Co-authored by: Amanda Pickens

Tight on time? Find the shorter version on The Huffington Post.

Ever bought a “sustainable” product that just didn’t do the job? We have. In fact, we’ve bought loads of them on our quest to find sustainable products that actually work.

And we’re not referring to counting greenhouse gas emissions or recycling waste. While that’s all great, we define true sustainability as the ability to sustain yourself.

People are always talking about saving the planet. But the planet is regenerative; it’ll ultimately heal. It’s the human species that’s out on a limb. And the way back requires a return to the ESSENTIALS — those biz-life elements that help you thrive.

Because, let’s face it, our lives are overrun with products, information, and ingredients we don’t need.

This series identifies products that can lead you back to the essentials. The companies you’ll find listed here use simple, safe ingredients and emphasize building a healthy, happy community from the inside out.


Raw Elements raw elements

What makes this product sustainable:

Looking for a safe way to enjoy the sun this summer? Raw Elements has you covered.

Have you ever applied sunscreen that never seems to come off, or that doesn’t let the sun through at all? We have.

And what about sunscreen that leaves you with a nice burn?

According to the Environmental Working Group, you might actually be applying a highly toxic chemical cocktail, while not even adequately protecting your skin.

In our search for a safe and effective sunscreen, many of the products we looked at worked; the tradeoff came on the safe side. And a few seemed very safe (homemade recipes, anyone?), but weren’t very effective.

Raw Elements combines the best of both worlds. Blending certified natural, recycled and recyclable zinc oxide with organic oils and herbs, Raw Elements provides a safe way to absorb all the Vitamin D you need, without overexposure. It goes on well and feels good on your skin to boot.

Finally, the product offering is simple. Knowing what to cut is just as important as deciding what to keep. The variety comes only in functionality (tin or stick?) and sensitivity (for those who are hypersensitive to some organic ingredients). Clear, concise, and not distracting… thumbs up!

Inspiration and backstory:

Twenty-year Ocean Rescue Lifeguard Brian Guadagno founded Raw Elements more out of frustration than inspiration. For years he’d been searching for a safe and effective way to protect his skin. Never truly happy with the result, he often found himself thinking, “It’s great that it’s ‘natural’, but it’d be better if it worked!”

He was also disheartened by witnessing firsthand just how adversely children were affected. Through his work with the Environmental Working Group, Brian learned more about the potential dangers of most sunscreens and decided enough was enough.

So he set out to create the safest and most effective sunscreen on the planet. He was looking for the sun protection ‘sweet spot’ — to cross the gaps between functionality, safety and ease of use.

And his ultimate goal was to positively change people’s way of thinking by emphasizing that personal health leads to planetary healthtrue sustainability.

Key Takeaways:

Go to the source. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, Google it! Look for an authority who can explain what you’re putting on your largest external organ–your skin–before you use it.

Brian says, “We’re facing a movement from the ground up.” The evolution of social technology puts the power in the hands of the end-user and allows us to share information in ways that have never before been possible. Use it.

If you inspire even just one person to get informed and think a bit differently, you’ve done your part in enhancing the sustainability agenda. Wave the flag and get your friends on board.


FROM Yoga BraFROM Yoga Bra

What makes this product sustainable:

If you have the choice of wearing an organic, non-toxic product on your boobs, or a potentially hazardous one, which one would you chose?

FROM’s Organic Cotton Yoga Bra helps women sustain themselves by raising awareness to the potential harmful chemicals found in modern day synthetic sportswear. It helps women “reduce their risk whilst getting their ‘OM’ on!” as FROM Founder Su Dodd puts it.

But not everyone is a fan.

This year, Breast Cancer Now, UK’s largest breast cancer research charity, removed FROM’s Organic Cotton Bra from their corporate partner list because “BCN couldn’t be seen to be supporting the concept that organic fabric was better than other fabrics,” and more importantly, “because their other promotional clothing partners weren’t organic,” reports Dodd.

FROM reports being asked to drop all ‘detoxing’ & ‘organic is best for your breasts’ references, to which Dodd promptly refused. “As a small brand this messaging was integral to our values, and we weren’t able to ignore what was clearly information applicable to half of the global population,” says Dodd.

In hindsight, Dodd notes, “BCN probably wasn’t the right ‘fit’ for our product. They are working from a treatment stance (finding a cure, which we obviously so desperately need), whereas our product is working more from a preventative one.”

As people demand more performance from their sports clothing, chemical finishes are applied to nearly all synthetic fabrics. These finishes often include hazardous chemicals (e.g., Phthalates, PFCs, Triclosan) that are highly toxic & have been linked to certain cancers, adult obesity, and hormone disruption.

“It’s agreed that the concentration [of chemicals] found in clothing may not cause acute toxic problems for the wearer in the short-term, but it is not known what the impact of long-term exposure is on human health,” Dodd further notes.

With breast cancer rates increasing, FROM wanted to raise awareness to the potential risks associated with wearing tight fitting sports bras, made from synthetic fabric, against the breasts, especially during physical activity when the skin’s pores are open and more receptive to absorption.

Inspiration and backstory:

FROM originated over Su Dodd’s frustration at not being able to find many authentic brands providing truly sustainable activewear products, and she didn’t dig the damaging social & environmental impact of the clothing industry on the planet either.

Applying her background in Organic Farming, Su set out to create a conscious fashion brand with a socially responsible approach to business.

She wanted to give the end-user answers: Who Made Your Clothes? Where? How? FROM?

Manufacturing with a transparent supply chain, investigating and applying sustainable manufacturing methods, and using organic materials are just some ingredients that set FROM apart from other activewear companies.

And Dodd doesn’t intend to stop there. She aims for “mass global reach, so that women can make an informed choice about what they wear on their breasts, and also their legs (as lymph nodes in the groin region could also be key access points for absorption of unwanted chemicals in your leggings).” Eek…

Ultimately, Dodd would like to use her reach to educate young people about where their clothes come FROM: “We need to get to young women, so future generations will hear what their mothers said.”

Key Takeaways:

1. GET INFORMED. As Su puts it, “the information is out there; you just have to look for it.” Next time you consider buying activewear, write to the brand and/or manufacturer and ask if they use chemicals such as Phthalates, PFCs, or Triclosan in their production. The more flags we wave, the more brands might adopt safer alternatives.

2. BEWARE OF GREENWASH. Media constantly bombards us with the latest ‘wonder’ products, and it’s difficult not to be convinced. But don’t be duped. If a brand claims that its materials are “all natural” do some investigating. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.

3. LOOK TO NATURE. “We can look to the enormous resource Nature for more raw materials to sustain ourselves,” as Dodd reminds us. Materials such as tensile, merino, and organic cotton (the three main textiles in FROM clothing) can help you reconnect to the essentials.



What makes this product sustainable:

Think about the products you buy for your hair. Now imagine if you could substitute all of them with ONE simple and effective product that actually works. How would that feel?

You’d be saving money, space, materials, and… well, your sanity.

Hairstory offers only one option–New Wash. “I don’t think it’s modern to be cluttered,” says Founder Michael Gordon, “and I don’t think hairdressers can tell the difference between 90% of the products that are on their shelves.”

New Wash is a detergent-free cleansing crème made with aloe vera extract and essential oils that clean hair without stripping it of its natural properties. As Gordon explains, “We’ve all seen skincare evolve to where women use non-foaming cleansers full of oils and extracts on their faces, instead of harsh soaps. Why then are we using it on our hair and scalp?”

Shampoo is a detergent. And detergent, whether natural or synthetic, is an irritant. It dries and damages your hair before you even step out of the shower.

New Wash helps return your hair to its natural, child-like state. The way it was meant to be.

Inspiration and backstory:

After leaving Bumble & bumble, Michael Gordon spent some time out of the industry and he thought a lot: “Why were there so many shampoos? Why were there so many conditioners? Why were there so many products in general?”

He found that “the beauty industry is steadfastly refusing to stop creating lots of junk, and almost all of it is designed to offset the damage caused by shampoo.”

So Gordon and his team decided to create a simple, high quality product that restores hair’s natural vitality.

After 5 years of research development and testing, New Wash was born. “We make one [wash] that works on all hair types, instead of dozens of shampoos. We make no conditioners. Less is more.”

New Wash is pricier than what you’d find at Walgreens, for sure. But it encourages you to buy less, throw away less, and enjoy the process of discovering great product. While investing in an alternative hair cleanser might seem a little scary, the savings and results speak for themselves.

“I honestly think in a few years people are going to say, ‘Oh God, do you remember when we used to wash our hair with shampoo?’” Michael is intent on making an impact in the cosmetics industry by “ending shampoo within 5 years.”

He calls it a movement: “At Hairstory, we’re reinventing the way we think about hair products, teaching people how to be current and modern, and celebrating independence. Essentially it’s stories about hair and how powerfully it affects people.”

Key Takeaways:

1. READ THE INGREDIENTS. Check to see if you’re using harsh, sapping detergents on your hair. If New Wash is out of reach for now, you might simply give co-washing a shot.

2. SUBSCRIBE TO SIMPLICITY. Less is more. It’s time to reclaim your space, and that means thoughtfully cutting away what doesn’t serve you so you can get back to what really matters.

3. GO BACK TO THE BASICS. Remember what your hair was like when you were a child? Your ‘original equipment’ is perfect. What steps can you take to restore that perfection? Maybe just washing a little less?


Annmarie Gianni Skin CareAnne Marie Gianni Skin Care

What makes this product sustainable:

Skin. It’s our largest organ. What we apply to it gets absorbed and either aids or damages what’s on the inside. Obvious, right? So where’s the disconnect?

The majority of skincare products in commerce today contain questionable to downright dangerous ingredients that are often hidden behind “all natural” claims, making it very difficult for the end user to make informed decisions.

No more passing the buck. Annmarie Gianni Skin Care offers a chemical-free, wild-crafted line that’s exclusively organic. A mix between delicious aromatherapy and pure values, this product smells and feels amazing. More importantly, it actually works.

Your skin is your calling card, the first impression the world gets of you. It either says: “I’m happy, healthy and glowing!” Or “HELP!” Your preference?

If you choose to glow, Annmarie Gianni Skin Care also has you covered with fair product markup, no animal testing, no-GMOs, fair trade, and the best customer service EVER. They’re on it.

Inspiration and backstory:

Annmarie and Kevin Gianni weren’t always skin care experts. They started out as personal trainers and popular health video bloggers. But when their clients and followers started asking what to use on their skin, they realized they didn’t really have a good answer. Feeling slightly embarrassed, they set out to find one.

Sadly, they didn’t have much luck. What they found was an industry loaded with faulty claims and even faultier products. So they decided to create a solution. In early 2009, they teamed up with “earth-mama chemist” Bunnie Gulick’s 20+ years of experience, and Annmarie Gianni Skin Care was born.

Kevin Gianni calls the product a RESET button. “Media have this portrayal of what beauty is, and people want to reach that,” Kevin says, “that’s where we step in with a quality product that’s good for them, a little self-confidence booster that can restore their skin to health.”

The Gianni Team also emphasizes the importance of using enough of what works. “It’s common in the industry to lightly sprinkle an ingredient into a product and then market the product as having that ingredient” — a practice called “angel dusting” (minimal amounts of ‘nature’ and max. amounts of ‘laboratory’ experiments). Annmarie Gianni uses more valuable oils and takes the time necessary for them to be infused properly, so they actually work.

“We’re not trying to outsmart or one-up Nature,”says Annmarie, “we just plant the seeds and then get out of the way. It’s imperfect, but flawless.”

Annmarie adds, “We want this company to be as human and conscious as possible.” The lab is equipped with materials and practices that foster wellness and mindfulness–from sacred geometry on all the water bottles to “mood” breaks and meditation sessions.

“We’re building from the inside and then hoping that radiates out to our customers, the industry, and the world,” says the Gianni Team.

Key Takeaways:

1. DON’T BE FOOLED. When checking out labels (which we hope you’re doing by now!), beware of “angel dusting” and look to identify the primary ingredients in the product.

2. RELY ON NATURE. Gaia’s got us covered. As Annmarie points out, “Nature’s already done it. We’re just here to pull it together.”

3. DIY. One of the coolest things about the Giannis is that they’ll be the first to tell you to set up your own skincare “lab”. They don’t insist that you buy from them, but rather that you experiment and get informed. You can find loads of DIY recipes on their website.



That concludes the first edition of Sustainable products that actually work. If these products are out of your reach for now, don’t be discouraged. The power is in YOUR hands.

Be inspired to do your own research and find or create the products that work for you! Because at the end of the day sustainability is about the ability to sustain yourself.

It’s time to “be the change you want to see in the world.” -Gandhi



RAW ELEMENTS USA ® is gentle enough for use in infant care and meets the performance demands of the most extreme athletes. It utilizes a sustainable, recycled, Non Nano, uncoated Zinc Oxide as the sole Active Ingredient. This is delivered in a gentle, Certified Organic ingredient, Eco-Safe, Reef-Safe, Leaping Bunny – Cruelty Free certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, NPA Certified Natural formula. RAW ELEMENTS USA is the conscious consumer’s answer to safe, serious sun protection. is a new way to see hair. A broadcast channel and commerce experience that combines the vision of a fashion magazine, with the focus on great hair, and the convenience of new media. New Wash is a new way to clean hair. It allows people to discover their hair for the first time – probably since childhood. We’ve designed our three styling products to encourage hair to do what it wants to do, not force it. We make one New Wash instead of dozens of shampoos, and we make no conditioners. Less is More.

FROM is an emerging ethical fashion brand, based in the UK. It is a demonstration of how an integrated socially responsible approach to business can work towards ‘giving back’ and making a difference, contributing to the wellbeing of our planet for futures to come. A minimum of 90% of the raw materials used in its product designs are made FROM ethically sourced, certified organic and sustainable sources.

Annmarie Gianni Skin Care was born when two mainstream health video bloggers, Annemarie & Kevin Gianni, set out to answer a popular question from readers and viewers: “Annmarie, what skin care products do you use?” After discovering that the products in their own cabinet weren’t up to their standards, they set out to create a better solution. And in early 2009 Annmarie Gianni Skin Care was born. Together with a growing group of dedicated and passionate people, the brand continues to educate about the skincare industry, question the status quo, and do good for you and the planet.