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7 Gifts That Give Back, According to Advocates, Activists, and Artists

Finding the perfect present for that hard-to-shop-for person in your life and giving a gift that gives back don’t have to be at odds, but you probably want to do some research and make sure that the product you’re buying is actually high-quality and your money is going to a reputable organization. That’s why, in honor of Giving Tuesday, I reached out to advocates, activists, authors, and artists to share their recommendations of unique gifts that give back.

My definition of a gift that gives back was fairly broad. “Giving back” could mean that a product was made by an independent minority- or woman-owned business, or that it’s something that was sourced sustainably. It could also be that all of the proceeds from a purchase will go to a specific nonprofit like the ACLU. All that matters is that the gift does good and makes life a little better for people besides the one who gets it in their stocking or under the tree this year — though chances are good that person is going to love it, too.

“Have your turmeric with a side of social justice! Diaspora Co. is a queer-woman-of-color-owned business that sources its spices with integrity from farmers that work to promote sustainability.” — Julia Turshen, author, Feed the Resistance and Small Victories

“All the proceeds from the book go to the ACLU, so supporting the book also automatically means supporting the protection of civil liberties. Plus, the book includes dozens of recipes and ideas for how to get involved no matter who you are and what you’re able to give.” — Turshen

“We sell all kinds of things — new, used, collectible — and donate all of the money to charity [this year, to the ACLU]. It’s a project that I’ve been working on and evolving for the last three years. We even published a year-one book a while back with all of the entries. The eBay store is also great for holiday gift-giving because everything starts at 99 cents and comes with an artist-signed certificate!” — Rob Pruitt, artist

Photo: Sam Rosenthal/©2017 Sam Rosenthal, All Rights Reserved

“Each loaf of bread sold helps this nonprofit support training for women who want to become entrepreneurs, but face challenges to traditional employment. Plus the bread — 75 different varieties from around the world — is just really freaking delicious.” — Kat Kinsman, senior food and drinks editor, Time Inc.; founder, Chefs With Issues; author, Hi, Anxiety

“When Gretchen and Larry Witt’s son Liam was diagnosed with cancer, they were shocked at how few effective treatments there were, due to lack of research funding. They gathered friends to bake cookies and raise funds, and now millions of dollars of research has been funded, one batch at a time.” — Kinsman

“Trans Indian artist Vivek Shraya has a new song called ‘Love Is Not Love’ for Trans Day of Remembrance to honor all of the trans and gender-nonconforming people we have lost this year due to hate violence. All proceeds from the song go to Trans Lifeline, a suicide hotline for trans and gender-nonconforming people. You can purchase the song [on Bandcamp].” — Alok Vaid-Menon, writer, entertainer, performance artist

“I’d suggest buying a T-shirt from Paper Clouds Apparel, an apparel company that employs people with disabilities as creative designers and as employees of their business. They also use a portion of their profits to [support] schools and programs for people with disabilities. Robert Thornton, the founder and CEO, started the company after his mother, who was a bus driver for kids with special needs, kept getting beautiful artwork. He decided to create an organization that could tap into that creative potential and create work opportunities for people who are differently-abled.” — Liz Plank, senior producer and correspondent,; host and executive producer, Divided States of Women

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Gifts That Give Back, According to Advocates and Activists