Throughout the evolution of humanity, we’ve relied on nature to provide the resources we need to go about our lives. At some point, however, we began producing synthetic products. It’s been bad news for the environment (and not so great for us) ever since. With the spotlight on sustainability in recent years, more consumers are looking for ways to dial back their reliance on fabricated materials and go back to plant-based products instead.

The irony comes in the fact that everything that’s old is new again, meaning that plant-based products have been around for generations, yet cheap and ubiquitous plastic became the material of choice in the past 50 years. 

Related: The first 24/7 plant-based convenience store in the US

A recent study by the Plant Based Products Council puts a fine point on the discussion with its findings that the majority of Americans are increasing their awareness of renewable natural materials such as corn, soy and hemp. The report states that 71% of consumers actively consider plant-based products and packaging while shopping. Almost 90% of respondents forecasted a plan to purchase plant-based products in the near future and 61% expressed positive support for companies leaning into plant-based innovations. 80-90% of consumers showed an interest in purchasing plant-based disposable utensils, household linens, personal care products, single-use plastic bags and clothing.

“According to the 2022 findings, consumers cited recyclability, composability, and the environment as the top reasons for purchasing a plant-based product,” PBPC reports.

Similarly, consumers reported the inability to dispose of post-consumer waste in a responsible way was a primary reason to avoid buying a product. The combination of consumer awareness and the growing number of brands offering plant-based options adds up to progress in moving away from plastic and other waste.

Here at Inhabitat, we cover companies and products making the move towards more environmentally sustainable practices almost daily, so we see firsthand the growing number of options available in nearly every industry, such as the sampling below.

Paper packaging in a cardboard box


If you’ve made any packaged purchases recently, you may have noticed a steep reduction in the use of plastic foam (Styrofoam) in favor of paper-based products. Companies around the world are adopting plastic-free options as they benefit from an increasing number of plant-based innovations. 

For example, the non-alcoholic spirit company Seedlip offers a gift pack wrapped in biodegradable mushroom packaging. 

Another company, called Evoware, manufactures packaging for businesses using plant-based materials like seaweed, cassava, rice, sugarcane or palm leaves. Similarly, they produce plant-based straws, cutlery, bags and more.

As for the ubiquitous K-Cup and Nespresso pods filling the landfill? A company called NEXE offers a pod these companies can tap into that are plant-based and completely compostable, unlike their plastic counterparts. 

Then, we have companies doing what they can to eliminate additional packaging altogether with products packed in biodegradable skins. Check out Notpla, a seaweed-based film that replaces plastic, which can be used to hold single-servings of condiments or beverages without waste. 

An array of natural soaps lined up


It just makes sense we would source ingredients for skin and hair care from nature, yet lab-made, artificial ingredients are ubiquitous in the beauty industry. A wide range of beauty companies has committed to transparency in product ingredients with a focus on plant-based options. 

LLHOMD, a Black and family-owned beauty care line features plant-based ingredients like pomegranate, prickly pear, aloe, avocado and lavender. Similarly, the hair butter features monoi oil, castor oil, shea and cocoa butter. 

Solidu has emerged in the market of ‘solid’ or water-free shampoo, conditioner and body bars, which are made with natural ingredients such as botanical oils, extracts and natural essential oils. 

PURR skincare also offers many vegan options, made with organic, plant-based, cruelty-free, chemical-free and preservative-free ingredients, and without added water.

Dr. Jacobs Naturals’ body soaps offer a moisturizing clean with a base of olive and coconut oils. In fact, all of the bar soaps, hand soaps and air fresheners contain 100% vegetables and other plant-based ingredients. 

A woman looking at her clothing rack closet

Leather Alternatives

Leukeather is still in the R&D stages but is a promising alternative to animal leather. It’s made from dried seed pods, which are a waste product of local farms.

Designer Meng Du also entered the leather alternative market in 2022 with Unwasted wine bags, made from wine grapes and ready to preorder now. 

Another vegan leather comes from cactus, which is what watch brand company WoodWatch uses for their watch straps. Keva, a jewelry and accessories company based in Virginia, also uses cactus leather in its earrings, bracelets, watches and key rings.

Biomaterial development company Bucha Bio is another player in the leather alternative game, relying on natural materials to create textiles that are water, scratch, sunlight and flame-resistant. 

Luxury handbag maker Miomojo features apple leather as well as the aforementioned cactus leather. The newest release is a line of corn-based bags. 

Allbirds, a climate-neutral Certified B Corporation, is dedicated to a variety of animal-free leather materials as well. They’ve already dabbled in eucalyptus and sugarcane materials, as well as rubber and vegetable oil.


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