Midwest-Nice (To the Environment)

glass jar lattes

These small businesses are turning Midwest-nice to eco-nice by lessening their impacts on the environment.

Businesses across the Midwest are doing their part to be environmentally friendly. By focusing on offering ethically made goods and selling sustainable products, these small businesses are making a big change. Whether it’s a small coffee shop in Des Moines or a new boutique in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they are improving their environmental footprint on the world.


Iced lattes from Horizon Line’s glass reuse initiative. Photo by Emily Larson.

Horizon Line Coffee

Des Moines, Iowa

As a coffee staple in the Des Moines metro, Horizon Line Coffee is the place for specialty drinks with a hipster ambience. Owned by two California natives, Brad Penna and Nam Ho, the shop opened in 2017 with the goal of selling fair trade, ethically sourced coffee to local caffeine lovers. Now, Horizon Line is setting itself apart even further from the competition with its glass reuse initiative. 

While their beans have always been ethically sourced–meaning the rural coffee growers and workers receive fair wages– Horizon Line has now gotten rid of all single-use paper and plastic in their shop. Customers with to-go orders receive their drink in a glass jar with a lid, which they can keep or return on their next visit to be washed and reused. 

A statement on their website further explains this decision: “As the consequences of our reliance on plastics becomes more obvious for both the environment and human health, it is clear that the time for small changes in addressing climate change and waste are behind us…. The Glass Reuse Program is based on the understanding that we serve thoughtful and creative people, and that social change can only occur when we work together.”

While Horizon Line’s shop is currently closed, you can purchase coffee, merch, and gift cards on their website. You can also purchase specialty cold brew drinks for next-day delivery! Follow them on Instagram @horizonlinecoffee for updates. 

The Collective

Des Moines, Iowa

For Jamie Nicolino, the term “eco-friendly” is about more than just fitting into recent trends; it’s a lifestyle. After realizing her own life was filled with clutter and things she didn’t need, Jamie endeavored to get rid of all the excess in her life and start living more minimally and sustainably. Soon after, she realized other people were seeking the same things. 

“Along my journey I knew that making online purchases for all of the products I was seeking was not the most sustainable option,” Nicolino said. “I began talking to other small business owners about my idea, and I knew from early on that my compassion towards sustainable and vegan products was something others were also seeking locally.” 

Jamie opened her own shop in Des Moines’ East Village. The store, called The Collective, is a sustainably based storefront aimed at helping people protect and preserve the planet. In the shop, she sells everything from reusable dishware and containers to refillable shampoos, organic deodorants, and cleaning sprays. The goal: diminish the Des Moines community’s waste and help people live more sustainably. 

“Sustainability is top of mind for so many, not just here in Des Moines, but throughout the U.S.,” Jamie says. “As consumers we hold so much power by supporting businesses who offer plastic-free alternatives, and the growth of refill/bulk and zero waste shops is proof of that.”
While The Collective’s shop remains closed during the coronavirus pandemic, curbside pickup is available for online orders placed through their website. You can also support this small business by purchasing a gift card online and following them on Instagram @thecollective.dsm.

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Terra Shepherd Boutique & Apothecary 

Sioux Falls, South Dakota 

Fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries to the earth. And behind agriculture, it’s the most at-risk category for forced labor in the world. Sara Jamison realized this and decided to take fashion’s footprint into her own hands by opening Terra Shepherd Boutique & Apothecary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She knows that sacrificing style for the sake of being a conscious consumer isn’t necessary. 

“I strongly believe that we cannot buy ourselves out of our consumption problem,” Jamison says. “Although it sounds counterintuitive, it is my goal to encourage our community to consume less. I am here to offer more sustainable options when it is time to make a purchase. As a business, I try to be as mindful as possible about our own consumption and waste.” 

When she’s picking out products to feature in her store, she considers:

  • sustainability of materials used
  • the manner in which materials are sourced
  • production processes
  • ingredients used
  • the observance of fair trade practices
  • product packaging 
  • third-party certifications and supply chain traceability 

When Jamison was creating her store, she made sure to be mindful of her own waste as well by implementing these things into Terra Shepherd: 

  • use second-hand display pieces 
  • provide email receipts instead of printed
  • use only 100% recycled and compostable bags and shipping supplies
  • reuse shipping materials from vendors 
  • make our own cleaning supplies
  • use reusable cloths for cleaning
  • use plastic-free and 100% recycled toilet paper and bathroom supplies 

Becoming an eco-friendly business may seem like a daunting task, but stores like Terra Shepherd make it look easy. Begin utilizing these strategies to lessen the negative impact your business may have on the world. 

During these stressful times, some online retail therapy might just be the thing you need. Support Terra Shepherd by purchasing online, buying a gift card, giving them a positive Google review, or joining one of their online workshops

HKN Design

Kansas City, Missouri 

HKN Design got its start when co-founder Helena Bates climbed the Swiss Alps in the 1980s to escape the former communist Czechoslovakia. With dreams of starting her own business, Bates moved to the U.S. and began a new life. While working in Kansas City for a custom drum set maker, Bates was responsible for throwing away the wooden drum shells and veneers left over from production. Instead of throwing them away, she got the idea to instead transform those abandoned scraps into works of art.

From there, HKN Design grew into a full-fledged business serving corporate clients and homeowners alike. Bates and her daughter Natalie create custom wall hangings, tables, lighting, and home accents from repurposed wood. Each piece is handcrafted by Helena, an architect and drummer, and Natalie, a graphic designer, from their location in Kansas City. 

“We believe (we) can help diminish much of the environmental pollution all around us while creating sustainable economic opportunities for entrepreneurs,” Natalie says. “We believe our success will inspire motivated people to look for other types of waste products that can be converted into economically viable goods. It’s an exciting opportunity that is limited only by the creative imagination of entrepreneurs.”

HKN Design remains open for commissions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow them on Instagram @hkndesignkc or visit their Etsy shop

Eco Lips

Marion, Iowa

Kailee Meskimen, Marketing Assistant, says Eco Lips, a lip balm manufacturer, was launched 15 years ago, literally to change the world. The lip balms contain USDA certified organic ingredients that are non-GMO verified, fair-trade certified, Leaping Bunny certified (cruelty-free), and are created by solar and wind power. Products include Mongo Kiss lip balm, lip and cheek tints, and a variety of fun flavors. Beyond the benefits of ethical consumption, Eco Lips prides itself on being a company worth working for. 

“Not only is it appealing to a growing number of consumers, employees are looking for meaning in their work,” Meskimen says. “I know that I can sleep better at night knowing I’m doing the right thing, and I hear from our employees that there is a sense of fulfillment working at Eco Lips.” 
You can find a store that sells Eco Lips’ products. But while social distancing is in place, you can order some lip balm online, so your lips stay hydrated in quarantine!

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