This is a collaborative map of eco-friendly small businesses from coast to coast – and hopefully, with your help, around the world. I created it as a useful resource for sustainable shopping that YOU can help build and share!
When I started reviewing sustainable products on this blog, I didn’t set out to write about sustainable small businesses. But the more products I’ve tested over the past two and half years doing this, the more I’ve noticed that small businesses are the biggest drivers in bringing sustainability to market.
Nearly all of the really innovative products I’ve tested have come out of tiny, mostly bootstrapped businesses, where a founder is on a mission to clean up an industry.
And most of these companies don’t seem small.
But as I’ve gotten to know them (through the barrage of questions I inevitably send while testing their products), many let me in on their surprising smallness in candid email exchanges. For example:
“Sorry for my slow reply! I’m finally moving the business out of my kitchen/garage/guest room,” Allison told me.
Allison is the founder of Activist Skincare, a micro-brand that makes great skincare products in packaging designed to be refilled (including via mail) using a fraction of the plastic and carbon emission. (#5 on this list.)
It’s the kind of innovation we hardly ever see from the giant companies. (Instead, they just copy the little guys, once they see that it’s working.)
And that’s what I love about these small businesses: They’re boldly doing what bigger companies could do to make our everyday lives more sustainable and less wasteful, but despite all their resources, they just haven’t bothered.
You might also notice that the majority of these companies have women founders – that’s actually just a matter of chance. (But it is a fair representation – the majority of sustainable small businesses I’ve come across do have female founders.)
What makes these small businesses sustainable?
Most of the start-ups and small family businesses on this list can easily be called sustainable companies just based on their products, packaging and missions. For example, many of them founded their brands around creating plastic-free or refillable alternatives for products where disposables and plastic have long been the norm.
Most of them also have sustainability certifications, and a few are even B Corps (a wholistic certification that means companies consider environmental and social sustainability just as much as their financial growth).
Others are certified plastic-neutral, carbon-neutral, and members of 1% For The Planet. (Although carbon-neutrality certifications are usually based on offsets, rather than emissions reductions, which would be ideal. Stay tuned for a post about that.)
You can filter for some of these sustainability credentials using the tags on the map below.
Do you know of other sustainable small businesses that could be on this list? Add them to the map!
Whether they’re local green businesses in your area, small companies whose products you love, or just eco-friendly brands you’ve heard good things about, you can add them to this map and help create a useful resource to share!
(How to add points to the map: Just click the green “Add Point” button. Where it says “Search For a Place,” type the city or town the small business is located in. Then put the name of the business as the “Point Title,” under “Add Optional Details.”)
Click around! Zoom in and zoom out – or add your own points! You can use the buttons at the top of the map to filter for different kinds of companies. The blue halos indicated special discounts for Tilted Map readers. Click the “more info” button on each map point to go straight to the business’s website.
About this Proxi map
Since I’m using Proxi to map out these sustainable small businesses, Proxi offered to sponsor this article. Yay! That means Proxi paid me to include them here, which I regularly do for free in other posts, anyway. (Including this one about the Mississippi Blues Trail, and this one about embarrassing myself in front of a bunch of scientists in Greece.)
Like many of the companies on this list, Proxi is founded by women – not so common in tech! I love that they’ve created a free alternative to Google Maps that’s both prettier to look at and easier to work with (for creating your own custom maps). You can see for yourself how it works by adding map points for the eco-friendly small businesses you know!
Now, here’s a bit more info about the original 16 sustainable businesses on the map:
You probably already know that meat production is a major source of carbon emissions, but did you know that 30% of meat produced globally is for pet food?
So Chippin, a small company based in Arlington, Virginia, with 6 employees, decided to make more climate-friendly dog food and treats out of low-carbon crickets. (Yes, crickets, the bugs.)
They’re high in Omega-3’s and vitamin B12, and contain more than triple the protein of beef or chicken, so you won’t be cheating your dog out of good nutrition while saving the planet. Plus, 90% of Chippin’s ingredients are sourced from around the US – mostly from Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky.
Save 30% on Chippin’s sustainable dog food with the code MAP30 .
Axiology is a small beauty company that makes lip and eye “crayons” without any plastic packaging. (These are on my sustainable gift guide, and they definitely have a cool-kid-cachet that would make them a great gift for teens.)
Personally, I think the smooth, cream-to-powder texture works best as a light eye shadow.
Founder Ericka leads a team of 4 employees who manufacture and ship all the products from Bend, Oregon.
You can save 20% at Axiology with the code TILTEDMAP .
With 35 employees, Bookshop.org isn’t the smallest small business on this list, but compared with their main competitor – Amazon – they’re pretty much a mom-and-pop shop.
And Bookshop.org was created with the mission of being a real alternative (at least in the book department) to Amazon – one that lets you buy books online while still supporting your local, independent book stores.
And that’s exactly what they do, by giving a cut of all sales to independent bookstores that become members. (Which is free for the stores.) Bookshop HQ is in Brooklyn, New York, but their fully remote workforce is based around the country.
I’m testing their full product range right now, and I’ll have a review out soon. (Update: It’s here!) So far, I’m really liking the results, and I think Everist products make a great, nearly-plastic-free alternative if you’re not loving the shampoo bar concept (see #14).
The only plastic Everist uses is in the caps, which at least you can mail back for recycling.
Everything Everist does is based in Toronto, Canada – include HQ, manufacturing and shipping.
Related: Check out my full review of Everist shampoo & other products for details and what I like (and don’t) about these products.
We all know beauty and skincare products are usually absurdly overpackaged, but Activist Skincare was the first company to prove just how much better packaging can be.
Allison is the brains behind this one-woman company, and she’s developed a full range of skincare products with clinical-quality active ingredients, and entirely refillable packaging.
That means your first order comes with products in glass bottles, and refills are packaged in thin plastic packets – which use less plastic than just the lid of a normal glass bottle. (And reduce carbon emissions by 99% and plastic use by 75%.)
Activist is based in Laguna Niguel, California.
Related: For details, see my full review of all of Activist’s products.
6. Dew Mighty
And while this super-small company (just one person based in Hermosa Beach, California) has a smaller product lineup (just two so far – a powdered face wash, and a solid serum) their packaging is even more impressive. It’s 100% plastic-free, with reusable (and recyclable) metal containers, and refills in cardboard. (Also easily recyclable.)
You can save 10% on your first order from Dew Mighty with the code TILTEDMAP.
Related: I’ve been experimenting with paring down my skincare routine (especially for travel) and using just those two products has been working surprisingly well. (For more about them, check out my review of plastic-free face wash options.)
While the company launched in 2018, just like all good ideas, it’s hard to see why no one started making this razor sooner. It’s a combination of the flexible head of a plastic cartridge razor, and the plastic-free, nothing-but-steel blades of an old-fashioned safety razor.
Leaf is based in Stonington, Connecticut, and has 11 employees, including their founders, the two Adams.
Bite was founded by Lindsay McCormick in her living room in LA, where she wanted to figure out how to make plastic-free toothpaste. The small company is still based in Los Angeles, but has grown to 9 employees.
After testing lots of eco-friendly toothpaste brands, Bite’s toothpaste tablets remain my favorites. Plus, they now also make plastic-free options for tooth whitener, mouth wash, floss, toothbrushes, and even deodorant (which I also reviewed, and really love) and body moisturizer.
River Organics is a small, family business making some of my favorite plastic-free beauty products. All of their products are vegan, cruelty-free, made with certified organic ingredients and packaged in sleek, smooth cardboard tubs and tubes. (Personally, I especially like their natural blush, concealer, and lip stains and balms.)
Their founder, Corrine, was employee #1, and her husband was her second hire. (And she now also has two part-time employees.) They’re based in Wilmington, North Carolina, where they make all of their products by hand in their small studio.
One of my favorite sustainability initiatives from this small company is that they sell “imperfect products” at a discount, instead of throwing them away, as most companies do.
You can save 15% on your River Organics order with the code TILTEDMAP15 .
10. by Humankind
by Humankind is one of those brands that definitely looks like it could be run by a huge team – their website is very smooth and modern looking, and their products remind me of chic Japanese designs.
But this plastic-free company is actually a lean team of 6 employees who live all over the country and as far away as Tel Aviv, while the HQ is in New York City. (Their products ship from Massachusetts, and are made mostly in the US, UK, and Europe.)
Related: Details on several by Humankind products are spread through a few of my reviews. Here’s the dental care side (floss, mouthwash, and toothpaste tablets). Their hand sanitizer is at the top of my travel toiletries review. And their refillable deodorant is in this review.
Wolven makes men’s and women’s yoga pants, swimsuits and athletic wear with fun and bright patterns inspired by the founder’s Pakistani and Indian heritage.
Their clothes are also made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles, which is unique in the industry, and they have just about every sustainability and labor rights certification you could ask for.
(All athletic wear is made from fabrics that are essentially plastic, most brands just use virgin plastic. So Wolven’s clothes are still breathable and comfortable, while also being much more sustainable.)
Wolven is now up to 10 employees, with more growth on the horizon, and is based in Los Angeles.
TerraSeed makes one of those products I thought would be easier to find, but it turns they’re pretty much the only name in the game. The game of plastic-free vitamins, that is.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, with 10 employees, TerraSeed just makes one formula right now – a plastic-free multivitamin for vegans – in their signature, compostable cardboard packaging.
(And they’re planning to offer a few more supplements next year, including a vegan kids’ multi.)
They’re also currently petitioning the FDA to require simple labeling on supplements to disclose whether they contain animal ingredients – something that’s not currently disclosed.
You can save 50% on your first month of TerraSeed with the code KETTI50 .
Saalt makes some of the best looking, most comfortable, most sustainable, and most useful underwear I’ve ever used.
The founder, Cherie, got her idea after learning from her aunt in Venezuela that menstrual products hadn’t been on store shelves there for years. So she founded Saalt to make reusable products – menstrual discs, cups and underwear – that would make supply issues disappear.
The company now has 37 employees, mostly based near their HQ in Boise, Idaho.
Menstrual underwear has become a crowded market in the past few years, but Saalt is the only brand I’ve found (and I’ve tried a lot of them) that uses fabrics made from recycled plastic (that are still soft and breathable), plastic-free packaging, and outstanding labor practices.
(Their underwear are sewn in Sri Lanka, at a factory with a 90% female workforce, all earning a living wage. The factory provides workforce education to seamstresses, school supplies to their children, and has a platinum LEED certification. Those just aren’t credentials you hear often from the clothing industry.)
If you’re a regular Tilted Map reader, you might be sick of hearing me talk about The Earthling Co., but I just can’t stop.
Earthling is a 13-person company that’s fully remote – they’re spread across the country from California to South Carolina, with their founders based in Reno, Nevada. Their products are all made in the US.
I talk about them often because they make a lot of my all-time favorite sustainable products – from solid dish soap to plastic-free lip balm. (The entire company is plastic-free, even down to their shipping materials, which are recycled and recyclable paper products – even the tape.)
But their flagship items are shampoo and conditioner bars. And, as I learned from pushing these eco-swaps on my friends and family, you should really try – especially if you’ve had bad experiences with other shampoo and conditioner bars.
You can save 15% on any Earthling Co. order just by clicking through any Earthling link on this blog! (No discount code needed, it’ll just show up in your cart after you type in your email.)
15. Unbound Merino
If you think wool isn’t comfortable, travel-friendly, or something you’d ever wear in summer, Unbound Merino is out to change your mind.
I met, Dima, one of the founders of this 10-person, Toronto-based company at a travel media conference. If that seems like an odd place for a wool clothing company, I see your point.
But Dima said they were there because they consider themselves a travel company at heart. Why? Because their clothes are made to be comfortable, stylish, long-lasting, non-wrinkly, and non-stinky. Which means you need less of them, whether you’re traveling or not. I’ve been testing a few pieces for a review (coming soon!) and so far, I agree.
(Update: Here’s my full review of Unbound Merino’s wool t-shirts, dress, leggings, and tank top.)
Buying fewer things, but higher quality is an important pillar of sustainability, and it’s what Unbound Merino advocates for.
If you’re new to Unbound Merino, you can save 10% on your first order with the code TILTEDMAP .
HiBAR is a sustainable start-up based in St. Paul, Minnesota that seems intent on taking the plastic out of your entire medicine cabinet.
They started in 2018 with shampoo and conditioner bars (which I reviewed here). Then they moved on to conquer plastic-free face wash bars (reviewed here), and just this summer launched a plastic-free deodorant (it’s on my list to try!)
Another thing that makes HiBAR unique is that their packaging (which is all cardboard) and the products themselves are always so uniquely beautiful and well-designed.
The company has grown from its initial team of 4 industry-veteran founders to 23 employees – and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
That’s all for now, but this certainly isn’t a full list… Do you know of other sustainable small businesses that should be on this list?
Whether they’re local green businesses in your area, small companies whose products you love, or just eco-friendly brands you’ve heard good things about, you can either add them directly to the map (just click the green “add point” button), or leave them in the comments below!
Click around! Zoom in and zoom out – and add your own points! You can use the buttons at the top of the map to filter for different kinds of companies. Click the “more info” button on each map point to go straight to the website for each eco-friendly small company.