We buy a lot of stuff. Whether out of obligation or pure pleasure, many of us make purchases almost every day. Until recently, those buying decisions were based almost exclusively on cost and quality. However, we now realize it’s not just our credit card bill that increases with every purchase, but our carbon footprint as well. As the call to tackle climate change amplifies, so too does our desire to adjust the way we consume.
Certainly, buying fewer things and using what we already have helps to mitigate our impact. And luckily for us, when the need for new arises, we can shop from a growing list of sustainable brands while supporting our quest for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Here's a list of sustainable brands we’re proud to call Canadian.
As leaders in sustainability, each of these brands offers eco-friendly alternatives to conventional products with business practices that reduce waste, cut carbon emissions, and uphold ethical working conditions. We’ve organized them according to how they fit your lifestyle: household products, beauty care, and apparel.
How to know if a brand is sustainable
Deciphering which brands stand behind their green claims can be murky for even the most well-intentioned shopper. To help clear the air, you may need to do some research before you click “add to cart.”
Sustainable brands understand that consumers are skeptical. That’s why they’re transparent in how they do business and provide explanations on their websites to back up their eco-friendly claims.
To determine a brand’s level of sustainability, look for the following practices:
1. They use sustainably-sourced materials
Their product materials are fully or partially sustainably sourced, which is clearly articulated on the brand’s website and in product descriptions.
2. They boast minimal waste and reduced carbon emissions
All of the brand’s products are created with minimal waste, fewer carbon emissions than its conventional counterparts, and with reduced environmental impact.
3. Their products are designed to last
Part of the brand’s philosophy is to design products for longevity to deter consumers from throwing any products away with minimal use. They also aim to help create a mindshift to value long lasting, high-quality goods.
4. They use recycled packaging
Their product packaging is made with recycled or biodegradable materials and is fully or partially recyclable to minimize waste.
5. They provide fair working conditions
The company’s goods are sustainably manufactured by employees who work in factories with fair pay and working conditions, either locally or across the globe.
6. They’re ecocertified by an officially-regulated body.
Many sustainable brands are certified by ecolabels with stringent transparent standards to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. Ecolabels include: B Corporation, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, Fairtrade, Animal Welfare Approved, and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
The Canadian sustainable brands we highlight below meet these standards and continually work to improve their processes and policies to address climate change.
Sustainable household brands make a difference
Can one person’s actions really make a difference in the fight against climate change? For these Canadian sustainable brands, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Each offers a simple solution to swap out some of our most-used products with eco-friendly versions that leave no doubt you’re doing good for the earth.
The Ecobee smart thermostat
Over half of the energy used in homes is for heating and cooling, so one of the easiest ways to reduce your household carbon footprint is to adjust the thermostat.
We know the age-old advice to keep your place cooler in winter (and not too cool in summer) to save energy. Ecobee, the Canadian creator of the world’s first smart thermostat, makes this advice much easier to follow thanks to its technology that maximizes energy efficiency by heating and cooling your home when it’s needed, without you having to do a thing.
The Ecobee smart thermostat optimizes its settings to ensure your home maintains a comfortable temperature where and when you need it, while simultaneously cutting costs, as well as emissions. It also adapts settings based on the schedule of household members, lowering the temperature when the house is vacant, and raising it when it’s not. To minimize strain on your community’s power grid, the thermostat also adjusts temperature according to electrical demand peaks.
Ecobee’s room sensors offer additional customization by maintaining an ideal temperature in the places in the home that matter most. You can even track how much energy you conserve each month compared to other homes in your neighbourhood—a personal household energy audit at your fingertips.
The brand reduces waste from heading to the landfill by repairing and reselling thousands of thermostats per year. It also uses ethically-sourced recycled plastics in its products. This brand is truly dedicated to tackling climate change one household at a time.
PlantPaper toilet paper
You’d be hard pressed to find a household product more essential than toilet paper, making it an ideal product to swap for an eco-friendly alternative. What you may not realize is that your rolls of white paper are made with trees from the Canadian Boreal forest: one million acres of the forest are clear-cut every year. Although it’s mostly cut for lumber production, a portion of the trees quite literally goes down the toilet.
Sustainable Canadian brand PlantPaper wants to flush away this practice for good by creating a roll that wipes bottoms, not forests. Its paper rolls are made with bamboo that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Unlike trees that require decades to grow, bamboo reaches full height in a single growing season.
PlantPaper is also a healthier option. While conventional toilet paper can be made with chlorine, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals, PlantPaper is toxin-free and septic-safe. Good for the plumbing in our home—and your body.
You can start using PlantPaper with a single bulk order online or subscribe for regular deliveries based on the number of people in your household.
Attitude's household products
Whether we like it or not, cleaning is a part of our daily lives,, making it another ideal place for ecological reform. When we consider the number and variety of products used to clean our homes, our hair, our skin, and even our air, it’s clear we’re sending a tremendous amount of plastic to the landfill. Sustainable Canadian brand Attitude can help us add some eco-friendly shine to our cleaning routines.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, and reforest are soaked into Attitude’s company vision. Offering natural household cleaners, detergents, air purifiers and personal care products that are packaged in bulk and biodegradable plastic (when possible) helps reduce or eliminate our overall use of single-use plastic.
Attitude’s products are crafted with natural, hypoallergenic ingredients and are vegan, cruelty-free, and certified by Ecologo.
Its bulk-size products help reduce the frequency that you need to replenish, while its plastic containers are made with the easiest-to-process plastic, should you need to recycle it. However, Attitude encourages customers to replenish, rather than recycle, with its eco-refills.
The company includes reforestation in its sustainability commitment. For each product sold, a tree is planted in partnership with two leading non-profit organizations: Eden Reforestation and One Tree Planted. Attitude sums up their mission simply: Clean products, less plastic, and more trees.
Brands that celebrate the beauty of the Earth and the individual
The beauty industry plays an important role in helping us feel good on the inside and the outside. Until recently, however, it has paid little heed to the beauty of the Earth, generating about 120 billion units of plastic packaging per year.
On a mission to give the industry a makeover, these sustainable Canadian beauty brands have scrubbed many of the negative effects of conventional cosmetics clean by adopting sustainable practices, products, and packaging.
Cruelty-free beauty and skincare from BKIND
This Quebec-based beauty and skincare brand offers an array of natural and cruelty-free products for the face, body, hair and nails. Its mission is to promote the power of plants through high quality body products made from natural ingredients.
As part of the company’s efforts to minimize its carbon footprint, all products are manufactured locally in Quebec, which limits transportation emissions.
Committed to eco-friendly packaging, BKIND’s containers are made with about 50 per cent Ocean Bound Plastic (OBP), which is abandoned plastic debris on the coast that is collected and diverted back into the global supply chain.
A proud proponent of the concept, “less is best,” BKIND sells products in bulk and refills, as well as shampoo and conditioner bars that eliminate plastic completely and are packaged in an FSC certified paper box.
To help you make an informed choice when you shop online, each product provides descriptions about its ingredients, packaging, and benefits to you and the environment.
Sustainable cosmetics from Cheekbone Beauty
This Indigenous-owned beauty brand is guided by the founder’s Anishinaabe roots with a mission that embodies the strengths of Western culture as well as Indigenous wisdom, called Two-Eyed Seeing, to benefit all living things. A key part of Cheekbone Beauty’s vision is to ensure its practices leave enough on the planet for not only this generation, but the next seven generations as well.
The company’s “Sustain” makeup collection consists of cruelty-free, plant-based products for the eyes, lips, and complexion. By manufacturing its products locally in Ontario, Cheekbone Beauty produces only what it needs, reducing the risk of having to dispose of merchandise that doesn’t get sold.
All packaging is refillable, recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. Its eye liner, for example, is made from FSC-certified wood and is designed to be sharpened until there is nothing left to throw away.
As an advocate for Indigenous youth, two per cent of all sales are donated to organizations that support Indigenous youth and, for every Sustain lipstick purchased, Cheekbone Beauty donates one lipstick to Indigenous youth.
Unwrapped Life’s plastic-free soap bars
Unwrapped Life is on a mission to prevent more than 20 million plastic bottles from drifting to the oceans by 2025. Its signature products are concentrated soap bars for the body and hair that eliminate the need for bottles. You can also purchase eco-friendly bathroom accessories, razors, and deodorant.
The brand’s “bars over bottles” business model has helped divert more than six million bottles since 2016. Consider that one Unwrapped Life shampoo bar (that dries between uses) can do as many hair washes as three shampoo bottles, many of which would otherwise end up in a landfill.
For every purchase made, Unwrapped Life collects 10 ocean bound plastic bottles in partnership with the organization Plastic Bank, which diverts plastics from the ocean in vulnerable coastal communities by paying collectors a premium that helps provide basic necessities.
Sustainable Canadian clothing brands
We may not buy clothes as frequently as shampoo or household cleaners, but the fashion industry alone contributes about 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.
Eco-conscious fashionistas may want to consider the many emerging sustainable fashion brands the next time they update their wardrobe. These four Canadian brands are on a mission to clean up the fashion industry’s production methods. They offer high quality, long-lasting wardrobe essentials with eco-friendly materials and processes that aim to minimize their environmental footprint.
Tentree’s sustainable essentials
Tentree offers a wide range of casual classics and relaxed leisure wear for women, men, and kids designed in Canada and manufactured globally. The certified B-corporation sources sustainable materials, as well as develops and follows practices that significantly reduce waste.
In fact, Tentree calculatesthe environmental footprint of each of its products using its own "“ecolog” calculator. It compares each score to a similar conventionally-made product––and every product by Tentree has a significantly better score. The TreeWaffle hoodie, for example, scores three out of 10 (the lower the number, the better the eco-score), while a similar conventional hoodie scores 8.2.
Tentree also provides in-depth explanations about its business practices, materials, and more, leaving little doubt to the brand’s environmental commitment.
When shopping online, you can review how each product was made, the materials used, and its environmental footprint. To offset its emissions further, Tentree plants 10 trees with every purchase.
You can also join the Tentree community’s Climate+ program, which offers monthly subscriptions to offset the carbon footprint of an average Canadian individual or family through tree planting.
Franc for size-inclusive basics
Sustainable Canadian brand Franc makes it easy to build an eco-conscious wardrobe with timeless, size-inclusive essentials made exclusively in Ontario, Canada. With its office located only 30 km from the factories that make its clothing, it’s clearly a proponent of local production. Its sustainable fabrics are knit and dyed using non-toxic, low-impact, environmentally-friendly dyes in Toronto.
Franc’s business model is structured around five rules: make products designed to last, ensure employees are treated as they (the owners) would want to be treated, use fabrics that are kind to the earth, minimize waste, and price clothes fairly.
When shopping online, it’s easy to dig deep into how each piece of Franc clothing is made, so you can be confident your purchase is an environmentally-conscious one.
Franc includes shipping as part of its sustainability efforts, too. The company calculates the total emissions generated by its shipping orders each month, then applies this amount to carbon offsets to neutralize those emissions. As a plastic-free business, its shipping bags are compostable and its marketing materials are printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper.
Get outdoors with Alder Apparel
Alder Apparel was founded by two women who wanted to offer more inclusive outdoor clothing options to Canadians. Its recreational clothes are made with eco-friendly natural fibres or recycled material, and it partners with ethical factories around the world, as well as with a local female-owned garment manufacturer in Toronto.
As a proponent of inclusive sizing, community-informed design, and sustainable production, Alder Apparel is a playful brand on a mission to set itself apart from traditional performance-driven athletic brands. Its focus is on the fun side of outdoor recreation and its vision is based on inclusivity, diversity, and inclusion.
Alder Apparel’s signature piece of clothing is the open air pant, which is thoughtfully designed for comfort and function in any type of activity for every body shape. The company’s business practices are informed by its four values: leave it better than we found it, invest in the next generation, demand equal opportunity, and mindful design.
Wrap up with Norden Project
As Canadians, we wear many jackets—literally—to enjoy (and survive) our four seasons. But finding a coat that is both warm, stylish and eco-friendly isn’t always easy. Sustainable Canadian outerwear brand Norden Project ticks all the boxes.
This Montreal-based business creates stylish and functional performance outerwear from repurposed waste and recycled materials. Offering raincoats, vests, parkas and puffers for men and women, its style is minimalist and contemporary to suit just about anyone’s taste.
This Certified B-Corporation works with certified eco-responsible organizations and is committed to using 100 per cent recycled and repurposed materials in everything they create, including packaging. Certified by PETA, Norden Project products use no animal products.
As part of its commitment to minimize waste, Norden Project offers its customers a Full-Circle program that enables you to return your Norden jacket after three years if you’re ready to update your style. Norden Project will donate or recycle it on your behalf and, in return, you receive 30 per cent off a new Norden jacket. The company also offers a $100 CDN discount on a new Norden jacket if you trade in another brand’s winter parka.
Read more: 24 ways to save money and the planet
Canadian sustainable brands make eco-conscious living easy
These sustainable brands prove that individual actions can, in fact, help fight the effects of climate change. By manufacturing eco-friendly alternatives to our daily essentials, these brands make it easy to lower your environmental footprint with simple product swaps. Collectively, the impact on climate change can be tremendous.
So the next time someone wonders what they can do personally to help the Earth, you’ll have some great suggestions.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Ventures Inc., or its affiliates.