Tuesday, May 19, 2009

‘Green in BKLYN’ a One-Stop Shop For Eco-Friendly Needs

Elissa Olin (pictured left with Iam Beck, who she refers to as her “lovely assistant, inventory manager and tech support”), a Brooklyn resident who lives on the border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, wanted to have a greener home, but discovered that it wasn’t so easy, because there weren’t any local places for her to shop.

“We were trying to live even greener in our home, and it was very inconvenient,” she said. “It was difficult to find the products we needed. We had to travel outside of our neighborhood to do it.”

Around this time, Olin also reflected on her many careers — she is an actor, has worked in catering, and has done technical writing, editing and voiceovers, among many other things — and felt that she needed a change. “[My job] wasn’t serving what was my next purpose, which was to do something in the community, to do something for the earth, to do something to improve the neighborhood,” she said.

So in March of 2008, she had the idea to open a green home goods store in Clinton Hill. A whirlwind year followed in which Olin took a business plan writing class, won the Brooklyn Public Library’s “PowerUP!: Your Business Starts Here” Business Plan Competition, scouted out locations, found one on Myrtle Avenue, renovated it and opened her store, Green in BKLYN, on Earth Day (April 22). “I felt like the universe basically pushed and kicked my butt down the road,” she said.

When stocking the store, Olin looked to her own life. “I started with the products that I loved, knew, used, needed, wanted, that I couldn’t get without traveling to another part of the city.”

And for Olin, “green” means her products are “healthy alternatives. They’re hypoallergenic, they’re energy savers, they save money and they’re earth friendly.”

You can find almost everything at Green in BKLYN: Bamboo dishware, eco-friendly cleaning products, natural soaps, organic nail polish, flushable baby diapers, organic cotton sheets and recycled paper products, to name a few.

The store itself is green too. There’s low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint on the walls and furnishings and fixtures that were either reclaimed or are made of recycled wood. She also has recycling bins, collecting paper, glass and cans, and Olin will soon expand the recycling to include batteries and crayons.

Despite the economy, Olin’s first month in business has been a success: she’s reordered almost all the products at least once. “We’ve been doing just fine — kind of great,” she said.

You don’t have to be green to shop at Green in BKLYN. “I never wanted to tell people what to do, I don’t feel like a store should dictate to anybody anything. What it offers is a convenient way to do what you choose to do,” Olin said. “If you don’t want to go green, anything in here is a green product and you’re still going to make a difference.”

The bottom line is that Olin wanted to provide a “one-stop shop where people could get what they needed for their home. We’ve got it here in Clinton Hill now, and hopefully there will be more stores in other neighborhoods too.”

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