#SmallBusinessSaturday Ethical Gift Guide

We ask UK small business owners for their tips on shopping with a conscience this holiday season
By Kat Piper, Epoch Times
December 3, 2016 Updated: December 3, 2016

Dec. 3 is #SmallBusinessSaturday, and as thoughts turn to gift shopping try checking out your local independent stores for unique ethical gifts that give in three ways: support small businesses and artisans, and are meaningful gifts that will surely be appreciated.

Here’s recommendations and tips on shopping for ethical and eco-friendly gifts this season from eight U.K.-based brands and retailers:

Lowie Turkish socks, hand knitted from leftover yarn, make a unique, colourful, and cosy gift. These were Lowie's first product sold in 2002, and are still a favourite today. £22, ilovelowie.com
Lowie Turkish socks, hand knitted from leftover yarn, make a unique, colourful, and cosy gift. These were Lowie’s first product sold in 2002, and are still a favourite today. £22, ilovelowie.com

“My advice for giving ethical and sustainable presents this season is to pick items with as little packaging as possible. And remember, it’s better to give one quality gift rather than a few ‘novelty’ items that are likely to end up in the bin,” says Bronwyn from Lowie, a heritage inspired fashion label with a dedication to producing their collections as ethically as possible. Visit Lowie at 115 Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0NG.

Hiwot grey leather bag with fringing. Fun, stylish, and well-made, it is a great size for every day and can be worn across the body for practicality. It is produced in Ethiopia by a woman-led small business, supporting the important leather and craft industry in Ethiopia.  £145 danaqa.com
Hiwot grey leather bag with fringing. Fun, stylish, and well-made, it is a great size for every day and can be worn across the body for practicality. It is produced in Ethiopia by a woman-led small business, supporting the important leather and craft industry in Ethiopia. £145 danaqa.com

“Our tips for giving ethical gifts this Christmas are to avoid the high street shops and shop with independent boutiques and online stores that offer unique and handmade products,” says David and Nadia from Danaqa, an inspirational fashion accessories and lifestyle brand, showcasing craftsmanship and supporting women-led businesses in developing countries. “More and more small ethical brands are telling the great stories behind their products, so Christmas gift giving is the perfect opportunity to share these stories and celebrate fair trade, craftsmanship, and innovative use of materials and original designs.”  

Create your own unique signature scent with the Balm Balm 100% organic Seven Single Note Eau de Parfum Collection. A beautiful box slides open to reveal a rainbow of colour and exquisite scent possibilities. Each of the scents has a character of its own and can be worn alone, combined or layered, to create and reveal your own, personalised, truly unique signature scent. £27 for a set of 7 x 5 ml, thenaturalstore.co.uk
Create your own unique signature scent with the Balm Balm 100% organic Seven Single Note Eau de Parfum Collection. A beautiful box slides open to reveal a rainbow of colour and exquisite scent possibilities. Each of the scents has a character of its own and can be worn alone, combined or layered, to create and reveal your own, personalised, truly unique signature scent. £27 for a set of 7 x 5 ml, thenaturalstore.co.uk

“It’s always exciting to give something a bit more,” says Rachel from The Natural Store, an online ethical gift retailer. “Give gifts this year that come with their own wonderful story.  ‘The wool for this scarf came from rare breed Welsh Sheep.’  ‘This wooden bangle was made from Jukung, a Balinese fishing boat and crafted by a fair trade co-operative.’ Make your own Christmas story magical by giving ethical gifts that delight and spread warmth and love in the form of their own creative story. Not only will your family and friends feel this personal touch but it will resonate and give a Happy Christmas to all the fair trade, organic, and artisan makers around the world.”

Eye catching and one of a kind, these ethically made glass storage jars are made from repurposed wine bottles and sustainably sourced mahogany wood. Ideal in the kitchen, bathroom or just as beautiful statement pieces, they are a fun addition to any room. Qäsa Qäsa have partnered with an organisation in Malawi that nurtures local artisanal talent to produce an array of contemporary designs, allowing small-scale artisans access to the global market. Resourceful with local materials, the artisans collect wine bottles from restaurants and hand cut them to size using twine. Each lid is hand-turned with its own unique design and made to fit only the jar it is designed for. £38 each, qasaqasa.co.uk
Eye catching and one of a kind, these ethically made glass storage jars are made from repurposed wine bottles and sustainably sourced mahogany wood. Ideal in the kitchen, bathroom or just as beautiful statement pieces, they are a fun addition to any room. Qäsa Qäsa have partnered with an organisation in Malawi that nurtures local artisanal talent to produce an array of contemporary designs, allowing small-scale artisans access to the global market. Resourceful with local materials, the artisans collect wine bottles from restaurants and hand cut them to size using twine. Each lid is hand-turned with its own unique design and made to fit only the jar it is designed for. £38 each, qasaqasa.co.uk

“We believe in craftsmanship, quality, and knowing the story behind the product you are buying,” says Naeema from QÄSA QÄSA , a contemporary online homeware store offering covetable, one of a kind pieces that have been designed to inspire the curious. “Seasonal shopping is often driven by market trends, making them short-term buys that are not always built to last. Buying from small businesses with an ethics-driven ethos means that you can buy guilt-free, and are contributing to a better industry model, where the person making the product is valued in the supply chain.

“At QÄSA QÄSA we go a step further by including an information card with each product purchased which enables the gift recipient to learn about the materials, process and skill involved in making the product, and thus connecting with its maker. There’s something truly special about knowing who made your product and also knowing that it was crafted by hand, giving it the time and attention that many mass-produced products lack.”

Chocolate making workshop. Magdalena's chocolate making workshops are not only a great learning experience, but are also a real chocolate treat, as you take home a wonderful selection of chocolates that you make during the workshop. If you can't make it during this festive season, she also has gift vouchers available, which make the perfect Christmas gift for foodies. £65, cocoaandheart.co.uk
Chocolate making workshop. Magdalena’s chocolate making workshops are not only a great learning experience, but are also a real chocolate treat, as you take home a wonderful selection of chocolates that you make during the workshop. If you can’t make it during this festive season, she also has gift vouchers available, which make the perfect Christmas gift for foodies. £65, cocoaandheart.co.uk

“I always like to find out what the person actually wants for Christmas. I try to be very careful about how I do that, so I don’t spoil the surprise,” says Magdalena from Cocoa and Heart, who runs artisan breadmaking and chocolate making workshops in Kent and South East London. “We often think that we need to give loads of presents, because that’s how our modern society works these days, but I think it’s better to give one present that the person actually wants rather then 10 that might not mean much to them. And of course where possible I like to support local small businesses, where I can find truly unusual gifts and little treats for everyone.

Leather kindling bucket, hand-made by a fair trade leather-working project in India. Each one takes almost a day to make from vegetable-tanned leather and is stitched by hand. This not only helps provide a sustainable income for skilled artisans and their families, but also helps to keep a traditional craft alive in the community. It's a sophisticated gift idea for men and also works brilliantly for storing newspapers and blankets next to the sofa. £89.95, decoratorsnotebook.co.uk
Leather kindling bucket, hand-made by a fair trade leather-working project in India. Each one takes almost a day to make from vegetable-tanned leather and is stitched by hand. This not only helps provide a sustainable income for skilled artisans and their families, but also helps to keep a traditional craft alive in the community. It’s a sophisticated gift idea for men and also works brilliantly for storing newspapers and blankets next to the sofa. £89.95, decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

“My top tip is to remember that every ethical pound you spend can make a real difference in supporting fair trade groups, social enterprises, and artisan co-operatives around the world,” says Bethan from Decorator’s Notebook, an online store that brings together the best in contemporary ethnic homewares, with a focus on design, quality, and ethics. “A small gift made with love is always more meaningful than expensive mass-produced goods. Presents with empowering social stories behind them will be treasured for years to come, as well as being more unique in design. You’ll find lots of hand-made stocking-fillers under £25 such as mugs, jewellery, and slippers, so you don’t need a to spend big to sprinkle a little fair trade magic under the Christmas tree this year.

Fleece-lined Nivasi knit neckwarmer and Raja knit wristwarmers in teal by AURA QUE (modelled by Calladoodles' customer Helen, who won a recent competition to model their current stock). They are handmade in Nepal and are great quality, unisex, and on trend as they are designed by British top designer Laura Queening from Peckham. Laura has worked closely with producers in Nepal for 9 years. £19.95 each, Calladoodles
Fleece-lined Nivasi knit neckwarmer and Raja knit wristwarmers in teal by AURA QUE (modelled by Calladoodles’ customer Helen, who won a recent competition to model their current stock). They are handmade in Nepal and are great quality, unisex, and on trend as they are designed by British top designer Laura Queening from Peckham. Laura has worked closely with producers in Nepal for 9 years. £19.95 each, Calladoodles

“Our top tip for shopping with a conscience is not to be put off by the time it might initially take to find a retailer you like, because it’s worth it in the long run,” says Kate from Calladoodles, an award-winning independent card and gift shop specialising in cutting-edge cards, gifts, and fashion. “However, if you’re short on time this festive season don’t panic! There’s a lot more available to us these days, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rule out your local high street any more, phew! Don’t be afraid to ask local retailers to point out any ethical/eco/sustainable products they have – chances are, they’d love the opportunity to tell you all about them. We small businesses love products with a story!”

Visit Calladoodles at 18 High Street, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 3AG.

Boxwild's Bird Feeder Gift Box contains the essentials to help you feed your garden birds: three seed blends (Boxwild Blend, Songbird Blend and All Season's Blend) plus a bird feeder along with a fruit feeder and a seed scoop. An ideal gift for a bird lover. £28 inc delivery and a 50p donation is made to wildlife charities with every box sold. boxwild.com
Boxwild’s Bird Feeder Gift Box contains the essentials to help you feed your garden birds: three seed blends (Boxwild Blend, Songbird Blend and All Season’s Blend) plus a bird feeder along with a fruit feeder and a seed scoop. An ideal gift for a bird lover. £28 inc delivery and a 50p donation is made to wildlife charities with every box sold. boxwild.com

“Gifts with a conscience can be anything from those which support charities or those which directly help animals,” says Ben from Boxwild, who creates gift boxes for bird and wildlife lovers to support and encourage wildlife in your gardens. Ben handblends the seeds in their kitchens to make nutritious, seasonal seed mixes. “I always think its lovely to give an unexpected gift – perhaps to someone on your street or someone you know would love a surprise.  There is a great campaign aiming to reduce loneliness in older people (www.campaigntoendloneliness.org) and we think it is wonderful  – so why not pop in with some homemade mince pies to an older person on your street who would hugely appreciate the thought?