By Barry Carter nj.com
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the women who were inspired to make the environment a priority through their sustainble business practices.
Rachel Garcia did everything possible to reduce waste. There’s a personal conviction in her family to care about the environment.
She and her husband, Daniel, packed lunches in reusable Tupperware for their two kids. In the kitchen, they have reusable paper towel and napkins, made from a cloth fabric. Instead of plastic bags, they used shopping totes.
But the grocery store was still a problem for this South Orange family.
Garcia didn’t need – for example – products wrapped in plastic or an entire box of something like pasta packaged with cellophane.
“I would buy something, and it (the box) would sit wasting in my cabinet, because I only needed a half a cup."
Deanna Taylor-Heacock can’t quite pinpoint her environmental epiphany when she was a stay-at-home mom in Maplewood. But she remembers just wanting the liquid detergent, not the huge jug and plastic containers on trips to the grocery store.
“There’s no reason to buy a new one of those, but yet here we are tossing it into the recycling bin," Taylor-Heacock said.
Those wasteful days are gone for her family; Garcia’s, too. With a little research, Taylor founded the perfect spot where customers could buy the liquid, use their own bottle and cut down on waste.
She started the Good Bottle Refill Shop, a business in Maplewood that she says is the first of its kind in New Jersey.
Since September, people have brought their own clean containers to fill them with cleaning, bath and body products. There’s laundry detergents, lotions and shower gels, too. Customers without a container can purchase one from the store.
After she opened, Garcia heard about Taylor-Heacock, who had space inside of the General Store Cooperative and Marketplace on Springfield Avenue.
Garcia was thinking along the same entrepreneurial lines, except she was interested in dry goods, products that customers of Taylor-Heacock had been asking about.
The mothers met over coffee, discovering they had lots in common besides their children attending the same school. Both had been retail buyers – Garcia with Lord & Taylor for five years; Taylor-Heacock, with more than 15 years between Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and BareNecessities.com.
“It was kind of cool," Taylor-Heacock said. “We spoke the same language in retail and have the same background."
Opportunity knocked and a slot became available for Garcia at the General Store. Last month, she opened the Dry Goods Refillery, which she says is package-free food for your pantry.
There’s lot of it, from grains, beans and pastas to spices, teas and dried fruits just to get you started.
With this new option, Garcia said customers buy what they need and reduce waste at the same time. Her containers, just like Taylor-Heacock’s, must be clean or can be purchased.
“This is a way for customers to re-use what’s already in their homes in a way that gives it a second life."
Their stores take the statewide trend of towns passing plastic bag bans, and upping the environmental game.
Up until last year, Taylor-Heacock wasn’t thinking about saving the planet. “It didn’t bother me at all that I was throwing stuff away," she said.
But she knew something wasn’t right when looking at plastic household products in her shopping cart.
“Everything I’m buying is going to be trash in a couple of weeks," she said.
“It was almost why be wasteful just for the sake of being wasteful," she said.
As she looked into ways to reduce waste, Taylor-Heacock learned about Zero Waste, a lifestyle that encourages the reuse of products and how recycling is not all that effective.
“I really got into it," Taylor-Heacock said.
Garcia was already up on the research, and the impact of trash on the environment.
“I have two young kids and I think a lot about the future and the world that we’re going to leave for them," Garcia said.
Inside the General Store, their businesses are side by side, and it gets busy.
Lissy Grey, a Maplewood resident, had her jars last month, filling them with pasta and snacks. She didn’t know much about the Zero Waste movement until talking with Taylor-Heacock, her neighbor.
“It’s pretty alarming how much we put in our recycling and our trash every day," Grey said.
Now she cuts back on individual packaged items. It feels good, too, she said supporting “these great mom-run businesses in our town."
Along the wall at the General Store, there are men and women’s clothing from other local entrepreneurs. Taylor-Heacock carries reusable paper towels and a reusable face wipes to remove cosmetics. She even has reusable cotton swabs made of silicone.
On tables, there are more items. A cafe is in the back of the store. It’s kind of like a throwback, Garcia said, to the days when people shopped weekly in one place.
“I think that there are definitely people who feel much more excited about the idea of being able to buy the quantity that they need, but they are able to reduce their waste while they do it," Garcia said.
Taylor-Heacock and Garcia are all in with eco-consciousness. Garcia partners with Ace Natural, a company in Long Island City, New York, that is a 100% renewable energy distributor and delivers product to her business in an electric hybrid vehicle.
On her Instagram page, Taylor-Heacock posted a startling quote that’s food for thought.
“Every plastic toothbrush that you ever owned is still on the earth somewhere."
It makes her think of the all of those laundry detergent bottles that she threw away.
They may be right next to that toothbrush.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.