Ethical shopping: Sonoma stores curbing climate change
Because sometimes, less is more
Record high temperatures are currently being recorded across the country.
“Overall, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, according to the UN — more than the aviation and shipping (industries) combined,” said Esme Stallard from BBC News.
Sometimes, less is more, and Sonoma’s sustainable fashion stores are ready to help.
In an effort to combat the effects of climate change, second-hand and fair trade stores provide sustainable and ethical options to better the environment and create change locally. The average consumer has an abundance of clothing and household items from kitchen gadgets to scented candles. Low-cost, mass production of these goods is unnecessarily taking a toll on planet Earth.
In response, many are choosing to find new life in old goods by treasure hunting at thrift stores and sourcing from shops that have strong ethical foundations, versus the cheaply produced “fast fashion” that is common at big-box stores.
“The increasing returns of that hunt has transformed thrifting into a viable, $28 billion industry that is expected to eclipse ‘fast fashion’ by 2029, according to findings from ThredUp, an online consignment store,” according to NPR.
Bon Marche Thrift Store, Global Heart and Republic of Thrift are three of the stores in Sonoma that demonstrate sustainable practices by recycling clothing and houseware or using eco-friendly materials.
Bon Marche Thrift Store, owned by Anna Bimenyimana, opened in 2007.
“The big goal is to save the environment. It is the work of all of us. Everybody has to do it together to make a difference,” said Bimenyimana.
Bon Marche follows Goal 12 from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development. “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,” Goal 12 states on its website. Bimenyimana aligned her store with this value by incorporating it in a sign on the wall.
During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Bimenyimana was working abroad in Canada. When she heard what was happening and saw it on television, she knew she had to act.
Her mom owned a store in Rwanda called Bon Marche, which means “good bargain” in French. In her mom’s honor, Sonoma’s Bon Marche not only saves items from landfills, it benefits their home country. Around 30% of profits per month are sent to Rwanda in partnership with Gardens for Health International to support farmers, supplying them with the tools and seeds necessary to grow food and combat malnutrition. This in turn creates self-sufficiency and inspires a sense of togetherness and community that can help fight hunger.
Bimenyimana has also implemented a program with Sonoma Overnight Support (SOS) to provide gift cards called Ubuntu, meaning “generosity” in Kinyarwanda, for individuals struggling with homelessness in Sonoma Valley.
“It is definitely important to me because I grew up in a country where it was really hard to get clothing easily. Since my country is inland and shipments of clothing were arriving every couple months, it was expensive and hard to find the style of certain clothing. I appreciate and feel fortunate to be able to provide affordable and good quality clothing, but mostly save our environment,” said Bimenyimana.
She hosts an e-waste recycling event every three months to help people dispose of their electronics in a sustainable way. The fee collected at this event helps fund the Ubuntu gift cards.
Bon Marche is a prime example of sustainability and ethical fashion through the work of recycling clothing and household items and providing for those in need both locally and globally.
On the Plaza, Global Heart is a local fair trade shop with items from approximately 35 countries. Sofie Burt has owned the store for 10 years, but has worked there since 2005.
The main idea of fair trade is a developed country working with people in developing countries to provide them with jobs that pay fair wages for people who may not have had the opportunity otherwise.
“The people behind our products are paid fairly for their work, which is the whole point behind our store,” said Burt.
For example, people with leprosy and women saved from sex trafficking make many of the items she sells such as jewelry and home decor. The craftspeople often include handwritten notes with their work.
Most products are made from sustainable materials that have either been recycled into something new or use naturally occurring materials to enhance fabrics or products.
Robes are dyed from seaweed-based inks in Bali. This prevents harmful chemicals from running off into the oceans. Cards are made from Lokta paper in Nepal, sourced from the bark of the Daphne Bush. A mud cloth is wrapped around the plant so that it regenerates after being used to make the paper.
Using what exists without disrupting the ecosystem is a value that Global Heart products uphold.
Republic of Thrift, run by co-founders and sisters, Jeannette Tomany and Michelle Mammini, also helps shoppers find new life from second-hand goods.
“Change has to start with the consumers,” said Tomany.
This thrift store not only supports the planet, it raises money for local schools.
“We feel like we have a purpose, it helps us get through the days,” stated Tomany.
Since opening, Republic of Thrift has donated at least $375,000 to schools in the Valley. The money goes to the Parent Teacher Organizations because Tomany feels that the parents know what their kids need and will put the money to good use.
They also implemented scholarships for high school students in 2023 and plan to continue this going forward.
“We feel like a family at the Republic of Thrift,” said Tomany.
Every year, 92 million tons of textiles are tossed into landfills, according to earth.org. Meanwhile, the emissions created to produce “fast fashion” are expected to increase by 50% by 2030. Sonoma’s ethically minded shops are helping to curb climate change, one t-shirt and tea cup at a time.
You can reach Index-Tribune Intern Mia Epstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.