We found a great clothing store in Minneapolis, land of the 10,000 lakes, where I am for the holidays (more about the travel in a later post). The store is called Birch, and its owners are committed to carrying only fair wage and sustainable products.
Co-owner Marti Markus explained to me a system of standards that she insists all her suppliers adhere to. Plus she can help customers decide for themselves which standards are most important: fair trade certification or local manufacture or production from, say, hemp. Marti can tell a customer the benefits if each and let them make their own ethical choices.
What impressed me most was not so much the collection of sustainable products but the service. Her store had the feel, strangely, of the old fashioned bookstore. You know, where you go in and the owner knows what you like and can tell you what to read next. Birch is like that, but for clothes.
There is so much room for this kind of business, not just for the products but for the educational and de facto certification service it offers. If small boutique retailers can find a way to help consumers navigate the issues, then customers will flock to them. Because we all feel confused about what to buy and what not to buy. And there's room for this model, I think, for everything from clothing to furniture to household supplies.
Want to start a business anyone?
PS To find retailers that may offer these services near your, try the website of the Organic Consumers Association.
PPS Hello to the world's best niece, Ellie Rudd, who gave up her bed so we could sleep in it!