Alaskan Journal | On Earth Day, a visit with an Anchorage entrepreneur who makes sustainability his mission

On Earth Day last month, I turned onto a side street off Spenard Road and was met with a small celebratory sight. Children toss bean bags at the cornhole boards, small bonfires crackle, and folk bands play merrily as guests arrive. As I approached the parking lot celebration, I was warmly greeted by Blue Market AK co-founder Jennifer Gordont.

Blue Market is a retailer in Anchorage founded on the principles of the triple bottom line: planet, people and profit. A small shop located on West 31st Ave., Blue Market carries a large quantity of food, household goods and personal care products, so customers can bring their own reusable containers to fill, rather than selling everything packaged in plastic. disposable, glass or paper. If you forget a container, that’s fine; Blue Market has a collection of glass jars and donation bottles for anyone in need.

Blue Market supports fellow Alaskan businesses, bringing almost entirely Alaska-made or developed products. Co-founder Jessica Johnson told me that their goal is to “get into a circular economy, and keep things as local as possible.” They have a set of mission-based standards for their products, including no packaging, Alaska-based, non-toxic, carbon-conscious, and fair trade.

Excitement at the Blue Market in commemoration of Earth Day. Earth Day is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern environmental movement, fueled by the release of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962. The “Silent Spring” details the devastating environmental and human health impacts of modern industrial pollution, bringing widespread awareness of the environment. . problem to the American public.

Five years later, following the massive oil spill in Southern California, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed teaching on campuses in early spring. He recruits the help of Denis Hayes, a young activist, in hopes of inspiring collective action.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans were mobilized across the country to protest the environmental damage caused by pollution on the first Earth Day. Fifty-two years later, Earth Day is celebrated almost worldwide, calling for action not only on pollution, but also on global climate change.

Blue Market was my first stop on Earth Day to visit an Anchorage business on a sustainability mission. Next I was round the corner at Spenard’s old post office, now owned and managed by the Cook Inlet Housing Authority. I climbed the stairs of the newly renovated building and found WILCO Supply in a small, sleek space with natural light coming in from the large windows.

The collection is artistically displayed, complemented by the perfect room decor. The founder of WILCO, Amy Slinker, came over and introduced herself to me, enthusiastically offering to show me the product. WILCO Supply is a retailer of stylish bags, wallets and jewelry made from second-hand military goods. They turn what would otherwise be trash into items that look modern, sturdy, and useful to service members and civilians alike.

Slinker says his passion for sustainability comes from his family. He was raised on the principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” In addition to his products being made from recycled materials, he reuses packaging materials for shipping orders, he says, to “put eco-friendly processes in the business, to help do my part for the environment.”

She highlighted one small bag, perfectly sized to carry a few personal items or toiletries, lined with repurposed Army Combat Uniform material, and a stunning gold necklace fashioned from bullet casings.

A member of the Army National Guard himself who is also married to a veteran, Slinker understands the challenges of military life. In addition to his commitment to sustainability, his other mission, he said, is “to uplift spouses of military service members, veterans, and people in transition.” His business supports military families by purchasing all of its products from entrepreneurial service members, veterans, and their spouses.

WILCO Supply and Blue Market embody the principles of the triple bottom line: planet, people and profit. They are driven by more than the traditional bottom line to make a profit; they support their community members and work towards a sustainable environment for future Alaska.

Our relationship with the environment is part of our identity in Alaska. Earth Day is a celebration of the planet we call home, and a call to action to protect it. Our state’s innovators and entrepreneurs incorporate Earth Day values ​​into their businesses year round, and Earth Day is an opportunity to celebrate and support the work they do.

Julie Gardella with the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development.

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