Many shoppers will agree that walking into a store where they can see, touch and compare unfamiliar products is preferable to ordering them from a catalog or website and hoping for the best.
This can be especially true for green products, some of which are produced with methods and materials that are unlike what's found in mainstream items. Products made with recycled goods like denim jeans, candy wrappers, rubber tires and boat sails are a growing niche. The wave of interest in alternative products for construction, as well as household use has creating a new retail concept: "green" stores. Here's a sampling.
GREENTIQUE: 116 East Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-509-1815
What's in store: Giftables like Himalays Salt Lamps (from $15.99) to lead-free jewelry ($12), plus organic-fiber clothing. Merchandise is tagged with information about its content and origin.
Bestseller: Nahui Ollin recycled candy wrapper handbag ($22).
After a year in Huntington, Jennifer Fondacaro relocated her store to Port Jefferson. Jessica Kearns, 24, of Stony Brook, says she especially loves the recycled jewelry, particularly the bottlecap bracelets (about $20), which she buys for herself and friends. "I think it's a shame to waste so much and it's fun to see what can be done with throwaway stuff," she says.
What's in store: Nontoxic, cedar-based bug sprays ($21.50), biodegradable zip-lock bags ($7 for 20), bio-memory mattresses ($1,195/twin).
Bestseller: A portable machine that turns kitchen scraps and garden debris into compost ($149).
When Robert Meinke's concept store opened in 2009, its recycled and bamboo-wood shelving were stocked with a hard-to-find variety of eco-friendly products. "There's always something new," says Michail Levy, a Freeport contractor who buys water filters, paint and home items such as bamboo shower curtains that stand up to mold and mildew. "These things are long-lasting," says Levy. "So I save money while I'm helping the environment."
GREEN TECHNOLOGY STORE: 12800 Main Rd., Mattituck, 631-298-2205, greentechnologystore.com
What's in store: Devices that work on solar energy, toys, rooftop wind turbines.
Bestseller: Outdoor furniture constructed of Polywood, a recycled composite material that withstands severe weather (dining chairs, $690). Also Polywood planks (from about $1 per foot) for outdoor building projects.
The space is well-lit by a series of tubular skylights that funnel light even into the back of the store, says owner David Busch, sharply reducing the store's energy bill. Ten-inch diameter models cost $699, including installation. You'll also find solar, motion-activated landscape lighting ($89.95) and Eco-Kits that teach kids about renewable energy ($10.95).
What's in store: Construction items such as engineered lumber, bamboo flooring, caulk, sealers and nontoxic paint
Bestseller: Ultra-Tpuch, which is insulation made from recycled denim jeans ($78/bundle).
One of 10 locations in the northeast, this ultra-environmentally focused building supply showroom and store sells only green products that have passed industry standards plus an in-house screening process, says founder Sarah Beatty.
What's in store: Natural and hemp-fiber clothing, jewelry, beauty items, cleaning products.
Bestseller: Organic onesies for babies ($22).
An eco-friendly pioneer in terms of shopping, JET has been in Greenport for 15 years. Owner Joann E. Tamin (JET) features popular natural brands such as Maggie's Organic Socks ($10 for women). Her stock of Burt's Bees beauty products are a favorite of customer Chrystle Fiedler, who goes for the moisturizer, soaps and lip balm. "I just stop in whenever I can," says Fiedler, of Greenport. "(The store) It's like a refuge - and also, it smells so good."