Last-minute gifts for the good human

Building blocks
Last-minute gifts for the good human Block Shop for Newsweek

Ever since the millennial generation was baptized, I've been distancing myself from it, for fear of being branded a lazy, matcha-latte-drinking snowflake. Retailers can afford nothing less than a full-throated embrace of my generation: avocado-obsessed millennials may have less disposable income than their parents, but what nickels we can rub together we tend to spend on products with a conscience. According to a 2015 Nielsen report, 73 percent of millennials are willing to spend more on brands that demonstrate a commitment to social or environmental responsibility. The pressure on companies to satisfy these woke consumers' demands has changed the way brands interact with their customers. Transparency and purpose are no longer a bonus, but a requirement.

So, for my fellow millennials, a gift guide that eschews big box, big corporations, opaque supply chains and "fast" products. Instead, beautiful, high-quality gift ideas, created by people doing their best to consider their inputs and impacts carefully. This is the work of makers, activists and impact entrepreneurs. Of women changing industries. Of scientists demystifying ingredient lists. You'll find speciality items, everyday treasures and upgraded versions of the stuff you didn't even know you could upgrade. From plant medicine posing as hot cocoa to matching his and hers shoes made by artisans paid a fair wage to bras designed by (ahem) people who actually wear bras, these are gifts good for anyone and worthy of discerning millennials. Just don't call me one if you see me in public.

In your dreams
There is perhaps nothing more rewarding after a holiday shopping marathon than slipping into a bed covered in linen. I switched to linen sheets a few years ago and, without getting too hyperbolic, I cannot imagine my bed without it. Plenty of big brands carry linen, but quality can vary. You’re in the clear with Cultiver, a woman-owned Australian textile purveyor that creates linen goods woven from European flax in a variety of dreamy colors, yarn-dyed without bleach or peroxide and softened only with natural enzymes. Founder Nicolle Sullivan believes in the simple principle that the things we use the most frequently should also be the ones we enjoy. Snuggle up with a new duvet set this holiday season and make someone’s night after night after night. Duvet sets: $220 and up. Cultiver for Newsweek
Strike a cord
I bet you never considered buying someone an extension cord for Christmas. But unless you already know Conway Electric, I bet you’ve also never seen a beautiful extension cord. Founder Kevin Faul couldn’t find one on the market back in 2012 when he wanted to plug in the floor lamp he’d built in his spare time. No stranger to product development, he set out to fill that gap by creating the world’s first multi-outlet braided extension cord. But this looker is more than just a pretty face. Conway Electric’s products use components sourced from more than 25 American companies. In fact, the company has software that finds small machine shops so the tiny businesses (even single-person operations) can bid on the same level as large companies. More than 97 percent of consumer electronics are made overseas, but Conway Electric’s Los Angeles factory is the company’s effort to bring back manufacturing jobs, and to pay well above minimum wage. Conway’s brand new release is the Extō Smart Chip USB Type C, which charges up to 59 percent faster than other USB chargers, via a smart chip that identifies the connected device and then blasts the fastest charge possible into it, while throttling the voltage to protect the battery. In other words, it’s a more efficient charging device made in the U.S.A. by fairly paid American workers that will be the conversation starter of your next house party. Get it now. Extō Smart Chip USB Type C: $159. Conway Electric for Newsweek
Ceramics with a story
A mug (world’s best boss?) is always a safe gift. But a mug hand-thrown by designer and maker Dina Nur Satti of Nur Ceramics tells a story. For the artist, ceramics were a part of the Somali and Sudanese traditions of her parents and conveyed the daily rituals of life along the Sahara desert. Satti’s ceramics, from bowls to cups to keychains, are a personal homage to her heritage and the cultural traditions of her family. For the ceramics fans on your list, an incense burner like the one Satti’s grandmother used to burn frankincense is a treasure, and the little cup for mezcal or whiskey would look perfect by the fire on a cold winter’s night. Elena Gorelik for Newsweek
His and hers
For the worldly couple who has everything, skip the embroidered towels in favor of handmade leather slip-ons crafted by third- and fourth-generation shoemakers and leather tanners in Athani, India. Mohinders is a small shoe business based in San Francisco, Mumbai, and Athani that partners with master Athani shoemakers to preserve the heirloom materials, designs and processes of the iconic shoes of Northern Karnataka, India. The company puts equitable pay first by allowing the artisan cooperatives they work with to set their own per piece rate, paying for orders up front and placing consistent orders to provide a reliable income source for shoemakers. These aren’t the souvenirs you bought on a trip but won’t ever wear back home—they literally go with everything. And you can trust that they’re cool because they’ve been popping up on the most fashionable influencers all over social media lately. Like all real leather, the shoes will start stiff and soften over time, but the company made a handy video with break-in tips to help you along the way. Woven city slippers for men and women: $145. Mohinders for Newsweek
My partner and I devote a ridiculous amount of real estate in our very small kitchen to coffee gear. We roast our own beans, which is much easier and less precious than it sounds, and we own everything from a semi-fancy espresso machine to a single-cup ceramic pour-over. Like any hobby, the deeper you get into it, the more you realize how much each little step matters. We recently took a home barista class and when we mentioned using a tamper and leveler, the class instructor said, “Oh, the ones from Saint Anthony?” We nodded and shared a knowing smile, because these are the best out there. Saint Anthony Industries has a team of fewer than ten employees who make coffee gadgets and gear that is both beautiful and functional. They use American hardwood in their products and recycled cardboard and denim scraps in their packaging. Founded by brothers Khristian, Gregory and Ike Bombeck and Lucas Watts in 2014, Saint Anthony Industries is the mecca for all the aspiring baristas on your list. The New Levy and the BT Wedge Distribution tool: $139 each. Saint Anthony Industries for Newsweek
Spirited women
I grew up in Kentucky and come from a long line of bourbon-drinking southern women. It’s a rare day I recommend a bourbon made outside the Bluegrass State. Today is one of those days. Freeland Spirits is a craft distillery in Portland, Ore. and among the fewer than one percent of women-owned distilleries in the nation. Founder Jill Kuehler dreamed up the idea after segueing from a career in nonprofit management and agriculture. Her friend Cory Carman of Carman Ranch agreed to grow the grain on her prime agricultural land in Wallowa County, Ore. Molly Troupe, with a background in biochemistry and a graduate degree in distillation, took the helm as Master Distiller. Together, the trifecta launched Freeland Gin in December 2017, and Freeland Bourbon a month ago. Freeland Bourbon: $45. Purchase online at Freeland Spirits for Newsweek
Enlightened cocoa
Sometimes my idea of self-care is a good yoga class, a kale salad and an early bedtime. Other times, it’s chocolate. The problem with the latter is that it usually ends with guilt and a stomach ache. But since I discovered Wooden Spoon Herbs, I feel like I don’t have to choose. Founder Lauren Haynes and her tiny team of two marry plant medicine with sweet indulgence in their cocoas made with organic herbs, medicinal mushrooms and adaptogens, so I can feel good about myself even if I decide to have chocolate for breakfast. Haynes started her business in 2014 to create a new supply chain for herbal products and began by growing or foraging everything herself in the southern Appalachian bioregion. She’s since outgrown her own raised garden bed, but still sources her botanicals from small organic farms around the U.S. That matters because herbs from global corporations often travel thousands of miles around the world and can sit on warehouse shelves for years, calling both their age and potency into question. This winter, swap your Swiss Miss for Golden Cocoa made with anti-inflammatory turmeric and stress-relieving ashwagandha and you’ll be an unstoppable holiday warrier. Throw in an Anxiety Ally tincture for those days when the in-laws come to town. Golden Cocoa: $34 for a 9-ounce jar. Wooden Spoon Herbs for Newsweek
Secret's out
I’ve been wearing the same few mediocre bras for at least three years. ThirdLove founder Heidi Zak apparently owned twelve ill-fitting bras before she decided to do something about the poor quality and sizing plaguing the mainstream intimates industry. She and designer Ra’el Cohen wanted to simplify the shopping experience for women by using technology and data to make better-fitting bras. One way they’re doing it is by creating more sizes. ThirdLove has 74 size options with more on the way, which is more than double the sizes available from that other bra company you’re thinking of. (Psst—that other company was founded by a man to make it less embarrassing for men to buy bras in public. Truly.) With an 85 percent female staff, ThirdLove is decidedly a brand for women. “We’re not selling bras to men,” Cohen told me in an interview. “We’re speaking to women through the female gaze, and we’re using models and story and content that reflects that inclusivity.” And, because the startup believes that bras are one of the most important pieces of clothing women wear, they donated $4 million in product to women’s organizations in 2018. Ladies, it’s time to level up. And if you’re not sure what size to buy, try the online fit finder to help you choose. 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bra: $68. ThirdLove for Newsweek