I can’t stop talking about conservation and sustainable kiwi brands. Back in September, we had Conservation Week here in New Zealand. This year the focus was on taking action for nature.
We’re all familiar with the well-known actions you can take to help with conservation, like volunteering and picking up rubbish. But over the years, through my own work and growth, I’ve found two other key ways anyone out there can easily get involved: be an ambassador for nature AND support brands that back nature.
The easiest way to be involved in conservation? Start talking about it. Post about the hikes you take, the birds you see, and the places you love. Become a guardian of nature; the more we talk about it, the more mainstream it becomes, and it inspires others to do the same.
Once enough people start talking, it’s so much harder to silence them.
Recently I was in Doubtful Sound on a project with RealNZ with one of my favorite kiwi influencers, Ethically Kate, an absolute legend. A pioneer in sharing sustainable living values in a friendly and non-judgy way, Kate’s a badass when it comes to caring for the planet. I turn to Kate’s pages when I’m looking for sustainable brands to support. She is all-knowing! She’s also hilarious.
We all have a choice where we drop our dollars these days; I have been working hard to try and be more discerning about where I spend my money. Nowadays, I intentionally look for brands involved in local conservation projects. They also have sustainability goals they’re *actively* working towards and have good values when it comes to looking after our beautiful Aotearoa.
Here are my ten favorite sustainable kiwi brands that back nature.
1. Zeden Cider – expertly crafted cider with a purpose
Over a year ago, I became friends with Bevan, the innovator behind New Zealand’s coolest cider brand – Zeden.
Created a few years ago with the idea of supporting and protecting our native biodiversity here, Zeden merges conservation with culture. In fact, for a long time, New Zealand was an Eden of sorts. For over 80 million years, New Zealand’s plants and animals evolved in isolation from the rest of the world. Humans arrived less than 1000 years ago and have wiped out a huge part of this heritage.
Zeden Cider is made from crisp East Coast apples and Hawke’s Bay feijoas. Brewed in Gisborne in the dry style of cider from England, it’s a lot less sweet than most ciders I’ve tried. Zeden is a great way to celebrate nature with friends.
For me, Zeden represents the modern kiwi brand that keeps conservation and sustainability in mind. I hope to see this become more and more mainstream. Donating 10% of their profits to Forest & Bird, who have long been fighting the good fight for nature here, it’s an amazing way to give back to the land we love.
I’ve been an ambassador for Zeden for a year. I’m super excited to help promote their latest project, Eco Heroes, where we’ll celebrate heroes in conservation monthly. If you know a conservation champion, be sure to nominate them!
2. RealNZ – bringing you closer to nature while traveling
Very much pioneers in matching tourism with conservation, RealNZ (formerly Real Journeys) has been looking after the land and protecting our precious environment since the 50s. RealNZ looks after some of the most iconic tourism experiences on the South Island. From the boat trips in Milford, Doubtful Sound, and Rakiura/Stewart Island, RealNZ is everywhere here. They support multiple large-scale conservation projects in these areas.
Back in the day, the future of Fiordland National Park came under threat from hydropower expansion. They wanted to raise the levels of Manapouri and Te Anau Lakes for power generation (this would have been detrimental to the unique landscapes and natural habits in the region). Les and Lady Olive, the OG founders of RealNZ, joined fellow conservationists in the hard-fought campaign to save the lakes.
The successful Save Manapouri campaign has often been referred to as the birth of the conservation movement in New Zealand. Ever since RealNZ has remained committed to conservation and investing revenue into conservation activities across Southern New Zealand, making it one of my fave sustainable kiwi brands.
3. Allbirds – sustainable and totally cute shoes
Ah, Allbirds, my favorite shoes and one of my favorite sustainable kiwi brands! starting out as merino wool sneakers, they have quickly evolved from a clever kiwi startup to a billion-dollar industry. You can now shop for them worldwide.
A native of New Zealand, co-founder Tim Brown, like all kiwis, was aware of the magical qualities of merino wool. Inherently curious, he began asking himself why such a remarkable, sustainable resource was virtually absent in the footwear industry. And with that spirit of wonder, the Allbirds’ journey began.
Now a certified B Corp, Allbirds considers the environment to be a stakeholder here, and sustainability and positive initiatives are a core part of their brand. From reusing recyclable materials in shipping to giving shoes to communities in need to using sustainable materials in their products, Allbirds are paving the way for brands to be both eco-friendly and wildly successful at the same time. I have been living in their shoes for years.
4. Air New Zealand – pioneers in everything, including flying our flightless birds
It’s no secret that I’ve been a long-time fan of Air New Zealand. And no, it’s not only because it’s basically the only airline here. Clever, quirky, friendly, and modern, AirNZ always seems to be three steps ahead of everyone in the airline game, especially when it comes to their commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment here, no easy task for an airline.
The 2019 Eco-Airline of the Year, AirNZ, is working hards towards zero net emissions by 2050. they’re adding more fuel-efficient planes to their fleet, using sustainable aviation fuel, utilizing credible carbon removal solutions, and removing many single-use plastic items from the flights.
Air New Zealand also helps relocate many of our threatened taonga species around New Zealand in partnership with DOC. Since 2012, they have relocated over 3,200 threatened species and conservation dogs. They also support over 38,000 hectares of sustained pest control.
5. Bestow Beauty – save your skin while saving birds
This past year has been all about skincare for me. I was so stoked to discover my friends at Bestow Beauty, a locally-made kiwi brand offering a natural range of organic skincare and superfoods rich in the specific nutrients needed to nourish beautiful skin from within. Our skin is a reflection of our lives and how we look after ourselves.
Bestow Beauty has supported Ōtanewainuku Kiwi Trust, which is a community-based conservation trust that was established in 2002 by Te Puke Forest and Bird and the local community to look after the declining North Island brown kiwi in the pristine Ōtanewainuku Forest near Tauranga, which is home to many incredible native plants and birds, including 69 pairs of endangered kōkako, which has one of the most beautiful and haunting songs in the forest.
Along with helping with pest control and other initiatives with the trust, Bestow is also helping with relocating new birds from other areas to join the existing population to diversify their gene pool.
6. Gaia Collection – earrings with an impact
The Gaia Collection started as a Lion Heart Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) business in 2021 by two year 13 students, Olivia Ediriweera and Finch Bennett, from Wa Ora Montessori School in Naenae, Wellington. Their sustainable, hand-made earrings not only spread awareness about New Zealand’s endangered species but also make an impact when it comes to the environment here.
Gotta stan a young, local, female kiwi led business helping our native species!
A portion of each earring sale goes towards Forest and Bird’s Fairy Tern Project, which is helping to create an alternative breeding site for the critically endangered Fairy Tern, a beautiful shorebird that doesn’t get as much media attention as it should; there are only 40 birds left.
7. Ecostore – NZ-made home and body care
Ecostore was founded on New Zealand’s Northland coast in 1993 by the Rand family, who wanted to make their home as clean and green as they could. You’ll find Ecostore products and refill stations in supermarkets and homes all over New Zealand.
Certified B Corp with a carbon-zero-certified factory in Auckland, Ecostore manufactures household cleaners, laundry, body care, skin care, baby care, and oral care products. They remove harmful chemicals in order to put people’s health first. As well as using all biodegradable ingredients, their plastic bottles are made from renewable sugarcane. It’s 100% recyclable and takes carbon out of the atmosphere as it grows for a lower carbon footprint.
Striving to be the world’s most trusted and sustainable home and body care brand, Ecostore is paving the way for our most used products to be created and sold with the planet in mind. I’ve been a longtime fan and will continue to be!
8. Meridian Energy – power to the kākāpō
Who would have thought I would ever blog about a power company, but here we are!
You guys are already very well aware of the fact my favorite bird in New Zealand is the adorable fluffy nocturnal flightless parrot – the kākāpō. An endangered national treasure, along with the Department of Conservation and Ngāi Tahu, Meridian Energy has been the main sponsor when it comes to helping bring this taonga species back from the brink of extinction.
I feel like it should be mandatory for major brands to support one of our threatened species in New Zealand. Meridian Energy is a New Zealand power company that generates electricity through 100% renewable sources – wind, water, and sun. They operate under the core belief that this is the only way forward for people and the planet.
Can you say it louder for all of the energy companies in the back? Meridian powers my houseplant shop, NODE, in Lyttelton.
9. Ethique – plastic-free and carbon-positive solid bars
Another one of my go-to sustainable kiwi brands has to be Ethique. I use their bars both at home and on the road. Started a decade ago when Ethique founder Brianne West started mixing formulas for shampoo bards in her kitchen in Christchurch, Ethique quickly became a household brand here in New Zealand, with a huge range of skincare, body care, hair care, and household cleaning items.
Nowadays, sustainability is still at the heart of everything at Ethique.
Their ingredients remain cruelty-free, vegan, and palm oil-free. Everything is ethically and fairly sourced. They also pay their staff a living wage, as well as donating 2% of sales. They are 100% plastic-free and are a carbon-positive company.
10. Heritage Expeditions
I have been friends with Heritage Expeditions for a long time. Pioneers in authentic conservation and adventure expedition cruising to the world’s most remote destinations, they took me down to New Zealand’s incredible subantarctic islands back in 2018.
Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ to increase awareness of the natural world through responsible expedition travel. Rodney is an absolute legend in New Zealand when it comes to conservation. A biologist working for the New Zealand Wildlife Service (later DOC), he worked a lot with protecting and saving some of our most endangered species like the kākāpō and Chatham Island Black Robin and discovered the Campbell Island teal.
Rodney was a pioneer in that he believed that it was important to share this incredible biodiversity with people so they might become ambassadors, advocating and supporting conservation efforts. Like me, he has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. These values echo across the Heritage Expeditions adventures. They support many of our most beloved conservation efforts as well as provide scholarships to young kiwis to join in on these expeditions.
What do you think? Have any favorite sustainable kiwi brands you love that I missed? Or other global brands you admire? Spill!