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Conscientious Consumerism

Your dollars go further - and farther - when you spend them thoughtfully.

By Kellee Katagi

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The wallet and the palate drive most shoppers’ purchasing decisions. But consumers are increasingly weighing a third factor, too: their social conscience. From 2011 to 2013, the number of U.S. shoppers who said they were willing to spend more on products from socially responsible companies jumped from 36 percent to 44 percent; worldwide, the number climbs to 50 percent. Unfortunately, companies’ claims don’t always match reality, so it can be hard to tell whose practices align with your ideals. Here, we do some legwork for you, highlighting companies that are getting it right in six categories of social responsibility.


These companies keep the good going by passing sizeable portions of their profits to charity.

It’s hard to beat 100 percent. That’s the amount of after-tax profits—from this brand’s salad dressings, salsas, frozen pizzas, pasta sauces and other products—that go to charity. The funds benefit Newman’s Own Foundation, which in turn supports charities that focus on four categories: philanthropy, kids with life-limiting medical conditions, empowerment and nutrition.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Justin’s, Seventh Generation, Endangered Species Chocolate, Nature’s Path Organic


In-state products keep profits local and reduce carbon footprints by limiting resources devoted to shipping and storage.

This Denver company roasts 100 percent of its nut-, seed- and fruit-based snack mixes in-house. All of its products are free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.

The secret behind Boulder-based Rudi’s organic breads is a small-batch, extended-fermentation process that negates the need for preservatives and chemicals to make the bread rise. Also look for bagels, hamburger and hot dog buns, and a gluten-free line. KUDOS FOR: Organic 


Packaging make up the largest segment (30.3 percent) of solid municipal waste, according to the EPA. Companies can lower the impact by shrinking package sizes and using recyclable and less-toxic materials.

In 2012, Justin’s—a Boulder company that makes nut butters and candies—won a Responsible Packaging award from the Sustainable Food Trade Association for a jar made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials. Other bonuses: Justin’s cartons and boxes are made with wind power, all cardboard comes from 100 percent recycled paper, and the company’s big vision is to make a renewably sourced, home-compostable squeeze pack.
KUDOS FOR: chritable donations, sustainable production, Colorado Proud

Pacific eschews cans (and consequently BPA) by packaging its soups, broths and stocks, and nondairy beverages in Tetra Paks, recyclable, resealable cartons—made mostly of paper—that can keep perishable foods fresh for up to two years without refrigeration. Tetra Paks are lighter and more compact than cans, reducing their carbon footprint. KUDOS FOR: sustainable production HONORABLE MENTIONS: Seventh Generation, Evol, Zhena’s, Nature’s Path


Fair trade companies strive to ensure that every worker in their supply chain receives fair wages and humane working conditions. Products with some of the sketchiest track records include tea, chocolate, coffee and sugar.

In 2012, Zhena’s founded The Robin Hood Laptop Project to provide computers and educational materials to tea farmers’ children. KUDOS FOR: respnsible packaging, sustainable production, organic zhenas .com HONORABLE MENTIONS: Nature’s Path Organic

You can eat these delicious chocolate bars with a clean conscience, thanks to a Rainforest Alliance certification that guarantees the ingredient sourcing met high social and environmental standards. Plus, 10 percent of the net profits from each bar are donated to a species conservation organization. KUDOS FOR: charitable donations, sustainable production


The bigger a company gets, the more it tends to harm the environment. Getting—and staying—green requires creativity, sacrifice and commitment.

By using plant-based ingredients and improving its packaging (for example, using less virgin plastic), in 2012 Seventh Generation decreased its normalized greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent and saved enough fuel to drive around the globe more than 1,100 times, according to its company report. Seventh Generation also buys offset credits for the palm oil it purchases for its products. KUDOS FOR: charitable odnations, responsible packaging

Evol’s frozen burritos, quesadillas and dinner entrees taste even better when you know that all compostable waste from the company’s Boulder headquarters and manufacturing plant is donated to local farmers or a local nonprofit for composting. Evol also buys offsets to help fund new wind-energy farms. KUDOS FOR: responsible packaging, Coloado Proud HONORABLE MENTIONS: Justin’s, Pacific Foods, Zhena’s, Endangered Species Chocolate, Nature’s Path


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic farming lowers nonrenewable energy use and boosts long-term sustainability.

Choose a grocery category—meat, dairy, produce, snack, condiments, cereals, beverages, you name it—and you’ll likely find a Simple Truth Organic product that fits it. Then check out the Simple Truth website for a list of the 101 artificial preservatives and ingredients you won’t find in any Simple Truth product.

Every Nature’s Path product—cereals, granolas, bars, frozen waffles and more—is certified organic, giving you peace of mind that it doesn’t contain ingredients grown with toxic pesticides and other chemicals harmful to you and the planet. KUDOS FOR: charitable donations, responsible packkaging, sustainable production, fair trade HONORABLE MENTIONS: Zhena’s, Rudi’s


Avoid the trap of dishonest marketing claims by checking product packages for the following seals, which certify that rigorous standards have been met.

USDAOrganic logoFairTradeUSA logo QAI, Inc. logoFTI logo Rainforest Alliance Certified logoGreenAmerica logo


Tell us about your favorite company with a conscience. Comment below.

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