How and Where to Shop Sustainably

You may be wondering “how can I help our beautiful planet?” I was wondering the same thing, so I decided to find some ways to incorporate sustainability into my life. The first step is understanding what being sustainable really means. Sustainability is when current generations are living to their fullest potential without compromising the earth for future generations. Sustainability does not just apply to the environment, but also to keeping social and economic sustainability for the future. What makes an item sustainable is determined by its impact on the environment. If something is made out of synthetic fibers and will just create waste, it is not sustainable, whereas if an item is plant based or made of recycled materials it is sustainable. The next step is finding places that offer these items which I went out and did for you. It is as easy as finding the closest shop to your house to start your sustainable journey. 

We Fill Good 

42 State Rd #101, Kittery, ME 

 This quaint little shop in Kittery, Maine off of Route 1 is home to all sustainable and organic products. Whether it be shampoo bars or refilling stations for all of your toiletries, they have everything one might need to start a sustainable lifestyle. When I walked in, I was greeted with large bottles of conditioner, laundry detergent, cleaning products, and even dry shampoo. These are all for customers to bring their own bottles to refill what they need in their households. While I was there, it was very hard for me not to drop a pretty penny on the products they had to offer. I bought a bar of soap with a loofah inside and a stand for my bar to sit on. I thought this was a great start to getting rid of the plastic in my bathroom. I decided to recycle my plastic body wash container and use the bars of soap instead to produce less waste. The bar of soap was only five dollars and the smell definitely sold me. Though, when comparing the detergent prices to the ones my family has bought previously, We Fill Good was pricier. However, the detergents and soaps are bought from other retailers such as The Fillaree based in Durham, North Carolina, that makes zero waste soaps. So really the extra money is going to the extra work to not use plastic. 

On my way out, I picked up the book “F**k Plastic” by Rodale Sustainability so I could learn more ways to help myself and to teach others how to be plastic-free. The store was set up so that each section of the store was for different purposes. There was a laundry section, a bathing and bathroom product section, a baby section, and a kitchen section. To provide even more sustainability, they do not provide bags or receipts at check out so remember to bring your reusable bag EVERYWHERE. For those who are looking for a place to start their sustainable lifestyle at home, We Fill Good is the place to go!

Fair Tide Thrift Store 

15 State Rd, Kittery, ME 03904

 I found this shop on my way to We Fill Good. Their sign intrigued me when it said all their proceeds go to the Fair Tide Housing Program. The program is based out of Kittery, Maine and they own and operate a 5-unit house, and provide resources for those who are homeless. Inside, everything they sell is donated or made there. I found a vintage pair of Levi’s and a belt for fourteen dollars. The thrift store was large and had an abundance of items, so there was a lot to choose from. 

 I loved supporting this small sustainable business instead of going to the mall. According to “F**k Plastic” from Rodale Sustainability, clothing you buy from chain stores in the mall contains synthetic polyesters which make the clothing not biodegradable. Funding these stores with our purchases is a problem because they are causing pollution by just producing these products. According to the “UN Alliance For Sustainability” from UN Environment Programme, the fast fashion industry accounts for 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions. Buying from thrift stores helps to defund the fast fashion industry and prevent clothing from ending up in landfills. 

The Drift Collective

12B Fleet St, Portsmouth, NH 

    This upbeat shop on the outskirts of downtown Portsmouth will not have you leaving empty-handed if you catch my drift! The clothing that they sell is upcycled or made out of recycled material. They have hoodies, tee shirts, crop tops, and bucket hats. I loved the vibe of this place. It has a very upbeat environment and it was hard not to buy everything I saw. Unfortunately, I did not walk out with anything because the items are a little pricey, with some of the sweatshirts ranging from 65 to 70 dollars. However, they do upcycle the items by hand which explains the price. Upcycling is taking old pieces such as clothing, furniture, etc and turning them into new pieces.

You can actually see them sewing and making the clothing out back when walking through the store. I peered in through their beaded curtain for a few seconds to see some of the employees working on some sweatshirts. It was a cool experience because you know the clothing you are buying is not harming the environment or being made in unethical ways. To learn even more about the great things Drift is doing take a look at the past MOR article by Chase Amarosa here.

Revived Furniture and Home Decor

3 Rockingham Rd, Londonderry, NH 

This store can definitely be mistaken for a Hallmark set. I took my mom and sister along for the ride with me because it is a bit of a drive. Let’s just say my mom was in home decor heaven. She left the store with a good amount of Christmas decorations. I personally loved how all the pieces had a rustic feel to them because of the small details that show their life before the store. Whether it be a scratch on the door or a chip missing from the leg, I always wonder where the furniture has been. Richard Leiter works on the pieces and not only revives the furniture, but he finds ways to take old items and create new furniture pieces. Finding used furniture is a great sustainable way to buy furniture and will help with having a sustainable lifestyle. When furniture goes out of style, people tend to just throw it away instead of donating or repurposing it. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed that 80.2% of furniture produced in 2017 ended up in landfills. There are plenty of other great ways to dispose of your furniture such as donating to homeless shelters or organizations that accommodate those in need. You can also donate to Savers, Re-Store, or other thrift stores so the furniture has an opportunity for a new life. If a furniture piece is no longer your style, try to find ways on YouTube to revive your furniture yourself. On Revived’s website, you can find behind-the-scenes articles on their furniture collection which can also help spark inspiration. 

The Spice and Tea Exchange 

3 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 

 For me, this was one of those shops that have always blended in with the hustle of downtown Portsmouth while walking by on my way to my favorite pizza place or to buy a new top. However, immediately when I walked in, I did not want to leave. I was taken aback by all the aromas of the spices and teas blended together, and I loved seeing the minimum plastic packaging for the spices as well. According to the EPA, packaging makes up 45% of landfills, whether it be food wrappers or plastic from toys. There is nothing else we can do with the packaging after eating or opening it other than repurposing it around your home or throwing it away. So, finding ways to reduce or even eliminate the packaging you are using is a great way to live sustainably. The Spice and Tea Exchange (TSTE) offers containers with all their spices that can be used to refill old packaging. They do have prepackaged spices and teas, but you can always refill those packages afterward. They also offer teas and spices that have health benefits such as boosting metabolism and reducing inflammation. So, you can help your body while helping the earth. 

I spoke with Toni from their internet fulfillment team about the origin of their teas. Their spices and teas come from all over the world and their website provides each item’s origin country. The spices they have may be on the pricey side, but it is beneficial to know where all the ingredients are from. For example, if I buy a Pumpkin Pie Spice from TSTE for a 1 oz bag it would cost $5.49, whereas if I buy a 1.4 oz from Shaws from the brand Organics it would cost $2.99 for an even larger amount. As I have noted before, shopping sustainably costs a lot more than buying fast fashion or buying from a box store. This is because sustainable products take more time and money to create, resulting in a higher retail price. Unfortunately, the cheaper and easier to make products are ruining our environment, which is why, again, it is so important to find a sustainable way to shop. 

Ten Thousand Villages 

87 Congress Street #104, Portsmouth, NH

This shop reminds me of a fair in the best way possible. It is one of those shops that you never really know what you will find and is a great spot for gifts. They have such a variety of items like handmade items from India, Kenya, Columbia, and many more. Just a few of the handmade items that they sell are scarfs, coin purses, earrings, and tea towels. Selling items made by hand from other countries is a great sustainable practice. Knowing the sources of your products helps you note the suitability of the items. Buying from those who hand make their items helps to reduce the amount of carbon emissions that companies are producing. 

This is a great place to purchase gifts that help benefit fair trade and don’t support mass production companies that harm the environment. You may be wondering, what is fair trade? Fair trade means the business makes an agreement with the producer or maker that benefits both parties. So, there is a fair price agreement and the product is made by someone who will truly benefit from your sale. Ten Thousand Villages focuses on purchasing goods from communities that are impoverished and are struggling. The people making these items are being treated fairly and are in good working environments unlike the conditions workers for fast fashions brands work in. It is important to recognize the difference between an item that is labeled “hand made” and an item that is labeled fair trade. A “hand made” item does not necessarily mean that it was made ethically. 

Now, after reading the list it may have raised a few red flags. One is “how the heck am I going to pay for all this?” Shopping sustainably, though very helpful for our planet, can be damaging to our wallets. One of the biggest concerns for those wanting to start a more sustainable lifestyle is the price of sustainable items. I won’t hide the fact that when I came home from my sustainable shopping day, all I had left in my wallet were dust bunnies. However, every little bit helps, whether it is picking up a plastic bag on the sidewalk or just starting small and buying a plastic-free bar of soap instead of a bottle. 

Everything comes with downfalls and for shopping sustainably, it’s how expensive it is and that not every store has sustainable items. When shopping I did notice that everything I needed was not all in one place like it is when I shop at Target. When I got home I was still greeted by lots of plastic around my house. I wasn’t able to buy everything I needed sustainably and there is still waste being produced from my house. I still think we have a long way to go in every industry to have fully sustainable lifestyles. Though, to make some sort of impact on the world around us, we don’t need to ditch our current lifestyles entirely.  Do what’s right for you and your family. Even going out and buying a .99 cent reusable grocery bag is a great place to start your sustainable journey. You could even be helping more than you know. By using your reusable water bottle you are creating less plastic waste or by being trendy and having a thrift sweater, you’re helping to defund the fast fashion industry. No matter how or where your sustainable lifestyle starts, we all need to work together in order for the planet we call home to stay the beautiful place it is today. As the Lorax says, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”