10 Sustainable Small Businesses To Watch


It is our honor to spotlight 10 sustainable small businesses that are both inspiring and exciting to watch. While terms like “sustainable” and “green businesses” are becoming popular buzz words, the following companies are the real deal.

These small businesses are founded on the basic principle of doing good by doing good, and they take extraordinary measures to positively impact the environment and the communities they serve. Their focus on the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit) is what separates these sustainable small businesses from those that simply measure success by how much money they make.

10 sustainable small businesses to watch (and learn from):

1. Wash Cycle Laundry
Wash Cycle Laundry is a triple-bottom line business that picks up and delivers laundry on bikes. Beyond bike delivery, it uses natural, locally-produced detergents and high efficiency washing machines — the combined effect is a laundry operation that saves a lot of water, energy, and gas compared to conventional methods. Wash Cycle Laundry’s cyclists can haul up to about 600 towels on a trailer, which makes it the perfect size for Wash Cycle Laundry’s growing roster of gym, restaurant, salon, spa, and fitness clients. Besides being green, the company was also conceived as a way to create a launching pad for unemployed individuals into upwardly mobile careers, and is working to form partnerships with a number of non-profit job training programs.

2. Sseko Designs
Sseko Designs is a footwear company that was created to help bright, young women from Uganda continue their education. In an impoverished and male-dominated society, many of these young women struggle to find fair work. Sseko hires college-bound women to live and work together, while earning money that will go directly towards their university education. The women that Sseko employs will not make sandals forever. They will go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers, and teachers that will bring change and unification to a country divided by a 22 year-long war. Sseko provides women with an opportunity to be empowered with tools, money, and education to take care of her own family.

3. Tropical Traders Specialty Foods
Honey producer, Rebeca Krones, sells honey under both Royal Hawaiian Honey and Bee Well Honey brands. She proudly shares how important the triple bottom line is to her business model. “Our Royal Hawaiian Honey, produced by our family’s apiary on Hawaii’s Big Island, is certified organic and was the nation’s first certified carbon neutral food. Our Bee Well Honey brand is harvested by beekeeping cooperatives in Brazil, is also certified organic, and is available as Fair Trade Certified. Our honeys are distinct from our competitors because we really do care for our bees (certified organic) pay our beekeepers fair wages (fair trade) and care for the environment (certified organic and certified carbon neutral).”

4. Liberty Bottleworks
Just last year, Liberty Bottleworks opened its doors for “green” business here in the US. Manufactured from 100% recycled aluminum, Liberty Bottles are the only metal water bottles made entirely in America. The state of the art equipment used to make the bottles is housed in Liberty’s Yakima, Washington-based manufacturing plant (a repurposed boat factory). The equipment uses less energy, cleans their waste water, and conserves resources. Liberty also takes its metal scraps, and melts them down into more bottles (avoiding any waste). They want the world to know that a quality product can come from the USA and be made greener here than anywhere else.

5. Bennu, LLC
“Bennu not only makes eco-friendly products, but also operates using sustainable business practices,” said Co-Founder, Ashok Kamal. “For example, we sell backpacks and shirts made out of 100% recycled materials, but we also only work with certified plants, offset carbon emissions and use recycled materials for packaging.”

6. SunRidge Farms
SunRidge Farms is a California-based organic, natural and eco-friendly food company. The Founder and President, Morty Cohen pays employees $5 a day to bike to and from work, and has installed a 99kw solar panel roof on the candy, snack and confection manufacturing facility. Another solar panel roof is to come shortly. Cohen also arms staff with cloth bags to reduce the use of plastic and paper sacks, offers recycling education classes, and more. This has encouraged employees to be less wasteful at work and at home, and has ended up saving the company money in terms of health care costs and employee sick days.

7. Plywerk
Plywerk is an eco-conscious photo mounting and art panel company based in Portland Oregon. “We work with professional artists, photographers, interior designers, point and shoot photographers, parents, and everyone in between,” shared Sales & Marketing Director, Garret Bishop. “At Plywerk we recognize and appreciate the gift of our existence. Our goal is to create an exhibition quality art substrate that is manufactured and delivered without unnecessarily harming the environment. We see it as our responsibility to treat all people with dignity and respect and to be stewards of the planet during our time here.”

8. Andean Collection
“One business I know that adheres to a triple bottom line is the Andean Collection, an eco-/fair trade jewelry company. The AC makes its jewelry from seeds and harvested from the South American rainforest. The nuts and seeds are processed, dyed, and finished in a manner that lessens its impact on the environment, such as using environmentally-friendly textile dyes for coloring the seeds/nuts. Amanda Judge founded the AC to provide women in rural Ecuador a path out of extreme poverty. All the jewelry is handmade by local artisans in rural Ecuador.” said Ann Amarga, of Urban Green Energy

9. Thai-Pepper
Thai-Pepper is a teak wood factory that turns old teak houses into wooden cutting boards. These houses, which have reached the end of its useful life, are dismantled; the wood is sorted and graded, and used to manufacture cutting boards and other kitchenware for the export market. “What truly sets us apart from other businesses in the region is the way we treat our employees,” explained owner, Andre Park. “We engage in fair labor practices, safe working conditions and we don’’t employ any children. By recycling reclaimed wood we eliminate the need to kill living trees - thereby preserving our natural forests and protecting the environment.”

10. Elizabeta Jewelry
Michael Zipursky, co-owner at Elizabeta Jewelry says, “We provide eco-friendly designer rings, wedding rings and engagement rings. We work with jewelry designers that are more socially conscience, use recycled materials and/or select to use conflict-free diamonds and gemstones. 

Our store is 100% online, making our carbon footprint smaller as we keep less inventory that way. We’ve given a part of proceeds to the nature conservancy and recently are giving to Kiva - which provides loans to help alleviate global poverty.

 We have always made the environment and social causes a priority. Our tip to other business owners would be to start. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something!”

The inspiring companies above prove that even a single entrepreneur, with a small business can make a difference in the world. As you reflect on the sustainable small businesses highlighted here on BrandMakerNews, think about what you can do to make your own company more environmentally-friendly and socially responsible. Determine what success looks like for your business. Challenge yourself to think beyond making the next sale, and ask, “How can my business make a difference?” Our world needs more entrepreneurs to step up and take action.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 12, 2011 at 7:42 AM | Permalink

    This is a great article! I wonder what kinds of programs are like Sseko Designs here in the U.S. I think many times a barrier to becoming an entrepreneur is that for most people they have to work full time to pay rent. For example, I bet a lot of those competition reality shows (win this or that, compete to change your life in some drastic way) wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t give contestants a place to live…

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