At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Sasha Stone sewed muslin material to make drawstring bags for groceries. At stores, she bought items that were unpackaged or minimally packaged, all to make aspects of her daily life more environmentally sustainable. A DIY–er to the core, she even made her own deodorant to avoid unsafe ingredients and plastic containers.
Stone – a sociology major who minored in conservation and environmental science – lives a zero-to-low-waste lifestyle. After college and a foray into environmental nonprofits, Stone turned her passion for making the world a greener place into a livelihood that connects her to Jewish values.
In October 2018, at age 26, Stone launched the online store, Green Life Trading Co., as a way to help make sustainable products more accessible to environmentally –conscious shoppers. She sources all her products from North America to lower the carbon footprint associated with transporting them to her store. The sources ship with zero– waste packing – recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials.
“My education really helps me determine what products are truly sustainable,” Stone said. “I’m really focused on environmentalism, stopping single-use products, and helping everyone around us be kinder on Earth.”
It’s possible to spread the word without sounding alarms, she said. She wrote online: “I preach about the environment to inspire, not scare people.”
The first week of the coronavirus lockdown, Stone opened a brick-and-mortar store in Madison at 1334 Williamson St. The business has done well despite the pandemic challenges, she said.
The shop offers everything from environmentally friendly bamboo toilet paper to zero-waste laundry detergent strips. Green Life Trading Co. is filled with reusable, refillable and compostable home goods and body products.
People bring their own containers and refill them at various stations. There are raw materials to make your own products. Her most popular sellers are dishwashing pods or powder, multi-surface cleaners, soap and hair products.
Stone is what the industry calls an eco–preneur, a business owner whose efforts are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment.
“I’ve always wanted to work in the environmental field, and I’ve always needed to do something creative,” Stone said. “I also love working with the public. I just put those three things together and that became a retail store.”
Stone’s father is an accountant, who has helped her with the business side of her company. Her mother was a parole officer. Both are now retired. Growing up in Milwaukee, Stone went to Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun where she had her bat mitzvah.
Her 10-day Birthright Israel trip sparked a strong sense of Jewish identity, she said. “When we got there and we landed, I don’t even know the words to express the feeling of just being connected to a place that you’ve never been before.”
She visited a farm in Israel and saw sustainability practices she hadn’t seen before. “In Judaism, there has always been a connection to sustainable agriculture.”
After college, Stone worked in the environmental field for nonprofits in Milwaukee, but “I never really found my stride in the nonprofit world.”
She moved to Madison with her husband, Connor, who took a job as a public health nurse.
Her Judaism informs what she does for the environment, she said. “A lot of being an environmentalist comes back to tikkun olam (repairing/healing the world)—what you can do to make the world we live in better.”