Buying Sustainably

Before making a purchase, check out the following websites:

  1. Responsible Purchasing Network Designed to promote responsible purchasing by identifying best practices, developing effective purchasing tools, educating the market, and using people’s collective purchasing power to maximize environmental stewardship, protect human health, and support local and global sustainability.
  2. Greener Choices This site was developed by Consumer Reports and helps with most purchases made by students, or others. It includes information on green shopping, eco-labels, energy, and recycling.
  3. “Behind-the-scenes guide to the things we buy“ A great website published by the WorldWatch Institute (Also make sure to check out an excellent article on this subject calledThe New Politics of Consumption: Why Americans want so much more than they need.)
  4. The Ultimate Green Shopping Guide: Green shopping involves more than using reusable bags when going to grocery store and buying energy efficient bulbs. While both are part of green shopping, actually being a green shopper involves focusing on buying items that have little impact on or have been designed to help the environment.
  5. Sustain-a-closet: Do you really need a new item? Take the WEConserve Sustainable Closet challenge before hitting the stores!

If after looking at these sites, you’re still convinced that you need to make a “big” purchase – a big expenditures of money, whatever that it is to, here are some other tips:

Reduce, reuse.

Do I really need this product?  Take the time to fix those things can be repaired. When you do decide to purchase something, keep the scales in balance by donating some goods to Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul’s or your favorite charity. In the alternative, here are some websites to help facilitate you keeping your unwanted belongings from entering a;

Avoid excessive packaging, bring your own shopping bags.

Buy local, organic, and less red meat.

Buy Fair Trade products

Fair Trade products ensure that the producers of things like coffee, tea, chocolate and fresh fruit are paid a fair wage for their products.

Fair Trade Coffee and Food in Madison:

Ancora Coffee Roasters Multiple locations
Barriques Coffee 127 W. Washington Ave
Bon Appetit Café 805 Williamson St
Café Costa Rica 2817 Union St., 141 S. Butler St
CoffeeBytes 799 University Ave
Electric Earth Cafe 546 W. Washington Ave
Fair Trade Coffee House 418 State St
Ground Zero 744 Williamson St
Indie Coffee & Tea 1225 Regent St
Jennifer Street Market 2038 Jennifer St
Just Coffee (Madison’s 100{13cc73ace98a1a1c72459df4609391372da874048f40eb9ad7cb1a640123a483} Fair Trade Roaster) 1129 E. Wilson St
Johnson Brothers Coffee Roasters 5821 Femrite Dr
Michelangelos Coffee 114 State St
Mother Fools Coffeehouse 1101 Williamson St
Redamte 449 State St
Regent Market Co-op 2136 Regent St
Trader Joe’s 1810 Monroe St.
Whole Foods Market 3313 University Ave
Willy Street Co-op 1221 Williamson St
Zuzu Café 1336 Drake St

Find other Fair Trade Products in Madison:

Community Pharmacy, 341 State St.
Global Express, 646 W. Washington
SERRV International, (A Greater Gift) 122 State St., 2701 Monroe St.
Willy St. Co-op, 1221 Williamson St.
Fair Indigo, Hilldale Mall @ Midvale and University aveFor more information on where to buy fair trade products across the country

National Sustainable Chains

When you are shopping, you can find national chains that are also making an effort to become more sustainable. The companies listed below have been selected for their environmental progress. When big companies make an effort, the impact can be on a global scale.  If you have choose to buy from a national chain, we recommend you buy from conscious chains like these. Want to learn about other large company’s sustainability efforts? Just research their website and look for a sustainability report!

Top 20 Retailers in US

Chains that use 100{13cc73ace98a1a1c72459df4609391372da874048f40eb9ad7cb1a640123a483} green power

Top Universities and Colleges that use renewable energy

Top Fortune 500 Companies

Chains with Sustainable Initiatives:

 target logo  
 Walmart Logo logo-patagonia-small2_0

Sustainable Business in the Madison Area

Architects, Designers, & Building Industry

Design Coalition, IncHunt_Michael_class04_0753

  • A non-profit architectural and planning office that serves a wide range of clients
  • Typical projects include new and rehabilitated housing, child care and community
  • centers, and community planning.
  • Contact Person: Lou Host-Jablonski/

Earth in Balance Interiors

  • A company which offers a variety of services, including individual exploration of design needs to help articulate your goals and create earth-friendly design options.
  • Contact person: Josie Pradella/

Natural Builders Guild

  • Creating natural, healthy, home environments
  • Contact:

Power Designers

  • A high tech company offering a complete line of Battery Management Products
  • Products include intelligent high frequency conventional, opportunity, and fast battery chargers, battery monitors, cyclers, and equalizers
  • Contact:

Sustainable Woods Cooperative

  • The SWC is a forest management and value-added wood processing and marketing cooperative
  • It consists of 130 private landowners in eleven southwestern Wisconsin counties
  • Contact:


Applied Ecological Services

  • Applied Ecological Services provides ecological consulting, contracting and native seed/plant materials for ecological restoration of wetland, prairie, savanna, and woodland communities, and conducts design/build services for native landscaping and for alternative stormwater management
  • Contact: Jack Broughton/

Cooperative Development Services

  • Cooperative Development Services’ mission is to promote the development of cooperative businesses, communities, and other organizations
  • CDS provides business consulting, planning and educational services to build and strengthen these organizations
  • Contact Wisconsin Office: 608-204-9705

Engineering Services Co.

  • Energy conservation and renewable energy systems – services and products to minimize dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Contact: Chris and Kenneth Hulet/

Informing Ecological Design

  • Informing Ecological Design helps designers–architects, engineers, planners, and managers – to gather, display, understand and use information that will improve their products and processes
  • Contact: Kevin Little/

Kestrel Management Services, LLC

  • Provides management consulting and systems support to industrial organizations for more sustainable business performance – – through better environmental, health and safety, energy and quality management
  • Contact: Lyman Wible/

Madison Environmental Group

  • MEG is a consortium of business professionals, researchers and educators who provide customized environmental consulting and education services for businesses, communities and organizations.
  • Contact: Sonya Newenhouse/

MSB Energy AssociatesURPL_design_class05_3237

  • MSB Energy Associates delivers comprehensive energy consulting services.
  • They provide professional, timely, and cost-effective services to businesses, government agencies, consumer and environmental organizations, and utilities.
  • Contact:

Partners in Place

  • Partners in Place offers a range of services including strategic planning, citizen involvement, facilitation, ecosystem management, teaching, and the design of conferences or special events.
  • Contact: Anne M. Forbes/

Rapid Improvement Associates

  • Organizing and deploying rapid improvement collaboratives among 15 or more organizations at a time in areas targeted at reducing impact on the environment and improving bottom-line performance.
  • Contact: Warren Gaskill/


Bleu Mont Dairy

Cedar Grove Cheese


  • Natural Highland beef. Chemical free, naturally fed, and humanely raised
  • Contact: (608) 967-2144

Dream Farm

  • Sells homemade Chevre – organic goats milk – cheese
  • Contact:  (608) 767-3442

The General Store Co-op

  • A member owned food co-op with an emphasis on organic and locally produced foods.
  • Contact: (608) 437-5288

Magic Mill Natural Foods Mart

  • A complete natural foods store offering organic, cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly products
  • (608) 238-2630

Mifflin Street Community Cooperative

Nature’s Bakery Cooperative

North Farm Cooperative


Whole Foods Market

Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative

Health & Beauty

Community Pharmacy

  • A worker’s cooperative whose mission is to promote health
  • Community Pharmacy has a goal to provide a wide range of information and products for health, including the full continuum of health care options and philosophies.
  • Contact: (608) 251-3242

Hospitality & Restaurants

Arbor House – An Environmental Inn

Harvest Restaurant

L’Etoile Restaurant



Weary Traveler

Mother Fool’s Coffehouse



AC Computer Exchange

  • Address: 4325 West Beltline Highway, Madison, WI 53711
  • Contact: (608) 274-4008

All Metals Recycling LLC

  • Address: 1802 South Park Street, Madison, WI 53713
  • Contact: (608) 255-0960

Budget Lamp Reclaimers Inc

  • Address: 3224 Kingsley Way, Madison, WI 53713
  • Contact: (608) 275-6766

Madison Recycling Center

  • Address: 2200 Fish Hatchery Road, Madison, WI 53713
  • Contact: (608) 251-2115

Specialty Retail

Compost Basicsfood_compost_dropoff12_1007

  • Address: 1511 Chandler Street, Madison, WI 53715
  • Contact: Joan Laurion/ (866) 255-0476/

Driftless Seed Exchange

  • Providing vegetable seeds for gardeners and farmers of the driftless region in Southwest Wisconsin

Global Express

  • A fair-trade, non-profit shop with fine handcraft from 60 countries, equal exchange coffee, cards and gift
  • Address: 646 West Washington Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53703
  • Contact: (608) 255-5506

Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin

Green Earth Organic Lawn Care

  • Green Earth Organic Lawn Care provides organic fertilizations and organic weed controls in addition to aeration, de-thatching, and lawn mowing.
  • Contact: Keith Brooks/ (608) 833-0300/

Habitat Restore

  • One of the few building materials reuse centers in Wisconsin.
  • Habitat for Humanity accepts donations for new and saleable, used building materials such as cabinets, lighting and plumbing fixtures, doors, lumber, flooring, and windows.

Healthy Solutions

  • Featuring Shaklee’s complete line of biodegradeable cleaners, water and air purification systems, whole food supplements and natural skin care products

Hempen Goods

  • A variety of hemp products, from clothing to furniture, body care products, handcrafted items, and paper.

L.L. Old Seed Co.

  • Olds Seed is a wholesale supplier of superior quality turfgrass, farm, restoration, habitat, and garden seed and seed related products to our customers throughout the Upper Midwest.

Little Valley Farm

  • Offers prairie and woodland seeds and plants
  • Address: 5693 Sneed Creek Road Spring Green, WI 53588
Main G’Raps
  • Earth friendly and creative wraps
  • Address: 1321 E Mifflin Street Madison, WI 53703
  • Contact: Jason Aldridge
  • Central Wisconsin source for weaving, spinning, knitting, crocheting, tatting, bobbin lace, felting, dyeing, and locker hooking equipment, books, and supplies

Nature’s NurseryRainbow Coop

  • Offers Southern Wisconsin ecotypes of prairie, woodland, and wetland seeds and plants.

Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative

  • A cooperatively owned and managed independent resource center
  • Rainbow Bookstore’s mission is to provide progressive books, periodicals, crafts and related alternative materials locally and globally

Satara, Inc

  • A locally owned and operated retail store offering Earth-friendly products
  • Among the products sold are organic cotton clothing, natural bedding & mattresses, household supplies, paints, books, full-spectrum lighting and unique recycled products

SERRV International Fair Trade Gift Shop

  • Fair Trade items from chocolate and coffee to jewelry, musical instruments and furniture.

  • Online store featuring a range of Wisconsin-made products, including quality foods, art, music, books, and apparel


Madison Gas & Electric Green Power

  • Sign up for wind energy with MGE. Find information on energy saving on their website and available in hardcopies.
  • They have established themselves as one of the greenest utilities in the country.

Businesses Outside of the Madison Area:

Vermont BSR

  • Large website featuring the many resources, member services, and related links offered by the Vermont BSR organization.
  • The long list of business members suggests a well-established and relevant organization.

William McDonough

  • “William McDonough’s work is grounded in a unified philosophy that in demonstrable and practical ways – is changing the design of theworld.” – Time magazine – Principal and Founder of William McDonough
  • Partners architecture and community design firm, and MBDC product and process design firm.
  • He is co-author of the book Cradle to Cradle, and is a major player in the worldwide effort to “remake the way we make things”.

McDonough Braungart Design ChemistryTejedorAnderson_port05_4469

  • This firm is dedicated to the “Cradle to Cradle” and “Eco-Effective” design paradigms advocated by its founders, William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart.
  • Its products and processes are intended to reap benefits for business, the environment, and people.


  • The largest commercial carpet manufacturer in the world.
  • Interface has also touted itself as “a leader in industrial ecology, with the vision of becoming the world’s first environmentally restorative company by 2020”.
  • Under the guidance of founder Ray Anderson, Interface is often cited as a leader in business efforts to create more sustainable industries.