When Garden & Gun added the first ever Sustainability category to the magazine’s thirteenth annual Made in the South Awards, presented in partnership with Explore Asheville, applications rolled in by the dozens. The small-batch North Carolina rug manufacturer Cicil eventually took top honors, but selecting just one Sustainability Award winner proved an even more difficult task than we anticipated.
To honor other forward-thinking Southern makers who have committed themselves to the environment by incorporating eco-friendly practices into their processes, we rounded up seven more companies that are putting sustainability at the heart of their business—all while making best-in-class products.
Sustainability winner: Cicil
The Durham, North Carolina–based textile company Cicil has sustainability woven into its very fabric. “In the deeply personal spaces of our homes,” explains Laura Tripp, who cofounded the company with Caroline Cockerham last November, “we want to surround ourselves with things made in a way we can respect.” While most textiles are produced from either synthetics or bleached and dyed wool, Tripp and Cockerham—who met while working at eco-conscious Patagonia—instead gather wool from small family farms and co-ops in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, including black and brown (usually considered undesirable because darker hues can’t be dyed). That wool travels to South Carolina for cleaning, or scouring, and then moves to a third-generation manufacturer in North Carolina for carding, spinning, braiding, and sewing. The final products: made-to-order, nontoxic, undyed, wiggle-your-toes-soft rugs in shades of grays and browns, sewn in curvy shapes that create as little waste as possible during production. “We have dug into every detail of our supply chain,” Cockerham says. “Love of product and sustainability go hand in hand.” —Lindsey Liles
Most of the coffee and tea you start your mornings with is imported, and while some producers make their homes in the United States, yaupon is the only caffeinated plant native to North America—Native American tribes harvested and brewed the hardy species, which thrives even in drought conditions, for thousands of years. A decade ago, Abianne Falla discovered yaupon growing wild on her family ranch, and eventually transformed the tasty untapped resource into the beverage company CatSpring Yaupon. Today, CatSpring sustainably wild harvests its yaupon across Texas, meaning they don’t use any excess water in the cultivation of their plants and adhere to the highest organic standards, which has earned them a prestigious Regenerative Organic certification.
Sustainability’s not just at the heart of this Nashville-based home goods brand, it’s literally in the name. Cleo—which stands for clean, local, ethical, organic—was founded by three friends after they struggled for years to find household products that checked those boxes but were also beautifully packaged and, most importantly, effective. Today, their collection of sustainably made cleaning supplies includes a dish soap, laundry detergent, hand soap, all-purpose clean-up spray, and room spray. Ditching single-use plastics as well as harmful chemicals, each product comes in sleek (refillable!) glass bottles you won’t need to hide under the sink.
For Emma Allen, the founder of Everyday Oil, less is more. Turns out, when you cut out synthetic ingredients and swap in high-quality, organic, and wild-harvested botanical oils that naturally hydrate, cleanse, and nourish, you don’t need a dozen skincare and beauty products. Instead, one small bottle of Everyday Oil, made in small batches in Black Mountain, North Carolina, can be used as a cleanser, makeup remover, and moisturizer for your face, body, and hair. The simple, super-clean formula starts with a base of organic jojoba, olive, argon, castor, and coconut oils before it gets subtly scented with herbaceous notes of either wild-harvested or organic palo santo, lavender, blood orange, clary sage, bergamot, and patchouli. The unisex oil comes in a recyclable glass bottle, and the company is currently expanding their refill program.
Alex K. Mason, the founder and director of the Kentucky-based textile studio Ferrick Mason, looks to the natural world for inspiration for the bulk of the designs she creates for her line of wallcoverings and fabrics. So from her perspective, it only makes sense to protect that fragile resource by incorporating as many sustainable materials and environmentally friendly practices as she can into the production process. To that end, 100 percent of Ferrick Mason’s fabrics and wallcoverings, including a new patterned grasscloth, are biodegradable—printed to order on natural, sustainably grown materials like linen, cotton, and sisal to reduce waste. Plus, the company digitally prints more than 75 percent of its stock, which uses less water than traditional printing methods and non-toxic dyes.
The Virginia leathergoods luminary Moore & Giles has relied on sustainable practices since its founding in 1933, but three more recent collections—Reclaimed, Seven Hills, and Olive Tanned—take their commitment to eco-friendly production to a new level. The Reclaimed series features a capsule collection of utilitarian bags made from slightly imperfect leathers that had been left to languish in the warehouses of the company’s tannery partners and repurposed to new use. Seven Hills, on the other hand, is the result of a local partnership with Lynchburg, Virginia’s Seven Hills Food Company; Moore & Giles utilizes the cattle farm’s leftover hides, which would otherwise be headed to the landfill. But the Olive Tanned collection is perhaps the most innovative of the bunch: Moore & Giles collects olive leaves—a byproduct of the olive oil industry that are typically burned—and brews them to create a natural non-toxic tanning agent that’s 100 percent organic and mineral free.
This North Carolina textile company founded by Gina Wicker in 2019 employs recycled materials wherever possible but puts extra emphasis on the other two Rs, working to reduce waste and reuse tools like the vintage looms they rescued and repurposed from a now-shuttered mill. Their small batch weaving process also allows them to use leftover yarns in small quantities that would be discarded at a larger mill. The remaining yarn is a mix of natural fibers grown by local farmers using regenerative farming practices and environmentally friendly options such as alpaca wool, among others. Plus, the resulting heirloom-quality throws that comprise all three of Native Spun’s unique collections are designed to outlive you—further minimizing industry waste.
Each year, the global fashion industry generates more than 92 million tons of textile waste and is among the world’s most environmentally unfriendly industries. But slowly, an increasing number of fashion insiders, like the founders of Raleigh, North Carolina’s Pamut Apparel, are making the switch to slow fashion, which focuses on minimizing waste by creating classic designs that are thoughtfully crafted to transcend trends, lasting years rather than seasons. At Pamut, each of their all-natural fabrics are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified, recycled, and/or low-impact, meaning they require less water and dye to produce. Garments get made-to-order, which results in zero excess inventory but also allows the team to tweak sizing for individual customers and create a custom fit. Even offcut fabric scraps are repurposed into smaller items or sold as craft bundles—a quilter’s dream.