You already know that LeafScore is the place for green, but today I want to shine a spotlight on 9 fantastic green and black-owned businesses to support in 2023 and beyond.
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Why it matters to us
Eco-friendliness and sustainability cover a wide range of issues, from the safety of a final product to the extraction of raw materials, all the way to the disposal of a product and any associated environmental hazards. The reality is that people of color are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation, toxic wastewater and air emissions, and poor labor conditions in addition to facing a lack of financial and marketing opportunities when trying to start a business to address these very issues.
And finally, while you peruse these amazing businesses and do a little online shopping, treat yourself to a tub of Pecan Resist from Ben & Jerry’s. Although not Black-owned, Ben & Jerry’s has been particularly outspoken on issues of social justice, including after their acquisition by Unilever in 2000, and has helped raise awareness and much-needed cash to promote a fairer society for all. I think we can all raise a spoon for that!
Here’s hoping this post inspires you to seek out and support people of color doing amazing work in the sustainability sector. And, as always, if you know of a Black-owned business, indigenous entrepreneur, or any persons of color making amazing eco-friendly products, let us know!
Highlights: Vegan-friendly beauty, grooming, and bath products that are designed “for all genders and skin types.”
Founded in 2012 by Holly McWhorter, a Black woman, PLANT Apothecary makes organic beauty, grooming, and bath products with health, safety, environmental friendliness, and social responsible in mind. These products are free from petroleum-derived ingredients, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and silicones, and are certified organic wherever possible. The company markets their products as “for all genders and skin types” and all products are made in the USA.
PLANT Apothecary use plant-based ingredients, making all their products vegan-friendly (and certified by PETA). They never test on animals, never knowingly purchase ingredients tested on animals, and request that all vendors, ingredients suppliers, and other partners share similar practices.
PLANT Apothecary use sustainable packaging and concentrated formulas to further reduce packaging waste and shipping costs. Their products are typically provided in recyclable plastic bottles (because of concerns over glass breakages in slippery shower situations) and the company even offers ideas on fun ways to reuse the leak-proof bottles before recycling (such as for condiments when camping!).
My top pick is their WAKEY WAKEY Organic Body Wash, which is lightly scented with organic rosemary and lemongrass essential oils. This gel comprises just eight simple ingredients, is completely free of parabens, SLS, petroleum, silicones, and harsh chemicals and is gentle enough for sensitive skin. It is also certified organic.
Highlights: Eco-friendly, concentrated formulas that are also vegan-friendly, biodegradable, and provided in BPA-free, recyclable bottles.
If you’re looking for natural, non-toxic cleaning products, check out LauraKay Innovations. Founded in 1989, this company knows green-cleaning and makes quality cleaning products that actually work (thanks to some serious scientific research behind the scenes). They have a strong reputation for customer service and transparency and make eco-friendly, concentrated formulas that are also vegan-friendly, biodegradable, and provided in BPA-free, recyclable bottles.
CleanVation is the product line designed for everyday cleaning, while CleanVation HD (Heavy Duty) is your new go-to for tougher jobs (think adhesives, grease, markers from homeschooling adventures, etc.). OxyVation® is another great cleaning option, featuring 3% hydrogen peroxide to neutralize a whole host of bacteria and viruses through oxidation.
Highlights: Botanically based cosmetics and skincare products free from parabens, sulfates, fillers, fragrances, and dyes.
Lesley Thorton is a California state licensed esthetician and beauty expert who founded her own cosmetics company, Klur, in 2011 based on the values of clean, ethical, and inclusive beauty. Klur makes botanically based cosmetics and skincare products free from parabens, sulfates, fillers, fragrances, and dyes, and aims to bridge the gap between science-based practices and nature-inspired traditions. Most of their products are scent-free or neutral, while others contain natural aromatic extracts that also support skin health.
Klur products are manufactured in America in a designated FDA-registered GMP-compliant facility and are cruelty-free. The company is very clear that they never test their products on animals, never ask anyone to carry out animal testing on their behalf and will never resell their products in countries where animal testing is mandatory. Klur is totally vegan-friendly, meaning no animal or insect-derived ingredients, including no beeswax, honey, cochineal, or lanolin.
Klur are also mindful of their environmental impact and take steps to reduce waste throughout their production process. This includes keeping packaging to a minimum and considering the material safety, carbon footprint, recyclability, and overall environmental impact of their products and processes.
Klur’s founder is clearly deeply committed to ethical business practices and the company remains independent, self-funded, woman-owned and operated.
Highlights: Vaginal care products using healing herbs – nothing synthetic – just 100% natural ingredients to support a healthy vaginal pH and keep vaginas everywhere feeling fresh, clean, and healthy.
Chances are that you’re having plenty of uncomfortable conversations these days, so don’t add to your discomfort with unaddressed bacterial vaginosis. Instead, check out The Honey Pot Company, a company founded by Bea Dixon (also known as Beatrice Espada). After months of suffering without relief, Dixon decided to create her own line of vaginal care products using healing herbs – no parabens, sulfates, toxic substances, artificial fragrances, or anything synthetic – just 100% natural ingredients to support a healthy vaginal pH and keep vaginas everywhere feeling fresh, clean, and healthy.
All of The Honey Pot Company’s products are clinically-tested and gynecologist-approved and, before you ask, they aren’t douches, they’re washes and other products for external use only. The Honey Pot Company also offer lavender-free products especially for use in pregnancy and postpartum, when skin can be especially sensitive and vaginal pH can change, making infections more likely. They also offer cleansers for sensitive skin.
All products are biodegradable and cruelty-free. Even better, when you buy from this company, you’re helping to provide menstrual care for menstruators who are homeless, low income, or living poverty.
Highlights: All products are made in the USA and feature natural oils, vitamins, and antioxidants for smooth, sleek, shiny, and healthier-looking hair.
Briogeo Hair is a New York City company founded by Nancy Twine, a young Black woman who grew up helping her grandma make natural hair products that actually worked. Now, with a team of scientists helping her out, Nancy makes her own non-toxic, naturally-based hair products without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, synthetic dyes, or DEA. All products are made in the USA and feature natural oils, vitamins, and antioxidants for smooth, sleek, shiny, and healthier looking hair.
Briogeo use EWG-approved Ecocert preservatives such as dehydroacetic acid and benzyl alcohol and try to use organic ingredients wherever possible. This includes brassica alcohol and cetyl alcohol, both derived from plant sources; these alcohols don’t dry the hair like ethanol and propanol do, and instead help condition and soften hair to make it more manageable.
The company’s signature collections include products that help repair, add volume, care for curls, and defrizz. All products are cruelty-free, gluten-free, and mostly vegan, and Briogeo don’t test any of their products on animals. They also continue to make improvements to their website and customer service experience to enhance accessibility and they actually list ingredients for all their products, which should be a given but, sadly, doesn’t happen all that often in the beauty industry.
A couple of my favorite products include Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, which gets a good rating of 3 from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and helps to remove impurities from the scalp as well as hydrating and soothing itchy, irritated and flaky skin. In a clinical study, 95% of participants said the treatment reduced itchiness, 100% said it reduced flakiness. This product is vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free. Even better is the Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Root Powder which gets a coveted 1 rating by EWG and helps tamp down excess oil to restore volume.
Highlights: An Allure Beauty Award-winning mineral tinted sunscreen designed with darker skin tones in mind.
Founded in 2016 by Katonya Breaux (Frank Ocean’s mom!), Unsun is an Allure Beauty Award-winning mineral tinted sunscreen designed with darker skin tones in mind. If you’re sick of that white ghostly sheen or residue from natural sunscreen but still want to avoid toxic chemical-laced formulas, Unsun is for you.
Breaux created Unsun out of frustration with a lack of options for safe sunscreen for people of color. Unsun’s sun protection comes from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – the only two sunscreen ingredients recognized as safe by the FDA – and a mineral-based tint is added to create these clean, no-residue sunscreen formulas, so they blend beautifully on medium to darker skin tones and even act as a bonus color corrector!
Safe for infants and children, these sunscreens are also reef-safe, unlike chemical sunscreens. The sunscreen is not tested on animals and can be worn by itself or under make-up all-year-round for sun safety.
Highlights: Company focuses on minimalism, versatility, and sustainability, using only quality deadstock fabrics (i.e. fabric that would otherwise go to waste) from independent sellers in the US to make sustainable clothing.
Label by Three make sustainable clothing by hand in Phoenix, Arizona, and also offer one-of-a-kind vintage homewares. Owned by three women of color, Label by Three focuses on minimalism, versatility, and sustainability, using only quality deadstock fabrics (i.e. fabric that would otherwise go to waste) from independent sellers in the US. All of the fabrics used are vegan and never derived from animals, and because they’re limited in quantity, each run is unique.
Label by Three also package everything in 100% post-consumer and post-industrial materials that are fully recyclable and biodegradable and made in the US. The company aims to counter the ‘fast-fashion’ narrative and create thoughtfully designed pieces that work for different body types and styles. Their minimalist aesthetic is a deliberate attempt to enable the pieces to be worn with items you already own, so there’s no need to reinvent your entire wardrobe. And Label by Three are also determined to make clothing that is timeless and durable, so you can keep loving the clothes for longer.
My top pick of their current run is the Vela skirt, which has an A-line cut, subtle front pleats, hidden side-seam pockets and an elastic waistband in back. It’s a great staple that works with a multitude of styles and for a wide range of occasions. And, because it’s made from a heavier weight Italian cotton deadstock, it’s going to soften and fit to your shape over time, giving you many years of joy to come.
Highlights: Coffee company that is focused on ethical sourcing, socially responsible hiring and management practices, and community-building.
Red Bay Coffee is a B Corp founded in 2014 by Keba Konte, an artist and food entrepreneur. The San Francisco Bay Area company is focused on ethical sourcing, socially responsible hiring and management practices, and community-building. Indeed, the company proclaims a “firm commitment to ensure coffee production is not only high quality and sustainable, but a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability.”
What about that coffee, though? Well, all the beans are roasted at the B Corp certified Public Roastery on East 10th St. in Oakland, California. Red Bay Coffee have 8 signature coffees, including 3 espresso, 1 decaffeinated, 2 blends, and 6 single origins. They source coffee ethically from Brazil, Guatemala, Tanzania, Sumatra, Ethiopia, Colombia, Burundi, and Chiapas Mexico. They also offer 1 to 2 limited release single origin coffees and a cold brew and nitro cold brew. Most roasts range from medium to dark, and they decaffeinate their coffee using a compound found in ripe apples and wine.
While the coffee suppliers providing beans to Red Bay Coffee aren’t certified organic due to the expense of certification, they do tend to use organic and ecologically sound farming practices. There’s no mention of whether the beans are shade-grown, however, so I’ve reached out to the company to ask for more information and might add a leaf to their rating if the coffee is bird-safe.
Red Bay Coffee maintains direct relationships with these farmers and co-ops, including Burundi Kamikazi, members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance Burundi chapter. This direct relationship means the farmers get a higher price for their coffee.
The Red Bay Coffee Pubic Roastery also serves as a community hub, hosting all manner of community-minded events.
Highlights: All of the products offered by this sustainable snack company are currently certified gluten free, and all their pipcorn and dippers are currently vegan.
Woman-owned, minority-owned, and a family business, Pipcorn was launched in 2012 by Jen Martin, her brother Jeff Martin, and Jeff’s wife, Teresa, with just $3k in the bank and is now one of Oprah’s favorite snack companies. Begun as a popcorn side project using heritage corn, Pipcorn has grown to become a sustainable snack company.
What does that mean? Well, the extra finely ground heirloom corn flour left over from the production of Pipcorn’s signature cheese balls is now used to make delicious crackers. Pipcorn call these ‘upcycled crackers’ and claim to use 99.9% of the corn, meaning that the business produces very little food waste.
With flavors like Jalapeno Cheddar, Cacio e Pepe, and Truffle, it’s easy to see why Oprah loves Pipcorn and how the company attracted attention on Shark Tank. Their website is also super cute and fun, and they now also offer Vegan Caramel Popcorn made without artificial flavors (which I’m desperate to try, so please, Pipcorn, come to Canada!). All of their products are currently certified gluten free, and all their pipcorn and dippers are currently vegan. They only use heirloom corn that is non-GMO certified and all their products are free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
Pipcorn are also big on giving back, with a recent partnership with Save with Stories helping to provide food and educational materials to kids across the US. And they use cracker boxes made from 100% recycle paper, with plans to make all their packaging and products more sustainable going forward, at which point I’ll likely upgrade their Leaf Score!