All the Actually Cool Sustainable Brands You Should Be Shopping Right Now
The names to know when it comes to sustainability, and what they're doing to help protect the planet.
In the realm of values, consumerism and sustainability are not famously aligned. The mass production of factory-printed graphic tees does not exactly scream “save the ocean”—even when the graphic tees, themselves, read “save the ocean.” Which is to say, even as we become more conscious buyers, it can be difficult to parse through all the jargon and determine which brands are actually doing right by the planet.
For all the advertisements we encounter daily hawking “green” or “earth friendly” goods, that parlance rings empty without data to back it up. And as buyers, our job is to determine which vendors are putting their money where their values are. That’s why we’ve taken the time to build up a list of our absolute favorite brands to shop—with missions that are proven to support the planet. Ahead, take a gander at our masterlist of names to know when it comes to sustainability—and what, exactly, they’re doing to keep the planet, well, inhabitable.
Named for a stratovolcano in the Andes, Cotopaxi is a solid Patagonia alternative if you’re in the market for outdoor gear that...isn’t weird. With the motto, “gear for good,” it’s a one-stop shop for athletic gear, outerwear, hiking backpacks, and other *outdoorsy* buys (think: carabiners), 90% of which are made with certifiably responsible, recycled, or repurposed materials—a number they’ve pledged will reach 100% by 2022. Better yet, as part of their partnership with Climate Neutral, an organization committed to decreasing global carbon emissions, Cotopaxi intends to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2021.
If you, like me, lack self control, you’ve likely purchased any number of these sizeable chocolate bars simply for their proximity to the cash register at your local bodega. The hefty candy bricks are more than mere impulse buys, though. The food corp is also doing good work in a notoriously corrupt industry: cocoa. When it comes to procuring their beans, the Tony’s Chocolonely team works directly with environmentally friendly fair trade farmers in West Africa—all of whom receive premiums on top of their standard wages to invest in local resources (think: agricultural training courses, nurseries for new cocoa trees, and centralized water pumps).
If you’d like to take a break from lining Jess Bezos’ pockets, Uncommon Goods is precisely the Amazon stand-in you’ve been looking for. The digital superstore hawks everything from home decor and furniture to jewelry and shower products—and every ware on the site comes from a small, independent vendor. Which is to say, you can expect cooler products, better prices, eco-friendly packaging, and the assurance that your $$ are going somewhere better than Bezos Mansion #293850918. Beyond supporting the indie vendors themselves, Uncommon Goods will donate $1 for every purchase you make to the social impact partner organization of your choice.
On the sustainability scale, you’d be hard pressed to find a more committed fast fashion alternative than Outerknown. We’re not just talking hiking shoes and fleeces, though. Expect an eclectic mix of actually trend-forward attire for men and women alike, all of which is made with at least 90% organic, recycled, or regenerated materials. Better yet, each and every product you purchase from their site will include a full breakdown of the materials included, and a seal indicating Fair Trade certification on the production end.
If you’ve been devoting your quar weekends to bonafide banana bread mastery—or any other culinary preoccupation for that matter—Misfits Market is a godsend. The produce delivery service is all about getting low-cost, high quality produce delivered to your doorstep while also doing its part to break the cycle of food waste. One full third of the food grown on U.S. soil doesn’t meet superficial grocery store standards—and that’s where Misfits comes in. The organization is all about working with organic farmers to rescue high quality produce, and bring it directly to you. So sure, your pears might arrive with a delicate bruise or two, but for a fraction of the cost of Whole Foods greens, you’ll be supporting local farmers, minimizing food waste, and, well, eatin’ good.
Once you’ve managed to curate a home rife with tirelessly chic, eco-conscious decor, odds are you’ll need to clean it every once in a while. Cue: Dropps, the DTC brand *disrupting* the cleaning product industry (forgive the millennial marketing lingo). Order products like laundry detergent, dish soap, and counter cleaner right to your door, all of which are crafted sustainably in the U.S., responsibly packaged, and shipped sans carbon emissions.
As it turns out, you need not commit to full-on food co-op employment to make your kitchen a little greener. Beyond your groceries, your cookware, too, can have some real impact. While a number of the materials used in traditional non-stick pans (think: Teflon) may release chemicals into the air (and your food) upon contact with high heat, Caraway’s ceramic, non-stick pots and pans are made with a safe, mineral-based coating that releases up to 60% less CO2 when manufactured compared to other traditional non-stick coatings. Of course, all of Caraway’s goods are also produced with ethical labor, and shipped in recyclable cardboard and zero-waste plastic. And they’re sexy as hell.
We’ve all got our beloved rosters of go-to shower products. But when it comes to daily-use goods like shampoo and body wash, it can be jarring to consider how many empty bottles we’ve tossed out over the years—overall, packaging waste actually accounts for nearly 53% of global waste. That’s why Bathing Culture is all about high quality bath products, in gorgeous, refillable vessels. All of their formulas—from body washes and face oils to bath salts and hand sanitizers—are biodegradable; paraben, sulfate, and dye free; and highly concentrated, so just a little will go a long way. Then, every time you run out of your formula of choice (which will be notably infrequent), you can reorder by the gallon (in 100% curbside recycled jugs), and refill your initial, chic vessel. And in the meanwhile, for every five gallons of product sold, the team at Bathing Culture will plant one native tree.
Speaking of vessels: For frequent (or infrequent) travelers, Cadence’s set of refillable, travel-size containers are a must-have. Surely we’ve all endured a shampoo-related luggage crisis at least once. But these little, sealable, label-able bottles are the antidote to that very dilemma. Each vessel is crafted with recycled ocean bound plastic, they stick together magnetically to ensure your toiletries, vitamins, and otherwise to-go goods don’t scatter (picture a magnetized honeycomb), and they’re tackling major issues: While our standard-size bath products are certainly piling up in landfills, it follows that single-use plastic bottles are amounting much faster (a projected six billion silicone travel bottles will end up on beaches and in landfills in our lifetime). So the team at Cadence works with Envision Plastics to collect that very plastic from beaches around the world by employing local communities, and recycles it into the durable little vessel you’ll be carrying around with you every time you get on an airplane for the next decade.
Launched in 2014 as a social enterprise geared towards funding back-logged national park maintenance projects, this organization, founded by two former TOMS employees vends vintage-style park-themed T-shirts and home decor products. But instead of donating a blanket percentage of proceeds to the National Parks Foundation, each product corresponds with a specific project—so if you purchase a Joshua Tree T-shirt, your funds are going towards planting trees in, you guessed it, Joshua Tree. Check the product info under anything in your cart for plenty of intel on the project you’re helping to fund, then, if you’re feeling inspired, don your T-shirt to one of the organization’s many park maintenance volunteer events, or assist Parks Project in their mission to make recreational, outdoor space more diverse with donations to organizations like Outdoor Afro, the Ron Finley Project, and Destination Crenshaw.
Refreshing your basics collection may not be as uniquely thrilling as some sartorial ventures—but for what it’s worth, Paper Project is making staple clothing essentials feel decidedly less, well, basic. Peruse socks, masks, tanks, tees, even sweat suits (2021’s hottest club attire), all of which are crafted with Japanese paper yarn—a locally grown material that’s ultra sustainable (the plant helps prevent soil erosion), moisture wicking, durable, and comfortable. Then, for every pair of socks you purchase (we assure you, you’ll be purchasing more than one), Paper Project will donate a tree to the National Forest Foundation.
In an effort to emphasize the fact that sustainable fashion need not be underwhelming, Sense of Shelf curates goods from a roster of independent brands and designers that are certifiably eco-friendly, ethically produced, and perhaps most importantly, capital C Cool. And what’s more, they’re making strides to make sartorial sustainability accessible too. The whole Sense of Shelf model is size inclusive, few products on the site range over $200, and the BIPOC-owned hub is all about elevating and giving visibility to other exciting BIPOC brands in the marketplace. And in honor of Earth Day, they’re going above and beyond: For the entire week, a cut of all proceeds from the site will go directly to Black-led farming organizations in the Northeast.
OK, so you’ve heard the whole spiel on fast fashion—but what about “fast furniture?” It should come as no surprise that the way we outfit our homes can be just as detrimental to the environment as our...outfits. ZZ Driggs is working to change that: The design-forward furniture rental service is all about keeping high quality, sustainably crafted furniture in consumers’ apartments—and out of landfills. Through the service, you can pay to rent vintage or modern furniture by the month, so when you decide you don’t want it anymore, the highly-trained folks at ZZ Driggs clean it up, restore it however necessary, and deliver it to its next home. Oh yeah, and they’re 100% carbon neutral.