Hunting down environmentally friendly, socially responsible groceries and personal care products often requires a Veronica Mars-level amount of sleuthing.
To find the most sustainable pick available, you have to read through brands’ websites and then, based on the usually limited and vague information available, attempt to decipher which one has the smallest footprint and does the most social good. From there, you might want to dig even deeper for certifications and evidence that the companies are actually following through with their claims and not greenwashing. And, in some cases, all this research can still leave you empty-handed. Compounding the problem is that the small, independent brands that do hit your eco and ethical standards often struggle to land a spot in supermarkets and big-box stores.
But business pros Katie Tyson, Scott Morris, Thomas Ellis, and Steven Annese knew it didn’t have to be this complicated, both for consumers and companies. So in January 2021, the team publicly launched Hive, an online marketplace for sustainable groceries and personal care products that makes shopping sustainably actually simple. “We present a lot of information people are seeking upfront, do a lot of the due diligence with the brands for folks, and then make it really easy to understand,” says Tyson. (Shopping for sustainable activewear, however, will require a bit of know-how.)
The almond butter, jams, grains, hot sauces, and more sold on the site have all been judged based on the ″Hive Five,” a set of criteria for environmental friendliness, social responsibility, and quality developed by the company’s in-house sustainability team. In order for a brand’s products to be sold on Hive, it needs to meet at least two of the five standards – though roughly 90 percent meet at least three of them and some (called the Hive Goldies) meet all five, says Tyson. “Our goal is to get to a place where every single brand is a five out of five, but that’s not really possible today,” she explains. “We really want to reward progress versus perfection, so we’re constantly working with the brands within our ecosystem of Hive to ‘get to better,’ as we call it. We see it as a huge opportunity to work with those brands that are not meeting everything and help them get there.”
This push to “get to better” spans across the supply chain. The ingredients used to create a snack, pantry item, or body soap, for example, should be traceable, sustainably, regeneratively, or organically farmed, Fair Trade or Direct Trade certified, or all of the above, says Tyson. The products should have low carbon footprints, which can be achieved by using renewable energy, participating in carbon offsetting programs, or growing ingredients and creating the final product in the U.S., she adds. And the companies themselves should be committed to supporting a cause, whether by donating a percentage of profits or having their employees volunteer. “A lot of our brands go above and beyond – they’re not just existing to make money, but to do good in the world,” explains Tyson. “We want to reward brands that are doing [this social good] and also share that information with our customers.” (Related: This Under-the-Radar Workout Brand Rivals Nike – and Has Philanthropic and Eco-Friendly Roots)
Another must-have for Hive-approved products: curbside recyclability. Since plastic films, chip bags, and soap pumps can’t always be dropped in the green bin like water bottles, they need to be made of plastic components that can be integrated into Hive’s TerraCycle recycling program, says Tyson. When a consumer orders a TerraCycle-compatible product, Hive will send them a prepaid USPS envelope – for a $2 fee – to ship off the waste to TerraCycle, a company that’ll transform it into park benches, playground materials, and flooring tiles. “That program gets us to almost 100 percent recyclability across all of our products,” she says. (Talk about $2 well spent.)
The fifth, and perhaps most important to, say, foodies and skin-care gurus, standard is that the products need to be “rave-worthy,” says Tyson. Before a product makes it onto the storefront, multiple members of the Hive team will try it themselves so consumers know it’s legit. “The goal is two-fold: We want people to like the things they get, but we also want to avoid them ending up in the landfill because people aren’t satisfied with them,” she adds. “It’s a waste elimination thing as much as it is a guarantee of quality.” A few of the brands that Hive shoppers are currently obsessed with, according to Tyson, are Tony’s Chocoloney, Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, and Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve. And anyone can snag these eco-friendly finds simply by “adding to cart” on Hive’s site – no membership required. Once you place an order on the site, Hive will ship your goodies to you in plastic-free, curbside-recyclable packaging and offset all the carbon emissions, shares Tyson. What’s more, (PSA: Pan’s is just one of many delicious vegan jerkies on the market.)
And Hive’s impact extends well beyond creating stress-free access to genuinely sustainable foods and beauty buys. By giving the brands that aren’t yet scoring top marks across all five categories resources to improve their practices – and encouraging those that applied and didn’t make the cut to keep trying – Hive is helping to bring sustainability to the forefront of the conversation and major store shelves. “We obviously want to be the destination for sustainable shopping, but we want to influence other people, other companies, other retailers to do more of this – to put more of these practices in place,” says Tyson. “We’re huge believers that rising tides raise all ships in this realm.