Spotlight: Going Green with Vintage Green Review
For Sarah Andert, sustainability is the name of the game at her store, Vintage Green Review (VGR). She seeks to be a beacon of health and education for the community by offering the New Orleans area a place to shop for “vintage-inspired sustainable, plastic free, eco friendly products for your low waste lifestyle”. So, how did we get this opportunity?
Andert is a Minnesota native who moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane back in 2001. She graduated before Hurricane Katrina but returned to finish her Master of Arts degree. While studying literature, she found that she had a passion for a variety of public health, environmental, and animal welfare issues which pushed her towards wanting to help. She took a job at Tulane’s Center for Public Service which allowed her to go back to school and complete post-graduate environmental studies courses.
It wasn’t until 2017 that she was introduced to the concept of life design, when she was given the opportunity to teach a class at Tulane through the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking. This class, Taylor Your Life, was designed for undergraduate students who want changemaking careers but don’t know how to get there.
After teaching this class for several semesters and equipping students with the tools to build their own career pathways, she was inspired to start Vintage Green Review, named after a blog she kept for researching and writing about life before plastic (which isn’t that far back in history!).
“I wanted more for myself and what I knew I could contribute to the world. There’s that quote from Mary Oliver that gives me goosebumps every time I read it, and I carried it around with me every day for almost two year before I was ready to take the leap: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?’” reminisces Andert.
Fired up and ready to move forward, she started participating in markets and popups alongside doing research to teach Zero Waste for Beginners workshops. She figured her business would look more like a consulting and education company, but with all the advice she was giving about how to reduce waste and make swaps to more sustainable alternatives, she realized it was hard for people to actually implement these changes without any businesses that provided those options locally.
She began offering a limited number of sustainable items, like NOTpaper towels, facial squares, compostable toothbrushes, Swedish dishcloths, and so on at local markets. Once the pandemic hit and lockdown brought the world to grinding halt, she started building her online website and did virtual workshops instead.
Eventually, with the support of her family, friends, and the community in addition to her hard work at art markets and popups, she was able to acquire Vintage Green Review’s first ever brick and mortar store. This big step forward was inspired by her customer’s interests and needs.
“I found that a lot of people had learned more about zero waste online in the meantime, and were now asking me if I had plans to offer bulk refill and expand my products locally. I just felt like there was no time better than the present to bring the idea into being,” she says.
Andert also found that the need for sustainable, green living is great, especially when it comes to the serious waste management problems in New Orleans. She also found that while recycling is meant to help, only 6 percent of plastic that is properly sorted is actually recycled. However, this isn’t the only alarming issue plastic waste raises, as the news in recent years has made it known that microplastics inside our bodies are more common. As Andert notes, plastic products contain carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that cause cancer and other complications.
VGR seeks to reduce plastic waste by offering ways to refill bulk items with more sustainable (and healthier) alternatives while also reusing the containers you have. As a store that doesn’t use single-use plastic, everything is reusable or compostable to benefit the environment. Additionally, all of the products in her store are cruelty-free, all-natural, non-toxic, and are ethically sourced from small, family-owned businesses and B Corporations.
So, what’s the best part? VGR has beat the assumption that living sustainably is too expensive or too difficult. With budget options, life hacks, and ways to make things last longer, this lifestyle change is much easier to make happen than you’d think.
While Andert’s focus right now is on growing the store to offer as many refill product options at affordable price points as she can, she also plans on building her own local delivery service, including bottle return to also reach homebound and rural communities in Southeast Louisiana.
Ultimately, yes, waste is becoming our problem as a community, and every step towards a cleaner planet begins with us making changes at home. Andert herself believes that the key is to make sustainability sustainable in terms of time, money, and how we can share resources across our families, friends, and communities.
If you’re interested in making a difference, swing by Vintage Green Review or visit the website, vintagegreenreview.com.
By Sarah Batrous