Hellooo sales, hello shopping, hello wrapping, hello lists long with loved ones to buy for. ‘Tis the season, right?

I love giving gifts. It’s my love language, for sure (also, food). But sometimes I tune in to this deep-down uncomfy feeling with what we’ve turned the season into, this disconnect between our spirit of giving and the taking we’re often unaware of that pays for it.

I first tuned in to human trafficking and labor injustices in college. Kids young kids, even younger than eight working in sweatshops. Women and girls promised work but sold for sex. Families indentured in brick factories for the rest of their days and counting.

Christmas, poor baby Jesus, is so guilty of the worst of it. Check out this piece on where ornaments are made and let that picture at the top make you a little sick. And if that doesn’t do it, all this plastic crap will.

Oof. Is it just a lost cause? No. Never no. As with our faith, Christmas is a great place to start. There are so many amazing ways to embrace this season of giving and cultivate a worldly perspective without the materialism (yes: “all the vain things that charm us most”) that so quickly consumes.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
– Anne Lappe

Here are some direct ways to get started and use your purchase power to gift for good this Christmas and beyond:

  • Give a goat, flock of chickens, dairy cow, or bees to a family through World Vision’s gift catalog. Especially fun if your kid has been begging you for a goat all year or your wife has a bee in her bonnet to start a hive.
  • For budding entrepreneurs: Invest in a third-world business through World Vision Micro and see how far a dollar can go. So cool to connect a loved one to someone’s dreams while they shoot for their own.
  • Provide therapy for a child rescued from sex trafficking or cover legal fees for survivor’s cases via IJM’s gift catalog. They’re doing a big campaign on the 29th (Giving Tuesday), matching gifts up to $150K! (While you’re shopping, check out their current #RestartFreedom campaign re: fighting cybersex abuse of children.)
  • If the Syrian crisis has been weighing on your heart, Preemptive Love Coalition has some refugee-made gifts. And be sure to sign up for their updates these guys are doing amazing, brave work. I like to purchase an item to encourage the artisans and give my person a tangible reminder of the cause, then make a donation to the organization in their name.

Other things you can do to redeem your gifting experience this Christmas:

  • Look for fair trade labels and avoid oft-guilty countries of origin (China, Philippines, etc.)
  • Shop locally, eschewing Black Friday for Small Business Saturday and Fair Tuesday.
  • Challenge yourself to shop within your network, only buying from people within one degree of connection. It’s fun!
  • Give experiences, not things. Zoo and museum memberships, family trips planned for the rest of the year. Wrap ‘em up or stuff envelopes with adventure maps in your tree.
  • Subscription boxes can be a really fun way to share the discovery of lifestyle products and encourage ethical shopping throughout the year… There are a number of notable ones: GlobeIn, Fair Trade Friday, Causebox, Hope Supply, Purpose Box, and bonJOY, for starters. (Full disclosure: I helped launch bonJOY so I’m a bit partial! I’ll throw in a plug for our flash sale series, running now.) The bookmarkable blog The Good Trade has more.
  • For bonus points: Think about packaging and the waste your order might generate. What kind of footprint does this gift (or getting it to you) make on the earth?

As consumers, we have what I like to call purchase power. Stewardship. How we spend our money matters. How our kids watch us spend our money matters.

If you get stuck… email me! Seriously. I have so many resources to share (a list of brands with impact for good, for starters, here). But know that I’m not perfect… my kiddo’s getting a tablet for Christmas.