We Asked 350+ Readers Which Sustainable Brands And Products They Actually Love
The Good Trade editors endorse products we’ve personally researched, tested, and genuinely love. Learn more about our methodology and business model here.
A few weeks ago, we reached out to our community of subscribers to The Daily Good to see how we’re all feeling about shopping in 2023, and what we’re thinking about for the holiday season. (How is it mid-November?)
We believe that the most sustainable products are the ones you actually use, and are always excited to hear how you all approach sustainability in your own lives. It’s inspiring for our work, and for our own individual lives — we have so much to learn from one another.
So first, let’s dive into introductions!
We heard from over 350 readers on their favorite brands, shopping habits, and gained plenty of insight from all the write-in options. Most of our respondents reside in North America and are between the ages of 18 and 54 (average age being around 39). But we were so excited to hear we’re reaching folks under 18 and over 75 — what a delight to have you in community with us, we appreciate you all! 💛
And we see you too, readers who reside outside of North America! We’re constantly inspired by every comment, response, and share from our global audience and can’t wait to ring in 2024 with more tips on sustainability, slow living, and self-love.
Below are the key takeaways and recos from our readers — keep on scrolling to read about your (and our) favorite brands.
1) Over half of your purchases are made from sustainable brands.
The majority of respondents (70%) shared that around half of their purchases come from sustainable brands, and well over half of all readers surveyed said they only make 1-2 purchases a month from conscious brands. While many of you prioritize sustainability in your purchases, you take your time to find exactly which products will fit into your lifestyle.
When you shop online, you said you like to visit the brand directly — tending to stay away from places like Amazon — and cutting out those additional costs. But we hear how convenient marketplaces are; one reader shared a relatable sentiment that reminds us how hard it can be to juggle logins across the web. “I know Amazon is terrible,” they wrote, “But I really wish more ethical brands sold on there, these days the ease of Amazon just can’t be beat.”
Remember, it’s a marathon and not a sprint and we’re all doing the best we can. Keep going, friends.
2) You would prefer to shop vintage, whenever possible.
One of our favorite findings was how much you all love to thrift and hunt for vintage and secondhand treasures. Many answers you submitted as write-ins included a mention of thrifting, and you’re certainly in good company. This year, we especially were excited to read that you’re looking for secondhand versions of already eco-minded brands like sneakers and denim — and we’re excited about the rise of brand-driven secondhand shops to meet that demand.
There is a caveat, though. We heard from many readers that it was even more important to them to limit consumption, rather than just shop from sustainable brands. “I always try to shop through online secondhand shops first,” said one reader, “But I notice I end up not loving everything and realizing shopping directly with the brand ends up being better for the longevity of the item in my closet.”
Thrift what you can, but remember to be thoughtful about your purchases. (And don’t forget to re-circulate the secondhand finds you don’t love!)
3) When it comes to organic and sustainable materials, the kitchen matters most.
We asked you about where you prioritize nontoxic, organic, and sustainable goods the most — and weren’t surprised that the kitchen took the top spot. Organic food and nontoxic cookware are high on your list! But almost equally important was the bathroom; hygiene and skincare are such intimate parts of our routines that it’s no wonder we’re wanting to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals there too.
While nontoxic wardrobes and bedrooms weren’t as high on the list, we noted that of the sustainable products you’re saving up for — 30 percent of respondents pointed out bedding, mattresses, and furniture as their next priority. It makes sense that these big-ticket items are on your mind for future purchases, as they’re not nearly as price-accessible as kitchen essentials. (Psst — with Black Friday coming up, you’ll want to keep an eye on mattress and bedding brands for sales.)
4) Not surprising: Patagonia is your favorite sustainable brand.
It’s no surprise that Patagonia was the most-loved brand in this whole survey and the most beloved fashion brand — for the second year in a row! As one of the earliest defenders of environmental ethics in the industry, Patagonia continues to expand its commitment to labor ethics as well. (Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, has given away the company to fight the climate crisis as of 2022.) Patagonia also has a secondhand shop, Worn Wear!
Everlane and Quince were named #2 and #3 as our readers top responsible fashion brands, especially thanks to their availability and price accessibility. Notable followups were Pact, an organic cotton basics brand with an ever-widening style scope, and Girlfriend, which makes size-inclusive and high-performance activewear from recycled materials.
We’re looking for quality, craftsmanship, cost, and materials — not always an easy balance to find. Which is why these five are topping the list! One reader shared their affinity for thrifting, of course, but also acknowledges the limitations for specific fits. “I have a goal to make 100% of my closet either thrifted, rented, handmade/custom, or something that I’ve had for a really long time,” they wrote. “[I’m] Looking increasingly for on-demand manufactured and custom sizing because I’m hard to fit, and I hate returning.”
5) When it comes to home goods, you shop small
Etsy was named our readers’ favorite place to shop for a wide variety of home goods, at reasonable prices, while supporting local makers and secondhand shops. For a second year in a row — check out this roundup of our 99 favorite Etsy shops! The marketplace supports a move to more affordable and accessible retailers for sustainable wares.
Avocado and Parachute were named #2 and #3 as our readers’ top sustainable home brands, both having strong commitments to healthy and organic materials, and divine design — they are form and function at its best.
6) The best in clean beauty goes to ILIA 🏆
But you still impressed us with how personal beauty is for each of you. This was the category with the most write-ins, from well-known drugstore brands down to small handmade skincare goodies (and some DIY in your own home!) ILIA has long been one of our favorites, like you, for its dewy Super Serum Skin Tint, which comes in 30 shades and offers SPF 40 coverage. In a tie for runners-up, OSEA and cocokind showed us that you all prioritize clean ingredients whether you have a big budget or a small skincare stipend.
7) When splurging on sheets, our readers think these linens are worth every penny.
Your most recommended bedding brand was none other than Parachute Home. Parachute’s bedding is made in a family-owned factory in Portugal and touts Oeko-Tex certification for supporting healthier sleep (so long, harmful chemicals!) This is a reader fave thanks to its wide range of products, including durable European flax linen and breathable long-staple cotton. Readers love the multiple colorways, and so do we.
We loved hearing about your favorite materials too. Many of you wrote in answers that reminded us that organic cotton, bamboo, and linen were more important than brand name in this category.
8) You don’t sacrifice comfort *or* cost when it comes to good undergarments
The most recommended brand for organic underwear (1 out of 3 respondents) was Pact — organic, comfortable, and affordable. The brand offers a range of intimates, from bralettes to high-rise briefs (which I’m wearing right this moment 👋).
Notable mentions were Boody and Subset (formerly Knickey), both brands that our editors can personally attest to for their quality materials and longevity. For the best support, readers shared Cosabella as their top pick.
9) When it comes to sustainable sneakers you balance style and comfort — but are willing to invest a little more
This year in a not-so-surprising turn of events, there was a close race for the top sustainable sneakers between Allbirds and Veja. Allbirds is well known for affordability and versatility, while Veja is known for its longevity and timeless style .
A couple of newcomers were less mentioned, but brands our editors already know and love. Vivaia, which started out with classic flats and has since expanded to some of the most comfortable, stylish shoes we’ve ever tried, made the list. Plus, we were thrilled to hear several of you noting Spanish brand Flamingos Life — a plant-based shoe brand that makes some of the coolest retro throwback shoes we’ve ever worn.
10) You want skincare and makeup — to come hand in hand
Cocokind topped the list of write-in responses in the skincare category, alongside beauty favorite ILIA, which tells us you’re looking for brands that can balance both clean skincare and light, natural makeup.
But moisturizing and protection are still top of the list — specific products you all recommended were cocokind’s Ceramide Barrier Serum, Ursa Major’s Golden Hour Recovery Cream, and OSEA’s advanced protection cream. We were also inspired by how many of you listed DIY and handcrafted Etsy products! One reader noted their body care of choice was “water from the tap, a little olive oil + sugar + lavender oil if I need a bit of pampering in the shower.” Doesn’t that sound accessible and luxurious?
11) Our readers only like two brands more than a good pair of secondhand denim.
Even when readers did have a brand recommendation for denim, you often qualified “but secondhand!” Vintage and thrifted denim are too good — it’s well worn-in and fits like a glove — so we can’t fault you for that being your go-to for finding eco-friendly jeans. That being said, Everlane and Levi’s (especially secondhand) were the most-listed brand favorites for denim thanks to their affordability, durability, and wide range of size and style options from skinny jeans to slouchy denim.
One interesting note this year was how many of you have opted not to wear denim at all. Several respondents let us know they no longer wear denim — which made us think of all the times we invested in a stiff and starchy pair of jeans only to put up with discomfort for the first several wears. One reader even noted that they make their own denim jeans. How cool is that!?
12) You’re leaders, not followers (of course you are! But here are some great sustainability influencers to follow anyway).
When we asked for your favorite ethical fashion influencers, the majority of you told us you didn’t have a go-to account that you like to follow. But if you are in the social media space, the rest of our readers suggested so many great creators —here are the three that came up most frequently. (Be sure to hit follow!)
13) You want to give homemade goodies
You love to shower your loved ones with unique and personalized homemade items — not surprising. But so many of you noted that you want only to gift experiences, time spent together, or consumables that leave a smaller footprint once they’re gone.
“Consumption is consumption, no matter how well-intentioned it can be,” says one reader. “This is why I prefer gifting time and things that will disappear. For example making a cake which the person will eat.” (Can we be on your gifting list, please?)
14) You want experience gifts…and also jewelry?
While handmade gifts did not make the top placement for items you want to *receive*, ephemeral experience gifts like subscriptions, event tickets, or other cultural activities did rank highly.
We also enjoyed hearing from folks who just want gift cards — one reader even mentioned that they share which sustainable brands they’re saving up for, so loved ones can contribute via gift cards if they’d like. No shame in that game if you know it’s an item you’ll use and love for years to come.
Overall, you may want to avoid gifting *or* requesting makeup and skincare products unless you know both parties understand each other’s routine well — most people already purchase the beauty products they love most for themselves. Readers also told us that robes, sweats, and slippers are low on their wishlists; our guess is that we all already have these cozy items after the last several years of hybrid/remote work.
Thank you, all, for sharing your insights with us and inspiring us as we head into 2024. We consistently share your feedback, notes of encouragement, and recommendations with each other in The Good Trade Slack channel. We learned even more than what we shared here, and we can’t wait to deliver you all the very best in sustainable products and responsibly-sourced products in the new year.
Wishing you all a warm, safe, and loving conclusion to 2023, and offer a reminder to share kindness, grace, and empathy whenever you can. We all need it right now.
Emily McGowan is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits and cat, or gaming. Say hi on Instagram!