.) benefit our local towns, population, and small businesses. Think again before buying fruit from places thousands of miles away. When was it picked, how much petroleum was used to get it here, is there a local alternative? The more we demand local produce, the more will be grown by local farmers. How cool will that be? What’s not available locally, look for fair trade. It’s putting your money in good hands.
These suggestions come from our UConn faculty who teach and embody the ideals of these organizations. The sites are listed alphabetically! No order intended. If you have some other suggestions, please add them via a comment to this blog. And pass these on to your friends and family!
Our Vision for New England
Our vision for Common Good Market is to re-connect you to the people who actually make things – beautiful, useful everyday items for the home. Buying locally made products helps build more resilient local economies, leads to improved environmental outcomes, and a better future for our children.
Common Good Market is committed to promote locally made, environmentally responsible products through our e-commerce site and at regional events. We want to help foster a renewed reliance on locally sourced raw materials, supplies, and labor for new and creative endeavors — the foundation for a revitalized, more sustainable New England.
In the end, our personal choices- how we spend our money, what products we buy, and how we support the efforts of people in our community through those choices – is the only way we can begin to reshape our economy and our future…one local purchase at a time.
Dean’s Beans (fair trade coffee):
We only purchase beans from small farmers and cooperatives, largely made up of indigenous peoples working hard to maintain their culture and lifestyles in a hostile world. We do not buy beans from large estates and farms. We’ve been there, and have seen the conditions of chronic poverty and malnutrition within which these farms produce those other coffees. Look in your kitchen – do you know where your beans come from? Each player in our cycle of production and distribution, from the farmer to the consumer, participates in socially just and environmentally responsible trade. We hope that all other coffee companies will follow our lead. We are proud to be a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, Inc., the first roaster’s cooperative created to buy direct, Fair Trade coffee from farmer coops, and make it available to any small roaster who wants to participate in the Fair Trade movement. We are also active members of the Fair Trade Federation, an international organization of dedicated Fair Traders (no poseurs allowed).
Green America (formerly Co-Op America) is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982.
Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.
Our Vision: We work for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the bounty of the Earth is preserved for all the generations to come.
Heifer’s Mission to End Hunger Heifer envisions… A world of communities living together in peace and equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet. Heifer’s mission is… To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth. Heifer’s strategy is… To “pass on the gift.” As people share their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources, and skills – an expanding network of hope, dignity, and self-reliance is created that reaches around the globe. Heifer’s History This simple idea of giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief caught on and has continued for over 60 years. Today, millions of families in 128 countries have been given the gifts of self-reliance and hope. Read Heifer’s blog.
Mission We want to give artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity. And, we want to provide you with access to unique, hard-to-find items at great values that only the Internet infrastructure can allow. At the deepest essence of our philosophy, we want to create a bridge between you and the many talented artisans across the globe. We want you to know about who you’re buying from. We want you to feel that attachment to the product and to the hands that created it. In the spirit of the Internet, let us bring you together. NOVICA. The World is Your Market.
SERRV is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.
For more than 60 years, SERRV has worked to eradicate poverty through our direct connections with low-income artisans and farmers. We market their crafts and foods, find joint solutions to their challenges, and help them grow and embrace the future. One of the first alternative trade organizations in the world, SERRV is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (formerly IFAT) and a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF).
We strive to enrich lives around the world and to inspire real change for the better.
Our work encompasses more than just buying and selling.
We offer prepayments so our partners can sustain their business.
Create new designs so they can build their markets.
Teach new skills so they can develop their craft.
Provide grants so they can expand their resources.
We support equal rights for women.
Guide sustainable development.
And of course, pay a fair wage.
Fair trade provides under- and unemployed artisans with an opportunity to earn vital income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their handcrafted products. Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member of the WFTO – the World Fair Trade Organization, a global network of more than 350 fair trade organizations in 70 countries.
As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating long-term buying relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to unique gifts, accessories and home decor from around the world.
Tropical Salvage Old wood. New use. Positive change.
Tropical Salvage practices a simple business model. We salvage old deconstruction and rediscovered wood and put it to new imaginative use. In doing so, we contribute to positive economic, social and environmental change. Old wood, new use, positive change. The disappearance of old-growth tropical forests in the developing world is largely influenced by the developed world’s demand for exotic wood products, its demand for wood pulp to supply industrial paper production, and its demand for industrial commodity quantities of agricultural products whose cultivation converts biologically diverse ecosystems into vast monoculture plantations. Salvaged wood provides all the same benefits, without the high environmental costs. Tropical Salvage offers a conduit to access accurate information about logging industry practices in southeast Asia and an opportunity to buy responsibly, thereby choosing reform of needlessly destructive policies and practices.