How We Are Trying to Practice Sustainability - Public Goods

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How We Are Trying to Practice Sustainability

Today people are more divided than ever, but there is at least one goal we can all agree on: survival.

bamboo, tissue box, paper towels

We want our species to live comfortably on this planet for as long as possible, for future generations to inherit a world that is habitable.

As consumers we constantly make small decisions that add up and impact the environment. Every item you buy affects the health of our ecosystem, the consumption of natural resources, labor and the standards regarding how companies make and distribute products.

At Public Goods we keep these ideas in mind with every product we develop. If you browse our goods, you’ll see that every page has a few lines and labels that explain why the products are sustainable. Many of our members value sustainability and have asked for more information, so we wanted to expand on those details and offer a more vivid picture of how we are trying to positively impact the environment.

Planting a Tree for Every New Member


In September, 2019 we formed a partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, a nonprofit that has planted hundreds of millions of trees to restore our forests, support impoverished communities and combat climate change. For every new Public Goods member, we give Eden the money to plant another tree.

Staying Tree-Free by Using Bamboo

Trees provide the oxygen we need to breathe, and they are essential pillars of many valuable ecosystems. Nonetheless, manufacturers cut millions of them down every year to make household goods such as toilet paper. Our forests are being depleted faster than they can recover.

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Fortunately there are substitutes that can replenish rapidly, namely bamboo. Rather than contributing to deforestation, we rely on bamboo for all of our paper-based products, as well as a few other items.

Bamboo may bare some resemblance to a tree, but it’s actually a grass. Unlike most tree species, farmers and manufacturers can harvest bamboo without killing it. The plant stays in place and regrows until it is ready to be harvested again.

More Details On Our Tree-Free Products

Cruelty-Free Manufacturing and Plenty of Vegan/Vegetarian Options

public goods pasta and olive oil

Manufacturing often involves testing on animals or unethical labor practices where workers are abused, underpaid, underage, overworked or even enslaved. Amazon, for example, subjected many of their warehouse workers to horrible conditions such as unbearable smells and lack of bathroom breaks.

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At Public Goods we only work with manufacturers who meet our standards of ethics and sustainability. No one is suffering to make and deliver our products.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, use the below links to find products that will suit your lifestyle:

No Harmful Chemicals

public goods cleaning products, coconut halves

Sometimes what’s good for the environment is also best for your body. Did you know U.S. products use more than 1,000 unhealthy ingredients that are banned in Europe? Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Synthetic growth hormones (found in meat)
  • Artificial dyes (adding color to unhealthy cereals and desserts)
  • Brominated vegetable oil (preserving soda)
  • Arsenic (one of the top 10 chemicals the World Health organization is concerned with)

When we became more educated, we decided to make sure our products were devoid of harmful chemicals that often contribute to pollution as well. Nonetheless, we acknowledge that picking ingredients can be a controversial process, and not everyone agrees on what is healthy. We can always improve, so we welcome your feedback.

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Here are a few of the controversial substances that are not in Public Goods products:

  • Parabens: overexposure to it can disrupt hormone function
  • Phthalates: can affect reproductive systems
  • Sulfates: part of petroleum production that is not good for the environment

Saving Electricity and Water

public goods dishwasher detergent pods in bag

Saving money on your electricity and water bills also means there are more resources that will last longer for everyone else. Our cleaning products consume less power, and our washing-related products are greywater-friendly, meaning they leave behind water that is safe to reuse for toilets, watering plants, etc.

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More Details On Our Greywater-Friendly and Electricity-Saving Washing and Drying Products

Biodegradable (and Compostable) Products

stack of white public goods towels

As you might have already noticed, many of our products are biodegradable. They won’t be taking up space in a landfill, and some can be used for composting. Instead of harming the earth, they return to it.

More Details on Some of Our Biodegradable Products

Consult your local municipal composting facilities to see which products you should send to them or try to compost at home.

Refills That Reduce Waste

public goods refill bags

Most brands don’t offer large refill bottles for their shampoos and similar products. This shortcoming means more waste and time running to the store, not to mention less value for consumers. We provide refill versions of several of our products so you can reuse plastic bottles and save money.

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More Details on Our Refills

Inclusive Gluten-Free Products

public goods coffee bag and beans, kitchen towel

Offering healthy products is also about including everyone, not only those who were lucky to be born without major allergies or medical conditions. To be inclusive of people with gluten allergies and celiac disease, many of our products do not contain gluten.

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Investment in Sustainable Packaging + Zero Waste Products

public goods wool dryer balls and bag

We are trying to make our box and product packaging more sustainable by reducing plastic and investing in alternative materials that are biodegradable or compostable. To learn more about our efforts, read this blog post.

If you don’t want to wait for advancements in packaging, here are some of our products that are already zero waste (the products themselves are 100% biodegradable, compostable or reusable, they don’t have packaging, or 100% of the packaging is easily recyclable):


hands overlapping

Instead of allowing our extra inventory and product development samples to go to waste, we donate them to charities, nonprofits, shelters and schools. We also make financial contributions.

Here are a few of the organizations we have supported:

If you want to learn more about our charitable efforts, these blog posts provide more details on some of our contributions:

You Don’t Have to Choose Between Sustainability and Savings

At stores sustainable products like these often cost more than mainstream brands. Consumers have to choose between saving money or saving the environment.

By becoming a Public Goods member, you can buy products that are healthy, sustainable and affordable. Doing your part to help the environment doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive.

Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.

From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.

Comments (33)

  • I love that you guys as a company are trying to be more sustainable and reduce waste and plastic, but it seems like there is a lot of packaging that could be improved. The refills for the bath products come in plastic bags. The cleaning products come in plastic bottles and no refill options. Isn’t there a way to use longer lasting bottles or provide refills that can be made from a tablet instead of buying a new bottle? I feel like there is still so much room to improve. But I like where the company is headed! I hope it can continue to improve.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      You are right that we have much room for improvement. We are working on cleaner refills and should be able to launch them in a few months. We are developing concentrates/tablets as well.

      Plastic reduction is a huge challenge. Sometimes the FDA requires us to use all that plastic. We are, however, trying to limit or eliminate it wherever we can. We will send updates as we make more progress in that area.

      Thank you for supporting us and being patient as we evolve!

      • I’ve had a little more time to get some more of the supplies and use them. Is there a way to get rid of the plastic around the tree free toilet paper? Selling the laundry pods and detergent pods in paper boxes instead of plastic? Are the laundry and detergent pods completely biodegradable or do the pods break down into microplastics? Can you sell detergents that are just powder and not in pods? how do I dispose of the bamboo toothbrushes if the bristles are plastic? I haven’t used the razors but it seems like the razor cartridges are wasteful. Are there plans to make it more sustainable or maybe offer an all metal razor like a safety razor and just metal blades? All in all though I’ve been really happy with the quality of the products. I’ve recommended the products to most people who are looking for an easy way to be a little more sustainable, but there’s always more we can do! Thanks!

        • Hi Cynthia,

          I’m glad you’ve been happy with the experience overall. You’re right that there is always more we can do, and every day we’re trying to improve here. As a small token of our appreciation for this feedback, feel free to use the code, PGBLOGFAM, to save $5 on your next order.

          Here are the answers to your questions:

          Right now we don’t have an alternative to the plastic wrapping around the toilet paper, but we have been thinking about how to eventually switch.

          We are going to offer liquid alternative to the laundry pods that has a recyclable plastic container instead of the non-recyclable bag. The pods are completely biodegradable. They don’t break down into microplastics.

          We have considered powder, too, but that development would take much longer than the liquid.

          If you’re really determined to responsibly dispose of the bamboo toothbrushes, you can cut off the top part with the nylon bristles and compost the rest of the bamboo shaft. It’s a pain to cut through the bamboo, but it’s possible.

          We have considered fully metal blades. We’ll let you know when we have updates there.

          Our main focus has been figuring out how to reduce plastic and switch to aluminum containers. After we finish that project, we might have more time for the above.

          • There are other companies that sell their refills in milk carton type containers (cleaning products/ liquid refills). Seems to me that’s more sustainable than non-recyclable plastic bags. I’d love to try the shampoo- already have a bottle to put it in- but until the refills are sustainably packaged, I’ll pass. Will probably try the shampoo bar though.
            I will continue to watch in anticipation of what’s next! Thanks for taking the 1st steps toward sustainability.

  • Question? I love your products and but I wonder if the refill lunches are biodegradable?i get refills but they look like they’re just in more plastic?

      • Can you tell me what organization certifies your products organic? I appreciate the simple design, but seeing a logo as proof that it was certified by a legitimate organization is reassuring.

        • Hi Kate,

          The USDA certifies our organic products. You’ll see the label on relevant products such as our olive oil.

    • The vast majority of our products are made in America. Our bamboo-based products come from China because of its convenient supply of bamboo.

  • Love this one! Will it be updated later as new products and solutions come into play? If so, I will save it as a reference.

  • The concept is great, but as I look more in depth, many of your health products (lotion etc) contain primarily surfactants; harmful ingredients that just basically put a barrier or coating on the skin. Ingredients like dimethicone, when used over time, can increase skin irritation. It just seems like the concept is so hyper focused on sustainability, that many of the products are lacking majorly in actual quality. So to make products ‘sustainably’ that don’t work seems nearly as bad as consumerism using non sustainable methods of production.

    • Hi Amy,

      Thank you for the feedback! I forwarded it to our product development team. We are definitely committed to increasing quality, and we’ll make announcements when we improve those products. As a small token of our appreciation for commenting here, feel free to use the code, PGFBFAM, to save $5 if you decide to buy our products.

  • The toilet paper is awesome quality and feeling. I was wondering if it’d be possible to have a thinner cardboard tube in each roll, the current one is sturdy, but I don’t think that’s needed. I think using half the material would still do the job. Also, if the rolls come compressed you save the empty space inside each roll and more rolls can be shipped in the same volume. I have seen some other brands do that.

    • That’s a good idea! I will forward that feedback to our product development team. Also, here’s a code for saving $5 on your next order: PGBLOGFAM.

  • Wondering if you plan to carry those laundry detergent strips anytime soon. Those are great because they come in one cardboard sleeve that’s not big to ship, and no plastic at all. I’d love to see this from Public Goods!

  • I’m interested in finding out more about your sourcing of things like palm kernel/palm oil etc as well as bamboo and sugar cane. I know these are theoretically more sustainable than trees, but on the other hand there is such terrible deforestation resulting from these industries. Do you have any info on your product sourcing as it relates to those issues?

    Also would love to see glass bottles or bio-plastics for things like shampoo and other personal care. Thanks in advance!

  • Congratulations on a cool concept, I am wishing you much success. You mention that labor standards are important to you, but can you provide more detail on exactly what your company is doing to ensure that there is no forced labor or labor trafficking in your supply chain? Does your company have specific written policies that are communicated to your suppliers? Are there third party audits of those suppliers, and of your company, to ensure compliance with those standards? As we talk about sustainability, human rights are a critical component of that conversation. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

  • Hello! We love your products and were early members. During the shelter in place we sent a shipment to our mother in law. She noticed the box soups (carrot and tomato) are produced in Lithuania and was concerned about sustainable shipping. We were surprised even though its posted on the product page (thanks for that!) but had assumed everything but your tree-free products were produced in North America. Is there a reason you chose a manufacturer across the world for those products, or can you share a little bit more about their practices? Thanks so much for everything you do!

    • Hi Melissa, Thanks for reaching out! Our product development team sources our products from suppliers around the world who meet our ethical standards and provide high-quality products at affordable prices. Each product is thoroughly researched and tested to ensure that the quality is up to snuff and the price point is accessible to our members. Whenever possible, we prefer to partner with suppliers in the US but we will choose suppliers elsewhere based on quality and regional specialties. This would be the case for those soups from Lithuania.

  • Just a thought, Who Gives A Crap sends me bamboo toilet paper every few months with no plastic whatsoever. I love the fact that you’re starting this up, but right now I see no reason to subscribe to your list or switch to your products simply because there is still way too much plastic for my liking and I am not comfortable enough with your explanations and descriptions to give you my email address. I have already solved a lot of these problems on my own. I will definitely keep checking in on your site to see what you’re up to.

    • Hey Erin,

      Thanks so much for your feedback! We definitely agree that we have room to improve. As we grow, we hope to reduce the amount of plastic we use as much as possible, and are always actively making changes! We recently just developed a home-compostable vegetable based plastic that will eliminate a ton of the single use plastics we use for packing and food storage. Although we definitely aren’t perfect, we’re proud that a majority of our products are packaged in recyclable, compostable, reusable, or biodegradable materials.

      We appreciate that you keep checking back with us as well! Our commitment to sustainability means that we’re dedicated to reducing our footprint as much as possible, and we’ll never stop striving to become the best we can be. If you decide you’d like to give us a shot, feel free to use code BLOG15 for $15 off of your first order! We’re always happy to be transparent about our goods, so please let us know if we can answer any other questions for you.🌱😊

  • A lot of great things about your company, however the use of plastic bottles and the fact that your refill containers don’t seem to be environmentally friendly will keep me from purchasing from your site. Please use different materials. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mary! All of our white, 12 oz. personal care bottles are a sugarcane-derived bioplastic, which is fully recyclable and less exhaustive to produce. While we understand that the flexible plastic we use for our refill pouches is not a super sustainable option, there are benefits to using it! Flexible plastic takes up less space than alternatives like glass, and weighs much less, making it more cost-effective and eco-friendly to ship. We are actively looking for more sustainable packaging solutions and look forward to making those changes in the future!

      If you haven’t given us a try yet, please feel free to use BLOG15 for $15 off your first order. Thanks for checking out our blog and sharing your thoughts with us!

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