Whether it is how we pamper our bodies, protect our skin from UV rays, conserve electricity, water our gardens, or furnish our homes, companies in Tampa Bay offer products to meet those needs, while promoting good stewardship of Mother Earth.
Tampa's green economy continues to grow despite recession-slowed progress, say owners of local businesses that promote earth-friendly technologies, recycled products and items produced by local crafters or free trade labor.
Jennifer Dutkowsky, founder of Why Not Boutique
at 3217A S. MacDill Ave., in south Tampa, says she opened her shop in November 2008, after sensing a need in the market.
"Tampa – it's headed toward green, but it's not green," Dutkowsky says.
Items at her shop include organic clothing, reconditioned jewelry, soy candles, recycled glass vases, Envirosax bags, stainless steel water bottles, greeting cards, natural skin products and soaps.
Her interest in earth-friendly products began when she was a child.
"My mom cleaned with white vinegar and essential oils before it got trendy. She's been doing it forever."
That appreciation was reinforced during Dutkowsky's undergraduate years in Amherst, Mass.
"I went to college at in Massachusetts at UMASS (University of Massachusetts
), which is extremely earthy-crunchy, very shop local, very much the farmer's market, stuff like that," she says.
So, after getting a master's degree in history from Valdosta State
, in southern Georgia, she decided to pursue her true passion: She created the kind of store where she likes to shop.
"There's not a day that I wake up that I don't want to go to work. It's the best feeling. I'm doing something that I love," she says.
She enjoys bringing Tampa customers new product choices, and she finds them through online research. Besides perusing company websites, she also checks online to see what similar boutiques are doing in other places – including California, the Northeast and Seattle. Those locales have evolved to a greater degree than Tampa when it comes to going green, she says.
Besides selling items, Dutkowsky enjoys sharing what she has learned with her customers.
"I love trying to educate people in even just the smallest way,'' she says. "You don't necessarily need to change your entire life to go green. It can be as simple as buying soy candles, you know, greening the air quality in your house. It's making change in the little things.''In Our Nature
Linda Taylor launched In Our Nature
14 years ago, on Earth Day.
Like Dutkowsky, she enjoys sharing her knowledge with customers.
The Clearwater woman sells hats made from palm fronds, organic cotton socks and clothing made from chemical-free fiber and eco-friendly dyes.
"I screen for social responsibility of a company," says Taylor, who routinely sets up her mobile shop – a tent and tables -- at environmental festivals and street markets.
She's delighted with her portable store: "I leave no trace. I use no electricity. I get to be part of an important community event. People are together and they create an energy," she says.
Plus, "I use my booth as a little bit of an activist's forum," says Taylor, who helped found Sustainable Interconnected Business Alliance
, an affiliate of BALLE: Business Alliance for Local Living Economies
Ryan Barry has a hand in four companies, including Elemental Concepts
at 4033 Henderson Blvd. in Tampa.
Barry also coordinates Tampagreendrinks, a monthly networking happy hour, which draws people who are interested in green issues, projects and products.
He sees a growing interest in the region's green economy.
The first drink fest he organized drew about 10 people, while the most recent one drew around 75. (To find out where the next meeting will be, e-mail email@example.com
Barry said he launched Elemental Concepts a couple of years ago because he was having problems finding affordable green building materials here.
His company represents American Clay
, a company that uses natural clays, recycled and reclaimed aggregates and natural pigments to create warm, soothing textures with rich colors for interior walls and ceilings.
He also sells electrical devices that reduce the cost of running air conditioners, pool pumps, washing machines and other appliances that operate with a motor.
His company also sells heating, ventilation and air-condition diffusers – made from recycled materials – that mix the air, eliminating hot and cold spots in office buildings and a energy-efficient roofing system that uses a soy-based sprayed Polyurethane foam, covered with a reflective silicone top coating.Rainwater ServicesRainwater Services
, a St. Petersburg company, helps customers who want to harvest rainwater – so it can be used to water plants, irrigate lawns and even do laundry or flush toilets.
Besides providing a benefit for its users, the harvesting reduces stormwater runoff, which, in turn, decreases the potential for stormwater runoff to carry pollutants into nearby streams, rivers and lakes, says Brian Gregson, the company's owner.
Gregson, who has a background in engineering, decided to launch the company after building some rain barrels in his backyard. As he was doing that, he realized how much more water could be saved if it was captured from the roof, stored in cisterns and then distributed.
Gregson says he does a lot of work with builders and has seen a shift in attitudes. "The trend is toward green with new construction," he says. "Customers are demanding more and more green technologies in new construction."Tampa Street Market
At Tampa Street Market
, 4715 N. Florida Ave., customers can pick out some funky furniture, buy works by local artists, stock up on handmade stationery or choose other gifts.
Owners Charles and Amy Haynie create and reclaim furniture, with the goal of providing customers a unique piece that will last.
They call the style of the furniture they create "industrial cottage."
"It's strong. It's a lot of metal, and solid, simple lines, mixed with a little bit of softness," Charles Haynie says.
They're not interested in making $10,000 tables.
"We want to provide eco-friendly furniture to the masses," Amy Haynie says. "We really want it to be out there. It's helping the environment. All of these pieces are recycled pieces. So, it's one less piece of crappy furniture that is going to be thrown away in a couple years."
Building furniture people can enjoy provides a sense of satisfaction, both say.
"I'll have people ask me to deliver something and I'll take it to their house and they may have three pieces of ours – and it feels great," Charles Haynie says. "It feels good to have a part in somebody's life like that."B.C. Manion is a freelance writer working out of her 1932 bungalow in South Seminole Heights. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.