It’s increasingly clear that making sustainable choices is critical for the planet and for you. Many brands get it — and they’re producing, packaging and shipping their products in much smarter ways. A few are even sharing proprietary research on renewable practices in the hope of changing their whole industries.
For our third annual Sustainable Innovation Awards, GH’s scientists and industry experts evaluated nearly 200 contenders to choose winning home, beauty, apparel, toy and food brands whose efforts we applaud. Our experts are also hard at work on our annual sustainability summit, Raise the Green Bar, held by the Good Housekeeping Institute and Made Safe, a nonprofit that celebrates nontoxic ingredients. This summit aims to educate and inspire audiences to make more sustainable choices when shopping, eating, cleaning, traveling and more. Registration for the event is free and open to all.
Meet the Judges
Birnur Aral, Ph.D.
GH Sustainability Director
GH Home Care Lab Director
GH Textiles Lab Director
Chief Technologist and Director of Engineering
GH Kitchen Appliances Lab Deputy Director
GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist
GH Institute Registered Dietitian
Michael S. Brown, Ph.D.
Founder, Brown & Wilmanns Environmental LLC
Andrea E. Asch
Partner, Asch & Kelley Environmental Consulting
Founder and President, Impactorum LLC
How We Tested
To find this year’s winners, our GH experts and industry leaders rigorously assessed entries for performance and on factors such as:
- Energy, water and waste reduction
- Recycled content and recyclability
- Reusability and functionality of packaging
- Corporate social responsibility efforts and goals for carbon neutrality, zero waste and more
Cutting-Edge Carbon Tracker
Free the Footprint
Allbirds has a rep for responsibly sourced shoes, but it’s the brand’s knowledge sharing that stands out here. The company created a Free the Footprint calculator to measure carbon footprints that is open source, so any brand can use it. Plus, Allbirds labels its products with the footprint for consumer awareness.
Lab Results: “Doing the hard work and sharing the formula is commendable,” said one judge.
Waste-Reducing Retail Platform
Second Life for Your Clothes
ThredUp extends the life of clothing and makes it easy to shop secondhand. You can send in items via the brand’s Clean Out Bag. If clothes are in good condition, ThredUp lists them on its site, and you get a percentage if they sell. It recycles clothes that aren’t sellable, or you can pay a fee to have them returned to you.
Lab Results: One judge summed it up: “Resale of clothing is certainly not new, but ThredUp has made it more glamorous.”
Detox the Planet
PFCs, known as “forever chemicals,” are often used in water repellent finishes, and traces can end up in the environment and pose health risks to humans and animals. In 2018, Keen went PFC-free, and this year it shared details of how to go PFC-free with other brands as part of its Detox the Planet initiative.
Lab Results: The judges unanimously agreed that the company is putting the right foot forward: “Keen is tackling a big issue,” said one.
Recycled Warm Outerwear
NetPlus Fabric Coats
Patagonia, a leader in sustainable textile practices, has released a line of coats using NetPlus material, made with fully traceable 100% recycled fishing-net fabric sourced from fishing communities in South America.
Lab Results: “This has multiple benefits,” said one expert. “It keeps ‘ghost’ nets from harming marine ecosystems and provides economic benefits for the fishing communities.”
Threads 4 Thought
Clothing company Threads 4 Thought pushes beyond sustainably sourced materials and has been committed to ethical and humane labor practices since 2006.
Lab Results: “I like how the approach to sustainability is multifaceted. The brand has trusted transparency,” said our textiles expert.
INDEX.01 Running Shoe
Salomon developed the Index.01 running shoe, which it will take back to be disassembled and recycled. Part of the product’s success is due to the simple design: A recycled polyester upper and a rubber-like plastic bottom make it realistic to separate the two.
Lab Results: One judge said, “The shoes are very lightweight and felt amazing on my feet.”
Ingenious Sock Recycler
Second Cut Project
It can be hard to find new uses for socks at the end of their life, but sock maker Smartwool launched the Second Cut Project, a waste-reduction program that will recycle donated socks into dog beds.
Lab Results: “I love that they’ll take any sock — not just their own brand,” said one expert.
Smarter, Healthier Food & Kitchen
No Beef with This Burger Swap
Beyond Burger Plant-Based Patties
With 20 g of non-GMO plant protein per serving, Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger is a good deal for all eaters, vegan or not. But it’s also good for the planet, as it uses less water, land and energy to produce than traditional beef and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Lab Results: “Environmentally, there’s no question that it is superior to conventional meat,” stated one expert.
Wiser Water Usage
Ultra Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray
Dishwashing giant Dawn created its Powerwash Dish Spray in an effort to reduce the water and energy demands associated with hand-washing dishes. It’s designed to be sprayed on, eliminating the need for a running tap or presoaking. Then a final wipe and rinse with water is all that’s needed.
Lab Results: “Compared with hand-washing dishes and cookware, it offers significant water and energy benefits,” remarked one expert, and our Cleaning Lab says it’s a great grease cutter.
Olive Oil with Slick Packaging
100% California Bag-In-Box Olive Oil
California Olive Ranch produces a large-format box of olive oil that’s dispensed through a handy spout. The cardboard box is recyclable, and the company will accept returns of the internal BPA-free liner bag for recycling too.
Lab Results: “I liked the taste right away,” said one judge. “And the pour spout dispenses well.”
Beyond Water Bottles
Thinking Inside the Box
Boxed Water Is Better
Boxed Water Is Better is tackling the waste that comes from single use plastic water bottles with its BPA-free, 100% recyclable (even the cap!) packaging.
Lab Results: Our judges appreciate this option: “Certainly above the industry average compared with plastic water bottles.”
Ocean-Aware Tuna Dishes
Wild Tuna, Bean & Corn Salad
To avoid unintentional catching of marine life, Wild Planet uses 100% pole- and line-caught tuna in its canned tuna and tuna dishes. The company also advocated for sustainable practices by advising some grocers on corporate environmental standards.
Lab Results: Said one expert: “As an advocate for sustainable oceans — and a fan of tuna — I find the efforts excellent.”
Delicious Plant-Based Eggs
Eat Just created Just Egg, a cholesterol-free, protein-packed egg substitute made from mung beans. But the real benefit is that it takes less water, land and carbon to produce than conventional eggs.
Lab Results: “It fills a gap in the vegan food market and provides a plant-based alternative that cooks and tastes like eggs,” notes our nutrition expert.
Smart, Sustainable Home Appliances
Turkish appliance manufacturer Beko has racked up the EPA’s Energy Star accolades: It received the Energy Star Emerging Technology Award for refrigeration products, and this year marked its third as a winner of the Energy Star Sustained Excellence Award.
Lab Results: Said one expert: “Beko is considering materials, carbon, water, labor, gender equity and more. I look forward to the day when this brand is a household name in the United States.”
New Life Recycling Frying Pan
Swiss company Kuhn Rikon released a nonstick frying pan made from recycled aluminum. It reduces new-material needs and uses less energy to produce than a traditional frying pan, according to company analysis.
Lab Results: Reports our kitchen-gear expert: “This pan is sturdy and balanced. It performed well in our egg tests.”
Fresh Farm Philosophy
Pasture-Raised Whole Turkey
Diestel Family Ranch lives its commitment to sustainable food by following a regenerative agriculture model. It composts its waste to rebuild the soil and restore biodiversity and manages its own water treatment to reduce the waste stream and conserve groundwater.
Lab Results: Our nutrition expert raved, “The turkey was exceptional-tasting — amazing flavor and juiciness.”
Compostic 100% Home Compostable Cling Wrap
Compostic has developed a 100% home-compostable alternative to plastic wrap and resealable plastic bags. The products are made from a blend of BPA-free, non-GMO nontoxic biopolymers. The wrap is perforated, which eliminates the need for a sharp metal edge, so the packaging itself is compostable as well.
Lab Results: One expert said of the wrap, “The product is excellent and should be used widely where home composting or organic waste collection is available.”
Low-Impact Personal Care
Purposeful & Effective Skincare
Nordic Circular Beauty
Finnish beauty brand Lumene creates plant-based skincare formulas and shows how the circular economy — a system with reuse and waste elimination in mind — can work. Fifty percent of its Nordic ingredients are derived from by-products from other industries. Lumene has already reduced its production waste by at least 23%, and its goal is zero waste by 2030.
Lab Results: One expert noted that Lumene’s Nordic Hydra Moisturizing Prebiotic Oil-Cocktail gives skin “a natural sheen.”
Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Conditioner
Eva NYC is moving away from single-use plastic by switching to aluminum bottles, which can be recycled endlessly without losing quality. It has also partnered with TerraCycle to recycle its plastic pump nozzles.
Lab Results: Our panel found the conditioner to be a “very lush and intensely fragranced formula suitable for thicker and denser hair.”
The Clean Deo
Beautycounter offers refillable deodorant to minimize the amountof single-use plastics in landfills. The company also regularly audits its mica suppliers to assess the humanitarian impact of that color cosmetic ingredient.
Lab Results: Our judges praised the company’s initiative to bring transparency to mica mining. “Beautycounter is looking at the big picture,” said one.
Renewable Potent Serum
BL+ Microalgae Harvesting System
BL+ is a skincare line from the Blue Lagoon in Iceland featuring sustainably sourced ingredients like silica and microalgae. At the Blue Lagoon R&D Center, the manufacturer captures natural geothermal CO2 gas that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and uses it to cultivate the photosynthetic microalgae for the products.
Lab Results: One judge said of the face and eye serums: “I noticed plumper, clearer skin that looked hydrated.”
STELLAR DROP-OFF RECYCLING
Retailer Nordstrom partnered with global recycling leader TerraCycle to create a beauty take-back and recycling program. Customers can drop off any brand’s empty beauty packaging for recycling in Nordstrom Beautycycle boxes in stores.
Lab Results: Said one judge: “It’s a cutting-edge initiative, as it accepts some products that even many municipal recycling centers don’t accept.”
Peachy Keen Cleansers and More
Refillables and Bars
Peach Not Plastic
Peach Not Plastic, a new entry from a repeat winner, Grove Collaborative, offers plant-based, bar-format personal care products in plastic-free packaging and refillable products like deodorant in recyclable aluminum cases.
Lab Results: One judge said the refillable lotion was “balm-like” and that it applied easily to elbows, knees and heels.
Body Lotion with Benefits
Ekos Tukumã Body Lotion
Brazilian cosmetics company Natura’s Ekos line uses bottles and refills that contain 100% post-consumer recycled materials. And in 2019, the company took part in the Possible Amazon movement, which seeks solutions for conserving the Amazon and fighting illegal deforestation.
Lab Results: A GH beauty pro says the Ekos Tukumã Body Lotion “absorbs well and leaves skin hydrated — you can even apply it to your hands and then type.”
Clean Label, Clean Face
Cleanformance Clay Multi-Cleanser
Doctor Babor uses between 95% and 98% naturally derived ingredients and recently became 100% carbon neutral thanks to the use of hydroelectric and geothermal energy sources. It packages products in boxes made with recycled paper and continues to make changes like working to eliminate cellophane wrapping.
Lab Results: A GH beauty expert said that the Doctor Babor Clay Multi-Cleanser “feels cooling and leaves skin refreshed, clean and a little taut due to the kaolin.”
Closed-Loop Eye Makeup
Zero Waste Mascara
Izzy doesn’t bat an eyelash at the name Zero Waste Mascara. The company’s 400-mile-radius circular supply chain reuses every component, from refillable medical-grade stainless steel mascara tubes to water from the cleansing process, so nothing is wasted. Izzy also plants a tree for every mascara sold to offset its carbon use.
Lab Results: A dedicated judge reported that “the mascara resisted a sweaty one-hour workout without smearing or smudging.”
Fully Recyclable Toothpaste Tubes
Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine created a first-of-its-kind tube that can be recycled (even the cap!) in home recycling bins. Even better, its parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, wants to share the recyclable-tube tech with others — including competitors — to ensure a sustainable future.
Lab Results: One forthright judge reported, “I’m not a stranger to tartar buildup, and this toothpaste makes my teeth feel smooth under the tongue.”
Beneficial Bedroom & Office
All-Star Organic Mattresses
Caring for the Environment Inside Out Program
Naturepedic’s Caring for the Environment Inside Out program aims to reduce harmful chemical exposure for both people and the planet. The company is a trustworthy leader in the use of organic materials and the avoidance of toxic ones.
Lab Results: One textiles expert noted: “There are great options for babies and kids through adults.”
2nd Home Renewed Program
Since 2017, Coyuchi has been running its 2nd Home Renewed program, which takes back its used sheets and towels from customers to be cleaned and resold or recycled into new products.
Lab Results: Our Textiles Lab has been wowed by the brand’s commitment to organic materials, and its Organic Crinkled Percale set was a 2021 GH Bedding Award winner.
Noteworthy Note Makers
B2P By G2 Upcycled Gel Ink Pens
Pilot Pen, a Good Housekeeping Seal star and originator of pens made from upcycled bottles, features a B2P (Bottle-2-Pen) line. The B2P gel pens are made from 89% recycled materials, and they’re refillable to further extend their life.
Lab Results: Says one judge, “You don’t have to sacrifice quality for more eco-friendly packaging; you get smooth, smear-resistant writing and fun ink colors.”
Climate-Positive Product Line
Laundry Sheets and More
This year, cleaning products producer Ecos added to its carbon- and water neutral, zero waste–certified accomplishments by announcing that it’s a Climate Positive company, meaning it regenerates more energy, water and carbon than it uses or emits in manufacturing.
Lab Results: Noted one judge, “Its leadership team is among the most diverse I’ve seen.”
Waste-Cutting Cleaning Concentrate
Multi-Purpose Cleaner Concentrate + Twist & Slide Glass Spray Bottle
Grove Collaborative’s concentrated plant-based cleaners are packaged in easy-to-recycle mini glass bottles with aluminum caps. You simply mix the concentrate with water in the brand’s pre-labeled reusable Twist and Slide Glass Spray Bottle, which comes with a nonslip silicone sleeve.
Lab Results: Said one expert, “I was glad to see the cleaner concentrate — so much better than shipping water.”
Start the Learning Early
Green City Block Set
Mio Reggio’s cute play set sneaks in sustainability education with blocks that feature solar energy, waste management, green roofs and more related to green cities.
Lab Results: Our judges agreed that these smart toys were “a nice alternative to the usual plastic or laminated wooden blocks.”
Gentle Baby Care
Mission Toward Net Zero
Baby-product company Mustela purchases 100% green energy, derives an active ingredient from avocados that would otherwise go to waste and uses bottles and cases that are 100% recyclable and consist of recycled materials.
Lab Results: Our panel reports that the Organic Micellar Water with Olive Oil and Aloe — for tender baby tushes or adult makeup removal — “leaves skin clean and moisturized and is not sticky after application.”
Director, Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab
Birnur Aral is the director of the Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees all Lab tests and applications for the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal and the GH Innovation emblem.