Since Earth Day has come and gone, I thought it was fitting to focus on sustainability in Fairhaven for this month’s blog post. Striving for a sustainable business culture is vital for a small town like Bellingham (and Fairhaven) to succeed and stay relevant economically. Sustainability can be a pillar of local business, and a huge selling point when marketing a local economy. 

For this piece, I spoke with two Fairhaven business owners, both of whom make it a priority to think about sustainability within their business. Kimberly Hoctor is the owner of Posh Upscale Resale and Bella Rose Bath and Beauty Boutique, which are both located in Fairhaven. Bella Rose opened this past month. Tina Anderson owns Fairhaven Toy Garden as well as Bay to Baker Trading Company. 

First, my conversation with Hoctor: 

I asked Kimberly a little about her background, which she told me was in marketing.

Hoctor: “I’ve always been into the green movement. I actually started out doing green marketing and working with companies to become more sustainable and creating social responsibility programs in corporations.  [As a small business] It’s no different than what a major corporation would do. I think that as a small business it’s easier to talk about how you give back to the community, because every small business is doing just that. From hiring local people, which helps the local economy, to doing their own recycling programs, to keeping carbon emissions down and getting locally sourced items.”

Because Posh Upscale Resale deals a lot in textiles, clothing and accessories, Hoctor is passionate about reducing the impact the textile industry has on our planet. 

Hoctor: “Ninety-five percent of textiles that end up in the landfill could have been recycled or reused. [A good example is] holes in socks. What do you do with them? There are companies that will take your socks and repurpose them. They’re all over. Contact the recycling program in your area and they will have an area where you can do textiles. With consignment, if they’re in good condition, for some of it you can recoup some of your money. You’re taking something that is gently loved and giving it to someone else. You’re still contributing to recycling and [keeping it] out of the landfill. If you’re buying something that is a vintage piece, why not keep it going and keep it out of the landfill? 

Hoctor said a major problem in the textile world is counterfeiters, and the market that surrounds knockoff pieces. The companies that make counterfeit items, such as a knockoff Chanel or Gucci bag, do not hold themselves to the same practices that the real companies do. 

Hoctor: “In the textile realm there is a lot of counterfeiting. When they buy a knock off, they are funding child labor, terrorism, and environmental [problems]. The real company is using quality materials, [including] the hardware that’s used. How they obtain the materials. The people that they pay to make a certain bag, they highly pay them and the art is in their craftsmanship. Counterfeits are often child labor or sweat labor.”

To close out our conversation, I asked Kimberly about sustainable small business in the Pacific Northwest. 

Hoctor: “The pacific northwest is all about recycling, sustainability and so fourth. There are so many consignment shops. There’s a big movement to reduce and reuse. People are buying things that are locally sourced, so that’s keeping down the carbon emissions. It’s becoming more of a movement, it’s not just a treehuggers paradise. It’s becoming more mainstream, it has been for the last 20 years. We have 3 consignment shops just in Fairhaven alone, so that says something. The toy company has some bamboo toys. Everybody is into it, as long as they can keep things sustainable.”

Posch’s message to the community this Earth Day was, simply paraphrased: ‘Don’t throw it away.”

Hoctor: “For earth day, we were taking consignments without appointments. We were encouraging people to bring their items in. We’re encouraging people to go through their closets. Don’t throw away stuff. Bring it to us, see if we can give you some money, and if not, we can make recommendations for where you can bring it. Posch takes higher end stuff, both clothing and accessories. For men’s wear, I can recommend SouthSide trends. Men’s missions and also other missions is a great way to reuse and give back to the community.” 

Next, I spoke with Tina Anderson, owner of Bay to Baker Trading Company and Fairhaven Toy Garden. For the month of April, Fairhaven Toy Garden was promoting different toys from sustainable companies. I asked Anderson about those promotions, as well as different aspects of sustainability within her businesses. 

Anderson: “Fairhaven toy garden, when we first opened, that was part of the criteria of the products we wanted to carry. I don’t think that sustainability was one of the buzzwords back then, 15 years ago. It was more like environmentally friendly things. We kind of focused on that as far as our brands. Also just, kind of what’s safe for children too. There’s a lot of that in the toy industry too. Sustainability. [There are] plenty of brands to choose from. It’s not like you have to go searching for it. I think there’s so many choices now that it’s gotten really competitive.”

I asked Tina about other ways in which her stores try for sustainability. 

Anderson: “We always have bought green power. We had puget power come and assess our lighting, they had a program for that, and when we moved here they did it again. We had somebody come from Sanitary Services and teach us the best way to do recycling and things like that.”

I think the greatest challenge I’ve found just recently when we did the sustainability campaign is shipping. It’s kind of horrific when you read about it, how much plastic [there is], and the materials it takes to ship things. So we really tried to do that better, but there’s still room for improvement there. But it’s hard because you’re trying to make your shipment light. Of course we try and reuse as many products as we can, I never buy any packing materials, we reuse everything. But still, you’re buying other things like padded envelopes and little boxes and things like that. I just question that whole thing, you know?”

Shipping is an inevitable part of doing commerce in today’s world. We have gotten used to getting everything in a matter of days, when it used to take weeks. But there is a huge environmental cost to all of our shipments. It can be very hard to find greener ways of carrying out those shipments, especially for a small business. 

Anderson: “Our greener option, when we were closed, is if we get an order from someone in the area we hand deliver it. And then it’s just in a bag and not in a box with all those packing materials and you know, having gone through all stages of whatever shipping company. It just goes through the store, in a bag to the person. And usually, it’s like an employee drops it off on their way home, you know, somebody that lives nearby, so it’s not like we make a specific trip to do it. So that was the only way I could really find. But you know, that’s a fraction of our orders. A lot of our orders are going out of town, so we can’t do that.”

I asked Anderson about her business culture, and how she tries to keep a sustainable mindset. 

Anderson: “I think what got me to, just this month, to really improve my sustainability habits, is I had a discussion with a few employees when we planned this, and we all came up with all these ideas and then we had this competition for giving tips and everything and it made us think of new things. So this month I started doing things like using cereal bags for my lunch bags and using a cloth napkin instead of paper towels and all of these things that employees had come up with. So I feel like if you involve everybody in the business to come up with ideas and share it, then everyone has more ownership for it. And then you almost come up having a little competition at work, you know, ‘look what I put my sandwich in. Just being inspired by other businesses, you know, not us, I wouldn’t say that we’re completely sustainable, but we aspire to be more like one of our vendors, called PlanToys. I visited their factory in Thailand. If you read about all of the things that they do and the lengths that they go to be completely sustainable, it’s impressive. We keep trying to find more ways to do that. One of my things is trying to figure out how to be more sustainable at shipping. It seems like a small detail, but plastic bags. It’s horrific how many [there are]. When we receive products, like stuffed animals, everything is in a plastic bag. I mean we fill up garbage bags full of plastic bags. So there’s a lot of work to do. I just think it’s the best way for the world to kind of become a team, is for businesses to be involved in being sustainable.”

It is vital in today’s world to recognize the impact that we have when doing business. Many things can seem simple, like emailing receipts instead of printing them, giving compostable silverware instead of plastic, taking old clothes to consignment stores instead of throwing them away, or packing shipments with paper rather than plastic. It is important to recognize the businesses in your local community who are striving to make a difference, and to support the changes they are making. 

A huge thanks to Kimberly Hoctor and Tina Anderson for speaking with me for this piece. 

Link to Posch Upscale Resale’s Earth Day statement: https://poshupscaleresale.com/uncategorized/earth-day/

Link to Fairhaven Toy Garden: 

https://www.fairhaventoygarden.com/info-19/about-us

Link to PlanToys: 

https://www.plantoys.com/home/work

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