Environmentally Friendly Brands
You probably spend a lot of time and money buying things every day. Almost half your household budget is likely spent on things that you regularly make conscious buying decisions about. These decisions account for an even higher share of your total time and effort. You see ads for various products in magazines, on websites, and on billboards. You look at the attractive products your friends might have purchased recently. You spend time online researching these products. However, before you decide which products you will buy, I would like you to think about the impact they might have on the environment. I thought it would be helpful to share some products and brands that are known for being environmentally friendly so you can make better choices!
What are environmentally friendly products?
Before I discuss specific products and brands, let me define the term “environmentally friendly.” Manufacturers loosely use this term to imply that their products have “zero” negative effects on the environment. In reality, the term can refer to many different types of claims ranging from organic ingredients to sound manufacturing practices to minimal environmental pollution.
Having said that, there are some well-known brands across popular product categories that you can keep in mind as you go shopping.
Many clothing brands have been highlighting their environmentally friendly credentials. This category is a great illustration of the different forms eco-friendliness can take. For instance, Reformation creates sustainable fabrics for its season-inspired brands. Proof Eyewear uses sustainable materials such as repurposed skateboard decks as frames for its glasses. Boll & Branch is not only organic, but it is also a GOTS-certified brand, which ensures that the products and manufacturing processes use natural material free from harmful chemicals, and their dyes don’t leak or contaminate water systems. Cuyana gives out reusable bags which you can use to donate unwanted clothing to abuse victims, thus giving extra or unneeded clothes second lives instead of ending up in a landfill.
Environmental friendliness in cosmetics can take the form of organic, chemical-free ingredients, zero waste manufacturing, and sustainable packaging. Aveda uses and promotes organic ingredients that are extracted without leaving any toxic residue. Lush Cosmetics creates solid shampoo bars, thus reducing packaging waste. It also gives out free products to those who bring empty product packaging for recycling. Vapour uses solar and wind power for manufacturing their products. Their packaging incorporates recycled aluminum and their boxes are made of recycled paper printed with soy ink. Axiology has extended their commitment to include their social community by supporting the Orangutan Foundation and PETA. They source packaging paper from a group of women in India that collects paper trash and recycles it as box packaging.
The toymaking industry has also been incorporating environmentally-friendly practices. Green Toys manufactures all of its toys from recycled plastic, notably milk cartons. After cleaning, shredding, and reprocessing, the plastic is mixed with food-safe coloring, and voila! You have non-battery-powered toys that your children will love. Plan Toys makes sustainable wooden toys from rubber trees that don’t produce latex anymore. They use water-based dyes, non-formaldehyde glue, and a chemical-free kiln-drying process. Whatever wood is left from their production is fed to a biomass generator that powers the plant and the villages around the plant. Wishbone bicycles are made from wood that is sustainably harvested and glue that is nontoxic. Their sustainability initiatives range from plastic-free packaging to in-office teabag composts.
Apple is a role model in electronics. In 2015, they signed a $1 billion contract with First Solar and now Apple powers all of its facilities in California with solar energy. It is also focused on product and packaging sustainability; 99% of the paper in their packaging is either recycled or sustainable. They even have their own Apple Renew program, encouraging the recycling of old or used Apple devices.
Tesla, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Toyota make popular electric cars, which have less emissions. BMW has made history by being the first carmaker to appoint its own environmental officer. They continually enhance the energy efficiency of their processes.
Food manufacturing can be surprisingly environmentally unfriendly given how much energy is consumed in producing food and how much the manufacturing practices can contaminate the environment. This is why this category is also driving cutting edge innovation in environmental preservation. Plant based “meat” products are the rage today with most leading fast food chains partnering to develop new offerings. For instance, Beyond Meat creates plant-based “meat” products better-suited for human health, climate change, animals, and other aspects of the environment. Ben & Jerry’s has long emphasized the sustainable dairy practices that go into the production of their popular ice creams. Others popular environmentally friendly food brands include Kashi, Amy’s Kitchen, and Whole Foods Market.
Many everyday home products have historically been bad for the environment but over the past several years new brands have led the way to eco-friendly variants. For instance, Seventh Generation is a certified B-Corp company that singularly focuses on turning everyday needs into environmentally friendly products that are 100% biodegradable and produce no waste!
How to recognize eco-friendly labels in the store
Since there are various ways to define environmentally friendly products, it is not easy to recognize and find them in the cluttered store shelves. Some regions have formalized the definition with eco-labels: Canada has the Environmental Choice Program, Germany has the Blue Label, and the European Union has programs such as EMAS. The United States, unfortunately, does not have a comprehensive program but they do have category-specific programs such as the EPA’s Energy Star. Certified B Corporations is a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit and is legally required to consider the impact of its decisions on its workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
It is clearly not simple to find environmentally friendly products as you shop. However, I hope I have demonstrated that, with a little bit of effort, you can find suitable products in almost every category. So, given that you will likely be spending a lot of time and money shopping, why not put in that little extra effort to find products that are not bad for the environment?
By: Nikhil Jammalamadaka
Nikhil is a volunteer with Keep Smyrna Beautiful. He is homeschooled and is a junior in high school. His interest in the environment began when he participated in the 2015 Trash Trek challenge as part of the FIRST LEGO League competition and worked on a project on recycling tennis balls. He is passionate about preserving our natural resources and fighting climate change. He is particularly interested in finding ways in which the common public can contribute to creating a sustainable environment.