In the past few years, many—if not most—businesses have made an effort to up their environmentally friendly game. But when you look closely at what most of them are actually doing, you’ll see that it’s not always easy being green.

It’s not even an easy topic to think about—sure, you can purchase a “recycled” or “organic” product, but there’s more to being green than reading labels. Reducing company waste. Relying on sustainable energy. Offering bring-your-own-bag cash incentives. Changing manufacturing practices to reduce the carbon footprint. There are a whole of things a company can do—or not do—that define how “green” it really is, and its not always easy for the average consumer to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Green companies who actually practice what they preach deserve some kudos. We took a crash course in environmental business practices and picked out some of the best green companies in the market today to give you a closer look.

LUSH Cosmetics

This cosmetics company is not only bringing green to your morning routine with its all-natural products, it’s reinvented the status quo for the (excessive) way beauty products are packaged. This was the business that introduced packaging-free cosmetics like solid shampoo, massage bars, and bath “bombs,” which they visually capitalize on at their stores with colorful product displays free from excessive boxes or wrapping. For its products that do need packaging, LUSH is committed to using recyclable and biodegradable materials, and all of its products contain ingredients that have minimal impact on the environment.

Blissmo

Green cleaning products and all-natural foods are great, but there’re not always easy to find—nor cheap. But by providing excellent deals on eco-friendly products, Blissmo leaves its subscribers with no excuse not go for the green option. The company acts as a “green Groupon,” offering daily discounts on businesses and services like EcoThin Wallet and Kaia Foods, helping sustainable companies reach new audiences—and consumers change their consumption habits. And the Blissmo Boxes arm of the company takes the guesswork out of buying green in a whole new way, finding the best eco and organic goods on the market and delivering them straight to your door.

The Home Depot

If this company’s inclusion on the list surprises you, you haven’t been to a Home Depot recently. “Green” business practices come in many different forms, but this retailer seems to have them all covered with its EcoOptions initiative. From changing the energy usage behaviors in every store to investing in more environmentally friendly lumber selection (the company’s Forest Stewardship Council program only buys wood from trees that are ensured to be re-planted) to enabling shoppers to easily recycle CFL bulbs, batteries, cell phones, and, in many stores, plastic, paper, and aluminium, the Home Depot walks the walk when it comes to being a “green” giant.

Round2

This name might not be familiar to you yet, but Round2 is making great strides toward a meaningful goal: zero electronics in landfills. More than any other e-cycling company, Round2 recycles valuable elements and raw materials from all kinds of electronic and corporate equipment—and makes discarding devices the green way financially attractive to big businesses, too. Given the high turnover rate of our digital gear, it’s a significant achievement to have electronics recycled rather than simply discarded. And, by doing all of its operations in the U.S. (rather than shipping the work overseas), Round2 has a smaller carbon footprint than other e-cycling companies.

EcoProducts

You know those awesome single-use cups and cutlery made of sugar and other fast-degrading materials? There’s a good chance they come from EcoProducts, a green company that’s going a long way to reduce the amount of waste produced by so-called disposable goods. Produced using solar power, the company’s planet-friendly food service products encompass every dining need: plant-based cups rather than plastic, sugarcane plates rather than styrofoam, and even sushi containers made from renewable materials rather than traditional oil-based plastics. And by selling their renewable and compostable products to green-minded restauranteurs, EcoProducts has started an environmentally friendly trickle-down effect for the entire food industry.

While we kept the list here to only five companies, we know there are many more businesses moving towards greener practices every day. And we applaud them, too! Reducing waste, reusing materials, and relying more on sustainable energy is not just the way of the future—it's our only way.

Photo courtesy of Uncleweed.