Home Holidays Christmas Best of NJ Gift Guide: Gifts That Give Back

Best of NJ Gift Guide: Gifts That Give Back

You don’t want to give just any gift to the people you care about. You want your gift to embody the spirit of the season, something that reflects the ideas of charity, generosity and kindness. You want it to be special. And what could be more special than a gift that also helps give back?

This holiday season, consider fair-trade goods; in other words, sustainably produced products made by workers who are fairly compensated – or charitable gifts to fill out your shopping list. Here are a few of our favorite ways to give back.


For the Style Maven

Accented Tagua Bracelent
Photo courtesy Marafiki Fair Trade

She hasn’t worn the same outfit twice for as long as you’ve known her. Everything she owns is so hip it hurts, and she hates it when others copy her look. Get her this bracelet and she won’t have to worry.

What is it: Accented Tagua Bracelet
Who it helps: The tagua nut bracelet is part of the Fair Collection, which is designed in New York and made in South America. The bracelet is made from sustainably harvested seeds and comes in several color combinations. Fair Collection purchases help reduce poverty in South America and fund programs for social change.
Where to buy it: Marafiki Fair Trade, 20 New Street, Metuchen.
Price: $24.95


For the Gracious Entertainer

Bicycle Chain Wine Rack
Photo courtesy Ten Thousand Villages

He’s never in his life served frozen hors d’oeuvres. He always knows the perfect wine for every entrée. And his home is always tastefully decorated. This season, what he’d really like is a unique way to display his latest wine finds.

What is it: Bike Chain Wine Rack
Who it helps: The rack is made out of recycled bike chains by artisans in Moradabad, India, a village known for its metalworking skills. The artisans work with Noah’s Ark International Exports, a fair-trade marketing group that provides free education for children and water filtration for the artisans’ homes.
Where to buy it: Call ahead for availability: Ten Thousand Villages, 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton, and 320 Raritan Avenue, Highland Park, or online here.
Price: $49


For the Serious Recycler

Recycled Cement Crossbody Bag
Photo courtesy ImagiNations

Everything she owns is green: eco-cotton clothes, hybrid car, vegan leather shoes. She composts. She gets her milk in glass bottles. Finally, she bikes to work. What she wants is a bag made with recycled materials – it helps give back to artisans and the Earth.

What is it: Recycled Cement Day Bag
Who it helps: This crossbody bag made out of recycled Thai cement bags (there’s also a zip pouch and several wallets in the same design) was made in Cambodia by fair-trade groups. This and other Malia Designs products help raise funds for Damnok Toek, a non-governmental organization that rescues and rehabilitates child trafficking victims in Cambodia.
Where to buy it: ImagiNations, 44 Main Street, Chester, or online here.
Price: $30


For the Seriously Caffeinated

Fair Trade Coffee
Photo courtesy Black River Roasters

He doesn’t have a prayer of getting through the morning, let alone the day, without his ever-present mug of coffee. But he despises instant. He grinds his own beans. He can tell the difference between French roast and Ethiopian. He’d love some organic, fair trade, artisan-roasted coffee.

What is it: Organic Bali Coffee
Who it helps: Coffee is actually what kick-started the fair-trade certification movement in the U.S. in the ’90s, as a way of supporting coffee farmers and their families, and still accounts for a large part of the fair-trade market. This type comes from a farming group in Bali that uses no pesticides and only organic fertilizers.
Where to buy it: Black River Roasters, 424 Route 22 West, Whitehouse Station; Empire Health Foods, 180 Mountain Ave., Hackettstown.
Price $18 for 1 lb. bag


For the Kids

Three Toed Sloth
Photo courtesy WWF

They love going to Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. Plus, they watch Wild Kratts. They make excellent animal noises and their bed is full of toy creatures of every species. Give the kids one more — and help them learn about conservation at the same time.

What is it: Adopt a Three-Toed Sloth
Who it helps: The “adoption kit” – essentially a donation to the World Wildlife Fund – comes with a certificate, a photo of your chosen species, information about the species, a personalized letter of acknowledgment and, depending on which kit you get, a snuggly plush version of your species. The WWF uses 84 percent of its funding on conservation efforts worldwide.
Where to buy it: Go online here.
Price: $25 to $250


The PURRch Cat Scratching Post
Photo courtesy Greater Good Wholesale

For The Couple Owned by a Cat

Their beloved companion has a massive collection of toy mice and nibbles on only the finest catnip. They stopped wearing black years ago because of the cat hair. They would do anything for kitty, and now they can help other cats (and dogs), too. It’s a great way to give back.

What is it: The PURRch
Who it helps: The stylish, made-to-order scratching post is from AlphaPooch, one of the three brands managed by GreaterGood Wholesale, which partners with retailers to support various causes. The Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge Inc. (2 Shelter Lane, Oakland), a no-kill shelter, has partnered with AlphaPooch to raise funds.
Where to buy it: Follow this link and 20 percent of your purchase price goes to RBARI.
Price: $48


For the Indecisive Do-Gooder

Donors Choose Gift Card
Photo courtesy Donors Choose

He wants to volunteer but isn’t sure where to go or who to ask. She wants to donate clothes but doesn’t know where to bring them. They want to help, but need a little guidance.

What is it: Donors Choose gift card
Who it helps: On the Donors Choose website, public school teachers from across the U.S. post project requests – recorders for a music class, new carpet for a flooded-out classroom – and all your recipient has to do is pick which project to support. Once a project receives funding, Donors Choose sends the classroom the materials, and your recipient will get photos of the project and a letter from the teacher. You can find schools in New Jersey to support here.
Where to buy it: Go online here.
Price: Any amount (but if it’s $50 or more, your recipient will get thank-you notes from the kids)


Hero (Top) Feature Image: ©Konstantin Yuganov/ Dollar Photo Club