Is an Eco Hardware Store Opening in a Neighborhood Near You?
Eco hardware stores, carrying everything from VOC-free paints to organic mattresses, are starting to spring up in neighborhoods across the country. But instead of competing with price-driven big-box stores, they're going the route of natural foods grocery markets: they're making sustainable shopping easy and often affordable, too.
"We're up against this misconception that green is for rich people," Jeff Kaplan, one of the partners of Houston's New Living, the Green Building + Home Store, recently told the Houston Chronicle. "Our job is to get the cost down on green products and make them accessible. We're focused on health and design."
And some eco-hardware stores are taking advantage of natural synergies between them and natural markets by locating in the same shopping centers. For example, in Boulder, Colo., there is Ellie's Eco Home Store, which touts itself as a "one-stop shop for all your green goods." Ellie's is strategically located next door to a Sunflower Farmers Market natural grocery store, just another example of green shopping trends moving across the country.
Steve Savage, who opened Ellie's as an extension of his 19-year-old Eco Products green products company, told Denver's Westword that he plans to open all future stores next to health-foods grocers so shoppers don't have to drive across town to complete their shopping--or order what they need online.
Green Home Stores
Green building product and home stores are very similar in premise to natural grocery markets like Sunflower, Vitamin Cottage, and Whole Foods, which also have long fought the "only for rich people" reputation.
But are they more for busy people--who want to live responsibly--than rich people? At a natural grocery store, the worst you're going to buy is something with a "natural" label, versus one touting an "organic" label. Similarly, at an eco-hardware store, you're not going to find chemical-laden sealants or incandescent light bulbs.
If you're more price-driven, and educated enough to spot what's green and what's not, convenience and a wider selection of products may be the only reasons to shop at these niche hardware stores, when larger retailers might offer lower prices on green items.
You can still buy your lumber, and even your solar panels, from home improvement retail giants. But you might find that it's awfully convenient to stop into your corner eco hardware store for some CFLs after shopping at the grocery store next door. Once you're in the door, it might be hard to leave without at least considering buying something else.
Eco hardware stores aren't waiting for mass market demand before offering the latest and greatest in green materials. They don't have to. And it's their selection of polyurethane alternatives, sorghum board, marmoleum tiles and natural earth plasters, as well as demonstrations and classes, that will set them apart from the pack.
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.