Sustainable & Ethically Made Gift Ideas
I know that it’s the first of November and you’re thinking, “Jessie, why in the world are you already talking about sustainable & ethically made gift ideas?” Regardless, if you are like me, you will wait until the last minute to get holiday gifts in line for your loved ones. Then, you will find yourself spending money on not so ethically made gifts from Target or Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Therefore, I’m working on my gifts for this year NOW and sharing my ideas with you!
Personally, I love gifting experience gifts to family members. In the past, I’ve given gifts like pottery classes, photography classes, a massage, or a pedicure. However, when I find a really wonderful brand that puts people and the planet first, I choose to support them! For example, I stumbled upon Ten Thousand Villages’ Instagram in early fall. They made a positive impression on me with their humanitarian business model. Ten Thousand Villages has created and continues to foster a global maker-to-market movement. This brand empowers impoverished communities by purchasing their handcrafted wares at a price that offers a fair, living wage for community members. They showcase the works of artisans in developing countries by bringing them to our markets here.
Why I Love Ten Thousand Villages
Upon finding this company, I fell in love with its beautiful model. They often work with women and people with disabilities in developing countries, and I admire them for helping create a space for often underrepresented groups. When making a purchase in their shop, I feel like I am making a positive impact in someone’s life. When my money goes to Ten Thousand Villages, I am helping struggling communities grow and families thrive.
In addition to their human-centered work, many of their products are made from upcycled and ecofriendly materials. For example, they have a whole collection of products made from upcycled saris. They even have a section of their website specifically for zero wasters where you can find produce bags, tiffins, cloth napkins, and much more.
Please, feel free to head over to Ten Thousand Villages’ website, and browse. Their website is wide ranging with hundreds of handcrafted items to choose from. However, I’ve gone through the website myself and wanted to share some of my favorites with you!
Sustainable & Ethically Made Gift Ideas for Mom:
Flowering Vines Robe : This gorgeous block printed robe is the perfect gift for mom. I have this exact robe… and I’m a mom… so I know these things! Artisans in India hand printed the robe with a method called block printing. This labor intensive method of hand printing fabric has been passed down for many generations. You can learn more about block printing on their website; it’s fascinating.
Tagua Tree Necklace: Not only is this necklace made from sustainably sourced tagua nuts, but Colombian artisans also make it. Given that my husband, Sebastian, is Colombian, I had to include it in the list! Tagua trees are palm like trees that grow in South America. The nuts easily shape and take color, and artisans can avoid unsafe synthetic materials by creating with them. This material is an ethical and eco alternative to ivory or plastic. They also make a matching pair of earrings to accompany it!
Essential Companion Tote: Makers from Bangladesh hand weave this beautiful basket tote. The women who make this sturdy, everyday bag come from the marginalized Rishi caste. Without Ten Thousand Villages, they wouldn’t have access to fair income. You can find out more about the women who make it here. I can picture myself carrying this beauty around the farmers’ market in the spring full of plastic free, local veggies.
sustainable & ethically made gift ideas for dad
Jute Bottle Carrier : Any brewski loving papas out there? I adore this bottle carrier. First of all, it’s not disposable like its paper six pack counterparts (yay, zero waste). And, second of all, it looks so sophisticated in comparison! Artisans from Bangladesh make these bottle carriers by hand.
Circuit Board photo frame: Another one of my favorites from Ten Thousand Villages! Crafted in India, artisans upcycle circuit boards that would otherwise be sent to a landfill. Aren’t you loving all these really unique gifts that are also made from eco-friendly and often repurposed materials? I had Sebastian in mind when adding this frame to the list. Recently, he started a new job in Athens. I think I will put a cute photo of me and Vasco in this frame for his new desk. Honestly, this gift would be good for moms too!
Backgammon Game: Often, many games come with loads of plastic pieces. Instead, how about this really handsome, classic backgammon game set? It’s handmade by artisans in Moradabad, India, and they use four different types of wood.
sustainable & ethically made gift ideas for kiddos
Upcycled Sari Elephant: Another sustainably made gift idea for the win! This cute little elephant is handmade with recycled sari fabric using the traditional Kantha stitch. Mothers have passed this stitching pattern down to their daughters for generations. Traditionally, it has been used to repurpose used textiles. You can find out more about Kantha here. I love that this stuffed animal is the perfect size for little hands.
Galimoto Girl: Often, children in African villages make galimotos out of whatever material they can find. A galimoto is a vehicle of any kind. The artisans of the Dandora area of Nairobi recreated these clever little toys to share with Ten Thousand Villages. These galimotos consist of wire and scrap fabric (again, go upcycling)! When you push the galimoto, the girl’s legs move up and down as if she pedals the bike herself. So cute!
Felt Finger Puppets : Add this one to your plastic free baby gift registry because it’s so precious! Women in Nepal make these small, hand felted finger puppets. While I’m partial to the hedgehog, there are several other animals to choose from. I definitely have Vasco in mind with this little cutie! Aside from how adorable they are, their workshop runs partially off of solar power, and they have reduced their fuel consumption by fifty percent. Their office has a rainwater catchment system, and they use the rainwater in the felting process.
sustainable & ethically made gift ideas for your bestie
Free To BEE Happy Pouch : Looking for a unique, sustainable, and ethically made gift idea for a dear friend? Try this sweet little pouch that was made in collaboration with The Tote Project. They contribute a portion of their sales to Two Wings to help survivors of human trafficking in the USA. Double win because you support artisans in Colombia that make the pouches as well as supporting the Two Wings initiative.
Be Resilient Necklace: This necklace will blow your mind. Its creators use safely recovered brass bomb casings to make this beautiful piece. After decades of war, Cambodia’s people now transform these weapons of war into symbols of peace and strength. This necklace makes a powerful statement.
Hedgehog Planter: I love to gift plants to friends. I’m sure you have a friend that would love seeing this little guy in their home. Ceramic artisans in Bangladesh handcrafted this piece.
sustainable gift ideas for your fave coworker
“You Rock” Rock : Need a little something special for your favorite coworker? Or something for your office’s upcoming Secret Santa swap? I think this little paper weight of affirmation and encouragement would look great on someone’s desk! It is hand carved by Ten Thousand Villages’ partners in India and made from palewa soap stone.
Earth News Journal: You will love this 100% tree-free journal. The cover is made of recycled newspapers woven together, and the pages are handmade paper that comes from water hyacinth. Hyacinth is an invasive species that is clogging the waterways of Bangladesh. Women in Bangladesh lovingly make these beautiful journals. Also, I really love the cute button closure!
Meow Mug + Tea Strainer: So, I didn’t have a coworker in mind when adding this guy to the list, but rather MYSELF. I mean, who wouldn’t want to strain their tea in this cute cat mug? Also, you can use it to strain package and plastic free loose leaf tea. This sweet mug was handmade in Nepal.
While I’ve only listed a few sustainably & ethically made gifts ideas here, Ten Thousand Villages’ online shop will deliver loads of products for you to sift through! Not only are they highly functional and beautiful, but they’re doing good for others and for the planet. Please consider this brand when shopping for holiday gifts this year.
Furthermore, once you’ve got all your favorite sustainable gifts picked out, don’t forget to check out my post on zero waste gift wrapping! There a few different ways you can dress up your packages in a beautiful way without all the waste.
Also, leave a comment below, and let me know what you plan to gift to your friends and family this year!
You might also enjoy these blog posts from Tiny Yellow Bungalow!
beginner’s guide to zero waste