By Chris McGillicuddy • December 10, 2013
Actions speak louder than words. You might hear the holidays described as a time of generosity and joy, but take a look at any mall and I bet decidedly different phrases dance in your head: rampant consumerism, bargain brawls, bloodthirsty soccer moms. With all the hype around door-buster deals, Black Friday bargains, and Cyber Monday madness, it can be easy to forget that the holidays are a time of giving, not getting. Sure, gifts can be a great way to show someone your appreciation, but I seem to remember something about the thought being what counts. Why not take some time this year to think about how your holiday shopping can help your fellow man. Take a look at how these charitable companies take action to improve our way of life.
Is it just me, or does it seem a little silly to give that special someone in your life something that rolled off an assembly line and onto a department store shelf? Wouldn’t it be better to give a gift that’s truly one of a kind? In association with National Geographic, Novica gives customers access to an online marketplace of jewelry, fashion, home décor, paintings, and unique gifts from across the globe. Their teams of local art experts provide artisans with all the backup they need, from product development advice, to quality control assistance.
In a world where there are so many mass produced products, with no record of who made them, and under what conditions, NOVICA gives you the choice to say no to sweat shops and child labor, and to vote with your wallet for a happier world. Want to know who you’re buying from? Novica goes out of their way to capture the real artisan story. On every product page you'll find a portrait and detailed biography of each artist. It’s shopping local, gone global.
Plus, the purchase of every item supports diverse artistic traditions, keeping the world a vibrant, creative place. Through their Keepers Of The Arts page, Novica promotes awareness for endangered traditions, and provides a place where you can target your support.
The North Face
With the holidays comes the onset of winter weather. Time to wrap ourselves in those long sleeve, water-resistant layers once again. If you know someone whose winter coat is looking a little tired, check out The North Face’s selection of cold weather gear. In addition to helping customers stay comfortable in less than temperate climates, The North Face helps combat obesity by fostering active lifestyles.
The goal of The North Face® Explore Fund™ is to inspire and enable the next generation of explorers by funding non-profit organizations that are working to re-connect children with nature. The Explore Fund supports organizations that encourage youth outdoor participation, focusing primarily on creating more connections of children to nature, increasing access to both front and backcountry recreation, as well as providing education for both personal and environmental health.
Looking for a way to introduce more outdoor activity into your own life? Check out PlanetExplore. It’s an on-line community designed to help individuals and families learn about and participate in outdoor activities and events in their area. Powered by partner organizations that share The North Face’s passion, PlanetExplore is a portal to the outdoors designed to inspire and enable people of all ages to become regularly active outside, and to develop the benefits gained through a connection to nature.
For those of you who haven’t heard, TOMS operates under a simple philosophy – One for One. While traveling in Argentina in 2006, founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. His solution to the problem was simple, yet revolutionary: to create a for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations. Blake’s vision soon turned into the simple business idea that provided the powerful foundation for TOMS.
With every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need. TOMS offers shoes with sustainable and vegan materials and are working to expand these offerings. These shoes include natural hemp, organic cotton, and/or recycled polyester and these materials are used on the upper, liner and/or the insole cover (instead of the standard suede insole).
Don’t need new shoes? How about sunglasses? Over the course of its first five years, TOMS was successful enough in providing shoes for children in need. But Blake, having recognized other vital needs during his travels around the world, realized that One for One could be applied to more than shoes. He developed the idea for TOMS Eyewear in which for every pair of eyewear purchased, TOMS would help give sight to a person in need. One for One.
When you think of civic minded companies, this successful department store chain might not be the first to pop in your mind. Actually, supporting communities through giving has always been a cornerstone of Target’s business and a belief that guides their decisions. Each year, they’ve given 5 percent of their profit to communities, which adds up to more than $4 million each week. Target also believes that donating time, talent and resources is equally important as the income they give. Their team members give hundreds of thousands of hours volunteering in their communities every year.
Since 2007, Target has renovated 175 school libraries through the Target School Library Makeover program, in partnership with The Heart of America Foundation. As part of the program, each school receives 2,000 new books; larger spaces with new carpet, furniture and technology; and seven new books for each student to take home. After the renovation, a local Target store is linked with each school to provide ongoing financial and volunteer resources.
Think they forgot about the environment? Think again. Each year, Target celebrates Earth Day with events and activities in their stores and online to get guests excited about sustainable living. In 2013, for example, they gave away 1.5 million reusable bags and held in-store sampling events where guests could try sustainable products and learn more about them.
Turns out this online superstore does justice to its name. AmazonGreen is a cross-category program that includes a list of products that customers have selected as the best green products offered by Amazon.com and a place for customers to discover Amazon's entire green product selection. Customers can easily find products that meet U.S. environmental rating systems, including EPEAT® (the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), ENERGY STAR®, WaterSense and USDA Organic, when shopping on Amazon.com.
Remember when Amazon started out selling, what are those things? They’re like movies, but you read them... Books! Some of you might have forgotten, but Amazon sure hasn’t. It stays true to its literary roots by supporting the writing community. Amazon.com offers grants for nonprofit author and publisher groups that share our obsession with fostering the creation, discussion, and publication of books.
From original works of art, to footwear that cares, and everything else in between, these stores will keep everyone on your shopping list happy, while letting you sleep a little more soundly. Who knows? Maybe Santa will leave you something extra special this year.
Chris McGillicuddy Chris McGillicuddy is an amateur chef, aspiring author, and independent filmmaker, so you can guess he knows a thing or two about finding deals and living on a budget.