Friday, December 18, 2009

Ethical gifts at the last minute

by Shae

I love the idea of making beautiful, handcrafted items for friends and family for Christmas and birthdays, I just don’t seem to get around to it. A few days before the event, I start hatching a plan that requires time and skills that are in short supply. Instead I look for things that other people have made that I can quickly send to friends and family in the US and Australia. Here are a couple of my favorite gift ideas that also support worthwhile projects.

Donation gifts

Many non-profit organisations these days have an option for you to buy donations. Oxfam Unwrapped lets you ‘purchase’ a gift, such as a cow, for your grandmother, who then receives a card (not the cow) indicating the donation made in her honour. The purchase helps support Oxfam’s advocacy and international development work.

Fair trade

Numerous websites and shops carry fair trade goods that are designed to provide income directly to the producers, bypassing middlemen. For example, check out U-Chus and Global Exchange. A few fair trade companies aim to provide fashionable, designer products that are also environmentally-friendly and made under ethical conditions. See People Tree and Indigenous Designs. If there's a particular product you want to get someone, like a pair of shoes or some clothing or a bag, you could also try searching online for that product and 'fair trade' - there are lots of great online stores out there.


The International Labor Rights Forum compiled a list of clothing and footwear manufacturers that are unionized or worker cooperatives in its Shop with a Conscience Guide. For a list of companies that have signed the Homeworkers Code of Practice in Australia, see this site. By signing the code, the company indicates its commitment to meeting standards for homeworkers that produce their goods in Australia.

Other ideas

There are also plenty of other gifts you can give that won't put a burden on the planet and will help support the workers who make them. You can give tickets to community events or concerts, handmade and hand-crafted gifts from Etsy, and locally-made gifts from markets like Unwrapped (on Dec 19th) Made on the Left and Perth Upmarket. There's also a Christmas Organic Growers Market on Wednesday 23rd at City Farm, which will have plenty of great last-minute gifts.

Whenever possible donate, recycle, upcycle, and support workers’ initiatives locally and globally. That way as well as giving gifts to your friends and family, you're also helping to make a better world.

Do you have other advice for last-minute ethical gifts? We'd love to hear your ideas and comments!

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