It’s 2017, which means it’s pretty difficult to cite ignorance when it comes to understanding how our consumption affects the environment. A quick Google search can tell you a lot about the brands you love, including whether or not they care about protecting the earth (because climate change is real, you guys), upholding ethical values, and providing fair treatment and a positive culture for workers.
The good news is, young people (like you!) are more woke than ever when it comes to caring about brands that give back. A recent poll found that people ages 18 to 34 are more inclined to cite charitable contributions as an incentive to buy and are more likely to want to work for a company that contributes to charity over one that doesn’t. Caring about sustainability is a win-win for business and the environment: In 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew more than 4 percent globally.
There’s a lot going on in the world today, so now more than ever, we should celebrate the brands that are actually doing good. Here are 10 companies (in no particular order) that are giving back to the world through efforts such as sustainability, conservation, fair trade, and more.
Patagonia started out as a small company making climbing gear. Today the brand is a global force that takes corporate responsibility as seriously as its clothing. Its mission: to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and help save the environment.
Its Worn Wear program ensures your gear actually lasts (a.k.a. stays out of landfills longer) and can be repaired so you don’t have to keep buying new stuff (uh, double high five!). Patagonia also uses recycled and environmentally friendly materials in its clothing, designs energy- and environmentally efficient stores and facilities, and donates at least 1 percent of company sales to various grassroots environmental groups across the globe. And the company makes it easy for employees to volunteer, plus encourages better commuting through its Drive-Less program.
Our favorite product: Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece. Not only do we live in this quarter fleece 24/7, but it’s also made with a low-impact process to significantly reduce the use of dyestuffs, energy, and water compared to conventional methods.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker or just want to dress the part, Cotopaxi is a brand worth knowing. The founders set out to make great gear and help alleviate poverty.
To satisfy the first clause, Cotopaxi’s innovative outdoor products (think: hiking packs, durable jackets, water bottles, and outdoor gear) are designed carefully with a 61-year guarantee (the average lifespan of a person living in the developing world) and sustainably, adopting a “no-scrap-of-fabric-left-behind” mindset. To satisfy the latter, 2 percent of company revenue every year is designated to help ease poverty around the world. We also love Cotopaxi’s ability to inspire outdoor adventure through its colorful and vibrant gear. How can you not feel happy slipping this stuff on?
Our favorite product: Luzon Daypack. For a unique adventure buddy that’s truly got your back (pun intended), grab this guy. Designers in the Philippines were given free reign, so every bag is different. We’re also swooning over the Cotopaxi Teca windbreaker (shown above). Every color combo is limited edition, so when it’s gone, it’s gone!
3. Clif Bar & Company
Co-owner Kit Crawford say the company’s goal is to create “the kind of place where we’d want to work, that makes the kind of food we’d like to eat, and that strives for a healthier, more sustainable world.” It’s safe to say Clif’s well on its way. Through its traceability program, the company sources quality, mostly certified organic ingredients from farmers and other suppliers who use fair labor practices.
Clif products have recyclable packaging, and its corporate headquarters utilizes a huge solar panel system (LEED platinum status). And that’s not the only way Clif is fighting climate change: The company helps its supplier’s facilities go green and rewards employees for making their own homes and commutes more energy efficient too.
If you’re not completely in love with Clif by now, well, there’s more: The brand has been a longtime advocate for equal pay and representation for women (its women’s cycling team receives the same pay as the men’s team, and the company hosts the Lunafest women’s film festival every year). Seventeen years ago, founder Gary Erickson passed up an offer to be bought out by a larger corporation for $120 million. He felt he could make a bigger impact in the world as one do-good company than as one wealthy individual—now, that’s real #ballerstatus right there.
Our favorite product: Clif Nut Butter-Filled Energy Bar. It was hard to choose—Clif’s sweet potato energy pouch has actually given us life during long-distance endurance events—but we settled on the nut butter-filled bars since we found ourselves eating them during half-marathons and Netflix marathons. Sorry not sorry.
($16.50 for 12, amazon.com)
4. Columbia Sportswear Company
Columbia has been around for 70 years, making non-fussy gear that helps Pacific Northwesterners (and TBH, the rest of the country) feel comfortable in the great outdoors.
The brand focuses on high-quality clothing made from responsibly sourced materials (recycled polyester, 100 percent certified natural down) that can be worn for many seasons in all kinds of weather. To further ensure its products stay out of landfills, Columbia’s Rethreads program gives customers a discount in exchange for used clothing and shoes (from any brand), which are then donated or recycled. And Columbia’s love for the outdoors extends beyond its clothing. It donates money and products to nonprofits such as The Conservation Alliance and The Ocean Foundation, that are helping preserve the Earth.
Our favorite product: Voodoo Falls 590 TurboDown Vest. Don’t blame us when you realize you live in this piece three seasons per year. The vest is super versatile and flattering. Built to handle the cold, it can be layered over a tee or under a shell for whatever the weather throws at you. Plus, it looks just as stylish thrown over leggings for a run as it does with distressed jeans for a lunch date.
6. The North Face
The North Face does way more than make Denali jackets. The brand is committed to creating durable products that stay out of landfills and to incorporating more recycled fabric into its clothing. Similar to Columbia, the brand also has a Clothes the Loop program, which rewards customers for donating old clothing and shoes.
Additionally, the company works with suppliers to reduce chemicals, water, energy, and waste in their mills. A healthy planet means healthy business for TNF, so it’s dedicated to conservation and combating climate change, through funding, activism, and other initiatives like the Hot Planet/Cool Athletes program that connects students with athletes who share how climate change affects their sport. As for promoting exploration, The North Face Explore Fund provides annual grants to nonprofit orgs that help people get outside and appreciate the great outdoors.
Our favorite product: Folding Travel Jacket in Uncharted Print. It turned our heads with the cool tribal print, but when we found out this weatherproof jacket folds along the seams (inspired by origami) to create a space-saving square that packs flat without creasing, we were sold.
Osprey’s mission is to “create innovative, high-performance gear that reflects the company’s love of adventure and devotion to the outdoors.” It nails that by always keeping the customer (even the toughest critics) in mind and asking them to band together to make their own commitment to be more sustainable.
Leading by example, the independent backpack company’s Colorado-based headquarters runs on 100 percent renewable energy and limits waste in all stages of production. As for the products themselves, Osprey packs are made with sustainable materials and use recycled and recyclable packaging. It backs it all up with the All Mighty Guarantee, which promises quality and durability for a lifetime to prevent more packs in the trash. So whether you bought it 20 years ago or yesterday, the company will repair or replace your bag if something goes wrong.
Our favorite product: Osprey Daylite Pack. One of Osprey’s more affordable packs, the Daylite is just as useful on an epic hike to the summit as it is during a quick weekend trip to the farmer’s market.
Outdoor equipment retailer REI made headlines (and blew up on our Instagram feeds) in November 2015, when CEO Jerry Stritzke closed the stores, gave all employees Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, and encouraged other big brands to do the same. The #OptOutside campaign encouraged people to opt for an outdoorsy activity over shopping the sales. Since REI’s success hinges on the environment’s health, it only makes sense that the company is doing its part to keep the outdoors as pristine as possible. But that’s not all it’s known for.
REI’s co-op business model means the company gives back 70 percent (!) of its profits to the outdoor community. So if you take advantage of trails and parks in your area, chances are, REI invests in the nonprofits that oversee them. Beyond that, the company strives to continue advancing sustainability—both of its products and throughout the industry. To encourage other brands to take responsibility for their business practices, the REI Co-op invites companies to pledge as advocates for the outdoors. And to create more opportunities for more fierce females to get involved, they launched the Force of Nature Fund this year with a $1 million investment in organizations that connect girls and women to the outdoors.
Our favorite product: ENO Doublenest Hammock. We could actually get lost geeking out over all the fitness finds at REI, but we chose this one, because is there anywhere you’d rather put your feet up after a long run, hike, or adventure than a snuggly, body-hugging hammock? The ‘gram possibilities are endless (and it has room for two… just saying). Roll it up into the tiny, packable bag to take it along with you.
9. New Balance
The ‘Made to Move’ brand, New Balance is dedicated to moving forward, whether it’s striving for zero waste or educating product design, development, and manufacturing teams on environmental issues. Its quest for constant improvement leaves room for further change and education.
Did you know the sneaker industry often uses a bunch of chemicals that are harmful to the environment to make shoes? (Kind of a buzzkill when you think about that fresh pair you just got.) But in order to catch potential hazards before they even get into factories, NB established a special team to keep tabs on restricted substances, so a new pair of Zantes will help you up your gym game but won’t harm the earth—a win-win.
Our favorite product: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante V3. These shoes feel lighter than air when you slip them on. Built for high speeds, the bouncy spring of the Fresh Foam technology in the midsole makes you feel like an Olympian, even if you’re just jogging out a few chill miles.
10. Flow Water
If the amount of plastic water bottles piling up at your gym leaves you as irked as us, you’ll be happy to know about Flow Water, a premium brand of boxed alkaline spring water. Introducing the term “mindful hydration” to our vocabularies, Flow Water is uniquely packaged in an environmentally friendly box—meaning it’s 100 percent recyclable and made from 70 percent renewable resources.
The company aims to make an impact on the packaged water industry by protecting the source, packaging only what the land naturally gives, and making a minimum impact on the Earth. Passionate about minimizing waste, founder Nicholas Reichenbach makes sure Flow is a carbon-neutral brand. Sourced from his family’s artesian spring in the woods of Bruce County, Ontario, Canada, the water itself touts benefits like electrolytes, essential minerals, and an alkaline pH of 8.1, making it a great option to toss in your gym bag or take along on your next sweaty adventure.
Our favorite product: Flow Water. Well, it’s the only product, but the cool part is you can order it by the case or opt for re-occuring monthly shipments at a reduced price.
($15-$18 per case, flowlikewater.com)