Each day we are inspired by the business owners we interact with who put their trust in Rubicon to manage their waste collection, recycling projects, and sustainability opportunities.
Running a small business is not for the faint of heart. Among the multitude of other descriptors that can be used to describe small business owners and operators, perhaps most importantly, it takes confidence and determination.
The small businesses listed below not only use those qualities toward achieving success in their respective industries but also in their focus on sustainability and the environment.
No matter the state in which you reside, let us shine some light on small businesses with a sustainability focus from each state.
Alabama Chanin is sustainable from seed to fabric. Sustainability starts with their 100% organic cotton fabric and continues in the repurposed and reclaimed materials that they incorporate into their clothing and home goods. Alabama Chanin has another side – The School of Making.
While Alabama Chanin defines themselves as “makers and educators, working to elevate and merge design, craft, and fashion” The School of Making functions as a “researching body for new subjects and new ways of disseminating information.” Together they maintain an active voice in their local community, state, and the larger making community as a whole.
Alaska Glacial Mud
Industry: Skin Care
Who would have thought that hand-harvested, glacial mineral mud from the Copper River Delta could be used for beauty and sustainability? The Alaska Glacial Mud Co. for one.
According to The Alaska Glacial Mud Co., because of its high mineral content and moisturizing effect, Alaska Glacial mud helps nourish the skin and nails. On the sustainable side, all of their products use only natural organic ingredients, are cruelty-free, and use hydropower to process the raw material. The packaging is either post-consumer or recyclable but is all biodegradable.
As reported by the company, The Alaska Glacial Mud Co. supports the Copper River Watershed and the famed Copper River salmon by donating 10% of profits to four local organizations that support education, restoration, preservation and legal defense of the Copper River.
What happens when you create a process that provides a controlled environment that allows complex microbial communities to thrive? You get reNature and their safely digested organic food waste that requires 1/100th the land area to create, while also producing usable material 100x faster than some alternatives such as composting.
According to reNature, their Bioreactor Technology provides a financially and ecologically sustainable alternative for food waste disposal, provides growers with increased yields and healthier soils, and diverts food waste from landfills and support local food banks. When it comes to reNature it seems that big things really do come in small packages!
The Green Corner Store
Little Rock, Arkansas
Located right on Main Street in historic Little Rock, The Green Corner Store is the sole eco-friendly lifestyle business in Arkansas. When they opened, their mission was simple – “To transform the way we live on our ‘corner’ of the planet by showcasing eco-friendly goods and promoting healthy lifestyles and safer, greener environments at home, work and school.”
They also aid in the education of their employees, customers, vendors and community around the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable practices and how to live lighter on the earth. The Green Corner Store lives its mission every day while also conserving energy, water, and other natural resources, and recycling and purchasing recycled products. This might just be the greenest corner around.
ChicoBag is on a mission to make our single-use ways a thing of the past. More specifically, they’re working toward this goal through their waste reduction advocacy and the distribution of their “long-lasting, high-quality reusable bags.”
As a Certified B Corporation, ChicoBag sticks by its values of equal partnerships that benefit all (Planet Earth included), striving to become zero waste, paying it forward with reusable bag donation, and giving back via local park cleanups or serving meals to those in need. Their efforts are paying off, as they’ve saved an estimated 779 million plastic bags from entering the waste stream. Safe to say, they have sustainability in the bag.
Industry: Paper Goods
Bloomin Promotions is the original manufacturer of hand-made, recycled seeded paper (when you plant it, it grows!). Their eco-friendly promotional products are crafted from 100% post-industrial, recycled paper and dyed with all-natural, vegetable inks in their solar-powered facility. Because Bloomin Promotions works closely with the USDA, anyone that orders from them can rest assured that they are getting the highest quality, weed-free plantable products. This kind of sustainability makes this a great company to grow with!
Luke’s Toy Factory
Luke’s Toy Factory makes the “old-school” wooden toy style new again – thanks to their 100% American-made, clean polypropylene, recycled sawdust, and pressed color (not painted) products.
In addition to every product being made using their state of the art manufacturing process, Luke’s Toy Factory products are highly eco-friendly, small-hand friendly, mix and match-able, and smooth to the touch. This makes for a very sustainable playtime.
Industry: Food & Beverage
With a tagline of “Fresh. Local. Sustainable.”, Drip Café has a lot to live up to and they do. Because they are surrounded by farmlands, Drip Café is committed to “bringing [their] customers closer to the source of their food.”
They achieve this through transparency in business, partnering with organic farming solutions, and building business and personal relationships with the farmers. In addition to utilizing local collaboration for sustainability, Drip Café also takes the guesswork out of recycling by offering an in-house single-stream recycling program. It doesn’t stop there – Drip Café composts all of their coffee grounds, filters, and vegetable waste
Del Ray Beach, Florida
Industry: Food & Beverage
This sustainable-driven brewery is packing a punch. In an effort to maintain the health of your oceans, Saltwater Brewery recently released its edible six-pack rings, a new approach to solving the issue of the commonly used and unsustainable beer packaging. These six-pack rings are 100 percent biodegradable and edible, as they are made from barley and wheat ribbons used during the brewing process. This packaging can actually be safely eaten by animals that may come into contact with it.
To further reinforce their commitment to cleaning up oceans, Saltwater Brewery also gives back through the following ocean-based charities: CCA, Surfrider, Ocean Foundation, and MOTE Marine Labs.
Industry: Organics Recycling
Compost Wheels connects consumers and farmers in the Atlanta area by picking up household food waste and turning it into nutrient-rich compost in a 5 step process.
- Step 1: You receive a bucket
- Step 2: You put food scraps and organic material inside the bucket
- Step 3: Put your bucket on your doorstep for Compost Wheels to pick up via peddle power (they ride bikes right to your door).
- Step 4: They turn the compost into nutrient-rich soil
- Step 5: This soil then goes to local farms and gardens – OR it can even come back to you
Most recently, they’ve expanded to offer compost services for businesses here in the city – including our very own Rubicon headquarters!
Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits
Located in Krog Street Market, Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits focuses on “sustainable Southern seafood with an emphasis on Gulf seafood.” They update their sustainable oyster menu daily and note the origins of each offering. Peruse the oyster menu and you’ll know if your dish came from Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, or somewhere else nearby.
The owners of Watchman’s are passionate about using fresh, local ingredients–not just because they taste better, but because they help the local economy. According to one of the Watchman’s owners, Bryan Rackley, “farmers have to move a lot of product to be successful, and if we can help them do that in any way, build a foundation, keep what they’re doing going, expand to other restaurants…we’re stoked we get to help out with that.”
The Watchman’s name is connected to local traditions, too. It was “inspired by the tradition of farmers and fisherman watching over their oysters from seed to harvest.”
Industry: Hardwood and Conservation
Hawaiian Legacy has big plans to protect Hawaii’s tropical hardwood for future generations to enjoy. The company is currently the only business restoring native Hawaiian trees.
To protect beautiful trees like the Koa, HL’s master plan involves a 2,700-acre sustainable forest on Hawaii island. In their acreage, they will grow rare tropical hardwoods with the help of global investors. Those trees will be used for harvest so that the wild growing trees remain untouched throughout the island. This is a great way to utilize beautiful woods while keeping Hawaii wild.
Vyykn takes a uniquely different approach to water conservation by offering a stainless steel reusable bottle that consumers can tag at their Vyykn stations. As they put it, “With every liter dispensed, we move 1 step closer to a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.”
Their process is simple: purchase Vyykn (includes a reusable bottle, tag, and serial number), register your tag online, scan your tag at any Vyykn system, pick a water type, dispense, and enjoy!
Since their beginning, Vyykn has dispensed ~732,604.7 liters, prevented the use of ~378,024 water bottles, and removed ~249,495.8 lbs. of CO2. Now that’s a sustainable hydration solution!
Former CFO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, Scott Settelmyer, and leading forest carbon expert, Dr. Bernhard Schlamadinger, formed this leading advisory firm in 2006 with the intention of funding forest and wetland conservation around the world. The duo accomplishes this by developing and selling carbon offsets.
Settelmyer and Schlamadinger believe that providing incentives for conservation, valuing nature, and utilizing innovative approaches are imperative when discussing climate change, freshwater quality, protecting biodiversity, and poverty.
According to TerraCarbon LLC ®, their global client work has protected and restored more than ~5 million acres of forests and wetlands and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by ~20 million tons.
Chicago’s Uncommon Ground has broken ground on a lot of sustainable restaurant “firsts.” In 2007, the restaurant’s Edgewater neighborhood location launched the first Certified Organic Rooftop Farm in the U.S. The Lakeview neighborhood’s location proudly hosts Green Star Brewing, the first certified organic brewery in Illinois.
Uncommon Ground’s rooftop farm is sustainable inside and out. The deck itself was built from post-consumer recycled materials, the farm uses organic soil, and it’s home to organic plants that rotate seasonally. Plants include peppers, eggplants, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, beets, okra, spinach, fennel, mustard, and shallots.
And that’s just the vegetables! The rooftop farm is also home to an herb garden–they grow rosemary, chives, tarragon, mint, basil, and beyond–and there are on-site beehives. The beehives provide pollination for plants in the garden and honey for the restaurant. That’s all pretty impressive–especially when you remember that Uncommon Ground is located in bustling Chicago.
Diners can enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the rooftop farm’s labor in many dishes across the menu.
Better World Books
Industry: Resale Books
Better World Books is demonstrating their sustainable efforts and donating to literacy partner programs at the same time. They explain their process as collecting and selling books online to donate books and fund literacy initiatives worldwide. As they put it, “With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.”
To date they have donated ~25,298,592 books, raised ~$26,800,727 for literacy & libraries, and reused/recycled ~293.766,497 books (and counting).
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Industry: Skin Care
A love story, and a need for moisturized lips, birthed Eco Lips back in 2003. Their sustainable and eco-friendly business model keeps the love alive today.
For starters, literally, Eco Lips was the first USDA-Certified Organic Lip Balm on the market. And if that wasn’t enough, Eco Lips also made sure that their entire line of products was sustainably made – via wind power offsets, the use of fair trade practices, gluten-free production, and cruelty-free ingredients. Pair that with their love for healthy ingredients, packaging and sourcing, space on the planet, and socially responsible ideals and you have super sustainability packed into a tiny, little tube.
Industry: Food Production
Hilary’s is “heal[ing] the American diet” one meal at a time. They are doing this as a Certified B Corp that demands that their products meet 5 standards.
- They must be Convenient for people who care about what they eat but may not have time to think about it.
- They must be Clean as in organic ingredients/real food that is minimally processed.
- They must be Free-from common allergens (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, corn-free and nut-free).
- They must be Sustainable toward the health of their customers, employees, and ecosystem.
- And finally, they must be Yummy because there is no point eating something doesn’t taste good.
Industry: Consumer Goods & Services
Broomwagon is many things… it’s a bike shop for one, but it’s also a coffee shop, beer garden, and café. Say what?!
What makes them even more special is that the city of Lexington recognized them as a “Green Business.” Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- They have Sustainability Management and a Green Team that hold workshops for composting
- They offer sustainability tips in a monthly newsletter
- They are energy efficient – from their LED bulbs to their employees that dress for thermal comfort
- They recycle, conserve water, participate in urban forestry and landscapes, and biking initiatives.
The better question is, “What doesn’t Broomwagon do?”
Hey! Café & Coffee Roastery
New Orleans, Louisiana
Industry: Food & Beverage
Hey! Café & Coffee Roastery has one quality that sets it apart from your typical establishment… there are no garbage cans.
This virtually zero waste coffee shop only produces a 1-3 lb. bag of trash per day while they’re constantly striving to go completely landfill-free. They do this by composting, recycling, and reusing any and all products possible. The best part is that they are also sustainable roasters, making sure to leave the world better than they found it all while keeping their clients awake in the process.
Atayne by VOmax
Atayne by VOmax is an innovative outdoor and active apparel company that creates activewear with the highest level of environmental and social standards. Their company vision is “to inspire positive environmental and social change through the power of active lifestyles” and they are achieving that goal through progressive practices that have earned the Certified B Corporation status, progressive materials from American made Repreve®, progressive American manufacturing, and progressive designs.
As they put it, “When it all comes together, Atayne is not simply addressing the symptoms of a broken model by offering ‘greener’ products. Atayne is solving root problems and changing the entire model to generate better environmental, social, and financial returns.”
Bee America Honey
Industry: Food Production
Bees pollinate 71 (of the nearly 100) crops that provide roughly 90% of the food we eat. This, according to Bee America, makes the honeybee an extremely important ecological contributor, and we have to agree.
This small, local apiary uses sustainable land-management practices to protect its honeybees while creating a variety of honey products. Bee America not only practices what it preaches but also teaches others about simple ways that local apiaries and communities can protect our very necessary little pollinators.
Bevi is reinventing the water cooler and reducing waste at the same time by providing customizable, irresistibly healthy beverages. Their water cooler remodel is connected to your own tap and has an internet-connection that gathers data to uncover beverage trends.
Their connectivity capability also functions as a stock monitor, so you never have to stray from the Bevi while you’re waiting for supplies. When the Bevi is combined with reusable beverage containers, the sustainable circle is complete. So drink up!
Traverse City, Michigan
Industry: Consumer Goods
Ruth Smith wasn’t intending to get into the laundry biz when she started making her own soap to alleviate her children’s’ severe skin allergies, but that is just what happened.
When Ruth paired with CEO Stephen Ezell, they found the single-use laundry bottles and chemical-packed soaps that consumers were buying to be a less than optimal option. Together they created Selestial Soap. This hypoallergenic, earth-friendly, and non-toxic laundry detergent comes in a reusable jug — “the last laundry jug you will ever own.”
The best part is that when you are running low, MyGreenFills ships refills right to your door. That’s a conscious, sustainable, and clean business model!
Industry: Food & Beverage
What makes Galactic Pizza out of this world? It might be their commitment to making two things: great pizza and an earth-friendly business.
To do this, they power their restaurant via renewable wind energy, they use mozzarella cheese originating from non-rBGH hormone-treated cows, their packaging is made from all recycled or biodegradable materials, and last but not least… their organic (whenever possible) ingredient pizzas are delivered hot, fresh, delicious, and to your door by a superhero-costume-wearing delivery boy/girl with an electric vehicle. Pretty wild right?
It is safe to say that Galactic Pizza is truly out of this world.
The Green Door Company
It all started with a custom coffee table…
The Green Door Company creates custom furniture (as many other companies do) but rather than start from scratch by cutting down a tree, The Green Door Company creates all of their custom furniture, flooring, countertops, walls, ceilings, and more from reclaimed materials.
A great example of their sustainable practice is their Magnolia Collection. For this collection, all materials are reclaimed from the Oxford area and the Ole Miss campus.
When it comes to sustainable woodworking you just can’t knock The Green Door Company.
St. Louis, Missouri
Industry: Food & Beverage
Whisk is a bakery and beverage shop that has a keen understanding of what it means to be sustainable – and the necessary business model to be just that.
Whisk “uses methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources” such as: composting all of their food waste through St. Louis Composting, using recyclable and compostable packaging that is made from at least 90% post-consumer recycled content, utilizing in-season ingredients, and using ingredients that are all purchased from other sustainable or eco-friendly wholesalers.
That is a business with sustainable goodness baked in!
Industry: Pet Care
Spencer Williams started West Paw in 1996 with a skeleton crew of five full-time employees and an “impressive team of home-sewers” in order to do one thing – make the world’s safest and highest quality dog and cat toys.
West Paw is the first Certified B Corporation in the state of Montana, the first pet product company to have Certified B Corporation status, co-founder of the Montana Coalition for the Outdoors, and is a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition.
Their Zogoflex® dog toys are not only extremely durable but they can also all be repeatedly recycled through West Paw’s Join the Loop® program while their use of IntelliLoft®, the recycled plastic fill and fabric in their toys and beds, rounds out their eco-friendly manufacturing practices.
That’s something to howl about!
Benson Soap Mill
Industry: Personal Care
Two guys and some soap are making a sustainable difference in Nebraska.
By combining their skills, Ryan Cook and Tim Maides are utilizing and re-purposing natural products and discarded products from their local restaurants, coffee shops, and even farms. The end result is some darn fine soap made from almost all repurposed and otherwise locally sourced products (when possible).
These guys really know how to sustainably clean things up.
It can be hard to imagine that a fertilizer and silver producer could be sustainable and eco-friendly, but Itronics is the cleantech company making it happen. They do this by using “science and engineering to create and commercialize recycling, mineral, and nutrient technologies.”
In layman’s terms, Itronics takes toxic liquid wastes that are produced in the U.S. and turns them into usable products such as their GOLD’n GRO chelated liquid fertilizers. As a whole, Itronics maintains an on-going technology application research and development program that focuses on sustainability.
Gilsum, New Hampshire
Industry: Skin Care
Unlike its namesake, Badger is a small, “family-owned, family-run, and family-friendly company” that utilizes organic, plant-based ingredients to create safe, effective, healing products. In fact, you may recognize them as a featured finalist for our 2017 Best Small Business in America campaign.
Badger’s ingredients are scrutinized to meet rigorous standards regarding “healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health-giving properties” before they are used.
Take one of their main ingredients for example. The organic extra virgin olive oil that Badger uses in many of their nearly 100 products comes from a single-family estate in southern Spain.
Even though this family business has grown to 80 employees CEO Badger Bill still runs the show.
Colonial Bowling and Entertainment
Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Colonial Bowling & Entertainment took an otherwise old bowling alley, and updated it with sustainability at the forefront.
According to the New Jersey Sustainable Business Registry, Colonial Bowling & Entertainment recycles all of the cooking oil they use on site (they have diverted over 39 Tons of cooking waste from being disposed in a landfill), they repurposed as much material as possible during the remodel, use electronic timers to keep Colonial dark when empty, and support their employees by working with schedules and allowing them to bring their kids to work.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Dapwood is gaining quite the attention. As New Mexico’s first Certified B Corporation and New Mexico True Certified (companies who produce 100% of their products in New Mexico), they’re offering over 21 million options for customizable furniture. But what really makes them stand out is their sustainability focus.
At Dapwood, they focus on several eco-friendly areas:
- Quality Furniture – Quality products provide a quality life and best value
- Resource Recovery – Squeezing out all that we can from our precious resources
- Energy Use – Responsible use of energy and looking to renewable energies
- Community – Without community, we have nothing
- B-Corporations – Proving that Dapwood is different and leading the charge for a new type of business
Dapwood’s furniture is also 100% made in America, with American labor and materials – chemical free using only heartwood, sapwood, and bark.
Dapwood and its 31-year history of old-world craftsmanship and quality make them a strong contributor to the rich tradition of art and culture that New Mexico is known for.
New York, New York
Industry: Home Goods
Susty Party is really setting the table on sustainability. This Brooklyn, NY based company creates tableware and home goods that are sustainable, compostable, biodegradable, fully renewable, and recycled/recyclable. They do this by utilizing sustainably sourced materials to ensure that their products are plastic-free, non-toxic, created from renewable or recycled content, and designed to biodegrade when composted.
Their manufacturers are just as good. They partner with non-profit factories that are socially conscious employers. These companies hire and empower people with disabilities, including visual impairments – and donate proceeds to other worthy causes.
Asheville, North Carolina
Industry: Food & Beverage
Combining ancient alchemy with modern science, Mandala Naturals creates a “superfood” that is less of a comfort chocolate, and more of a performance-enhancing, healthy, raw cacao alternative.
To make sure that they are “creating a world that their grandchildren can be proud of”, Mandala Naturals is certified organic, a Certified B Corporation, and uses sustainably sourced non-GMO ingredients.
Mandala Naturals really delivers on their statement “from beans to bliss.”
Bismarck, North Dakota
Brown’s Ranch practices Holistic Management, or as they classify it, “farming and ranching in nature’s image.”
Their approach focuses on soil health and no-till farming in combination with diverse crop and grazing strategies. To keep their soil healthy Brown’s Ranch has fully eliminated the use of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, GMOs, and glyphosate. While they are still using herbicides, the quantities are minimal and they are working to eliminate them altogether. Their grazing strategies prevent over-grazing and allow each pasture a recovery period of over 360 days. When all of their efforts are combined the result is healthy soil, mineral levels, and water cycles.
Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream
Industry: Food & Beverage
It’s true, “we all scream for ice cream” but maybe people scream a little louder for Mitchell’s because of their sustainability mission.
Mitchell’s Ice Cream is homemade with organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever and wherever possible. When the ingredients they need can’t be found in Ohio, Mitchell’s sources from the world’s best producers to ensure the best quality possible.
In addition to their sustainably sourced products, Mitchell’s has implemented the use of solar energy through rooftop panels, locally made and reclaimed material furniture, and waste heat to produce heated water in their facility.
All in all, their sustainable practices are as sweet as their ice cream.
Industry: Consumer Services
A clean car is a beautiful thing, but the process can be less than eco-friendly. EcoGreen is changing that.
This family owned and operated company is one of a small group of “green” auto detailing experts in the US. They have auto detailing and reconditioning certifications from the International Detailing Association, Smart Detailing University and Elite Esoteric Detailer Academy. What makes them sustainable is their waterless car wash. Wait, what?
This system saves an average of 100 gallons of water per wash by using Eco Touch – a plant-based biodegradable and organic spray that softens, lifts, and dissolves dirt.
Industry: Food & Beverage
Going rogue is a good way to describe Rogue Creamery’s sustainability. Their award-winning blue, cheddar, and TouVelle cheeses are made from whole milk that comes directly from their grass-fed cows.
Since the opening in 1933, Rogue Creamery has further progressed its sustainability efforts. Most recently they installed solar panels that produced 30% of their energy production in 2011, 45% in 2012, and a projected 100% energy production in 2021. Their goal is to become a zero impact food producer by the year 2021. Nothing cheesy about that!
Thread is turning trash into dollars with the philosophy and hope that fabric can end poverty.
The idea started when Ian Rosenberger traveled to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. He wrote, “if Haiti can turn trash into $ = good.” He was right.
Thread makes fabric out of trash, literally. The fabric is then sold to companies that make responsible clothing, shoes, and bags. Rosenberger sees it as, “If we’re all here to start a revolution, think of Thread as the ammunition.”
Providence, Rhode Island
Industry: Consumer Goods
The vegetable tanned leathers used by Lotuff are created exclusively for them by the South America tannery that they have been working with for the past three generations.
For sustainability purposes, the absence of chromium or formaldehyde used in non-vegetable tanning means that the water that comes out of the tannery can be used again and again. And the sediment in the runoff water, which is comprised of leather particles and bits of natural dye, is so pure that the tannery actually bakes it into clay-like bricks that are then planted as fertilizer. That fertilizer nourishes the nearby eucalyptus grove that provides the tannins and other raw materials the tannery uses.
Who would have thought that a leather business would be so sustainable!
Charleston, South Carolina
Yoloha yoga mats are a bit different than those laying around at your local gym – probably because they are sustainably sourced and made of cork. After inspiration from today’s current offerings, the forward-thinking company was inspired to get away from rubber and instead, utilize the outer bark of the cork tree. This is a key component of this sustainability process is when you realize that the cork tree is the only tree that regenerates its stripped bark, and the harvesting of cork does not harm the tree. In summary, this offers a great alternative to rubber, especially when you realize that rubber more times than not ends up in a landfill.
Processes like these make Yoloha’s production 100% renewable and recyclable. You could say they’re changing the game just by putting a cork in it.
Kyle, South Dakota
Industry: Food & Beverage
When Tanka was founded in 2006, Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen (owners on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) envisioned healthy foods that would support the restoration and preservation of their lands, as well as the ecosystem around them. They also sought to lessen starvation and obesity.
That’s a large reason why Tanka embraces the fully sustainable lifestyle that the Native American people lived just over a century ago. Tanka foods are, “sustainably grown by Native American producers, minimally processed with care and respect, to help you feed mind, body, and spirit.”
When companies’ products are intentionally designed, ethically made, and fairly priced, you get something sustainable – and in the case of Nisolo, simple and unique.
Nisolo creates beautiful, ethically produced shoes by working closely with small, independent artisans in South America. To make sure that their producers know how they are valued, they ensure that the average salary of a Nisolo shoemaker is significantly higher than Fair Trade requirements. To take things a step further, Nisolo even offers a financial literacy program for its producers.
Two years ago, only 10% of their producers had a bank account. Today, it’s 100%.
Industry: Home Goods
Welcome to the first (and only) all-green general store – Dolphin Blue.
This Dallas, TX-based Certified B Corporation was founded on the belief that it is important to be responsible in all products that they use. That’s a large reason why their products contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled material (whenever possible) and/or they’re sustainably manufactured. Their 100% recyclable packaging (and labels) are either recovered or made from post-consumer recycled materials. They are printed using only biodegradable soy and vegetable-based inks.
To round out their sustainable efforts, Dolphin Blue gives back by donating a portion of their annual profits to local chapters of environmental non-profits.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Industry: Consumer Goods / Apparel
Barebones Living has a sustainable reach that is not only impacting their home base in Utah, but far-reaching countries in Africa, and even Nepal. The socially conscious outdoor gear and products supplier leverages their products, profits, expertise, and experience to directly benefit farmers in Africa, provide shelter for those needing it in Nepal, and service their local community garden in Utah to benefit low income and elderly populations.
For Barebones, the work that they do isn’t a ‘giveback’ – it’s who they are.
Green Mountain Power
If an energy company that is working toward energy conservation and less usage by their clients sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Meet Green Mountain Power (GMP).
GMP is blazing trails by providing low-cost, clean, and smart energy solutions for its customers. To achieve these advancements GMP listened to customer requests for energy resources, community projects, solar energy, wind energy, and new ways to track and their control energy use remotely. GMP is not only a Certified B Corporation, they are also the first public utility in the world to earn B Corp status.
Hamilton Perkins Collection
Industry: Consumer Goods
This Certified B Corporation is turning plastic bottles into luggage bags.
In addition to carrying versatile and unique bags, the Hamilton Perkins Collection supports fair wages and dignified income opportunities in Haiti and Honduras. They line each of their bags with a yard of billboard plastic and save 17.5 plastic bottles from landfill with each product.
Simply put, Hamilton Perkins Collection is making recycled plastic look good.
Greenvelope is “pushing the envelope” on what it means to be a sustainable and eco-friendly company.
In a response to the tens of thousands of trees that need to be cut down annually to create paper invitations, Greenvelope provides a “paper-like” web-based alternative. Their efforts seem to be working. To date, they have saved ~108,000 pounds of paper from being used, as they are now used by 3,500 other businesses.
Thanks to the success of their paper saving business model, Greenvelope donates a percentage of their sales to Mountains to Sound Greenway (a non-profit organization that maintains forests).
Wayne, West Virginia
Industry: Social Enterprise
The Coalfield Development vision is simple: They “envision a revitalized people thriving in a renewed, more prosperous economy that is grounded in Appalachian values”.
The charity that was originally formed to support unemployed and underemployed people in the area now includes a family of social enterprises working to build a new economy in the wake of the coal industry’s rapid decline. Their efforts have paid off.
As reported by Coalfield Development, they have created more than 40 on-the-job training positions, more than 200 professional certification opportunities, redeveloped more than 150,000 square feet of dilapidated property, and successfully launched five new businesses in real estate development, construction, woodworking, agriculture and artisan trades.
Green Cab Madison
When it comes to Madison Wisconsin’s first and only all hybrid rideshare service, sustainability is key. Rooted in its sustainability efforts, the company makes rides affordable with flat rates, no surge pricing, and no meters. Because they are focused on safety, licensed drivers have in-car cameras and standard GPS tracking in each of their Green Cab Madison cars.
The green aspect of Green Cab is their hybrid rideshare service that reduces the carbon footprint of both the company and the users. To top it all off, Green Cab Madison partners with local businesses and various nonprofits in order to support the community as a whole.
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik
Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik is known for their Swedish meatballs, lingonberry sauce, and goats grazing on the roof. Yes, goats. On the roof.
The Wisconsin family-owned restaurant famously features goats that graze and nap on its sod roof. This celebrity sod roof helped earn the restaurant a Wisconsin Travel Green Program certification. The sod roof is a more unusual way of boosting a restaurant’s sustainability. It may not be practical for most restaurants, but it works for them. Sod roofs absorb rainwater, provide natural insulation, and serve as a perfect grazing ground the goats.
For almost seven decades, Al Johnson’s has been an important part of the Sister Bay community. They won Rubicon’s 2018 award for Best Small Business in America and donated all of the $10,000 prize money to the Wisconsin Humane Society.
Desert-like terrain? No problem. Vertical Harvest uses hydroponic farming technology and a recirculating water system that uses 90% less water than conventional farming.
Vertical Harvest is built on 1/10th of an acre, but it produces roughly 5 acres of agriculture. It’s designed to maintain an internal temperature of 67°F with minimal energy output, and provides “consistent, meaningful employment for people with intellectual and physical disabilities by cultivating nutritious food for the community”.
Vertical Harvest has taken farming outside the box by putting it in one.
To see more sustainable SMBs, read about our 2017 finalists from our Best Small Businesses in America contest.
Editor Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.