November 27, 2016

Redirection: A Conscious Holiday Gift Guide

Though gift giving is not the purpose of the holiday season, I do think there is sentiment behind the act. Giving is a love language; it's a way to show our appreciation for someone else. The tricky thing, however, is figuring out what to get someone.

I think it's safe to say that we all want to get something that the other person will love, but discerning what that something is, is tough. We don't want to get something that the person will never use, and we certainly don't want to be wasteful of our money or material items.

I've come up with a list of 10 gift ideas - this list reflects my goals to live more sustainably, support ethical companies, save up for experiences, and invest in fewer, quality items. I hope it inspires you in your search for the perfect gift!:

Image source: Pegada Verde Eco Shop

1. Give something reusable: KeepCup, Stasher Bag
If you know me, then you'll know that I'm always carrying a water bottle around. I'm a very strong proponent of reusable bottles, and I really like the design of Keep Cups. I've read reviews stating that they're not great for insulating your drinks, but they've also recently come out with "boosters" that may help with that issue. I've personally never tried them, but I think they're worth looking into. I own a Camelbak (5 years) and an insulated mug from Teavana (similar here; 3 years), and I think that anyone would appreciate a reusable bottle. 

Stasher Bags are also a great way to reduce someone's use of ziploc bags. I've been using a similar item from Itzy Ritzy for about 2 years now (to store snacks and sandwiches), and I think it's a worthwhile investment. Unfortunately, the exterior of Itzy Ritzy's bags are made of cloth (waterproof on the inside, though!), which makes cleaning a little bit more difficult. Stasher bags, on the other hand, are completely silicon, making cleaning up less of a hassle. 

Both products are made in China, but according to an Stasher's founder, Kat Nouri, "We have a great relationship with our factory and make sure only highest quality materials are used for stasher. We also pay extra to make sure all of our sources have every testing under the sun and stick to recycled materials or recyclable for packaging". I'd be more wary, but someone who's inspired me to make these changes regarding ethical products/sustainable living, +Alli Cherry, has reviewed and supports Stasher, so I would recommend Stasher over Itzy Ritzy.
Image source: (featuring Nisolo shoes)
Image source: Everlane

2. Purchase from transparent clothing companies: Everlane, Patagonia, Nisolo, etc.
If you read my post about fast fashion, you'll know that I'm changing the way I shop for clothes. I'm often hesitant to gift clothes, since everyone has their own particular taste and style - giving a gift card is a bit safer. If you are gifting clothes/clothing store gift cards, consider the transparency of the company. Do you know how they treat their workers? Do you know where they get their raw materials from? 

Everlane has this great image below every item they sell; the cost of production is clearly outlined from beginning to end, so you know exactly what you're paying for! Be aware that many of these products are a bit pricier than Forever 21 products. If you're looking for cheaper alternatives but still want to minimize supporting the fast fashion industry, look for products that are labeled "Made in the US". (Labor laws are much stricter here!)

3. Support companies with values: Chrissy's Socks
One of my best friends and I have an obsession with socks - we're like Albus Dumbledore in that regard (she's just as wise as he is -- me, not so much). Socks make great "filler" gift items; if you didn't want to get someone a big gift, you can also buy a stocking and fill it up with smaller items, including fun socks (the animal ones are my favorite), snacks, tech gifts (earbuds, phone case), etc. 

What I love about Chrissy's Socks is that they promise to be "fur-free". A company that has values and sticks to them is something that I'm interested in and am willing to support :) Best of all, they offer hundreds of designs, so you're bound to find something you like! Their socks aren't very thick, so they'd still be appropriate for someone who lives in a warmer climate. One down side of their products, however, is that they're knitted, so they don't have a lot of stretch to them. This makes certain pairs of socks less suitable for individuals with wider calves. Aside from that, the socks are comfortable and fun to wear. Slip them under a pair of jean and wear some loafers -- you'll be that cool professor everyone admires.

Get to know Chrissy's Socks on its social media pages:

Recipe for Gluten-Free Spaghetti Bolognese here 

4. Prepare and share a meal
Invest in quality ingredients and take the time to prepare a customized meal that someone would enjoy! Cooking for another person is a simple but heartfelt gesture that will be remembered. Cooking is my love language, and I can personally say that your recipients will sincerely appreciate your gift. I've listed a few great food blogs below if you're in need for some recipe ideas (personal plug - there's a recipe tab on this blog too!):

Smitten Kitchen
How Sweet Eats
The Woks of Life

5. Give a Book: The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Nightingale
What happened to gifting books? Tech gifts have dominated gift boxes, but I think the humble book deserves some more credit. 

I remember that I used to receive books as gifts when I was younger, and I was always so excited! (Almost as excited as when I found my Scholastic book order resting on top of my desk in elementary school - who remembers those days?)

I'll be honest, as I've gotten older, I've struggled more and more to find books that interest me - that's where Amazon reviews come in handy. I was recommended "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Cornell professor, Dr. McCormick, and I'm still working my way through "The Nightingale" on Audible (this book is incredible and the voice actress is great, but I'd recommend reading the actual book instead!). 

6. Give a Gift that Gifts Back: 
Remember when Chandler Bing gave his coworkers (and then friends) envelopes with slips that read, "A donation has been made in your name to..."? 

Not all will joyfully receive a gift like that, but there are other ways to give a gift that gifts back. Scroll through hashtags on Instagram, like #standingrock, and you're bound to find small business owners who will donate a percentage of every product sold to a worthy cause. Alternatively, scroll through this Buzzfeed article for inspiration!

Blogpost on the products above here

7. All-Natural Skincare/Beauty Products: Lush , Herbivore Botanicals
Pamper your loved one! All-natural skincare is healthier for the user and is typically not tested on animals. You'll find a range of products, from eye creams to masks to makeup, that are all made with natural (and sometimes organic) ingredients. Lush is a popular brand that even offers pre-wrapped holiday gift sets. If you want to find higher end products, take a look through Herbivore Botanical's website. Though I'm a little wary of Anthropologie's business model (issues with transparency and workers' rights), Anthro's "Ingredient Conscious" section also lists pages of products that are all made from natural ingredients. 

Image Source: Art Prints Vicky
Image Source: SteelBison 

8. Gift Artwork:
Whether you find an Instagram artist you like (I'm a fan of Sam Larson and Haleema Karim), or see something on Etsy that catches your eye, supporting an artist sustains the creative world. There is a vast spectrum of art - from the profound to the comical, from digital to watercolor - making it easy to find something that you'll want to gift - I think the real challenge is narrowing your options down to just one. Artwork isn't a typical gift, but it can be meaningful. If you're lucky enough to attend a local art festival, talk to the artists themselves and you may even share an incredible background story when you give your gift. If you want, take on the challenge of making the artwork yourself.

Blogpost about my trip to Krog Street Market here

9. High Quality Chocolate: Raaka ChocolateXocolatl, Compartes
Forget the Hershey's, and look for artisan chocolate. 

Last spring, I visited Xocolatl's store at Krog Street Market and had a conversation with one of the employees. He described to me how chocolate can taste drastically different based on where the cacao beans are harvested. As I sampled chocolates, I realized the extent to how true his statement was - one piece tasted cherry-like (but there weren't any cherries added!), and another had a subtle, floral aftertaste. All were vegan and low in sugar, so the true chocolate flavors were accentuated. 

I can go on and on, but the bottom line is: high quality chocolate is so worth it, and whoever you gift it to, will enjoy it. 

10. Give and/or Share an Experience: Raaka Chocolate Factory Tour
What do you get the person who has everything they need (i.e. your parents)? 

Gift and share an experience with them. I'm realizing more and more that it's significantly more fulfilling to invest in experiences than in material items. Experiences can range from the inexpensive (movie tickets) to expensive (a trip). As cheese-y as it sounds, you're gifting memories, which are priceless. 

-Sports Game
-Local Concert
-Ice Skating
-Mini golfing
-An afternoon kayaking (if you live in a warmer region :)) 
-Bounce U (no shame - it's fun)
-Tickets to a theme park 
-Weekend Ski Trip
-Tickets to visit a museum
-Fine Dining Experience
-If you're near the New York City area, Raaka Chocolate Factory offers tours for about $10/person (I found a Groupon deal for $5/person), and chocolate making classes for $50/person. As someone who's new to and interested in the world of fair-trade, small-batch chocolates, I'm so excited to take my family here in December.

Disclaimer: This blogpost is not sponsored, but Chrissy's Socks was kind enough to reach out to me for a collaboration. They did send the socks to me, but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

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