Two things to know about Jeanine Schappert-Longo: She’s a talker. And she hates plastic.
So when she started hearing people complaining in grocery checkout lines about Suffolk County’s new five-cent charge for plastic bags, well, she couldn’t help herself.
“Of course, I had to jump into conversations with my two cents,” says the Babylon native. Most people are unaware of the environmental dangers posed by overuse of plastic, she notes, adding that new regulations like this “are necessary to help wake people up.”
She’s just one of a growing number of local entrepreneurs in the fashion and beauty industry who are not only outspoken about sustainability but committed to building business around it.
SUDS ON TAP
Given the number of taps in Schappert-Longo’s shop — 12 and counting — you’d think she was a bartender.
But at O’beehave Naturals, a Babylon store she opened last year, the suds she serves are hair and body wash, conditioners, laundry detergent and more. They are made with essential oils and minerals, designed to help rebalance skin’s pH (which can be altered by petroleum, parabens and other synthetic additives found in many mass-market beauty products). She also provides “lifetime containers” to help wean customers off their addiction to disposable plastic bottles.
“We’re an eco depot — visit, bulk up on your liquids, and you never have to buy a plastic bottle again,” she says.
After training as a stylist at the eco-focused beauty empire Aveda, Schappert-Longo opened salons in Brooklyn, then in Islip, and developed her own line of cleansers.
After closing the salons, she and Sue Czekaj, a high school chum, teamed up to focus on this unique “refill bar” concept — and the brand is growing, now also available at Aegle Healing Center (Water Mill), Salt and Serenity (Massapequa), It’s Only Natural grocery (Bellport) and Abl Hair Studios in Williamsburg.
“Long Islanders get a bad rep sometimes, but we love our island, our beaches, our families — we want the best,” she says. “It’s a matter of educating people that we’re standing on land that used to be farms and forests. And it’s worth protecting.”
BOMBS TO BRACELETS
When Elizabeth Suda was growing up in Bay Shore in the 1990s, she belonged to a junior garden club. Led by Gail Farrell, a Bay Shore Middle School teacher, the group of young plant plebes cleaned up litter in town, hung wreaths, planted bulbs – and zeroed in on an empty lot.
“Gail had a vision to turn this lot into a community garden,” Suda recalls. “It took so long — years — to get approved, but it finally did.”
Fast forward to 2007, when Suda stunned her parents and friends, giving up a promising job at Coach to travel to Laos to help support local textile workers. While there, she discovered artisans creating spoons from melted bombs dropped during the Vietnam War. They should be making jewelry, she thought. And the lessons of that empty lot came to mind.
“We are the change we want to see,” she says. “It starts with a vision and it’s made by the little actions of many people that add up.”
She started Article 22 in 2012 with three simple bracelet designs and a handful of customers who “wanted to own a piece of history and make a positive impact.”
Today the brand — named for a section of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights — offers a full line of jewelry made from melted shrapnel and adorned with sterling silver or gold. It’s sold online and in 40 countries — locally at Healthy Alternatives in Babylon — and worn by celebs including Olivia Wilde and Emma Watson.
“We can’t reverse the bombing,” says Suda, “but we can clean up the aftermath.”
Ask Anne Nelson Sanford about the chemicals in traditional perfume-making and she offers one word: “Terrible.”
But when she first floated the idea of starting a fragrance line made of organic ingredients, and eliminating toxic components like hexane, her friends shook their heads.
The perfumer and interior designer studied up on new methods of extracting plant essences without harsh chemical solvents. She founded Lurk in 2007, opening her first shop in 2012 in Sag Harbor, later transplanting to Shelter Island. Alas, high rents forced her to close that shop last year.
“But being on the East End continues to inspire me, surrounded by all that preserved land,” says Sanford, who now runs the business online (lurkmade.com) from her Southampton cottage and a Brooklyn studio. She keeps her carbon footprint small by making deliveries herself, when possible, rather than shipping everything. Many a weekend you’ll find her in a Hamptons-area parking lot manning a drop-off point. And all that excess packaging used by typical fragrance companies? Gone. Her bottles come in a simple muslin bag that can be reused.
“So many people have said, ‘Get over it — make a box,’ but we’re not doing it,” she says, chuckling. “I can be kind of difficult in some ways. I know some of these things have kept us from growing. But we’re still here. And we’re here to stay.”