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Gifts to Feel Good About
'Tis the season for giving -- and that's something we at Martha Stewart Living are particularly excited about. We've taken the time to scout out dozens of charitably minded small businesses that also happen to make truly beautiful, high-quality goods. With the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to give gifts that keep on giving (back).
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What they are: Soft, sturdy, functional tote bags in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes.
How they give back: The bags each have a specific and individual donation attached to their sale. The donation is built into the cost of the product, so you can be certain your purchase is actively helping the fight to end world hunger.
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What they are: These triple-milled shea butter bar soaps will win you over with whimsical packaging and gentle scent options such as Lavender, Wildflower and Fern, or Sea Salt.
How they give back: For each bar of soap purchased, Hand in Hand donates one bar of soap and one month of clean water to a child in need, an active effort to prevent the millions of water-related deaths each year. And your purchase of a soap collection turns into a donation of four bars of soap and four months of clean water to children in need.
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What they are: We love these repurposed wine bottle candles, made with 100 percent soy wax and produced in small batches. They're available in nine wine-inspired fragrances: Cabernet, Champagne, Chardonnay, Citrus Grove, Merlot, Palm Sangria, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.
How they give back: It's all in the name. Rescued Wine creators Craig and Amy Davies cite their love of rescue dogs and fine wines as their inspiration for starting the company. Not only do they use recycled bottles to craft their wares, they also donate a portion of proceeds to animal rescue groups. Pretty cool, right?
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What it is: Compass Coffee's custom holiday blend is packaged in a cheerful red tin and peak-roasted for maximum intensity.
How it gives back: Former Marine Infantry officers Harrison Suarez and Michael Haft first became friends while serving together in Afghanistan, where they bonded over their shared love of -- you guessed it! -- coffee. Now, a few years later, they sell fairly-traded brews to the folks of Washington, D.C. from their new shop, Compass Coffee. Need another reason to support the veteran duo? They blend and even roast all of the beans themselves, on-site at the shop.
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What it is: This 100-percent organic peppermint lip balm is made with extra-virgin coconut oil and fair-trade shea butter to keep lips refreshed, supple, and "combat-ready."
How it gives back: About 15 years ago, Skincando founder and facialist Sara Damelio received a note from a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq, who asked her for more of her "magic" skin-soothing products. Inspired by his words, Damelio decided to donate a portion of her company's products to members of the U.S. military each year.
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What it is: This ultra-rich emollient lotion is a blend of olive, sunflower, jojoba, and grapeseed oils infused with aloe vera, chamomile, and lavender. Indulgent? Maybe, but we should mention that this made-in-America product is free of parabens, phthalate, sulfate, and BPA -- and it's never tested on animals. Now that's an indulgence you can be proud of.
How it gives back: Talk about commitment. Beyond McEvoy Ranch's recycled, sustainably-sourced ingredients, the company also operates a wind turbine to generate a whopping 100 percent of its on-site electrical energy.
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What it is: The Lady Mid tote is inspired by Little Spoons Design founder Vicki Latimer Roan's Brooklyn neighborhood, and comes in five unique designs that blend vintage and modern, urban and nature. It fits snugly over the shoulder for a boho-chic look and contains a hanging interior pocket for keys, a phone, or other extras.
How it gives back: Little Spoons Design uses a unique manufacturing process that saves energy and water, and 20 percent of the bag is made with post-consumer soda bottle material and recycled cotton. Roan also does her part to support small businesses and American-made products by parterning with a women-owned New Hampshire company.
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What it is: An ultra-rich lip balm that contains jasmine absolute (an extract derived from nocturnally blooming flowers with antibacterial elements) as well as shea butter, aloe leaf extract, jojoba, and sweet almond oil. It's so long-lasting, in fact, that the balm can be used as a lipstick primer.
How it gives back: Before Clark's Botanicals was born, founder Francesco Clark endured a crippling injury that left him paralyzed and unable to sweat. He worked with his father, a physician, to develop special formulas to clear up his skin. When they (miraculously!) worked to soothe his pores, Clark decided to open a full line of botanically based products. A percentage of profits from the sale of Clark's Botanicals go toward funding innovative research for spinal cord injuries.
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What they are: These stunning hand-painted bats come from the Mitchell Bat Company in Nashville and are crafted entirely of solid maple. Each one is made to order, by hand. Word to the wise: Be sure to order quickly, since you'll have to wait at least 3 to 6 weeks for delivery from the date of purchase.
How they give back: A portion of the proceeds from these American-made bats will go to Major League Baseball's charity RBI, which aims to revive baseball in inner cities.
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What they are: Oh-so-fashionable (and comfy!) shoes ... or dreamy, classic eyewear.
How they give back: TOMS Shoes matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. In 2011, that model was expanded to include TOMS eyewear. With every pair purchased, TOMS now helps restore sight to a person in need.
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What it is: This Grow-at-Home Mushroom kit lets you grow gourmet oyster mushrooms in only 10 days. There are only three steps (open, mist, harvest) before the mushrooms are ready to be eaten. Best of all? The fungi are certified organic and come with recipes.
How it gives back: Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley. Their shared goal is to reconnect families with food, ultimately encouraging sustainable eating practices and making simple harvesting techniques more accessible.
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What it is: This green yaupon tea is a local, domestic alternative to imported caffeine sources. It's a traditional Native American drink made from the yaupon plant that grows wild in parts of the western United States. What's particularly exciting about this gift is that 1 ounce of tea can be resteeped three to four times.
How it gives back: Not only is the tea itself ecologically sustainable and wild-harvested, but sister founders Abianne and JennaDee support fair wage employment opportunities that transform the lives of individuals affected by poverty or disability in Cat Spring, Texas.
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What it is: Philosophy’s limited edition holiday fragrance, "Celebrate Grace," or one of the brand’s artfully designed, dessert-scented shower and bath gels. Our favorite “flavors” include Christmas Cookie, Pink-Frosted Animal Cracker, and Vanilla Birthday Cake.
How it gives back: Philosophy’s Hope and Grace Initiative donates 1 percent of the company’s total sales from its online retail site to organizations devoted to raising awareness about mental health issues in women across the world.
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What they are: Paper For Water's beautiful ornaments grew from two little girls’ desire to create a world in which all children are free from water-borne illnesses.
How they give back: Each ornament purchase is a nearly direct donation toward providing for the 783 million people around the world who lack access to clean drinking water.
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What they are: Warby Parker eyeglasses are so stylish, you’ll probably just want to buy a pair for yourself. But we think the gift card set, pictured here, is a great option for the holiday season. This year, the cards arrive with something extra -- the book "Good Luck Omens for the Modern Era," a stack of seven calling cards (for luck!), and a pencil.
How they give back: The company works with nonprofit partners to train men and women in developing countries to give eye exams and sell affordable glasses in their communities.
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What it is: A donation in a friend’s name toward Heifer International.
How it gives back: Heifer directly uses your monetary gift to provide livestock, seeds, or training to a family struggling with poverty. Not only will you be supporting sustainable farming with your donation, you'll also be promoting women’s empowerment and providing basic needs for families living in impoverished circumstances.
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What they are: These Luv-A-Pet Martha Stewart Pets Chance Dolls are plush, snuggly toys made with faux satin and tulle.
How they give back: When you purchase a Martha Stewart Pets Chance doll, PetSmart will donate 10 percent of the purchase price to PetSmart Charities in the United States and PetSmart Charities of Canada to help save the lives of homeless pets.
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What they are: The charms on these Alex and Ani Charity by Design bangles each represent the specific charity toward which their proceeds are donated. There are dozens of sweet designs to choose from.
How they give back: Alex and Ani Charity by Design bangles spurs a donation of 20 percent of proceeds to charities including the Child Mind Institute (benefitting mental health care for children) and the Gloria Gemma Foundation (benefitting breast cancer research).
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What it is: A high-tech Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board with an iPad stand, made by Orange Chef Co. for No Kid Hungry.
How it gives back: Every cutting board purchased will provide another 450 meals for children in need, as just $1 can connect one child to up to 10 meals.