A customer in a refill shop fills up a glass bottle with liquid soap.
Zero-waste shops allow customers to bring containers from home and refill them with food, soap, and anything else that would normally come stored in plastic. — Getty Images/Nick David

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated annually on April 22 as a global call for environmental conscientiousness. Beyond the annual celebration, some businesses have embraced these ideals year-round, implementing sustainable practices and eco-conscious initiatives in their core operations.

Below are 10 small businesses that have made sustainability a top priority, putting the Earth first every day.

Axiology Beauty

For Ericka Rodriguez, learning that the beauty industry contributes over 120 billion units of packaging waste annually was a driving cause for her to create the vegan and plastic-free beauty company Axiology. Initially launched on Etsy, the woman-owned company is now carried in retailers worldwide, offering a range of ethically sourced products with 100% recyclable packaging boxes made from paper trash found in Bali. These products include “Lip-to-Lid” Balmies, tube-free, versatile crayons presented in a recyclable box that doubles as a storage case, and Multi-Sticks, packaged with paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council from forests that are sustainably and eco-consciously managed.

Axiology is committed to sustainability and animal welfare, contributing to initiatives like local human societies and animal sanctuaries. The brand guarantees its products are free of palm oil, do not undergo animal testing or contain animal-based ingredients, and are free from synthetic preservatives.

Bee’s Wrap

Wanting to find an alternative to plastic food storage, Sarah Kaeck was inspired by bees and invented this completely compostable solution. Made with four natural ingredients (organic cotton, beeswax, organic plant oil, and tree resin), Bee’s Wrap is an environmentally conscious replacement for plastic wrap.

One piece can be reused for up to a year, then composted or used as a fire starter to return to the earth in ash form. The company estimates that if every American household used Bee’s Wrap, it would prevent 4.8 million acres (or 212 million square feet) of plastic wrap from polluting the planet each year. In addition to producing this eco-friendly product, Bee’s Wrap donates 1% of its Honeycomb Roll sales to the Bee Cause Project to spread awareness and protect the bees.

by Humankind

Driven by the goal of reducing the world’s reliance on single-use plastics, by Humankind is a personal care brand that helps consumers lower their single-use plastic footprint by at least 90%. The brand highlights that despite efforts, recycling alone isn’t enough to eliminate plastic waste — reducing plastic consumption is key.

All of by Humankind’s products, from dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash to hair and body care like deodorant and body wash, are created by partners who follow ethical and sustainable standards. The brand ensures products are formulated with clean ingredients and are never tested on animals, using refillable receptacles and biodegradable ingredients.

Since 2019, by Humankind has been carbon neutral by offsetting its carbon footprint through two projects: New Jersey’s Hudson Farm Improved Forest Management Project and the Manoa REDD+ project in Brazil.

Cute Root

Cute Root is a greeting card company that actually gives more back to the earth than it takes. Made in Tennessee, Cute Root cards are made out of 100% recycled postconsumer material and flower seeds.

After a thoughtful message is received, these cards can be planted and bloom into beautiful wildflower assortments. Additionally, every order plants a tree. In partnership with Ecologi, Cute Root has planted 41,576 trees, prevented 10.5 tons of carbon pollution, and funded four climate projects in different corners of the world.

Cute Root blossomed out of a mission to make people happy and has been delivering meaningful notes since 2020. There is a card for almost every occasion, and custom orders are available for businesses and weddings.

Ecoslay

Ecoslay is a plant-based hair care brand with a mission to promote sustainable solutions while educating customers on product knowledge, ingredients benefits, and entrepreneurship. Founded by Adria Marshall, the Black woman-owned business is guided by four values: community support and the idea of “reach[ing] one, teach[ing] one”; utilizing health-conscious ingredients; environmental protection; and fostering kindness.

To promote sustainability, Ecoslay offers its Recycling Club, which allows users to recycle Ecoslay products in exchange for reward points that can be used toward future purchases. In addition, the brand partners with local initiatives such as Truly Living Well in Atlanta, which focuses on improving the well-being and health of the city’s urban community.

Driven by the goal of reducing the world’s reliance on single-use plastics, by Humankind is a personal care brand that helps consumers lower their single-use plastic footprint by at least 90%.

Fill Up Buttercup

Jamie Lake, a California native and self-proclaimed hippie, is the owner of the nontoxic, zero-waste shop Fill Up Buttercup. When her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Lake began disposing of his toxic household and toiletry products. She got rid of her own in the process and soon noticed her health improving.

Also disheartened by the sizable amount of litter she finds washed up on the beach, Lake combined these passions and conjured up the idea of a shop where like-minded individuals can bring containers from home to refill their soaps, lotions, and cleaners. The flagship Fill Up Buttercup store is located in Costa Mesa, California. A second storefront opened up down the street in Huntington Beach in 2023.

Jiminy’s

Founded by Anne Carlson and Bill Reed, Jiminy’s is a plant-based pet food line with a focus on sustainability. Using cricket protein in place of animal protein, Jiminy’s dog treats and food contribute to a healthy pet's diet while promoting significant Earth-friendly benefits, including conserving over 38 million gallons of water and preventing the dispersion of more than 96 million grams of greenhouse gasses. The company achieves these milestones by efficiently producing insect protein, generating 130,000 pounds per acre.

Jiminy’s strives to reduce carbon footprints around the globe by promoting environmental education. The company offers an Eco Calculator that uses a few simple questions to illustrate the positive environmental impact consumers can make by choosing their products for pets.

Sun & Swell

A family-owned health food store hailing from sunny Southern California, Sun & Swell is on a quest to make grab-and-go snacks whole again.

Kate and Bryan Flynn began their journey in 2016 after changing their diets for the better. They quickly realized that the whole foods they wanted in snack-sized portions were not only loaded with additives to preserve them but were also packaged in plastic. Thus, the duo’s pursuit to revolutionize the to-go snack variety began.

To address the limited number of healthy snack options available, the Flynns mostly source from domestic family farms, and all ingredients are 100% organic, vegan, and gluten-free. To tackle the overuse of plastic packaging, Sun & Swell has transitioned to 100% compostable packaging. The company also has a send-back program to facilitate proper composting and keep the snack pouches out of the trash.

Swanson’s Fabrics

Kathryn Greenwood Swanson has created a cyclical way to get preowned fabrics and textiles from retired crafters to the next generation of artisans. Located in the small town of Turner Falls, Massachusetts, Swanson’s Fabrics collects donations from communities near and far, allowing for extremely low resell prices.

Swanson guarantees that all fabrics are $5 per yard, no matter the material, and even allows customers to barter goods and services. Swanson’s brick-and-mortar store is open to the public, the online shop is updated weekly, and the store hosts a number of workshops and events each month.

Swanson predicts that industrial textiles will never be as high quality as they have been in the last century. She also scrutinizes the increasing cost of yarn and other fibers that people need to make their own clothes. Her hope is that Swanson’s Fabrics can not only keep these valuable resources out of landfills, but that it can also bridge the gap between then and now to pass on the affordability and accessibility of yore that encouraged home-sewn fashion.

Toad&Co

Toad&Co's journey began in 1991 in Telluride, Colorado, where a single woman made toque hats by hand in her garage for friends. It soon transformed into a business venture, with the first Horny Toad store — Toad&Co’s original name — opening in 1995 with an expanded product line, including fleece vests and jackets.

Today, the California-headquartered company commits to the highest sustainability standards in clothing production, with all of its apparel made from at least 80% sustainable fabrics and fibers certified by Earth-friendly organizations.

The brand’s focus on sustainability is far-reaching, with Toad&Co joining the 1% for the Planet initiative and purchasing renewable energy certificates, which contribute to offsetting energy consumption, for every location. Plus, within its lifetime, the brand has employed around 400 adults with disabilities, supported 120 environmental organizations, and facilitated 500 outdoor adventure trips, underscoring its ongoing commitment to global change and sustainability.

This story was originally written by Emily Iverson.

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