Sustainable 2020

Purist celebrates the global giants and upstart indies who are embracing innovation and working overtime to heal the planet and give back during the pandemic. By Julia Szabo


Rail-riding commuters who crave a snack may be disappointed at first to learn that dining cars on some trains are temporarily suspended, to create space for customers and crew to safely practice onboard social distancing. Then we learn that Amtrak is rerouting the fare where it’s needed most: Not only is this company serving essential workers by continuing to operate, it’s also honoring its commitment to donate unsold food and supplies to charitable organizations in several major metropolitan areas, including City Harvest in virus-devastated NYC. With aviation and automobiles negatively impacting the environment, rails are the way to go for eco-aware travelers: According to the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy Data Book, traveling by Amtrak is 47 percent more efficient than traveling by car, and 33 percent more efficient than domestic airline travel on a per-passenger-mile basis. Amtrak has planet-friendly initiatives that include improved train handling and energy-efficient locomotives.





At the 92nd Academy Awards, Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix’s heartfelt comments on cruelty to cows motivated many to ditch dairy for good. Presenting plant-based substitutes as tantalizing fare is the job of So Delicious and Silk brands, jewels in the crown of French company Danone. So Delicious plain coconut milk, vanilla coffee creamer and Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl ice cream are decadent enough to fool dairy loyalists. Employing some 600 workers at its U.S. headquarters in White Plains, New York, the global giant acted locally without hesitation when COVID-19 struck its home base of Westchester County: Danone donated $1.5 million to food banks and charitable organizations, including Feeding Westchester.




COVID-19 is a mother of invention for manufacturers who deftly pivot in creative new directions as demand continues for PPE (personal protective equipment). The hosiery house has reinvented its signature “no-show sock” as high-tech hand protection, a pivot that fits like a glove. The result: the Gekks SLVR, a cool, comfy, stretchy blend of polyester (spun from recycled plastic bottles), Lycra and silver-coated, antimicrobial nylon yarn. At press time, more than 10,000 pairs have been donated to essential and front-line workers at, among others, NYC’s Mount Sinai Hospital, the Chicago Police Department and Houston’s Legacy Community Health, with more on the way.





Ooni’s game-changing home pizza oven, the Ooni 3, is powered by energy-efficient wood pellets and bakes a pie to perfection in 60 seconds. Early in May, Ooni provided pizzaioli with a brilliant incentive to pie-it-forward to front-line heroes: make pizzas for donation, and for each one tagged on social media, the company donated $1 to hunger charities, including Feed America and Food Banks Canada.




More than Fritos and Cheetos, this global brand also includes Sabra Hummus, Stacy’s Pita Chips, SoBe, SodaStream and Simply snacks (made with no artificial flavors or colors; Simply Tostitos, for instance, get their flavor and crunch from non-GMO blue corn). Enabling positive choices for the planet, PepsiCo plans to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity in the U.S. this year, with a deadline of 2025 to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. But the company’s immediate priority is, says chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta, “directing critical resources to the most vulnerable.” The company is mining its PepsiCo Foundation, distributing more than 50 million nutritious meals worldwide, and allocating its $45 million COVID-19 response to support the most hard-hit communities, including $15.8 million for North America.




Cotton face masks, with nonelasticized fabric ties attached, have decidedly old-school Hollywood flair. The LA-based sustainable fashion label Reformation, beloved by customers for its mission of literally re-forming new frocks from old ones, partnered with its home city to manufacture face gear for essential workers. As of this writing, Reformation has given away 250,000 meticulously made, non-medical masks; beneficiaries include UCLA Health and The Mission Homeless Shelters.




Paint is a major source of pollution, from production to application and beyond: Conventional coatings release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) long after they
dry. Paint giant Sherwin-Williams supports healthier alternatives that don’t stint on performance or aesthetics. Satisfying LEED V4 criteria, many of the company’s products have achieved GREENGUARD Gold Certification. To address PPE shortages across America, Sherwin-Williams is donating tens of thousands of masks, protective gloves and lab coats to hospitals, law enforcement and first responders; the company has also delivered coatings products to producers of ventilators, oxygen tanks and hospital bed frames.





Consumers loyal to the Q-tips brand appreciate that—while far from zero-waste—these iconic swabs have a nonplastic applicator stick made of bonded paper and paperboard that’s sustainably sourced. Parent company Unilever, maker of diverse brands from Axe to Noxzema, Hellman’s mayo to Talenti sorbetto, has set a 2030 goal of “reducing environmental impact by half” by addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, eco-efficiency and packaging waste. For now, Unilever is focused on its “United for America” initiative, a wide-ranging set of measures supporting global citizens during the pandemic; the company pledged contributions of more than 100 million euros (approximately
$108 million U.S.).




With Purell scarcer than Scott tissue, many nonsanitizer manufacturers ingeniously rose to the challenge of churning out alternative hand cleaners, and Warfighter Hemp of Boulder, Colorado, formulated not one but two (gel and spray). Founded with the mission of helping veterans of America’s armed forces to combat stress naturally, Warfighter Hemp dedicates 50 percent of proceeds from sales of its tinctures, capsules and lotions—all made with organically grown hemp—for donation to worthy causes that support our country’s heroes. When COVID-19 broke out, the company didn’t hesitate to take working parts of one item and use them in another. Cannibalizing its own cannabidiol, Warfighter Hemp combined 800 mg CBD with alcohol, glycerin, aloe vera and lavender to create a healing hand cleaner. At press time, 1,500 bottles of Warfighter Hemp antiseptic sanitizer have been donated.



The economic fallout of COVID-19 is hitting home for more and more American pets, who find themselves abandoned at animal shelters—or simply turned outdoors—by people too financially strapped to afford dog or cat food. Others mistakenly fear their animals will give them the virus (while animals can contract it from humans, they can’t transmit it to us). Wishbone Pet Food, makers of a clean-cuisine combo of superfood ingredients (think mango, papaya, rosemary and basil), has announced its plan to provide more than 5,000 pounds of food for North American animals in need—that’s 7,800 meals for canines, and 6,500 feline feasts. Beneficiaries of the gesture included the Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), New York’s Putnam County SPCA, SPCA Ouest (serving the animals west of Montreal, Quebec), and Healing Animal Scars (a foster-based cat rescue in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia).