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Six Gifts for Creativity, Sustainability, and Giving Back

GOOD has assembled a holiday shopping guide for those looking to gift something a little different or support those in need.

It's about that time of year when we're all frantically trying to hunt down those last-minute gifts for our loved ones. To help guide you to some gifts off the radar, here is a short list of some inspiring products and services that we discovered at this past year.

1. A Shirt That Kids Can Play With—The Itty Bitty Project

Kids can be tough customers. Buy them an expensive laboratory set and watch as they throw it aside to play with a $10 stuffed octopus (googly, anatomically incorrect eyes and all). The lesson here is that kids like to decide for themselves what is fun and what isn't. So why not just let them play? The Itty Bitty Project, founded by graphic designer Agnieszka Gasparska, is a clothing and accessory online store that started with a few T-shirts, some everyday items cut into felt shapes, buttons, and the hope that a child's creativity would fill in the rest.

Agnieszka Gasparska in a post for GOOD:

At my studio and other kids' birthday parties, I loved watching what kids would do with all the pieces. I saw two little friends putting their tees together side-by-side, swapping bits and coming up with their own ingenious combinations. They were certain that eyeballs belonged in outer space. An aspiring chef even asked his mom, “Can I have bacon and egg on my pizza?”


Her online store sells T-shirts, some extra shape packets—from tacos to cronuts—and accessories like bags and mugs.

Photo from The Itty Bitty Project

2. Headphones to Help Others Hear—LSTN Headphones

Some 360 million people suffer from some form of hearing loss—which can mean either deafness or the inability to filter out speech from surrounding noise. Hearing aids can help the latter, but current production meets less than 10 percent of the global need, according to the World Health Organization. That's where LSTN Headphones comes in; buy a pair of headphones and they'll “help restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation,” said co-founder Bridget Hilton.

Made from reclaimed wood, their line of headphones are both beautiful and noteworthy for audiophiles, making them a great gift for someone you know and someone waiting for their quiet world to come alive.

Hilton in a post for GOOD:

I recently returned from a trip to Peru, where I got to experience the joy of seeing people receive the gift of hearing—and be exposed to music—for the first time. When I saw the faces that lit up when children connected and communicated with their families, I lost it. It was truly life-changing.


You can buy LSTN Headphones at their online store or locate a vendor near your city using this nifty map.

Photo from LSTN Headphones

3. And it Self-Cleans?—AquaFarm from Back to the Roots

When a professor at UC Berkeley mentioned to his students that mushrooms could bloom from clumps of wasted coffee ground, it left a lasting impression on Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez. The two soon founded their sustainable food startup, Back to the Roots. Their first product was a box of mixed mushroom seed and coffee ground, a packaged precursor that consumers could then water to grow their own fresh mushroom supply. Building on their sustainable food model, the two have released the AquaFarm, a small aquarium that supports plant life in a near-enclosed ecosystem.

Sarah Stankorb in a post for GOOD:

In their model, fish live in a three gallon tank, excreting waste, which fertilizes the water, which in turn safely feeds herbs and vegetables growing in a garden deck above. All of the nutrients needed for the plants come from the fish, and the plants keep the water clean. It’s a closed loop that provides you with a pet and veggies for lunch.


You can buy the AquaFarm or the Mushroom Kit online.

Photo from Back to the Roots

4. A Marketplace for Micro-Businesses—The Shop for Change

Unlike big chains, small and micro-businesses share a deeper connection with their surrounding community. But often left in the lurch are thousands of makers who don't have the logistical resources to get their products to a wider range of buyers. The Shop for Change looks to fill that middleman gap, creating a transparent and durable marketplace for artisans working in distressed neighborhoods across the globe—ensuring that money spent on their products funnels directly into the communities and people that need it most.

Co-founder and director George Hiley in a post for GOOD:

Our customers trade directly with small and micro-enterprises that support communities with limited access to basic human needs, including Tibetan refugees in India, rural artisans in Peru and disadvantaged Cambodian communities. By removing costly supply chains and middlemen, maximizing transparency and enabling direct communication, we can return the share of profits back to the people who need it most.


You can search for items at the online shop. Those looking to sell can also sign up at the Shop for Change.

Image from The Shop for Change

5. Letting Her Build Her Own Castle—GoldieBlox

Creativity shouldn't have gender restrictions, especially when it comes to awesome building sets that can be shifted around and fiddled with to make some epic constructions. Started by Stanford engineering graduate Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox is a reading and construction toy bundle that introduces young girls to the world of engineering in the hopes of sparking a increased interest in science and engineering pursuits, a field normally dominated by men. Since its rapid success on Kickstarter, GoldieBlox has made its run through media and is now up for a possible Super Bowl commercial.

You can buy a GoldieBlox set from their online store or from retailers such as Amazon.

6. For Gamers and for Charity—Humble Bundle

Started three years ago as a way to connect gamers with small developers and charities, Humble Bundle has grown into a staple in the PC and mobile gaming world. The approach is simple: digital copies of games are bundled together as a single item, the purchase of which can be split among charities. A donation of any value nets a few select games and paying above the average donation unlocks the full set. Donations pass on to charities like Child's Play, a worldwide children's hospital toy drive started by Penny Arcade founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. Humble Bundle has also recently launched its indie game-centric Humble Store for those looking to support independent developers.

Every game comes as a digital download (no hard copies) and keys for unlocking them can be gifted to gamers and later redeemed on PC gaming platforms like Steam or through the Humble Bundle app for Android. Note: Humble Bundle sets do not include games for consoles like Xbox or Playstation; this is for PC or mobile gamers only.

The Humble Bundles are always changing and can be purchased online.

Image from Humble Bundle

Do you have any other ideas for some awesome gifts? Be sure to include them in the comments section. Let's make a definitive list of holiday buys to help each other out.

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