Hi Fellow Earth Lovers,
My name is Trey and you may know me as a Sales Associate, but behind the scenes I am also a Retail Intern at the Green Life Trading Company store in Madison, WI! In an effort to learn more about the functions of a small, locally owned retail business, I have been working alongside Sasha and the GLTC team to implement some of my education in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison throughout the shop. Most notably, you may have noticed a new window display that I worked to create as a part of my internship in the storefront on Willy Street, and I wanted to take some a moment to discuss it further with all of you!
The project began with a discussion between Sasha and I about the ways we could transform the store window during the holiday season to not only communicate the shop’s values to our wonderful community in Madison, but also how to make it visually ~*aesthetic*~. Obviously, being a zero waste shop, it was in our nature to ensure the display remained waste free as well, a thoughtfulness that drove every decision throughout the creation process.
After taking an online course called Eco-Friendly Pop Up Architecture by architect Izaskun Chinchilla Moreno, I began investigating ways to implement the display into a circular economy model. A circular economy model is essentially a super fancy way of saying that materials' purposes continually change and adapt beyond their original purpose so they never really become waste, kind of like our container collection program at the shop!
The base of the design was created using boxes and paper that previously arrived from vendors shipping us their amazing products, but were otherwise too big or damaged to ship those products to you. We also used the same biodegradable packing peanuts the shop uses, but getting them to stick using traditional glue would have degraded the peanuts so they would no longer be compostable, dictating their end of life destination exclusively to landfill. A problem! Later that week, as we toured the Green Box facilities in Sun Prairie, the idea to ensure the display remained completely compostable was born. A solution! In order to ensure the display's construction with consideration to its end of life compostability, I researched (watched a Youtube video) and created a natural glue made simply from flour, sugar, vinegar, and water using packageless ingredients from the Willy Street Co-Op. Together, these materials had begun as shipping material, been reborn into a retail window display, and will eventually participate in enriching the Earth’s soil.
While the display is fully functional as shelving, it also provides a way of thinking about how we can repurpose materials into something new and beautiful. As we venture into the upcoming holiday season and look to show our appreciation for those we love with material goods, I encourage you to think about the ways you can implement thinking about products, packaging, and festive decor in a circular economy with an emphasis on their end of life. Whether it’s reusing newspaper to create one of a kind wrapping paper or crafting unique holiday decorations with your family and friends from recycled materials, we could all benefit from thinking about ways to be more sustainable in an otherwise consumption driven time of year.
Do you have any exciting ideas about how you plan to implement the circular economy and end of life thinking into your holidays? We would love to hear about them! We hope you find a moment to enjoy our new window display in Madison and look forward to seeing your smiling faces at the shop sometime soon!