A Comprehensive Ethical Shopping Guide for Christmas

 

Two weeks ago a garment factory in New Delhi, India caught fire and burned to the ground, killing 13 people in it's wake and leaving 9 others injured. It was not the first of it's kind...in 2012 a factory in Bangladesh caught on fire and killed at least 117 people and injured more than 200 people. In 2013 a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing over 1,000 people and injuring another 2000. From 2013-2015, in just Bangladesh alone, at least 908 people were killed and 31 injured in garment factory fires and collapses.

This is the cost of our clothing. Is it worth it? Is a $5 tshirt or $30 pair of jeans worth people's lives? As you shop for Christmas presents this year, do you want your family and friends opening gifts that have literally cost people their lives?

No? I don't either. So here's an ethical shopping guide for Christmas to help you give gifts you can truly feel good about. I've put together a list of a variety of items with a wide range of products, so whether your budget is $5 or $500, there's options for you and those you love! The list includes 36 products by 24 different companies -- all, to the very best of my knowledge, products and companies that embody what it means to be ethical. None of the products or brands featured are sponsored, they're just products and companies I happen to love. I hope you do too!

Let me know in the comments what you purchase off the list, and be sure to share this with your friends and on social media so they can shop ethically this Christmas too!

Thanks for joining me and valuing the lives of the people who make our things far more than the things they make.

xo,

Kaitlin
 


**There is no universal definition for "ethical." To me, ethical means products that help, not harm, the people who make them - that includes the farmer who grows the material all the way to the person who packages and ships it and everyone in between. No child labor. No slavery. No exploitation. Rather, living wages, safe working conditions, opportunities for advancement, etc. It means that companies value the lives of their employees far more than they value any product they make. Ethical also means that companies seek to minimize harm done to the environment while their products are being made. Lastly, in my opinion ethical means that businesses use a sustainable business model, that their products are designed and made well, and that the companies are honest and transparent.


I. Under $20

1. Equal Exchange's Coffee

Cost: $9.75
Item: 12oz Whole Bean Coffee

Equal Exchange operates like a co-op, over 100 of their workers also have an equal share in the company and voting rights in the business, the company is certified Fair Trade, and their agriculture practices are sustainable and organic. Put simply, this coffee is good for the people who make it and the environment, so you can feel good about what you're drinking every morning.  They offer a variety of coffees in several forms, as well as tea, chocolate and snacks! This coffee is perfect as a stocking stuffer, for your coffee snob friend, or really anyone else on your list. I suggest the Ethiopian and Colombian blends, but hey, I'm no expert!

 

 

2. Everlane's Tee

Cost: $15
Item: Women or Men's v-neck tee

Everlane is passionate about radical transparency. They have strong relationships with every factory they work with, and have ample pictures and information about the factories on their website. Each product has transparent pricing as well, showing you exactly how much it cost to make and how much they mark it up (significantly less than industry norms). They started off selling t-shirts, and have expanded to include just about every piece of clothing and shoes you need. Their minimalist designs have me drooling, and if I had to pick only one company to purchase all my clothes from, Everlane would definitely be it. Most of their products are over $20, but they have several styles of t-shirts in a variety of colors for both men and women under $20.

3. The Tote Project's Pouches

Cost: $17.50
Item: Tote Pouch

The Tote Project is a fair trade company that works with human trafficking survivors in India, plus 20% of their profits are donated to help survivors in the U.S. They are passionate about ending human trafficking, and their products reflect that passion. They use recycled sari's for the lining and tassles of the pouches, giving each one a unique touch. The pouches are handmade in a fair trade certified factory, the fabric is 100% organic cotton (A+ for ethical!), and the designs printed with eco-friendly, water based ink. They have 15 different designs currently available!

4. Causegear's Laptop Sleeve

Cost: $14.00 (on sale)
Item: 13" Laptop Sleeve

Causegear items are all handcrafted by employees are are paid 5x the industry average, providing workers a dignified path out of poverty by empowering them to provide for themselves and their families. Each item comes with the facetag of the person who made it, and you can read their stories on Causegear's website. (They also sell bags, packs and tees, which are over $20.) The laptop sleeve comes in black, natural or taupe, and you can choose the orientation (horizontal or vertical).

5. Pact's Socks

Cost: $9.99-$17.99
Item: Men and Women's socks

For the perfect stocking stuffer, grab some of Pact's socks! Pact is all about "organic cotton farming, responsible manufacturing, sustainable and ethical certifications, and values-based shopping." Organic cotton is one of the most ethical fabrics available, as it uses no harmful pesticides or toxic chemicals, and all of Pact's items are made with it. All of their employees work in safe spaces and are paid living wages. They have both men's and women's socks, and they come in a variety of fun colors, patterns and lengths. They also sell underwear, leggings, and baby clothing and their prices are similar to something (unethical) that you'd get at Target!

6. Pact's Baby Clothing

Cost: $11.99
Item: Baby onesies

As a soon-to-be Aunt, I couldn't leave out things for the tiniest humans in our lives, which is why Pact gets a double mention! Like I said previously, Pact is all about "organic cotton farming, responsible manufacturing, sustainable and ethical certifications, and values-based shopping." Organic cotton is one of the most ethical fabrics available, as it uses no harmful pesticides or toxic chemicals, and all of Pact's items are made with it. All of their employees work in safe spaces and are paid living wages. They have baby bibs, long and short-sleeve onesies, hats, socks and pants, and they're all under $20!

7. Tabby's Silk Elephants

Cost: $11.00
Item: Elephant

I recently spent a month in India and I got to hang out at Tabby's production facility for a day and meet the incredible ladies that work there and the owners. Tabby’s "offers HIV-affected women acceptance, dignity and hope by providing job training and employment in a safe, loving community that empowers them to choose a better path and provide for their children." The women receive living wages and work in safe conditions. The elephants come in various sizes and colors and are made out of recycled saris (traditional indian dress for women).

8. Raven + Lily's Soap

Cost: $8.00
Item: Handmade Chai Spice or Lavendar Soap

Raven + Lily is "an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design." They currently work with 1,500+ marginalized women across Asia, Africa, Central America and the USA, all of which receive living wages, health care, a safe environment to work in, education and a chance to escape poverty. All of their products are certified fair-trade and eco-friendly. They are also a Certified B Corp. Their products include clothing, jewelry, bags and home goods. With each item, they tell you who made it, where it's made, how it's made, and how it benefits at-risk women! The soaps are hand milled, and come in two yummy flavors: Chai Spice or Lavender.

II. $21-$50

1. Senda's Alegre Club Soccer Ball

Cost: $29.99
Item: Soccer Ball

Senda's soccer balls are hand stitched and fair-trade certified. They're committed to using only the best materials and craftsmen. They also partner with soccer NGOs that are using the game to improve lives. They're passionate about telling stories that aren't told; "the stories of the other heroes of the game: from homeless players who get back on the right path through soccer, to refugees who use the game as their language, to players on power wheelchairs that find independence and courage with a soccer ball near their feet." They have a variety of balls, depending on whether you're looking for one to kick around out back to play professionally.

2. Cotopaxi Daypack

Cost: $31.95 (on sale)
Item: Boma 13L Daypack

When choosing the factory to make their products, Cotopaxi didn't just choose one that was willing to sign safety agreements. Instead they conducted independent audits and hired a local journalist to talk with the employees, ensuring that they are, in fact, treated fairly, work in a safe environment and are paid appropriately. Cotopaxi's VP of Product, CJ Whittaker genuinely has a relationship with the factory owners and employees. Whether it's playing soccer, enjoying a meal together or even hiking, he is committed to fostering a strong relationship with the people who make their products. Cotopaxi's products also have a Human Lifespan Gaurantee, and as a Certified B Corp, they fund sustainable poverty alleviation programs in some of the poorest countries in the world. The Boma 13L Daypack is beautifully minimalist, and perfect for everything from bike-rides, to day hikes to study dates at a coffee shop.

3. St Frank's Notebook Set

Cost: $35
Item: Set of 3 Notebooks

St Frank is passionate about two things: "supporting economic empowerment for artisans and preserving traditional artisanal craft."  They partner with artisan organizations to provide quality jobs, training, and other holistic support to artisans.  They work with only Fair Trade Certified organizations, and use organic materials and environmentally friendly methods. For framing, printing, finishing, and signature gold plate production, they employ small business in the U.S. I love the size and fun colors of these notebooks...they're perfect for journaling, jotting down to-do lists, or brainstorming your next idea to change the world!

4. Elevate People's Passport Cover

Cost: $49.95
Item: Leather Passport Cover

Elevate People helped birth the factory that I am now working with for our first, ethically made line of leather items, so I couldn't love them more! Their leather artisans are now able to have a job where they can grow in community, be trained and encouraged to endure the immense difficulties they face and to be the people who will empower others. They work in safe working conditions and all of the leather is tanning using a process called "veg-tanning." While leather is typically tanned using a process called chrome-tanning, one filled with harmful and toxic chemicals, veg-tanning using natural bark, leaves and plants so no harm is caused to the workers or environment. Perfect for your friend that loves to travel, the passport covers will keep their passport safe and have enough pockets for all the necessary cash and cards.

5. Raven + Lily Candles

Cost: $24
Item: Handmilled Candle

I love the peaceful feeling that comes with lighting a candle, and I can never get enough of mangoes, so when I saw this Mango + Grapefruit Candle, I couldn't resist repeating Raven + Lily. Like I said above, Raven + Lily is "an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design." They currently work with 1,500+ marginalized women across Asia, Africa, Central America and the USA, all of which receive living wages, health care, a safe environment to work in, education and a chance to escape poverty. All of their products are certified fair-trade and eco-friendly. They are also a Certified B Corp. Their products include clothing, jewelry, bags and home goods. With each item, they tell you who made it, where it's made, how it's made, and how it benefits at-risk women! Their candles come in two scents, Mango + Grapefruit and Bamboo + Lemongrass, and the glass casings are gorgeous!

6. Lesouque's Blanket

Cost: $34
Item: Classic Turkish Fouta Towel

I love Lesouque's story - it was founded by Gokben Yamandag after she worked in a textile factory making things for the western world and saw first hand the atrocities that occur within the garment industry. Her company curates pretty items from around the world made by independent designers committed to producing things ethically. I also love the uniqueness of this towel - traditionally used in Turkey as a towel, it's super absorbent, quick drying, lightweight, and takes up far less room in a beach bag or suitcase than a traditional terry cloth towel. When I travel overseas I frequently bring my own towel with me, and this would be preferable over a traditional towel as it would leave way more space in my suitcase available! It's perfect for your friend that loves traveling or your beach-adoring child...or really just anyone that wants a pretty towel with a cool story.

7. Rose & Fitzgerald's Wine Holder

Cost: $35
Item: Mugavu Wine Holder - White Dipped

With a love for handmade pieces, Rose & Fitzgerald works with artisans in Kampala, Uganda, to produce genuine, quality, handmade home goods and jewelry. The designs reflect the landscape of Uganda: the home of their artisans. They work with artisans to preserve and display some of "East Africa's most extraordinary talents." Their workplace serves as a beautiful outlet to foster community and allow their artisans to practice their craft, and it is truly as beautiful as their products. I love that they give their artisans a comfortable, gorgeous place to work in - a drastic alternative to the ugly, dangerous and inhumane factories that are commonly used by other, similar companies. Whether you're shopping for the perfect gift for your wine-loving friend, or you have someone that you just don't know what to get, these gravity defying piece is both interesting, thoughtful, and ethical, making it the perfect gift!

8. Krochet Kids Intl. Surprise Pack Beanies

Cost: $20
Item: Women or Men's 2 surprise beanies

Krochet Kids Intl.'s vision is to "create sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth of individuals and communities living in poverty." They do that by providing jobs, education and mentorship for the women they employ. It was started when 3 high-school friends got together to sell crocheted hats and since then they've expanded exponentially. They now work with 150 women across Uganda and Peru, and sell not only crocheted hats, but apparel, headware, bags and accessories. Each item is signed by the lady that made it. While most of their items are over $20, they have "surprise pack beanies" - each comes with 2 unique beanies from their collection, and they have one for men and women!

9. Purse & Clutch's Pentagon

Cost: $30
Item: Copper Angle Accent Pentagon

Purse & Clutch is an online boutique that connects artisans in Africa, India and South America with an international market. They are passionate about living wages and sustainability and strongly opposed to child and forced labor. When possible, they use dyes and techniques that aren't harmful to the environment, and they use recycled materials frequently! This Pentagon was handmade in South Africa and is the perfect finishing touch for a college dorm room, coffee table or bookcase!

III. $50-$100

1. Everlane's Backpack

Cost: $68
Item: Modern Commuter Backpack (Gender Neutral)

I've yet to see something Everlane makes that I don't like. Like I mentioned above, Everlane is passionate about radical transparency. They have strong relationships with every factory they work with, and have ample pictures and information about the factories on their website. Each product has transparent pricing as well, showing you exactly how much it cost to make and how much they mark it up (significantly less than industry norms). They started off selling t-shirts, and have expanded to include just about every piece of clothing and shoes you need. Their minimalist designs have me drooling, and if I had to pick only one company to purchase all my clothes from, Everlane would definitely be it. This backpack is perfect for everyone. Your student can use it for school, your spouse can use it to take their laptop, wallet and other necessities to work. Use it in place of a purse or laptop bag, take it hiking or use it as a carry-on next time you travel. The options are endless! It comes in black, grey and navy.

2. Everlane's Men's Tie

Cost: $55
Item: The Texture Tie

Like I mentioned above, Everlane is passionate about radical transparency. They have strong relationships with every factory they work with, and have ample pictures and information about the factories on their website. Each product has transparent pricing as well, showing you exactly how much it cost to make and how much they mark it up (significantly less than industry norms). They started off selling t-shirts, and have expanded to include just about every piece of clothing and shoes you need. Every guy needs at least one nice tie, and I dare you to find something more beautiful than this. Made in the USA with a texture-cotton silk blend, slim but not skinny, I think this is hits the minimalist nail on the head with the texture keeping it from being boring. It comes in black, navy and grey.

3. Amour Vert's Scarf

Cost: $98
Item: Indigo Handloom Silk Pom Pom Scarf

This is made by Indigo Handloom, but it's surprisingly significantly cheaper if you buy it through Amour Vert. A silk, cotton blend, this scarf is handwoven by women in India. Their mission is to help revive the ancient textile art of weaving by hand, and they support community development in some very rural parts of India. "This scarf was made with love and respect - for those who wear it - as well as for those who wove it." Because everything is woven by hand, it does not require an energy source, making it great for the environment. The scarf is dyed using natural, low-impact dyes. The cotton is organic, meaning no harmful chemicals were used in the process, making it safe for the farmers who grow it and for the environment. The person who made it worked in safe conditions and was paid a living wage. This scarf goes with just about everything, and is perfect for all seasons!

4. Ethica's Perfume

Cost: $65
Item: Hi Wildflower Botanica Hanalei Perfume

I love how this is so ethical on so many fronts: from how it was made, to the ingredients, to even the packaging! Made in the USA, all of the ingredients are plant based, sustainable and ethically sourced, the packaging is eco-friendly and biodegradable, and unlike other perfumes that use harmful chemicals, the all natural ingredients are safe to wear, so you can feel confident giving this to your best friend, mom, or wife! And just in case you need one more reason to purchase it, it smells like wildflowers! Yes please.

5. The Loyal Workshop's Belt

Cost: $80
Item: Good Ol' Faithful or The Side-Kick Belt

I recently got to take a tour of The Loyal Workshop and while there I had the wonderful chance to meet their incredible artisans and staff. Based in Kolkata, India, they exist "to provide employment alternatives to fight human trafficking." I love how thoroughly they care for their employees - everyone receives medical check-ups, health insurance, informal counselling, group therapy, legal advice, debt reconsolidation, spiritual formation, budgeting support, adiction support, living wages and education. Plus, all of the profits are invested back into the business and community in order to help even more women become free. In addition, all of the leather is veg-tanned, meaning no harmful chemicals/toxins were used in the making of their products. Put simply, they're good for the environment and the people who make them. In addition to belts, they sell satchels, wallets and wristbands.

6. Nisolo's Dopp Kit

Cost: $88
Item: Men's Durango Dopp Kit

Nisolo values awareness, transparency, quality and opportunity. Their products are modern and effortless and their prices run on the more affordable side. For their artisans, they provide "consistent employment, an average income increase of 300% per producer, improved living conditions, inaugural access to education and savings, and above all, dignity and empowerment." This Dopp Kit (toiletries bag) is perfect for any guy in your life. Ethically made with veg-tanned leather (meaning no harmful chemicals/toxins were used) this is a gift you can feel good about giving and he can feel good about using for years to come.

IV. $100+

1. Moonbird's Pjs

Cost: $120 (Men's), $125 (Women's)
Item: Pj Set

Moonbird is awesome on so many fronts! These pjs are made with 100% GOTS cotton, meaning no harmful chemicals/toxins were used (non-GOTS cotton uses a lot of toxins that are dangerous for farmers and the environment). All of their dyes are AZO free (AZOs are harmful, potentially carcinongenic chemicals), and they only work with Fair Trade Certified artisans to ensure that everyone gets treated fairly and paid well. Plus, the gift bag that the pjs come in help benefit women coming out of sex trafficking. These pjs are perfect for your kids, your parents or your spouse!

2. Article22's cuff links

Cost: $150
Item: Story Bomb Cuff Links (Sterling Silver)

This is one of my favorite items on the list for all it symbolizes. In the Vietnam War era, millions and millions of bombs were dropped in Laos. Not all detonated. There are still over 80 million unexploded bombs, but Article22 hopes to change that through their products. These cuff links are made out of recycled bomb metal; reclaiming what was once intended for harm to something that is beautiful and useful. As if that wasn't enough, Article22 donates portions of the profits to clear land in Laos from the bombs. They also donate 10% to The Village Fund for micro-loans and electricity for the community, and each employee receives 5x the local minimum wage in order to be able to adequately provide for their family. Does it get any better? Perfect for your grandfather who served in the military, or any other man in your life, these cuff links are sure to be a story piece.

 

3. Public's C1 Bike

Cost: $199
Item: Single Speed Bicycle

Public is a part of Made in a Free World, companies that are committed to protecting the most valuable part of the supply chain: the people in it. The bikes are the "functional and stylish American version of "Dutch bikes" from Amsterdam" and what better way to reduce your carbon footprint than by swapping out your car for a bike? Normally their adult bikes range from $400-$2400, but several models are currently on sale, including the one below! They also sell kid's bikes ($129 on sale) and todler's bikes ($89 on sale).

4. Yellow Leaf's Hammock

Cost: $199
Item: Classic Double Hammock

Yellow Leaf is incredibly for a variety of reasons. Each of their hammocks are entirely handwoven. The company employees some of the poorest people in Thailand - hill tribes on the margins of society. They "believe that ethical job creation is an empowering long-term solution to extreme poverty" and they're doing their part to make that happen. They are working in multiple communities, creating jobs for impoverished mothers and enabling them to lift their families out of poverty in a dignified and sustainable way. They value economic health, environmental stewardship, social equity and cultural vitality, and those values are interwoven into all aspects of the company. Their Hammocks come in a variety of fun colors, are made out of super soft performance yarn, are anti-flip and weatherproof. They also sell a family sized option and a hanging hammock chair.

5. Everlane's Boots

Cost: $235
Item: The Heel Boot

Prettiest pair of boots I've ever seen, if I owned these I'd never take them off. Like I said previously, Everlane is passionate about radical transparency. They have strong relationships with every factory they work with, and have ample pictures and information about the factories on their website. Each product has transparent pricing as well, showing you exactly how much it cost to make and how much they mark it up (significantly less than industry norms). They started off selling t-shirts, and have expanded to include just about every piece of clothing and shoes you need. The boots come in black, brown, and a black/brown combo. They are made in Italy, out of 100% italian, veg-tanned leather (meaning no harmful chemicals were used in the tanning process.) With boots this pretty, you wouldn't need another pair.

6. Classic Engineering's Watch

Cost: $249
Item: Classic Vario Watch (Gender Neutral)

I adore the modern minimalism of this classic design. This watch is perfect for anyone, men and women alike! It's designed and machined in the US, and assembled in Switzerland (that means no shady sweatshops in a developing country with minimal/non-existent labor laws). The leather band is veg-tanned (meaning no harmful, toxic chemicals were used in tanning the leather) and is handcrafted in Amsterdam. But perhaps my favorite thing about it is the fact that it's 100% repairable, that means that you will literally never have to buy another watch again!

7. Cotopaxi's Tent

Cost: $279.95
Item: Techo 3 Tent

Like I mentioned previously, when choosing the factory to make their products, Cotopaxi didn't just choose one that was willing to sign safety agreements. Instead they conducted independent audits and hired a local journalist to talk with the employees, ensuring that they are, in fact, treated fairly, work in a safe environment and are paid appropriately. Cotopaxi's VP of Product, CJ Whittaker genuinely as a relationship with the factory owners and employees. Whether it's playing soccer, enjoying a meal together or even hiking, he is committed to fostering a strong relationship with the people who make their products. Cotopaxi's products also have a Human Lifespan Gaurantee, and as a Certified B Corp, they fund sustainable poverty alleviation programs in some of the poorest countries in the world. The Techo 3 Tent has room for 3 people plus their gear. With a waterproof rainfly and double-wall features, the tent is perfect for both camping out back and camping in the wilderness.


PS! We will be releasing ethical, eco-friendly leather wallets (men's and women's) and a tote in a few weeks. Ethical, affordable and purposeful, they'll make the perfect Christmas gift! Comment your email below and we'll send you an email when they're available!

Kaitlin Ebeling1 Comment