Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.
1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern.
2. Egg Picnic, another Sydney-based design studio, translates their love of nature into a series of prints, with profits from some items going towards environmental causes, such as their Orange-bellied Parrot, the subject of which is thought to be Australia’s most threatened species with less than 30 birds alive today. For this particular print, which is a limited edition of only 50, Egg Picnic is donating 25% of profits to Birdlife Australia to help save the species.
3. The Hands Down project is a Melbourne-based textile business that donates up to 75% of their sales to the Domestic Violence Resource Centre of Victoria. Designed and printed locally, the project is a collaboration between PER—TIM + As Is Projects + LISTEN for DVRCV, selling pillowcases and other bedlinen, featuring the Palmistry print pillowcases designed by Eloise Rapp.
4. There’s a great website called Good Spender that sells a range of different gifts from Australian social enterprises all over the country. One that immediately caught my eye is Gulburn Tea, a plant in the myrtle family that has been used for thousands of years to treat colds and is very relaxing to drink before bed. Gulbarn herbal tea is a community business from Minyerri, NT which is located 800 km south of Darwin. The tea is collected, dried and packaged locally as part of a new initiative supported by Enterprise Learning Projects.
5. The Social Outfit is a charity and social enterprise in Melbourne and Sydney that employs and trains people from refugee and new migrant backgrounds, creating a fashion-forward range of clothing and jewellery made by hand in the workshop. The Andrea Shaw Black Silk Scarf is designed specifically for The Social Outfit and is made in their Newtown store and workshop.
6. In addition to these individual sellers, the big charities have a big range of ethical gift options. Oxfam is great for this – they have fair trade products including ethical coffee beans, Christmas cards, decorations and hampers as well as hand-crafted works by artisans around the world. The work of Mai Handicrafts from Vietnam, for example, includes ceramics, baskets and homewares made with paper, as well as decorations made with cinnamon bark, and profits go to support children attending schools in Ho Chi Minh City.
7. Other charities enable you to buy a “gift” that delivers humanitarian aid to people around the world. Care Australia has a number of Care Gift options, including buying a goat, a pig or a chicken for a community, or other options including “clean water for a family” or “send a girl to school” or “stock a medical clinic” – the list goes on. World Vision and UNICEF have similar schemes.
8. Live auctions offer the chance for individuals to bid on items, with money going to charity. One of the most notable of these is Chairity, a program run by Cult that challenges Australian designers to “hack” well known chairs, producing bespoke art pieces that are then sold to the highest bidder, with the proceeds donated to a charity of the designer’s choosing. Pictured is a pair of earrings designed by Adam Goodrum in his reimagining of the Officina chair by Magis.
9. One Two Tree uses discarded hardwood and timber from sustainably-managed plantations to create Christmas trees and decorations that can be brought out every year, eliminating some of the waste that traditional decorations create. In addition to their trees, which I covered last year, this Australian-based small business now has a lovely new range of Wooden Santa Sets.
10. If you haven’t heard of Two Good, this Sydney-based organisation makes you lunch and then delivers one just like it to a domestic violence refuge or soup kitchen. As a Christmas special this year, they are selling Ginger and Lemon Drop Tea, with one tin sent to you and one sent to someone in a refuge, with a note saying it is given to bring “warmth and love” this Christmas. What a fantastic sentiment
I hope you found something perfect for your holidays in this ethical gift guide. If you know of another organisation, brand or designer combining design with ethical giving this holiday season, please add it in the comments below.