Your Guide to Good Gift Giving

March 15, 2016
Me and my sister playing outside Medellín, Colombia on her celebratory birthday/graduation trip. Image by GoKateShoot for El Camino travel.
Me and my sister playing outside Medellín, Colombia on her celebratory birthday/graduation trip. Image by GoKateShoot for El Camino Travel.


I used to hate buying gifts. Picking the “right” thing out of everything and questioning whether or not the recipient would love it created a lot of stress. Several years ago, to spare myself Christmas shopping at a mall, I opted to give everyone an experience instead – a date of zip-lining for my romance-loving younger sister and her boyfriend, theater tickets for my Broadway-obsessed youngest sister, and a night out to hear Celtic music with my mom. It was incredibly fun to create memories with my family.

Since that year, I’ve gained a new perspective on gift-giving. Now I mix up experiences and what I consider “social good” gifts for birthdays, graduation celebrations, holidays and even just for fun. Most recently, I went on an incredible trip to Colombia with El Camino with my sister Lauren to celebrate her birthday and college graduation. This inspiring new company combines off-the-beaten path experiences and a personal photographer, so you come home with BOTH incredible memories and gorgeous images. This trip may be the best gift I’ve given (and received) so far.

Whether I’m giving an experience or item, I pay special attention to what my buying decision supports. As much as possible, I want to fund local, independent vendors and social enterprises – organizations whose mission is to create social good through commerce. And for my friends and family who will appreciate it, I will make a donation in their honor to a charity organization instead.

With this spirit of giving in mind, I’ve created a Social Good Gift Guide for myself and others to share. Please add your ideas in the comments!


For the animal lover:


To open: A species adoption kit from the World Wildlife Fund. (Really, who doesn’t want to adopt a panda?!) Or, these hedgehog dryer balls from the Animal Rescue Site Store. Every purchase funds supplies for shelter animals!

To experience: A volunteer day that helps rescue animals in your community. Find a volunteer opportunity with VolunteerMatch here or a list of local animal shelters here. A more extravagant experience is a trip to an animal sanctuary. Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park is one of the most magical places I’ve visited, and New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is next on my list.


For the environmentalist:


To open: Handmade upcycled arm warmers for that chilly bike ride, heirloom seeds for the summer garden, or the Luci inflatable solar light for camping and backyard parties.

To experience: The options are endless with the environmentalist – take a hike in a beautiful local park or volunteer to clean a nearby lake or river. For the traveling environmentalist, an ecotour is an excellent gift. I first discovered ecotourism while traveling in New Zealand with this incredible organization, and I can’t imagine touring any other way.


For the traveler:


To open: There are tons of beautiful travel gifts out there, but the only one I want to highlight is this one. These are such critical items for the avid traveler and they are made by Peruvian miners who lost their jobs.

To experience: A Kiva gift card. Through Kiva, the traveler can make a donation to a person nearly anywhere in the world and watch how this donation impacts his or her life. Who knows – that gift may inspire the traveler to book their next plane ticket.


For the home lover:


To open: A premade or custom cushion from UK-based Fine Cell Work. I’ve followed this organization for years, and I’m inspired by the positive impact the meditative process of sewing can have on prisoners’ sense of peace and confidence.

To experience: A day volunteering with an organization working to end homelessness. If you live in Atlanta, re:loom is a wonderful organization we work with that employs individuals to end the cycle of homelessness. They are always looking for volunteers in the weavehouse!


For the fashion-forward:


To open: A bag from Cambodia-based Smateria. The styles are so versatile and the bags are made of recycled materials! I’m also a fan of the statement plaid designs of IOU. Every piece has a story – and your fashion-forward recipient will know who designed and created their gift.

To experience: A sewing workshop. Find one in your area through Eventbrite or local fabric store.


For the bookworm:


To open: Anything from Better World Books because every purchase helps fund worldwide literacy initiatives. Not sure what to get? Start with their Social Impact section, or for more popular titles, the Staff Picks.

To experience: A visit to the Wren’s Nest in Atlanta, complete with storytelling. This is a beautiful place with rich history.


For the yogi:


To open: This gorgeous quilted mat from Accra, Ghana, where an organization I volunteered with does HIV/AIDS education. This is a special product supporting an inspiring organization.

To experience: Why, yoga, of course! Consider gifting several private lessons at the yogi’s favorite studio, or for a splurge, gift them a retreat.

What has been your favorite gift to give or receive? I’d love to hear about them!


3 thoughts on “Your Guide to Good Gift Giving”

  1. Your post made me think of the most memorable gift I received as a child. When I was twelve, santa brought me a pair of red boats—they were leather ankle boots, I would so wear them today. I wore those boots to the homeless shelter to serve dinner to families on Christmas. I remember looking down at those new, red boots and realizing that it’s not about what you get but what you give. I love that the gifts you recommend give to the recipient and to the organizations/people they support. Now that’s an awesome gift!

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