My local Target is nearly always overrun with college kids, especially at this time of year—from wide-eyed freshman stocking up on Top Ramen to seasoned seniors considering affordable clothes for interviews.
Target as a whole has impressed me with its emphasis on LGBTQ equality, environmentalism, and workplace diversity—but as I do my own school shopping these days, I’m zeroing in on six of its brands in particular that do a great job of promoting sustainability, community, and ethical practices.
First things first: Method offers biodegradeable, non-toxic cleaning products that are “natural,” which means all of their ingredients are either found in nature or derived from natural sources like coconut and plant oils. That’s the first box that needs to be checked: so many commercial cleaning supplies I use every day, like dishwasher soap and laundry detergent, contain toxic, unnatural chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and silicate salts.
But Method exceeds the basic expectations with its cruelty-free policies. It has promised never to test its products on animals. The company has even lobbied various state and federal agencies to accept non-animal product safety tests in place of animal tests—and has been successful!
Method cares about sustainability, too. Its pretty bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic, and the company is working towards making all of its factories zero-waste.
2. Annie’s Homegrown
As a kid, I was obsessed with Annie’s mac and cheese. To be honest, I still am—but now I get to dig into my white cheddar pasta shells with the understanding that there’s nothing artificial in the bowl. No artificial flavors, no synthetic colors or preservatives, no GMOs, no persistent pesticides, and no growth hormones… unlike Kraft mac & cheese.
The company also has some amazing employee benefits. There’s the traditional healthcare, 401(k), disability, etc., but there’s also a sustainability program. After six months of work, employees get $500 to put towards a commuter bike and $1,000 they can use to cut down on waste, water, or energy usage in their homes; after a year, they get $5,000 for a low-emissions vehicle.
3. TOMS for Target
I’m excited about this collaboration, which launched November 16th of 2014. It includes 50-plus items and goes way beyond slip-on shoes, into home goods, clothes, and accessories.
Since 2006, TOMS has donated more than 25 million shoes, but this Target collab has a twist. For every house or apparel item sold, Target will donate a blanket or a week of meals to a child in need. For every TOMS for Target shoes bought, a child in need will receive his or her own pair.
Nothing is over $50, so this is ideal for quick gifts, too!
4. Burt’s Bees
For lotion, cleanser, and lip balm I make a beeline towards this brand in Target’s makeup section.
Its products are approximately 99% natural and it doesn’t test on animals, so Burt’s Bees passes my two basic tests. The corporation also has an incredible commitment to sustainability—it doesn’t send any waste to landfills, even with 350 employees and three facilities. How? A “zero-trashcan” policy, along with 400 recycling and compost bins.
There’s also Burt’s Bee’s annual Culture Day. Every year, employees do “something good for the world”; past projects have included planting urban gardens and building hives for recovering bee populations.
5. Target Brand Clothes
Wait, really? I thought Target was famous for its “fast fashion”—trendy, cheap, and quickly discarded. Surprisingly (or maybe not, considering the way the environmentalist winds are blowing), two years ago Target began a huge sustainability initiative in the clothing industry.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which along with Target includes NIKE, REI, and Levi’s, launched a tool to measure how “green” a product is. Not only can brands use it to measure their environmental impact, but eventually the data will be available to consumers. I’m always down for more transparency.
From 2012 to 2013, Target test-piloted the ten best ways to reduce manufacturing waste in three of its factories. Since the results were so successful, the company has continued to expand the pilot methods to more textile mills.
6. Evol Foods
This summer, I made the controversial transition from veganism to omnivore. Since then, I’ve been ultra-conscious of the origins of the meat and animal by-products I consume—a tall order for anyone, but especially for a time-and-money-strapped student.
Luckily, Evol has some awesome frozen foods, including quesadillas and burritos, with humanely raised beef and pork. The meat comes from Niman Ranch, which is famous for its compassionate animal raising practices. (The Ranch even made an appearance in Jonathan Safran Froer’s Eating Animals.) And the chicken, from Red Bird Farms, is also raised humanely and fed an all-vegetarian diet. When you compare these conditions to the crowded, filthy, terrifying conditions of factory farms, these suppliers are the clear moral choice.
Plus, Evol has an awesome partnership with the Growe Foundation; together they use veggie gardens to teach elementary-school kids about making healthy environmental and dietary choices.
From Burt’s-Bee’s-shampooed head to Toms-clad toe, I’m taking advantage of these six brands. Way to go, Target—you’ve hit the ethical bulls-eye.
Aja Frost is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a regular contributor to Her Campus, The Prospect, and her college newspaper. Her work has been featured on xoJane and The Huffington Post. The only thing she loves more than writing is dessert. Follow her on Twitter @ajavuu.