I have a confession to make. I love buying people presents, it’s one of my favorite things! However, buying tons of gifts does not always align with my values of sustainability and conscious consumerism. In this article, I will tell you about my favorite online marketplaces to buy ethical and Fairtrade gifts from everyone this holiday season!
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts this year and between decorations and travel expenses the total retail revenue of the holiday season this year is expected to $727 billion.
Some see the holiday season as a great boost to the economy and; if people are out purchasing then it means more money is flowing through our economy. However, how much of this money spent is really benefiting workers and communities and how much is going to big corporation profits?
The likelihood that the gift you bought was made overseas in a coal-powered factory by workers who are paid below a living wage is very high. These kinds of purchases are not helping the economic stability of any person except to make corporation stakeholders richer than they already are.
How can we all be more conscious consumers over the holidays? How can we use the purchasing power of our hard-earned dollars as a force for sustainable economic empowerment? We can do this by purchasing items that are made through Fairtrade, ensuring that the people who make products are paid and treated fairly.
This is usually easier said than done. Someone once told me, if a product is extremely cheap, someone along the product’s supply chain was not paid fairly. This is very true, someone be it the manufacturer or the farmer was not paid fairly. But, there are plenty of overpriced items out there that still have cheated the people who actually made the products.
So what is the best way to buy ethical products this holiday season? I like to take the guesswork out of shopping and use curated online retailers that only sell ethically made goods. Here are my favorites and what exactly you can find on them.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links (at no cost to you). However, all the product recommendations and reviews are of my own opinion.
6 Marketplaces for Ethical Gifts
Made Trade is a curated marketplace where you can find a variety of Fair Trade goods from clothing to furniture. They carry a wide spectrum of brands that all are one or more of the following:
- Heritage (crafted using traditional artisan techniques)
- Owned by People of Color
- USA Made
- Owned by Women
With Made Trade, you can trust that your purchase is supporting skilled artisan workers and the dignity of their craft. Products also use sustainable materials and are largely handmade or small batched. As Made Trade puts it, they value “quality craftsmanship over mindless consumption”. I love that sentiment as it encapsulates a lot of what I love about conscious consumerism.
There are so many fantastic brands on Made Trade that I guarantee you will love discovering giving as ethical gifts to family and friends.
Ten Thousand Villages
Ten Thousand in a pioneer in making fair trade goods mainstream. As they like to say, Ten Thousand Villages is a ‘Market to Market Movement’. They bring goods from around the world into one store, to make fair trade shopping easy and accessible. The items at Ten Thousand Villages are many and varied. They have everything from clothing, to toys for kids, to wind chimes! If you live near a store I highly recommend going in person. Its like walking around a fascinating art gallery where you discover the most beautiful treasures.
I should also mention that Ten Thousand Villages is actually very affordable. Of course, I don’t mind paying more for fair trade and ethically made items, but Ten Thousand villages offers such a range of products that you can find things at all price points. Their website is also really well organized and will guide you to the perfect present!
Thirty One Bits sells goods made by skilled artisans from around the world. It started in 2008 by selling jewelry and accessories made by women in Uganda. Now, 31 Bits has expanded to Bali, creating and selling products from Javanese artisans. Products are designed by members of the 31Bits design team. Rather than manufacturing their products in questionable places, they bring work opportunities to Uganda and Bali where their products are made.
I personally love the jewelry from 31 Bits. Their designs are all modern. Some are classic pieces like this gold hammered coin necklace but they also have bold unique pieces like these amazing Dancing Bead Hoop Earrings. You are bound to find something you love here. They also have a great selection of homeware like these beautiful mugs I would love to drink some hot cocoa out of this winter.
Slate and Salt partners with artisans in areas of extreme poverty to bring jobs and raise quality of life. Their products are all handmade and one of a kind. With Salt and Slate, you feel the humanity behind every item you purchase. It gives me a deeper sense of my power as a consumer to choose products that can help better the world.
Salt and Slate has very unique jewelry that clearly captures the heritage of where it was made. You won’t find stunning necklaces like this elsewhere. For example, check out the Lavani Collar Necklace, that looks like antique Indian jewelry design (which is hard to come by even in India) of the Warrior Chevron Necklace based on traditional Maasi ware. The commitment to heritage is one of my favorite aspects of Salt and Slate. As they put it, Salt and Slate helps you“ to explore other cultures and traditions in a socially conscious way”.
Accompany is “global curation at its finest”. This marketplace represents a very wide range of artisans from all over the globe making many different lifestyle products. Accompany focuses on three aspects in choosing the products they sell. Artisanal made products, fair trade practices, and philanthropic initiatives. Their products are handmade and one of a kind, making each item a treasure to value. Finding an exquisite ethical gift at Accompany is easy as can be.
Moreover, Accompany is also a B Certified Corporation, which is a certification gained by companies that exhibit exceptional ethical standards of business insofar as their social, economic, and environmental practices.
Fair Trade Winds
Fair Trade Winds is a marketplace that sells artisanal made Fairtrade products. They are a member of the North America Fair Trade Federation and have invested their stores to selling items that directly benefit artisans and farmers who produced the products. You can find a wide variety of styles and products making this a great place to shop for almost any gift. With that being said, their jewelry selection is beautiful! They have some statement necklaces that rival ones you find at JCrew or Banana Republic, like the Dalhia Necklace.
The Little Market
The little market is slightly different from the rest because it is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit. It was co-founded by Lauren Conrad (yes, that Lauren Conrad). The fact that The Little Market is a nonprofit organization ensures that the most money possible are going back to the people who need it most. The site represents 75 artisan groups from 25 different countries, many of which you can read more about online. It is a learning experience every time I visit this online marketplace because you can learn about different initiatives happening across the globe. Among other things, The Little Market has a great selection of baby items! They also offer a baby registry and wedding registry.
The site also has many charity collaborations that make their products even more meaningful. I will definitely be buying my nephews this adorable coloring/activities book, which supports Families Belong Together, an organization that provide advocacy for families that are separated by detention. The full price of the coloring book is how much is donated to the organization ($25).
If you are looking for some other ethical gifting ideas for the holidays check out these two articles: The Best Clean Beauty Stocking Stuffers $10 and Under and How to Buy the Perfect Gift for a Beauty Lover.
To me, it is meaningful to know and read about the people who made the products I am buying. It puts the humanity into the objects that we often disregard or take for granted. Overall, in our culture of consumerism where we are constantly to buy more and more, it is so important to take a step back and have a moment of gratitude for the things we do have and for the work it took for someone to make it.
I hope this post introduced you to some new places to shop for ethical gifts OR just for every day! Every object we buy has an impact on the planet, but these sites help holding ourselves more accountable and a little bit easier.