15 great gifts that give back

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
By Starre Vartan, Mother Nature Network
More from Guest Bloggers blog

There's only a few weeks left until Christmas, but if you haven't started your gift shopping, don't worry. There are plenty of great gifts available, and you don't need to fight your way through the local mall. You can find gifts from these companies that give back part or all of their profits to charity. What symbolizes the Christmas spirit better than helping someone truly in need?

We've rounded up 15 ideas sure to please someone on your list.

Seasonal ideas

Christmas-themed gifts can be enjoyed as soon as they are opened.

These gorgeous angel votive holders are made from sheet metal in the Croix des Bouquets tradition of Haitian artisans, and each sale supports the work of the designer and his family. These angels will light up a mantel or tabletop for years to come.

The Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol" as performed by Jonathan Winters, provides a fitting soundtrack for a family gathering, and it's sure to spark some conversation. Plus, it benefits National Public Radio.

Related: 11 eco-friendly calendars for 2011

Fashion ideas

If you know a young woman who never seems to get what she wants for the holidays, check out this pretty, graphic baguette clutch (made from discarded Doritos bags), similar to one that was featured in the movie, "Sex and the City." These upcycled clutches provide jobs for 40 women artisans in Peru.

These Mekong Blue scarves are available in 21 colors and hand-knit by the Women of Cambodia's Stung Treng Women's Development Center. The work helps them earn "a fair wage, escape a fate in the violent sex trade, learn workplace skills and gain educational opportunities for their families."

This delicate necklace repeats various sayings in braille (like "hug" and "kiss") and benefits the American Foundation for the Blind.

Sweet ideas

For the person on your list with a sweet tooth, the Dancing Deer Company's Sweet Home Pick cookie collection includes a selection of delicious chewy cookies and - just as sweet - you'll know that 35 percent of the price helps homeless mothers and their children to fund educations, find jobs, and move into homes of their own.

Chocolate lovers will appreciate Chocolates for Darfur. The handmade dark chocolates, which feature colorful maps of Africa, have creamy fillings such as carmelized plantains, Kenyan coffee, and cardamom. The proceeds help fund a women's center and feed malnourished children in Darfur.

Or how about Snickerdoodle cookie mix, a perfect activity for kids and parents over the holidays? The proceeds of this bagged mix go to the Women's Bean Project, "an innovative social enterprise in Denver that benefits women with a history of poverty and chronic unemployment."

Ideas for men

Men aren't always easy to shop for, but these great-looking Beats Solo HD headphones designed by Dr. Dre are not only stylin' - they're connected with the (RED) program and part of the purchase price is dedicated to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa.

Guys always need underwear, right? Pact Underwear is made from organic cotton and toxin-free dyes and benefits a variety of causes. (Check out each pair of undies to learn which cause benefits.)

Related: More gifts for men

Ideas for women

For the active woman on your list, these alpaca scarves made by the Asociacion de Artesanos Andinos in Bolivia are lightweight and incredibly warm, and they help pay a living wage and support health and literacy projects.

Another option is a yoga bag from Global Girlfriend made from durable waxcloth by women in Uganda who directly benefit from each sale.

Fingerless gloves have never been more popular. Whether for moms on the go who need to button a child's coat or anyone who needs an uncovered finger to text on a touchscreen, we've got an idea. These gloves from Global Goods Partners are made from alpaca and are dyed with all-natural dyes by women in Bolivia who receive a fair wage plus additional educational and advancement opportunities.

Related: Six unusual Christmas gifts

Just for fun

Fun, random gifts for anyone on your list include Betty White's comic book. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.

TOMS shoes have a simple premise: Buy a pair for yourself (or for a friend), and second pair will go to a child in need. The simple design and wide variety of colors make these shoes suitable for just about anyone on your list.

Children in developing countries often aren't allowed into school without shoes, so this purchase could help a child get an education. The shoes work well as around-town slip-ons or even as a cool slipper substitute.

The bottom line: When you're doing your Christmas shopping this season, keep in mind how the gifts you buy can also have a positive ripple effect on others.

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