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The Most Ethical Places To Shop In San Francisco
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The Most Ethical Places To Shop In San Francisco

Picture of Nancy Garcia
Updated: 24 October 2016
Shopping is a guilty pleasure most of us indulge in, but shopping to look and do good is practically guilt free. Here are some options in San Francisco from companies that not only give back and have ethical values but also have fashion and style covered as well.
The Monaco Collection at Brilliant Earth / © Brilliant Earth
The Monaco Collection at Brilliant Earth | © Brilliant Earth

The diamond trade is one of the most controversial industries in the world. If you’re looking for conflict free jewelry, you can’t do better than Brilliant Earth. The company goes ‘beyond conflict free’, by tracking their diamonds’ origins, and guaranteeing that they come from pure, ethical sources. They also sell lab-created diamonds, which are chemically, optically, and physically indistinguishable from mined diamonds (and are about 30% less expensive). All the settings are 100% eco-friendly gold, platinum, and palladium of the highest quality.

On a recent visit to their showroom near Union Square, the choices were literally dizzying. Settings run the gamut from traditional, to nature-inspired and high glamour. Brilliant Earth also has an amazing selection of vintage rings, including some 1920’s Art Deco beauties. Those looking for non-wedding jewelry have a large choice of ethically sourced gemstones, pendants, earrings and even Sea of Cortez pearls, which are sustainably harvested. As if this wasn’t enough, Brilliant Earth also funds a school in the Republic of Congo, which takes children out of mines in mining communities, and puts them into schools to support them in creating a new life.

Their showroom is by appointment only, or if you’re out of town, they have a personalized service online. Either way, the personal service is impressive, and all of the jewelry is available on the website.

Brilliant Earth, 26 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, 1-800-691-0952

The Cuyana showroom store on Union Square / © Cuyana
The Cuyana showroom store on Union Square | © Cuyana

Leave it to Cuyana, one of San Franciso’s favorite brands, to create a shopping oasis right on Union Square that feels as breezy and inviting as their timeless apparel and accessories. The company’s philosophy of ‘Fewer, Better Things’ is the result of what owners Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah felt were the two polarizing options in the marketplace: exorbitantly priced luxury, and disposable fashion that fell apart. Their solution gives us sumptuous basics made of high end, sustainably sourced materials. Every piece tells a story, from the unique culture it’s made in, to the craftsmanship in the execution.

To help you trim down your closet, Cuyana’s Lean Closet program sends customers a reusable bag when purchasing from their website, which they’re encouraged to fill and send back (postage pre-paid), with items from their closets that they no longer use. The company donates them to a charity on their behalf, and will even give you a credit to spend on fewer, lesser Cuyana pieces. ‘Less is more’ is a beautiful thing.

Cuyana, 291 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (844) 326-6005

Warby Parker Showroom | © Warby Parker
Warby Parker Showroom | © Warby Parker

Warby Parker – the maker of trendy eyewear – has created a sensation, selling its glasses for much less than the exorbitant price lens wearers are all too familiar with. The company even allows their online customers to try five pairs of glasses for five days at home for free. But what’s special about Warby Parker in San Francisco is the brick and mortar store in Hayes Valley. The quirky, friendly store with the bright blue exterior has a huge, accessible display of glasses alongside clever vignettes of vintage books. A recent visit felt like a fun event, with customers posing for selfies, and lounging on comfortable couches.

Warby Parker partners with non-profit VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Since launching in 2010, they’ve distributed over one million pairs of glasses to people in need. With prescription glasses starting at $95.00, including lenses, and their Buy One, Give One program, there’s a lot to feel good about.

Warby Parker, 357 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 906-5313

BeGood clothes store on Union Street / © BeGood
BeGood clothes store on Union Street | © BeGood

BeGood Clothes is striving to become the first zero waste retailer – from fabrics to packaging. The idea originated when the founders examined fashion manufacturing and discovered it was the second most polluting industry in the world. By cutting out the middle man and selling directly to the consumer, BeGood clothes is able to offer premium organic fabrics (including silk), at a much lower cost. Their clothing is basic, yet chic, the kind of pieces that are great for layering, and combine well with other things in your closet. Though most of their sales are online, the flag- ship store in Cow Hollow sells men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, and their great customer service is renowned.

BeGood clothing’s sincere dedication to social responsibility led them to partner with Evidence Action, a non-profit that distributes purifying chlorine at stations across Kenya and Uganda. For every purchase, Begood makes twelve gallons of water safe to drink, in rural areas where drinking contaminated water is the norm.

BeGood, 2127 Union Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1(415) 829-2289

Product demo at LUSH / © Nancy Garcia
Product demo at LUSH | © Nancy Garcia

The UK-based company of LUSH is the largest on this list, but their commitment to no animal testing and their nature-based products deserve mention. LUSH’s stand against plastics in cosmetics means that exfoliants are made with natural ingredients like beans, rice, polenta and sugar, which break down without harming the ecosystem. The two downtown LUSH stores vibrate with colorful selections, music and product demos, all packed into a cozy space. Intriguing products like toothpaste tabs (chew them and brush), coal facial soap, bath bombs made with fresh fruit, shampoo bars, a makeup station, and even henna are a few of LUSH’s innovative offerings.

The company created the ‘LUSH Prize’, as a result of their frustration with the U.S. and Canada’s refusal to budge on animal testing in the cosmetic industry. The research award is a 250,000. British pound incentive towards finding advanced animal-free tests for cosmetics.

LUSH, 2116 Union Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 (415) 693-9633