Are there zero waste shops in Ithaca, NY? A guide for shopping responsibly in a city that's supposed to be green.
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When I first moved to Ithaca, NY around thirteen years ago, I was impressed by the amount of eco-conscious people in this small college town. Ithaca has a reputation for attracting hippie liberals, so naturally it seems like there should be at least one zero waste shop here, right? Well, there aren't any zero waste shops such as one might find in New York City and other places, but there are some specialty shops that are mostly zero waste. There are also ample options for those of you interested in supporting shops that are at least low waste. I have compiled a list of some of the best shops serving those who follow a simple living, zero waste lifestyle. Each recommendation is ranked on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely wasteful and ten generating the least amount of waste possible. I have also listed categories of shops, with recommended shops under each category. For this reason, some shops might appear in more than one category.
GUIDE TO ZERO WASTE SHOPPING IN ITHACA, NY.
ZERO WASTE GROCERY OPTIONS:
1. GreenStar Natural Foods Market. GreenStar seems to be the favorite shopping place of the eco-conscious consumers here in Ithaca. It has a wonderful selection of organic and local produce, bulk items, health food items, and natural beauty items. GreenStar encourages people to bring their own bags. They offer paper bags, cardboard boxes, and non-plastic bags made from some sort of plant material. They do, however, stock products which come in plastic containers, and their made-in-deli items are also packaged in plastic. They try to offer low waste options, such as having actual plates, glasses, silverware, and bamboo utensils in their seating area to encourage customers to eat their meals in store rather than packaging in plastic to take away. They also have an amazing selection of bulk items. I haven't noticed many people bringing their own containers for the bulk items, though. Most people seem to use the provided paper (or even plastic) bags provided next to the bulk section. Zero Waste Ranking: 7 out of 10.
2. Brookton's Market. This adorable, rural shop isn't technically in Ithaca (it's in Brooktondale), but it's still in the general Ithaca area. This is by far my favorite shop/market. They don't have a huge selection, but what they have is always nicely presented. There are no plastic shopping baskets. Instead, there are actual wicker baskets in the produce aisle. They also offer delicious sandwiches, soups, salads, an amazing selection of tea and coffee, and they recently added a bar, so you can sit down with your pint of beer. It reminds me of some of my favorite pubs in England, as it really is a gathering place for the local community. It's the perfect low waste country store/café/market. Zero Waste Ranking: 7 out of 10.
3. P&C Grocery. This grocery definitely generates much more waste than either Brookton's Market or GreenStar, but they have been improving recently. They have started stocking many more locally grown produce, and even grains grown by local farms. They don't have many bulk items, but they do have a deli where you can request to use your own jars and containers for the items. You have to be careful at the checkout. They try to sneak in plastic bags, even when you bring your own bags. I'm constantly having to remind them that I don't want anything in plastic bags. They do stock some natural beauty items, including a selection of products by a local brand--packaged in glass and paper. Zero Waste ranking: 4 out of 10.
4. Wegmans. I'm still shocked and overwhelmed every time I find myself in Wegmans. This grocery is enormous! I try to avoid it as much as possible, but they do have the best selection of products, including a decent bulk section (well sections, as they are scattered throughout the store). If you bring your own containers, and choose items from their natural foods and beauty section, it is possible to get through the store without picking up too many items packaged in wasteful plastic. Zero Waste ranking: 5 out of 10.
5. Ithaca Farmer's Market. This is by far the best option during the warm seasons. I believe there is a winter Saturday market in the Space across from GreenStar, and the rest of year it is possible to shop at the Farmer's Market most days. I believe there is a market on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Check the website for the various locations and times. I absolutely love shopping at the farmer's market. Most people know to bring their own bags, so there is very little waste. The food vendors provide compostable containers, but you can also bring your own container. I have even seen people bringing their own plate, or bowl. You could even purchase a beautiful, handmade clay bowl and then use it right away when you visit one of the food vendors. One of my recommendations for amazing, wholesome food is Marco Mamas. Zero Waste ranking: 10 out of 10! The best!
Zero Waste Clothing:
Mama Goose. This is a fantastic hshop for mama and child items. They carry secondhand children's toys and clothes, as well as some new items by eco-friendly brands. They also have a selection o maternity clothing and products for mamas. I also love buying my soap from them. They stock two zero waste soap brands, one is made locally and the other is Sappo Hill. I love Sappo Hill jasmine soap and even use it as a shampoo bar from time to time. I tend to buy most of my son's clothes from this shop, and have even found some amazing clothing from the maternity section, like my tweed coat I wear during the autumn and winter months (you can't even tell it's meant to be a maternity coat). This shop gets a Zero Waste ranking of 8 out of 10.
Plato's Closet. This is hands down the best secondhand clothing shop in Ithaca (for men's and women's clothing). They only stock items which look practically new, and I have often found items that are still new with tags. It's mostly name brand clothing, such as Free People. I find it's a great option when you want clothing that is well made, but don't feel comfortable buying new items and supporting fast fashion. It really is a wonderful way of supporting slow fashion. If you can't afford eco-conscious and ethical brands, try to shop secondhand shops and look for quality items. Zero Waste ranking: 7 out of 10.
Petrune. This is a wonderful vintage clothing shop, but they also have new items that are inspired by past-times. They can be a bit pricey, but I have found some amazing and affordable vintage items in this shop. Zero Waste ranking: 8 out of 10.
Jillian's Drawers. This is such a fantastic mother and child shop. They are a staple in the Ithaca community. Besides offering secondhand items and new, sustainable items, Jillian's Drawers had a community room for classes and events. The clothing in this shop is mostly for kids 4 and under, and for mamas, but what they do have is excellent. I can also recommend their cloth diaper service. I participated in this program when my kid was a baby, and it was fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. It's one of my favorite shops ever. I rank them 9 out of 10 in zero waste.
Household items and furniture:
Mimi's Attic. This shop is located in the same building as Mama Goose, and is considered its sister store. They carry beautiful household items- from furniture, to linen towels, to adorable succulents. They also offer pickup and delivery, so if you have lots of items you want to sell or buy it's worth it to look into this option to save you the hassle of renting a van. Zero Waste ranking: 8 out of 10.
Found. Do you love antiques? This is the best antique store in Ithaca. It has amazing furniture, household items, and even jewelry. I'd recommend allowing enough time to browse, because it is a bit overwhelming. It's absolutely packed with amazing antiques. Zero Waste ranking: 8 out of 10.
East Hill Antiques. This is such a charming, little antique shop. It doesn't have a lot of furniture, but it has lots of household items, curiosities, plants, and even some vintage clothing. Zero Waste ranking: 8 out of 10.
Natural beauty products.
Green Star is my go-to place for natural beauty and wellness products. Their beauty and wellness department is fairly low waste, as they offer shampoo and other products in bulk--encouraging customers to bring their own containers. They have a great selection of zero waste soaps, local products in glass jars, natural makeup, and other items. I rank them as 9 out of 10 in zero waste.
Bramble. I absolutely love this shop. They offer herbal medicine consultations as well as stocking bulk herbs and products made by local herbalists. It's a great shop if you are looking to make your own products, but also wonderful if you want really amazing pre-made items too. I would rank them 10 out of 10 in zero waste.
If you live in Ithaca, or are traveling through, I hope you will choose to support some of these shops. Some of them are more zero waste friendly than others, but each of them offers at least some zero waste options. If you can think of any I need to add to the list, let me know. I'll update this post as I discover new shops.
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