by Kira Bellis
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discarded 13.1 million tons of textiles in one year. From this, 11 million tons of textiles were dumped in landfills, while only 15 percent was reclaimed for recycling.
According to the The Worldwatch Institute, an organization whose vision is a sustainable world, “The United States, with less than 5 percent of the global population, uses a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources.”
Consumption is not just an American problem. Textile manufacturing around the globe is wasteful. For example, according to the Global Agricultural Information Network, “Over 700 gallons of water, enough to fill 22 bathtubs, are used to manufacture a single cotton T-shirt.”
To control consumption and waste, you, as an individual, can help by learning to be conscious of what and how much you’re buying. Thankfully, some stores on the Avenue here in Chestnut Hill are here to help you shop more sustainably.
Recycling is the core of sustainability. Everyone probably knows to recycle paper, plastic, glass, and metal. But they might not realize that they can recycle while they shop.
For instance, Green Design, at 8434 Germantown Ave., guarantees its customers that vendors ethically produce their goods, in terms of materials and worker conditions.
“Since our goal is to cut back on on waste in landfills, we have products made from recycled materials as well as goods that are recyclable themselves,” said Green Design employee Grantley Smith.
At the store, you can buy a reusable storage wrap made from beeswax, replacing the need for plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Also, reusable water bottles in every color imaginable are available for purchase. These bottles are a durable, eco-friendly alternative to plastic water bottles and paper cups.
A couple of storefronts down at 8426 Germantown Ave. is Weavers Way Next Door. This health and beauty store provides customer favorites such as epsom salt, bath salts, and plant based proteins.
According to Weavers Way Next Door employee Chris Mallam, “Giving people the option of a natural section without having to travel too far is what this store is all about.”
But ethically produced products aren’t the only way to recycle while you shop. You can recycle when it comes to clothing, too.
Consignment stores in Chestnut Hill make it easy for you. Greene Street Consignment, at 8524 Germantown Ave., has an easy-to-follow business model: “First, bring us your items. Second, we’ll price your items. Third, we’ll sell your items. Fourth, you’ll get paid.”
“It’s better to get people involved with recycling clothes as opposed to throwing them away,” said Greene Street employee Myasia Williams. “You have the personal benefit of money, while others get quality clothing for more affordable prices.”
With multiple locations, clothes recycle within the chain as well. Apparel from shops, ranging from Gap to Gucci to Chestnut Hill favorite Lilly Pulitzer, circulates throughout the other Greene Street stores if they do not sell on the Avenue.
Down towards the bottom of the Hill, there are a few more consignment stores.
Statement Boutique Consignment, at 7942 Germantown Ave., takes in an assortment of fancy evening gowns for formal occasions, as well as a multitude of sun hats. Additionally, consignors turn in accessories like box bags or leather totes.
Although not primarily a consignment store, Villavillekula at 8135 Germantown Ave. will be starting a consignment section called Pippi’s Closet at the back of the store in August. Owner Beth Milley wants to “promote recycling by selling pieces lovingly worn.”
The entire store sells clothing and accessories for babies and kids. Milley hosted children’s clothes from three consignors as a trial run for the full on Closet, and their pieces already sold out.
By shopping at local consignment stores, you’re bettering the environment by giving clothing another life. You’re lessening the textile accumulation in landfills while helping your community.
Another part of sustainability is repurposing. Through repurposing, people repair and upcycle objects, therefore improving them.
At 8113 Germantown Ave. stands Curio Philadelphia. Owner Louise Taft takes what some people may deem trash and turns it into treasure.
While most of us are guilty of throwing out a clock because it no longer tells time, she takes it in. “I fix pieces to keep them in circulation,” said Taft.
When people chop down trees, Taft is there to give the tree trunks a new function. From local trees in West Chester and Delaware County, she shaped the wood into finished tables and benches. From a musical organ, Taft made a desk.
“Unfortunately, we live in a throwaway culture,” she said.
Fortunately, Taft’s background of art and her love of building gives the Avenue a place to buy repurposed goods.
Also, at 8331 Germantown Ave., Ten Thousand Villages focuses on creating opportunities for artisans in developing countries by maintaining long-term, fair trade relationships.
Through this process, customers are guaranteed recycled or natural materials, which have all been ethically sourced. Artisans repurpose excess items, turning them into handmade products, rich with culture.
For example, as locals prepare farmland after decades of war in both Cambodia and Ethiopia, artisans take the military remains to create jewelry.
As Ten Thousand Villages store manager Melody Mora-Shihadeh said, “Brass rings, earrings, and necklaces are crafted from bombs and bullets found in land mines – this transformation symbolizes resilience and health.”
In Central and South America, inedible tagua nuts fall from trees, and locals can pick them off the ground. Artisans organically turn them into jewelry, with some pieces getting a splash of color through vegetable-based dye.
Palestinians repurpose pruned olive wood branches into earrings. Indians repurpose bones into bead and tassel necklaces, while Nepalese repurpose bones into tree and leaf bracelets.
No matter the product, Ten Thousand Villages wants to help the environment and local artisans.
“Every fairly traded piece has a story and we love when people ask,” Mora-Shihadeh said. “I even give group presentations in the store.”
While these are just some of the stores in Chestnut Hill that offer sustainable shopping options, there’s always room for improvement. As Greene Street employee Alexis Flaner said, “Recycling is a good cycle to keep going.”