Caring for the environment is all about sustainable growth for Bethany Barbouti, the head of administration and development at Eco & The Flamingo, a zero-waste general store at 1551 Sherman Ave.
Barbouti said as she got older and learned that some of her own habits weren’t sustainable, she made changes to her lifestyle. She emphasizes shopping locally and ethically, and avoiding single-use products and container waste.
She and her best friend and business partner, Jackie MacCartie, head of operations, opened a store in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, and now a second location in Evanston to encourage the journey of zero waste for the community.
Evanston shoppers will find a range of zero-waste and eco-friendly products including bath and body products, health and beauty items, home cleaning needs, coffee and tea, herbs, spices, salts and seeds as well as dry foods, oils and vinegars.
The company’s website says: “All of our products are reusable and long lasting, and we prioritize the reduction of packaging waste by offering bulk refillable products.”
Shoppers are encouraged to bring in older containers and reuse them when refilling.
The Downtown Evanston organization says Eco & The Flamingo is the first zero-waste business in Evanston.
The store opened Jan. 8 but will have its official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 21.
Eco & The Flamingo is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Barbouti said the store will add Wednesdays and Thursdays once more staff can be hired.
“It has been so encouraging and welcoming in Evanston,” Barbouti said, “People are really excited to have this type of shopping available to them.”
Cara Pratt, Sustainability Coordinator for the city, said that the addition of Eco & The Flamingo will align with Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan – which has a goal of making the entire city zero-waste by 2050 – and give residents an opportunity to support a local circular economy. According to the EPA, a circular economy “reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recaptures ‘waste’ as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.”
“I am confident that there will be abundant interest among Evanston residents in supporting a business model like that of the Eco & The Flamingo general store,” she said.
The food section at the Evanston store will soon mirror the large presence of the Lincoln Square location, Barbouti said. Constant favorites are the coffee and teas. Eco & The Flamingo sells Back of the Yards Coffee, Sip of Hope Community Coffee Roasters and Dark Matter Coffee – all located in Chicago. Tea offerings include house matcha kodemari, black gold Chinese breakfast, brandy oolong and other hibiscus, green and black options.
Accessibility is important to Eco & The Flamingo as well as ensuring that its products are ethical and sustainable.
“The way that society is set up is not sustainable. When you start to do things a different way, it’s just more expensive because the supply chain is not set up that way,” Barbouti said. “We are trying our best to keep our margins and expectations affordable and building our offerings to have multiple variations of things and including less expensive options.”
Barbouti said the name of the business comes from her and MacCartie’s values and love of art, as well as their love of animals. While they were planning the future of their business, their first notebook had flamingos on it and therefore the name Eco & The Flamingo was born.
Eco & The Flamingo will be in good company in Evanston as a women-owned business as they join the list of the more than 100 women-owned businesses in the city.
“We are proud to be women-owned. From the very beginning we said our business model is to do sustainable, ethical business and prove you can be successful and keep your values,” Barbouti said. “We are excited to be in the game as women and help prove it can be done, business doesn’t have to mean unsustainable growth.”