Women-Run Store Providing Their Local Community Accessibility to Sustainable Products
How long have you been purchasing the same brand of supermarket deodorant? Shampoo? Dish soap or peanut butter?
Purchasing industrially manufactured items – almost always housed in plastic containers, and always single-use – has become second nature to almost everyone in the 21st century. Increasingly, however, people are questioning their consumer choices, and looking for viable, chemical-free alternatives in reusable packaging, made by real people in local community settings.
Unfortunately, most often when “green” goods and services are offered they are priced to consumers at the top end of the market. Therefore, the systemic environmental changes needed in society are often out of reach to the average user.
“Buying more eco-friendly products is a wonderful concept, but it’s also one that the vast majority of the world’s population does not have access to,” said Tod Hardin, COO of Plastic Oceans International. “Simply put, the number of people needed to make a true impact are typically priced out of being part of the solution. This model in Campeche solves that problem, which is why we support it as part of our global BlueCommunities initiative.”
All of which is what makes the Tienda Zero Waste (Zero Waste Store) in the BlueCommunity of Campeche, Mexico so unique and refreshing; in that it is the center point for a charmingly frugal zero-waste movement nestled among the colorful streets of the city’s UNESCO protected historic center.
Open since March 2021, the initiative was set up to make the transition towards a more sustainable and nontoxic lifestyle much easier for the community.
“The Tienda was born out of the need to have a physical place to share and encourage ‘live green’ concepts, and, more importantly, to provide a collection of tools to facilitate these concepts,” says Amy Sales, co-owner and operator of the Tienda.
From an idea that began nearly four years ago, she and her partners, in this women-run business, have worked step by step to transform their lives to be free of plastic and chemicals.
They are now sharing these tools and possibilities with others.
“We started by taking a close look at what is used on a day-to-day basis, then dealt with each issue gradually,” she explains. “At the beginning, we started with replacing cutlery only, then moved onto plastic film, packaging and so on.”
Now, with a variety of products available, some of which can be utilized for several purposes, there is more opportunity than ever to reorganize and adjust away from plastic dependence and our pervading culture of disposability.
A great example of a multi-purpose, resourceful, and of course, reusable product is the beeswax wrap. Made from discarded cotton fabric, the beeswax wrap can eliminate your dependence on plastic to store food or drink. It is also antibacterial and anti-fungal, therefore has the added advantage of greatly reducing food waste and opens up the potential for a variety of other uses, such as an on-the-go doggie bowl given that its edges can be moulded into rigid shapes.
Truly working at the community level by linking up with Campeche-based projects and businesses, the Tienda also circulates promotion and materials with a wide array of local partners and programs. “I think we are better understood as a hub than a shop,” says Amy, a point easily recognizable in the conversations shoppers have with the team as they drop by, which are unusually – for a shop – not product focused, but link into a broader environmental context.
“It’s about who we want to be, as humans, and how we try to get there. By being equipped with reusable, on-the-go items, we are then prepared to refuse single-use plastic offered to us. This supports our overall goal of giving people the option for packaging free, local and organic products,” Amy explains. She is quick, however, to reassure: “We don’t expect people to throw out everything in their bathroom and make all the changes at once. Instead, as you run out of your conditioner or, say, face wash, we want you to try our version. If you like it, great! If you don’t, we’d like to help you find another alternative.”
In addition to selling eco-safe products, the Tienda Zero Waste is also an educational space offering workshops which cover and provide open communication on topics that advance plastic-free and chemical-free lifestyles. Laura Haw, the Tienda’s workshop coordinator, conveys the importance of replacing common plastic and largely chemical based personal care products with alternatives that are healthier for you, the planet, and the community. The conversations with Laura are relaxed, and she provides a space to share challenges, discuss taboo topics such as sustainable menstruation practices, and exhibit tangible transitional solutions.
At a time when the vast majority of products being made have a lasting impact on the environment in some way, this little shop of hope in Southern Mexico is giving individuals, and the community at large, the chance to engage in practices that reduce, or eliminate completely, negative environmental impacts. Continuing these trends will set an example for future generations to come, and may put us on the comeback trail after all.
Kalee Lamp Sparr – Kalee is a freelance writer and educationalist from Iowa. She is also part of the Environmental Journalism team at Ninth Wave Global.