The Spirit of Giving: Ethical Gift Guide

Too many presents come with questions you may be scared to ask. Was it made in a sweatshop? Is it toxic? Can i re-gift this? So which prezzies spread genuine cheer, not just to your conscience but to those in actual need?


BODY SHOP WAR CHILD GIFT BASKETS

Body Shop’s big charitable PR push this holiday season is that it’ll pay to “send a child to class” in Uganda for every gift set sold. There’s no denying the non-profit War Child deserves every penny it gets, but just how generous is Body Shop being? Turns out it’s donating a meagre 7 cents from every $10 to $40 gift basket. Surely this billion dollar L’Oréal-owned company could cough up more than that. Donate directly to warchild.ca instead and tell Body Shop to learn from truly natural, Canadian-made Causemetics (causemetics.ca), which donates a sizeable $4 to $10 to women financially struggling with breast cancer for every cream, soap or lip gloss sold.

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Note: some Body Shop products still contain parabens, as well as eco-toxic siloxanes and sudsy sodium laureth sulfate, which is commonly contaminated with carcinogenic 1-4, dioxane.


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7 VIRTUES PERFUME

I think it’s safe to wager that Calvin Klein’s Eternity has yet to contribute to the global peace process. Not so for 7 Virtues. This social enterprise out of Halifax was first developed by Barbara Stegemann as a way to help support essential-oil farmers in war-torn Afghanistan. It has since created beautiful perfumes with essential oils fairly sourced from cooperatives and pesticide-free farmers in Haiti, Rwanda and the Middle East. It does fold in some synthetic fragrance oils, but they’re all vegan and paraben- and phthalate-free. Available at HBC or the7virtues.com.

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GLOBAL CHORUS ANTHOLOGY

The perfect gift for anyone who cares about the world outside their door. I love this inspiring collection of 365 voices on our environmental future (and not just because I’m honoured to be one of them). This “global roundtable for our times” offers up in book form meditations from visionaries like Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, David Suzuki, the Dalai Lama, along with doctors, activists, farmers, CEOs, politicians, musicians, youth and seniors – all in an easy daily reader format printed on FSC-certified, processed chlorine-free paper. Did I mention the proceeds go to the Jane Goodall Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Red Cross? globalchorus.ca

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ME TO WE BRACELET

The great minds and hearts behind Free the Children developed Me to We gift stores (both virtual, at metowe.com, and the bricks-and-mortar variety at 223 Carlton) to fund their non-profit work. This particular Savannah Star Gift Set ($28) includes stackable, handcrafted bracelets of recycled brass and glass beads made by fairly paid workers in Kenya. Each gift set provides one month of clean water to someone in need overseas. Plus you can watch your gift at work at trackyourimpact.com.

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THE GIFT OF GIVING 

We’ve all been conditioned to believe giving has to involve wrapping paper, bows and lots of “oh, you shouldn’t haves!” when most of the time you really shouldn’t have, especially when you later spot that candle holder you gave them at the back of their closet. Which is why it’s so great that the world’s best non-profits let you transfer your pent-up giving energy to those who really do need stuff like Ebola survival kits (unicef.ca), a flock of chickens (oxfamunwrapped.ca) or a well (plancanada.ca) – all in your giftee’s name. CAMH, SickKids, Habitat for Humanity and WWF also offer comparable fundraising gifts. Most come with cards, but I like Oxfam’s colouring book (pictured), since it teaches young ones about giving while they get creative, all on 100 per cent recycled paper.

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