When it comes to gifts, we are taught early on that it’s the thought that counts. We prioritize sentimental value over monetary value, but another factor to consider is a gift’s social value: what are the repercussions of your consumption in communities, economies, and environments around the world? The rise of social entrepreneurship has made it easier to not just be thoughtful in our gift-giving, but to also be impactful, and to purchase goods and services that do double duty as presents for loved ones and investments in social change.
This holiday season, if you’d like to give gifts that keep on giving, why not also support a Wesleyan alum in the process? Here are a few of the many organizations where alumni are helping to make a difference, and where you can find creative and socially-conscious presents:
Fed by Threads (Co-Founder Alok Appadurai ’00): American-made clothing crafted from sustainable fabrics. Each item purchases 12 emergency meals for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona! Perfect for the humanitarian fashionista who also values job creation, sustainability, and animal rights.
Brooklyn Industries (Co-founder and CEO Lexy Funk ’91): A cutting-edge retailer that began with messenger bags made from recycled billboards and developed into a visionary brand dedicated to environmental preservation and sustainable design.
Eone Timepieces (Founder & CEO Hyungsoo Kim ’03): beautiful and functional timepieces for the visually impaired, as well as sighted people who’d like to check the time more discretely.
Superego Clothiers (Co-Founders James He ’11 (a.k.a. Jimmi Hundreds) and Tommie Lark Jr. ’12): a streetwear company working with hemp, organic cotton, bamboo and eucalyptus.
Fabindia (Managing Director William Bissell ’88): affordable clothing and household products made from natural and organic materials with traditional techniques and hand-based processes. The company was founded in order to market – and thus preserve – India’s diverse craft traditions by blending indigenous methods with contemporary styles.
Eco-Africa Social Ventures (President and CEO Mufaro Dube ’08 and Development Coordinator Lauren Sonnabend ’08): Beautiful paper crafts made by artisan communities in Zimbabwe. The organization also provides job training, child care, and increased access to education and health services. Every item purchased helps an artisan to support her family.
Snowday by Drive Change (Founder Executive Director Jordyn Lexton ’08): a locally-sourced food truck that hires, teaches, and empowers formerly incarcerated youth in NYC. Get some maple grilled cheese with a side of social justice (and even more maple syrup on top).
Café UTEC (Executive Director Gregg Croteau ’93): a Workforce Development and Social Enterprise program at the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, MA, where proven-risk teens learn to trade poverty and violence for peace and prosperity. Gregg has personally assured me that they’ve got the best roasted eggplant panini in the area.
Work on Purpose by Lara Galinsky ’96, Senior Vice President of Echoing Green: How do you build a career that’s personally satisfying and has a positive social impact? This book is full of resources and inspiration for recent grads or anyone contemplating a career change. Remember: Head + Heart = Hustle.
The Quarter-Life Breakthrough by Adam Smiley Poswolsky: an exhilarating manifesto for millennials seeking meaningful work. This is a great gift for aspiring changemakers who are ready to start taking risks, working hard, making a difference, and even enjoying themselves.
Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs ’97: a history and how-to of effective storytelling. Conceptualize your role in social media or the marketing industry as modern myth-making and value-shaping for our society — and don’t take that responsibility lightly.
Elevate Destinations (Dominique Callimanopulous ’81): a sustainable and philanthropic travel company providing personalized, environmentally-friendly, and socially-conscious trips for individuals, groups, and non-profits. Encourage your favorite globetrotters to swap their next carbon-intensive journey for a trip that supports natural environments and local cultures.
Of course, there are less tangible gifts that support the good work Wes alumni are doing. Volunteer work and donations are the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Consider giving to organizations like SHOFCO, the Minds Foundation, Brighter Dawns, and Maji Safi Group that are making waves around the world, or connect with other Wes-affiliated groups through the WAPPS LinkedIn group.
What are we missing? Send additions to Rosy Capron ’14 or in the comment section below.