10 Holiday Gifts That Keep on Giving

Want your gifts to make a difference? These items embrace the spirit of giving by paying it forward to worthy causes.

Lots of people delight in the idea of a mountain of gifts under the tree, others want to keep it simple and request gift cards or a donation made in their name. Bridge the gap this year and get everyone on your list something stylish and meaningful. These 10 unique brands offer much more than what’s wrapped in paper and ribbon. From clothing made of post-consumer plastic to lounge wear that elevates women out of poverty, these gifts help both people and the planet. Get inspired by our suggestions, then get shopping.

Jewelry from Purple Buddha Project

Purple Buddha Project was founded by Forrest Curran, a college grad who, after spending a year backpacking, felt deeply affected by his time in Cambodia. He learned that the country is one of the most heavily bombed places in history. While there, he met a group of local artisans who were upcycling weapons of conflict, including bombshells, UXOs and bullets, which still litter Cambodia’s fields. Curran helped the artisans turn their small operation into a larger, fair-trade business. Each handmade bracelet and necklace contains a meaningful phrase, including quotes by Lao Tsu and the poet Rumi. Every piece of jewelry sold funds fair pay for the artisans, plus a donation of nine meals for disadvantaged Cambodian children.

Designer Denim by G-Star Raw For the Oceans

Image via G-Star Raw

Image via G-Star Raw

G-Star Raw For the Oceans is a clothing collaboration between the designer-denim label G-Star, musician Pharrell, and Parley For the Oceans (an international advocacy group that helps protect the world’s oceans against pollution and other dangers). The denim used in these designs is woven from sustainably sourced material, and plastic fibers removed from the oceans by Parley. This is Pharrell’s third denim line for G-Star Raw For the Oceans and, to date, G-Star has repurposed about 700,000 PET plastic bottles collected and supplied by Parley for the Oceans.

Outdoorsy Accessories from United By Blue

Image via United By Blue

Image via United By Blue

United By Blue has a range of products that any modern, lifestyle-focused outdoor enthusiast (read: hipster) will love. The company doesn’t just supply organic leather accessories, home wares and clothing—they also pledge to remove one pound of litter from the world’s waterways for every product sold. They even organize cleanups in 26 states, including New Jersey. So stock up on flannel shirts and organic candles this season, and do something good for the oceans, rivers and streams in your own backyard, including Sunset Lake in Asbury Park and sections of the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

Thrive Market Membership


Thrive Market is best known for its range of trustworthy, organic groceries at wholesale prices, but the online market also offers plenty of home accents, workout gear and pet products to gift this season—all of it sustainable and fair-trade. With every membership purchased, Thrive gifts one to someone who struggles to afford healthy, organic foods, including low-income families, or even teachers and public servants who live on a tight budget. Even better, when you’re ready to check out, you can donate any amount to needy families. Browse handmade ornaments that empower Rwandan artisans, or browse a gift set of sweetly hued vegan nail polish. Whatever ends up in your shopping cart, add a few extra dollars (or a lot of extra dollars) when prompted to donate at checkout, and your gift will mean that much more to the recipients of your gift and your donation.

Girlfriend Collective Leggings

Image via Girlfriend Collective

Image via Girlfriend Collective

This Seattle-based company makes only one thing: leggings. Not just any leggings, either. Each pair is 100 percent composed of recycled non-BPA plastic bottles that are shredded, then spun into yarn in their Vietnam-based factory that is internationally certified for fair wages and worker safety. The leggings may be made from plastic, but they’re comfortable and breathable. With head artisans who were formerly a lead women’s designer at lululemon and a veteran of Acne Studios respectively, this company is turning out a stylish and form-fitting product. While supplies last, Girlfriend Collective is promoting these eco-loving leggings by selling them for only the cost of shipping (about $20).

A Tonlé Quilted Tee


This active and loungewear brand is headquartered in Cambodia, and opts for a negative-waste production model, touting the dogma, “Every Thread Matters.” They meet this standard by sourcing the material for each garment from mountains of cloth that other factories cast off, saving these “unfit” fabrics from landfills. Even spare threads and miniscule scraps are utilized by being shredded down and made into clothing tags. Tonlé’s fervent attention to an anti-waste manufacturing model offsets the on-average 40 percent of waste produced by apparel factories around the world. Everything at Tonlé is handmade and designed to last. You can even meet the men and women who make each item on the Tonlé website while you shop for the perfect tee or knit scarf to gift for the holidays.

Eco-Friendly GreenLighting Solar Charger

The GreenLighting Solar charger is a perfect gift for that friend who always searches for an outlet because her phone battery is at 20 percent. Encourage an increased battery life without promoting an increased carbon footprint. The charger is compatible with iPhones, iPads and Android devices. The nifty portable solar panel is encircled by a suction cup that you can stick on any window, even on a plane mid-flight, to let you charge while you’re indoors with less access to natural light. The solar charge on any device is only up to 40 percent battery, but it will do the job without draining resources, and is a great way to avoid the crowd huddled around the outlet in the corner of the Hoboken PATH station.

Behno Statement Piece

Women make up about 90 percent of the workforce in most regions of the garment and textile manufacturing industry in India and neighboring countries. These women often suffer dangerous working conditions, impossible hours and wages under $1 a day. Behno was founded in 2014 with the intention of redesigning the garment factory model, offering workers health and safety protection, family planning and fair wages, as well as eco-friendly manufacturing. The clothing is top-notch and has even won the praises of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and celebrities like Emma Watson. It’s the ideal gift for the fashion-forward crowd.

Reusable Thermos + Marley Coffee

There’s nothing like curling your hands around a thermos of steaming hot coffee against winter’s chill. Gift a stylish, reusable thermos this season, which saves paper and plastic coffee cups, and means discounts when you refuel at most coffee houses, including Starbucks. (This whimsical Starbucks travel mug boasts a sampling of the many innovations from New Jersey inventors over the years, like the first phonograph and zipper.) Pair the thermos with your favorite Marley Coffee blend to really boost your social responsibility score. Marley Coffee was founded by Bob Marley’s son Rohan in 2007. It’s based in Colorado, but sustainably sources its beans from coffee meccas around the world. Marley Coffee also donates proceeds to the Marley estate’s non-profit organization, 1Love, which supports causes like clean water and empowering underprivileged youth through sports.

Sudara Punjammies

Indian women and girls who are at risk for human trafficking are given a leg-up by Sudara’s skills-training program. Through this program, they learn to hand-sew ornately patterned “Punjammies,” lounge pants, along with other garment-making skills. The program helps women free themselves from the dangers of human trafficking, and secure their futures as self-reliant skilled workers.  Sudara’s mantra is one we can all get behind: “Made from hope, made for comfort.” Their signature “Punjammies” are named as a play on the word Punjabi, a language spoken throughout India and Pakistan. Sudara’s line of colorful loungewear comes in patterns and sizes for men, women and children. Jewelry and small leather accessories are also available.


Bonus Buy: If your list this year is already set in stone, register and buy through Amazon Smile, which donates 0.5% of the price of every eligible item (that’s most items on the vast retail site) to the charity or foundation of your choice. That way, no matter what you purchase, you can make a difference. Be sure to always shop through the smile.amazon.com portal, rather than amazon.com, so that your purchases are registered with the site.

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