Wrapping It Up – Socially Responsible Gifts

Ben planning his next move last Christmas Eve.

For the last three weeks, Amy Butler and I have been leading a series of Sunday School classes on giving gifts, entitled “Wrapping It Up”. Amy wanted to explore thinking about gift giving in a new way. Instead of getting caught up in all of the rush and chaos of the Christmas season, she wanted to discuss gifts that reflect thoughtfulness over obligation to buy gifts for everyone we know. In the US, we have so much. Not only do we have a lot to be thankful for, but we quite simply have a lot of stuff. This week as we return to our various families for traditional gatherings, we should be mindful to look around to see that none of us really need anything. Try broaching conversations with your family about cutting the spending and presenting more meaningful gifts to one another.

Last week, we covered the topic of Do-It-Yourself or Personalized Gifts. I created a handout with a list of suggestions and some recipes that I pulled from a web site called Organized Christmas. This will have to become its own blog entry.

As I was doing my research for this week’s class on Socially Responsible Gift Giving, I discovered that a lot of the concepts overlapped. Quite simply, homemade gifts, local artists and vendors, and sharing our time are all great gifts that make us more socially responsible and aware.

A couple of resources jumped out at me. One was Simplify the Holidays, a downloadable booklet presented by The Center for a New American Dream. This DC-based organization’s mission is to help Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice. The Center wants to help people Live Consciously, Buy Wisely, and Make a Difference. Needless to say, these simple goals caught my attention. And I loved reading through The Center’s other ideas for the holidays. There is lots of great information here.

The second resource that caught my eye was The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben. I saw the transcript of an interview with McKibben on The Center’s web site and thought it sounds like an intriguing book to read.

Now I am not a complete Scrooge, and I love gifts. So I was excited to find Robyn’s Top 50+ Holiday Gift Picks. This is list is from last year, but she has a great list of ideas. I understand the desire to want to give people a pretty little package at gatherings. She has some great options. Let me just add at this point, I hope to receive a lot of rechargable batteries from my brother this year. He gave me a dozen last year along with a charger. But I really need more. I hope that you are reading, Alex. Or Mom…

I also found The Socially Responsible Santa, an article from Kari Lydersen, which is almost three years old now. The information is still pertinent. As Amy pointed out this morning, she does not think of herself as a crunchy granola person, but being socially responsible is something that has filtered down to everyone’s consciousness. If these ideas are not on your radar screen, they need to be. Not everyone can fight for every issue, but picking one and standing for it can make a huge difference. My personal one is the environment, but others in our class were interested in fair labor and fair trade. Use the holidays as a time to share your organizations or causes with one another. It is a great way to learn another side of your family.

Amy presented several resources related to Socially Responsible Gift Giving. She broke them down into three general categories – General Information, Charities, and Companies.

General Information
Fair Trade Federation
The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is an association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers, and producers whose members are committed to providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide. FTF directly links low-income producers with consumer markets and educates consumers about the importance of purchasing fairly traded products which support living wages and safe and healthy conditions for workers in the developing world. FTF also acts as a clearinghouse for information on fair trade and provides resources and networking opportunities for its members. By adhering to social criteria and environmental principles, Fair Trade Organizations (FTOs) foster a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade that benefits people and their communities.

Organic Consumers
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation’s estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

Responsible Shopper
Responsible Shopper alerts the public about the social and environmental impact of major corporations, and provides opportunities for consumers and investors to vote with their dollars for change. We focus our research on companies that are subjects of consumer and shareholder action campaigns, and that have significant influence in their industry. Changing these companies could lead to significant industry-wide reform.

American Forests
American Forests works to protect, restore and enhance the natural capital of trees and forests. Healthy forests filter water, remove air pollution, sequester carbon, and provide homes for wildlife. Help plant trees to restore areas damaged by wildfire, where critical wildlife habitat has been lost, and to clean our air and water. Every dollar plants a tree.

Children’s Defense Fund
The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF encourages preventive investment before they get sick or into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown. CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations. We have never taken government funds.

God’s Love We Deliver
Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. We prepare and deliver nutritious, high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves. We also provide illness-specific nutrition education and counseling to our clients and families, care providers and other service organizations. All of our services are provided free of charge.

Heifer International
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.

Samaritan’s Purse
For over 35 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Our emergency relief programs provide desperately needed assistance to victims of natural disaster, war, disease, and famine. As we offer food, water, and temporary shelter, we meet critical needs and give people a chance to rebuild their lives. Our community development and vocational programs in impoverished villages and neighborhoods help people break the cycle of poverty and give them hope for a better tomorrow. We impact the lives of vulnerable children through educational, feeding, clothing, and shelter programs that let them know they are not forgotten. We provide first-class treatment in the Name of the Great Physician through our medical projects, as well as supplying mission hospitals with much needed equipment and supplies. As our teams work in crisis areas of the world, people often ask, “Why did you come?” The answer is always the same: “We have come to help you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our ministry is all about Jesus–first, last, and always. As the Apostle Paul said, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).

Southwest Indian Foundation
“I am proud to support the work of the Southwest Indian Foundation. For over a quarter of a century, the Foundation has been working amongst my people and the other tribes of the Southwest to try to create a better life for these forgotten Americans. Through education, emergency assistance, the drilling of water wells and the building of bridges, home weatherization and repair, and food and clothing distribution — they have been a true friend to the Native American people here in the desert.” — R. C. Gorman, internationally renowned Navajo Artist

Scrap Exchange
The Scrap Exchange (TSE) is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that collects material donations from hundreds of individuals, businesses, industries, and municipal sources and distributes them through our Creative ReUse Center located in Durham, North Carolina. Further distribution of the materials occurs in the form of outreach events, workshops, and birthday parties. The materials collected represent a snapshot of local industry and businesses. Our donors receive a tax-deductible donation receipt for the fair market value, the arts community has access to hard to find, affordable materials, and TSE prevents reusable items from entering the waste stream.

A Greater Gift
We bring you fair trade handcrafts and foods from around the world. We strive to promote living wages, women’s rights and eco-friendly production through our partnerships with small-scale artisan and farmer groups. No child exploitation is used to make our products.

Divine Chocolate
Cocoa growers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers’ co-operative in Ghana that would trade its own cocoa so it could get a better price on the market for the cocoa and could help them improve their lives. At their 1997 AGM the farmers decided to create a chocolate bar of their own, and with support from Twin Trading, Comic Relief, the Body Shop and Christian Aid, they set up The Day Chocolate Company. Fairtrade means they are paid a price that covers the cost of producing the cocoa and have the security of a long term trading contract. For every ton of cocoa sold they are paid a social premium of $150, which is invested in community projects like water wells, education and health projects. The fact that the farmers own a significant share of the company is a pioneering model in the fair trade world, Kuapa Kokoo has a meaningful input into how Divine is produced and sold, and shares in the profits. Kuapa’s motto is “pa pa paa” which means “best of the best” in their local language. You get the best of the best chocolate and the cocoa farmers get a fair and secure price for their crop.

Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange, founded in 1986, is the oldest and largest for-profit Free Trade company in the US. They offer organic, gourmet coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate bars produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker cooperatives and fair trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

Eshop Africa
eShopAfrica.com is a fair trade ecommerce website based in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. Currently many traditional African artisans are living in poverty despite their incredible skills. It is our aim to raise global orders through the Internet for these artisans. We are supplied by an ever growing community of artisans – many are from Ghana where we are based but we also source products from other African countries including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Mali – and we are being joined by new artisans all the time. All our products meet our rigorous quality guidelines and we pay our artisans fair or (or more than fair) prices.

No Sweat Apparel
No Sweat defines the market for goods that support independent trade unions – the only historically proven solution to sweatshops. We market direct to consumers, relying primarily on internet sales for distribution. We provide a competitive product to you and a living wage to our workers. How? By not advertising. We rely on you to help us spread the word! It’s our world. Let’s change it.

Ten Thousand Villages
To practice fair trade in accord with the Ten Thousand Villages principles of operation we need to know the artisans and groups we work with around the world. Being a program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has given us a worldwide network of volunteers and like-minded organizations that enable us to be in touch with and know the artisans and groups with whom we work. In addition, we have always sought out artisans who are particularly disadvantaged and without ready access to resources or assistance.

World of Good
World of Good Development Organization aims to eliminate poverty and structurally improve the quality of life for artisans in very low income craft producing communities around the world. We achieve this by partnering with businesses and non-profits to build a stronger fair trade crafts movement in the United States, promoting clear transparent international standards for fair trade crafts, and investing in economic and social development projects in craft producer communities.

These lists are by no means exhaustive. If you have any to add, please post them in the comments below. Amy challenged everyone to browse through these options this week and return to class on December 3rd with specific ideas for your list. At that time, I will be covering creative gift wrapping. If you have any challenging gifts that you would like for me to think about before hand, please leave that in the comments, as well.

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  1. the Rab

    is this what we’re doing in place of a gift exchange? jenn said something about this. happy thanksgiving! sorry we didn’t see each other this year. glad to see you live bloggin’ it though. see you at christmas!

  2. Wow! Imports

    Please visit our site where we offer socially responsible gifts including fair trade bead and wire art and recycled plastic bag animals and eco frendly tagua nut animal carvings!

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