By Emily McCluhan | Photography by Hillary Schave
A passion can take a lifetime to develop, but Sasha Stone found hers at a young age. “I always had a love and appreciation of nature, paired with knowing how privileged I was,” she says. “I saw how large companies could exploit communities with less resources, and I knew it wasn’t right.”
This sparked her fire for what she calls environmental equity — the idea that environmental issues and climate change impact Indigenous and communities of color first. It drives her to help wealthy, mostly white westerners to make responsible environmental choices and contribute more to an equitable world.
In 2018, Stone launched the online store Green Life Trading Co. as a way to make sustainable products more accessible. In May 2020, she opened a brick-and-mortar store on Williamson Street, which certainly came with pandemic- related challenges (everyone was buying up refillable containers to make their own hand sanitizer, making it difficult to secure them for the refillery in her store). But part of the joy of having a physical location is the ability to talk to customers about the bath, body and home goods she carries and to dispel some sustainability myths.
“One of my favorite topics is educating my customers about toilet paper, and how what you wipe your butt with directly affects climate change,” she says, chuckling. She offers three-ply bamboo toilet paper in her store, wrapped in reusable patterned paper (use it as gift wrap!). Bamboo grows quickly and doesn’t require much water or pesticides, making it an easy switch on a journey to sustainability.
In her spare time, Stone co-runs the Zero Waste Madison Facebook group, an online community of crafty locals sharing ideas on how to create sustainability at home. And in 2020, a fellow zero-waste business owner, Callee Ackland of Rapid City, SD, came up with the idea of creating a Zero Waste Business Alliance, a membership organization that offers low- and zero-waste business owners content and networking opportunities to start or grow their businesses. Stone loved the idea and joined Ackland to help make it a reality.
“Sasha and I get asked all the time how we got started, and we want to share that knowledge,” Ackland says. “That’s really who Sasha is. She wants to make Madison, and the world, a greener place by sharing what she’s learned.”
Once funding is established through membership fees, Ackland and Stone hope to offer grants for aspiring zero-waste business owners. They plan to officially start the group in spring 2021.
Stone is on a mission to help all of us start a journey toward sustainability, and that impact is immeasurable.