This holiday season will be unlike any before. Instead of gathering around the tree with loved ones, so many of us will be celebrating from afar, connecting over FaceTime and Zoom in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic and devastating economic crisis. Polls suggest that the vast majority of people — 2 out of 3 — will be skipping their normal holiday gathering, due to COVID concerns.
But the pandemic doesn’t mean that this holiday season will be without meaning — far from it, in fact. I believe that this unique holiday season presents a special opportunity for all of us to seek more meaning in our relationships, and to embrace what I see as a central, fundamental truth, which I have learned over years traveling as a music executive to dozens of countries across nearly every continent: that we are all one, connected by our common humanity, even across languages, countries, and cultures.
Fortunately, studies suggest that the virus is leading to an increased sense of community and solidarity, with people giving more than ever before. Even as nearly two in five American households are making less money than before the pandemic, many are giving more than they did before, especially to initiatives that fight hunger and protect health. To take just two examples: donations to Feeding America have increased 1,980 percent year over year and donations to Doctors Without Borders have increased 131 percent year over year.
This holiday season, when families are facing challenges like hunger, homelessness, and job loss, it is more important than ever that we remember that “we are one,” and that we take care of our communities. The good news is that we can do this while also getting into the gift-giving spirit with friends and families.
As we approach the holiday season, I have surveyed hundreds of charitable small businesses and come up with my list of top gift giving options. Each of these presents the opportunity to help a charity, support a small business, and offer a token of friendship to loved ones — a win all around. Our purchases have power and we can treat ourselves and our loved ones to thoughtful gifts while contributing to a better world and empowering people across it.
For Your Significant Other: Sometimes the one that we know best is hardest to shop for. These unique gifts are so great that you might find yourself wanting to hold onto them for you!
- Nomadix: Travel might be on hold for now, but nothing will get you itching for a beach or camping trip like these “road trip” towels. They’re sustainably made from post-consumer recycled material, and are perfect for yoga, the beach, travel, and camping. Keep one in the car for your next spontaneous adventure. Or pick up one of their changing poncho’s for the surfer in your life!
- World Wildlife Fund: These animal adoption kits are the perfect way of saying, “I love you.” Adopt your favorite animal (hundreds are available, from snow leopards to elephants to dolphins and whales), and receive a cute stuffed animal plus updates about the animal. I take so much pride in being a WWF Pabda Ambassador, because of the extraordinary work that they do to protect our most vulnerable and special species. Now, you can be part of the team!
- One Golden Thread: Not only do these high-quality, luxuriously soft blankets feel like a silky second skin, but they are sustainably made and every item purchased plants a tree. The company also donates a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits aligning to our vision. Put one on, and you’ll be hooked for life.
For Family: Try one of these fun options:
- Love Your Melon: These cute and cozy hats are perfect for winter. Best of all, 50 percent of net profit from the sale of all Love your Melon products is given to nonprofit organizations around the world that lead the fight against pediatric cancer. So far, they have donated over $7 million and given hundreds of thousands of super-soft beanies to children with cancer.
- Bunnies by the Bay: the perfect gift for your nieces and nephews. Bunnies by the Bay offers unbelievably plush toys that can be exclusively customized, and which give back to organizations that are most in need, including the COVID Emergency Fund, Mary’s Place, and Worldwide Orphans, to help spread light and love.
For Coworkers: These are my favorite options for office Secret Santa’s — plus, they are perfect as stocking stuffers, too.
- One Grid Candle: Every candle (which is hand-poured and made with wonderful essential oils!) that is purchased delivers a solar light to a person living without electricity in a rural part of the world, which translates into $70 in savings, allows children to do an extra hour of schoolwork, and prevents the inhalation of deadly kerosene fumes (breathing these fumes is the toxic equivalent of smoking 170 cigarettes a year!).
- Project 7: This is my go-to stocking stuffer! A brand that provides better sweet treats (which are delicious, keto-friendly, and plant-based with only 3g sugar, 6g carbs and 60 calories per bag), while also helping to fund critical areas of need, like hunger, clean drinking water, and shelter.
- Grounds and Hounds Coffee: Coffee and puppies, what could be better? This company supports rescue initiatives and organizations providing a second chance for pups in need of a helping hand. 20 percent of profits are donated to rescue organizations working to make the second chance mission a reality. Mugs, brewing gear, and apparel are also available.