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6 Women Making Earth-Saving Their Business

PEOPLE

For some people, work and life are busier than ever before. For others, it can feel like the world has been put on pause. Either way, this time is a firm reminder to get back to the basics of gratitude, focusing on the planet we all call home. So there’s no time like the present to introduce you to a few female founders who make earth-saving their business. Whether you’re in need of workout clothes for your new livestream yoga habit or are suddenly eager to make a few home upgrades, these women make it a joy to give back.

Who: Rachel Bentley and Carly Nance

What: The Citizenry — A thoughtfully-curated and ethically-crafted home goods brand.

Why: “It’s certainly not impossible to give back through business, but we would be lying if we said it was not more difficult than taking the easy, proven road,” Rachel says. “The good news is consumers today are proving to reward that extra effort.”

“It’s fair to say that if you’re building something that challenges the status quo, you will be met with skepticism,” Carly adds. “It’s par for the course. Early on, many investors and mentors told us the artisan supply chain was too complicated and not scalable. If your brand has a clear reason for existing or a clear problem to solve, then I truly believe business can do well by doing good. It just takes extra conviction and drive to ignore the naysayers along the way.

“Years ago shopping for our own homes, we found ourselves uninspired by the products and experiences offered by most mass retailers. We craved a home decor brand designed for our generation’s more modern style, standards and values,” Rachel says of the company’s origins. “As we dug deeper into the global textiles industry, we were shocked to learn that less than 1% of global textiles were produced in fair trade or environmentally stable conditions. 99% of textiles are produced in harsh, unprotected working conditions, impacting 22 million people every day. At the same time, the world’s most ancient and beautiful crafts are dying. It seemed pretty clear that a new business needed to push the status quo to drive change.”

“That’s why we chose the name “The Citizenry,” as a nod to the people behind the products,” Carly concludes. “Our mission is to be a part of the 1%, ensuring all partners have sustainable income and fair working conditions. We believe a product can only be as beautiful as the environment in which it’s made, and we hope to inspire today’s consumers to think the same way.”

Who: Amahlia Stevens

What: Vitamin A Swim — An eco-friendly fashion brand that uses plant-based and recycled fabrics to create each design.

Why: “I’d invite everyone to read Yvon Chiounard’s book, ‘Let My People Go Surfing,’ to learn more about the philosophy of giving back through business,” Amahlia says. “At Vitamin A, our business mantra is, ‘Sustainability is Sexy.’ We live this out by actively working to change the way the swim industry operates through our sustainable product innovation, local California production practices, and sponsoring events like beach cleanups and tree planting initiatives. Vitamin A is a proud member of 1% for the Planet, giving back a portion of proceeds to support environmentally-focused organizations that help protect our oceans. I grew up in Southern California, where our communities have long battled the effects of drought, so the idea of nature conservation was introduced to me early on by my dad, and has always been a big part of my family ethos,” Amahlia explains.

“The moment that inspired me to find a way of integrating my environmental appreciation into my business, was when I worked on a design project for Yvon Chouinard, at Patagonia. Learning how he created outdoor fabrics from recycled plastics inspired me to find a way to create luxe sustainable fabrics that were perfect for swimwear. He also educated me on the concept of the lifecycle of garments, including the supply chain, which inspired me to produce all my swimsuits locally here in Southern California.”

Who: Kathrin Hamm

What: Bearaby — A brand making super-popular weighted blankets from plant-based fabrics.

Why: “As entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to build purpose-driven organizations that create the positive impact we want to see in the world,” Kathrin says. “I believe that incorporating sustainability at the core of a business is not only the right thing to do, but it also leads to better products.”

“Science has shown that weighted blankets can help people sleep better. The thing is, most of these blankets aren’t particularly good for the environment…with our Bearaby Napper, we wanted to challenge the common industry norms and create a sustainable and plastic-free weighted blanket. We use Tencel Lyocell fiber, which is sourced from raw wood pulp, uses 10 times less water than common fabrics, and is fully biodegradable. It turns out by removing the plastic, we also made our blankets breathable, solving the common problem of overheating under a weighted blanket,” Kathrin explains. “If you think about it, sleep is the simplest form of self-care and the single most effective thing we can do to reset our health each day…with Bearaby, I wanted to create a simple and drug-free solution that helps people sleep better. And our planet shouldn’t suffer in order for us to find relief. That’s why we took a thoughtful approach to the design of our products — sourcing responsibly and using minimal materials.”

Who: Kiran Jade

What: Wolven — An eco-friendly athleisure brand that makes its clothing out of recycled ocean plastics.

Why: “The world we live in is so connected that doing your part to give back is more accessible than ever before,” Kiran says. “There are a number of ways to incorporate giving back into your business model — from 1% for the Planet to purchasing carbon offsets, or donating overstock or unwanted product to those in need.”

“Wolven has always been a brand that is committed to the earth first. Our objective is for our clothes and our brand to become a catalyst that helps start a bigger conversation about the environment. Making our clothing from post-consumer waste inspired us to explore more ways to help with plastic pollution. For each sale, Wolven removes a pound of plastic from the ocean, so that not only are we creating a second life for plastic, we are helping to clean up our oceans as well.”

Who: Reshma Chamberlin and Lori Coulter

What: Summersalt Swim — A swim and loungewear brand that makes its clothing with recycled materials and ships it in recyclable packaging.

Why: “Sustainability runs through every facet of our business: Our swimwear is made out of recycled materials, our packaging is made from recycled materials and is reusable and recyclable, and all of our printed materials are made with FSC certified paper,” Lori says.

“Summersalt was created with the mission of changing the world. As we’ve grown, we continue to check in with our team to discuss how we can support charitable and nonprofit organizations who are as invested in sustainability, ocean health, and female empowerment as we are. Once we’ve identified the right opportunities, we come together to decide how we can best support our charity partners to drive change while bringing awareness to our Summersalt customers. We’ve always believed in exploring the world with a mindful footprint and are excited to continue bettering ourselves every day.”

“Although your company may not do it perfectly, it’s important to be a company that cares about our planet, our community, and the wonderful creatures that inhabit it,” Reshma adds. “For example, every Giving Tuesday we have partnered with a charity that aligns with one or more of our missions — sustainability, ocean health and female empowerment. In the past three years, we have worked with organizations like Charity Water, Lonely Whale and I Support The Girls both through donations and aiding in projects.”

Who: Suzanne Siemens

What: Aisle (previously Luna Pads) — A four-time Best for the World B Corporation, globally recognized for it’s ethical, sustainable and feminist business practices.

Why: “Business is an implicit social impact activity that gives back: you are employing people, sourcing materials and services through your supply chain, and offering a valuable product or service to your community,” Suzanne says. “In other words, you can ‘give back through business’ by simply making conscious choices in how you run your business. This is one of the fundamental principles behind the B Corp movement. Business can be a vehicle for social change and giving back doesn’t have to look like a secondary activity where you take some of your profits and give it away. It can and should be embedded into your day-to-day operations whereby you consider the impact of your business decisions on all your stakeholders: employees, customers, community, and the environment. “

Suzanne and the team at Aisle mentored the startup of AFRIpads, a Uganda-based social enterprise. Of the partnership, she says, “The ‘giving-back’ moment was inspired initially when in 2008, the founders of AFRIpads reached out to us to get our blessing for them to copy our business model and products to make cloth pads in Uganda. Of course, we said yes and wanted to help them…that model has since evolved into a financial investment into AFRIpads and an annual giving campaign to support their pad distribution programs.”

“In today’s times, more than ever, it’s not a traditional capitalist model that we need to dig deeper for success. We need to embrace an inclusive business model and society where we are interdependent on each other; this is what will save us and sustain us into the future.”

Who: Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst

What: Armadillo & Co. — A sustainable rug brand, where each rug is made by hand from natural and sustainable fibers, using Fair Trade practices.

Why: “There is always some way to help — however small or seemingly inconsequential, it could be life-changing to someone in need,” Sally says.

“I first felt the pull of philanthropy when I was living in India, working as a costume designer in Bollywood,” Jodie explains. “The country was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2001, so I volunteered to help rebuild villages along the border, and while I was there I met these incredible artisans, many of whom were women. I was so inspired by their spirit and their craftsmanship that when it came to founding Armadillo & Co, it was non-negotiable that social responsibility would be at the heart of our business.”

“Since 2014 we have sponsored a school near our weavers’ villages, fully funding everything from staff salaries to textbooks, health clinics to solar panels,” Sally adds. “As women and mothers, giving girls greater opportunities is something very close to our hearts, so in 2017 we launched a 9-year scholarship program to help the highest performing girls finish secondary school. By 2026, we hope to have between 27 and 36 children enrolled in the program. Catching up with the students and their parents is the highlight of our trips to India each year.”