In this economy, when money is so tight, it's more important than ever to use your purchasing power wisely and support companies that embrace your own philosophies. At StyleSubstanceSoul.com, we feel strongly about shopping with a conscience, and we have scoured the web for companies that are eco-friendly and socially-conscious, or that re-use, recycle or give back in some way. Here are some great independent shops featuring unique, handmade and one-of-a-kind gifts, so you can look good, feel good and do good:
- Beads for Learning bracelets from The Leakey Collection (yes, that Leakey) make a perfect teacher gift or stocking stuffer. Maasai artistans use remnants of native Zulugrass to design vivid, one-of-a-kind strands which can be wrapped around the wrist three or four times, creating a rainbow of hope. 100 percent of profits go toward paying teachers' salaries in rural Kenya.
- Purchase with Purpose at iSanctuary, where one-of-a-kind jewelry is made by survivors of human trafficking -- who also benefit from sales. Each piece is unique -- from dramatic chandelier earrings to stunning rings and necklaces inspired by bespoke designer Tamsin Francesca.
- Candles are an important part of the holidays, and glassybaby really illuminates their impact. Their gorgeous pieces, handmade in a Seattle glassblowing studio, can be used as cups and vases but show off their true beauty most clearly when holding candles. Lee Rhodes founded glassybaby after discovering the healing power of candlelight during her own battle with cancer. Determined to spread that light of hope, she has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to helping cancer patients through sales of glassybaby.
- Bracelets from Formerly Flip Flops are, well, just that! UniquEco, an award-winning African company, transforms dirty old flip flops into conversation-starting bracelets, keeping them from clogging up landfills while creating a sustainable economy in a remote village in Nairobi. Buy an armful of bracelets for yourself, your daughters, your mom, your friends, teachers, hostesses, everyone you know!
- Why give one pair of earrings as a gift when you can give hundreds? With the Bling Bling Bling set from Switch Gear, your lucky friend/sister/daughter/mom can combine hoops and drops with her choice of glass, sterling, brass, silver pewter, vintage brass and steel flowers to create her own jewelry box-ful of designer pieces. And we do mean designer pieces. Creator Lisa Monahan's work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries and shops, including the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. She has also made an art out of charitable giving, donating a portion of all proceeds to help support survivors of domestic violence.
- If the medium is the message, we'll take Yali's "Carry On" any day. This great-looking tote, designed by 20-year-old cancer survivor Yali Derman, is intended to symbolize "how patients carry on even in the face of medical baggage" -- and it does so with aplomb. The silk screen peacock features 18 vibrant colors and is a powerful representation of renewal and new beginnings. Proceeds benefit K.I.D.S.S. for Kids Affiliated Organization of Children's Memorial Hospital of Chicago.
- Deeply moved by an awareness of the global fight against HIV/AIDS, visual artist Julie Weaverling has created "The Inspire" series of encaustic paintings as a way to contribute to the cause. Positive messages like Imagine, Love, Peace, Joy, Hope, and Dream are carved into layers of encaustic and accompanied by a Braille translation to "feel" the inspiration.50 from every painting goes directly to KeepAChildAlive.org.
- There's nothing more special than giving a gift from your travels, and Ten Thousand Villages offers you an opportunity to shop in a global bazaar without ever leaving your couch. A mecca for handcrafted products and the artisans who create them, it is one of the oldest and largest fair trade organizations, and has won numerous awards for its commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
- 'Tis the season for chapped lips and cheeks, so throw a tub of CHAPSTUFF by Mayron's Goods into every stocking, every Hanukkah gift and into your own purse. Actress Melanie Mayron and her pharmaceutical father have created a concoction of organic and essential oils which protects and heals dry skin caused by cold, wind, desert and daily life. A portion of sales goes to Women's Health Research in honor of Melanie's mom, who is a breast cancer survivor.
- Piece by Piece offers workshops in underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, where professional artists teach residents-in-need to handcraft beautiful picture frames, vases, mirrors and other objets d'art from mosaics. Using mostly recycled materials including glass, broken tile and china, the new artists receive a significant portion of the proceeds from the sales of their work, empowering them and helping them to support themselves.
- You might not be caught dead wearing Christmas sweaters but Green 3 has reclaimed them, cut them up, and mixed and matched them to create a Christmas sweater skirt to die for! All Green 3 items made from reclaimed materials are always first quality and completely laundered prior to cutting and sewing.
- We love shopping at Uncommon Goods because they always have an eclectic selection of recycled, handmade and environmentally-friendly items that land us at the top of the Best Gift Givers list -- plus they give back to the charity of our choice. Personally, we'd like one of everything in their Stocking Stuffers section, but the stand-out hostess gift is the Corkcicle, which is so cool, it gives us the chills!
- The weather outside may be frightful but your décor can still be beach house-delightful with coastal-themed home decor from Wabisabi Green. Eco-friendly linens, made from recycled fabrics, can turn a table into a work of art, with napkins and placemats in cheery, sophisticated motifs featuring sassy seahorses, rock shrimp and blooming botanicals.
- Most women don't travel light. We need a bag that can hold everything from a cell phone to a laptop and a water bottle -- with the occasional umbrella and shoes thrown in. The Shusokumb (pronounced shu-sock'-em for Shoes, Socks, Umbrella) is a compartmentalized tote with lots of pockets, and its sleek, vertical design makes it easy for commuting or traveling.2 from each sale goes to Zero: The Project to End Prostrate Cancer.
- When it comes to beautiful shapes and colors, it's hard to beat Mother Nature - or Raindrops, an earthy collection of finely-crafted jewelry and ceramics inspired by the shapes, materials and hues found all around us. Designer Elena Miller sculpts each piece by hand for a distinctive and timeless sense of style. Originally from Russia, Elena donates part of her online sales to The Harbor, an organization that educates teenage orphans in St. Petersburg.
- Through Bubola Love, Micaela Passeri empowers women to become confident, feel beautiful and accept themselves. Her "Love You Revolution" movement challenges every woman to find love within, a powerful philosophy which the "I Love Who I Am" shirt represents beautifully. Micaela also creates positive t-shirts for children, and donates to Agape International Spiritual Center's Youth Programs.
- Show someone you believe in them with the "Believe" Heart Necklace from heart-ist Debbie Marie Arambula. The solid sterling silver "Believe" pendant was inspired by her "Believe" Heart Art painting which was unveiled in March at Race for the Cure at Dodger Stadium. A portion of proceeds will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- Help your kids - or co-workers - stop trashing their lunch with Green To Go's great-looking reusable sandwich and snack bags which keep plastic baggies out of landfills and oceans. Green To Go features a wide assortment of earth-friendly lunchware, including bamboo utensil sets, stainless steel food containers and trashless lunch box kits. These timely gifts will be used over and over and over again.
- Ssubi beads and bags are handmade by patients of the Bishop Asili Health Center in Uganda. Using colorful recycled paper and natural fabrics, these artisans are working hard to transform their lives. Ssubi fills in the gaps by supporting projects that are less likely to be funded by large international organizations. Proceeds from the sale of beads and bags are reinvested in Ssubi's ongoing programs.
- A treble clef intertwined around a cross, the CrossClef will resonate with a Christian music lover, choir member or worship director. The design, which celebrates the connection between music and God, was created to honor the late Chuck Risser, and a portion of proceeds are donated to programs that help the needy and/or support music education.
- Clairvoyant Beauty has developed a cult-like following since actress/activist Lexie Masterson founded the luxury line of natural, hand-crafted anti-aging products -- one that's likely to grow dramatically with the launch of Clairvoyant, a crisp floral-citrus fragrance designed for layering. Lexie's mission is to nurture inner beauty through products made with the finest natural and organic ingredients while improving the world through environmentally safe practices and social responsibility.
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