Guilt-free goods

Eco-conscious subscription services catching on

“Nobody gets mail anymore. There is little interaction with the doorstep,” said Jesse Richardson, co-founder of Conscious Box, a company that supplies vegan and vegetarian boxes via subscription through the mail. Jameson Morris, a partner, vets the products. The cost is $19.95 per month and can include goods from soap to fair-trade chocolate, to household supplies and snacks.

“We want people to discover the best products,” Richardson said. The first vegetarian box launched in October 2011, and the vegan one followed about eight months later.

Conscious Box provides products in line with principles fostering organic, non-GMO food, fair trade and cruelty-free treatment of animals. “There is a demographic culture change happening in the U.S with more people wanting to live a sustainable life,” he said. “There is a growing culture of green.”

Goodebox is another eco-conscious, ship-to-your-door subscription business. Before founder Aysia Wright sends out a Goodebox full of beauty, personal-care and wellness items to new subscribers, she collects details on their hair and skin type, and what colors they prefer in a lipstick. About 10 percent to 15 percent of subscribers opt for a vegan box. Wright says it is “tough to source high-performing vegan beauty products. Many have beeswax and toxic chemicals—we won’t buy those products.”

Wright uses the cosmetics database from the Environmental Working Group to aid her search for toxin-free products and considers other factors such as a company’s sustainability and animal-welfare practices.

Guest experts like celebrity makeup artist Kristen Arnett and TV host and chef Renee Loux choose each month’s products, some of which can be found at other outlets like Sephora and Whole Foods.

Competition is fierce in what Wright calls the “subscription commerce field.”

“There are many start-ups and the field is exploding, resulting in a race to carve out your own space,” she said.

Indeed, Eco-Emi has carved out its eco-niche. “The mission of Eco-Emi is to help our subscribers live a green, eco-friendly life,” said owner Christine Bowman. “We want them to learn about toxic chemicals, which companies are producing which products and which ones are preserving wildlife.”

The Eco-Emi box includes home and personal-care products, and while it is not 100 percent vegan, since it sometimes includes honey, Bowman does not accept honey from vendors that stun bees. The boxes cost $15 per month and are packaged by disabled people.

Bowman says she tries out “each and every product” while contacting vendors for samples and turning down companies that fail to provide adequate information about manufacturing and sustainability practices. There are five to 10 sample-sized and one full-sized product in every box. Bowman works with nonprofits such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Save the Manatee Club, and includes organization information in the boxes.

With a name touting its good intentions, The Honest Company launched in January 2012 with actress Jessica Alba as a co-founder. Alba is a hands-on team leader when available, according to co-founder Christopher Gavigan. “Our company is built as a solution for modern families to gain access to better, safer products,” he said.

The Honest Company sells eco-friendly diapers, bath and body items and cleaning products that are delivered to homes each month. The diapers are made with wheat and corn, and contain no petrochemicals. They are also free of chlorine, perfume, phthalates, lotions and PVCs. The diaper bundle costs $79.95 per month.

Cleaning materials from The Honest Company do not contain ingredients found in traditional cleaning products such as chlorine bleach, ammonia, dyes, phosphates and formaldehyde. Instead, they are made with plant-based and coconut-based cleansers that do not emit toxic vapors, Gavigan said. The cleaning bundle is $35.95.

“People, especially parents, are time-poor and need moments in their day to gets things done,” Gavigan said. “Our products are nontoxic and we want to help parents get these products in an efficient manner. It’s guilt-free shopping.”

A longer version of this story appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of E/The Environmental Magazine.