Reusable paper towels sold by Ekologicall save trees from being cut down.

Stylishly Sustainable

Local entrepreneurs make conscious consumption fashionable

By Amy Rogers

Growing up in the farm country of northern France, Valerie Gackiere never thought it was odd to save and repurpose almost everything her family used, from milk bottles to the kitchen leftovers that would feed livestock.

Now, the Ballantyne resident and her company, Ekologicall, are part of a movement showing people how to embrace a rather radical idea: Anyone can help change our culture’s disposable lifestyle.

What’s more, there are many ways to do it that are easy, fun — and, yes, fashionable.

Siela partners with conscious brands that align with the core values of social responsibility, environmental stewardship and giving back to the community.

First, a bit of background. By now, many people are aware of the downside to the fast-food industry. Among other things, it sacrifices quality and creates immense amounts of pollution to produce massive quantities of food products that are shipped long distances and sold at low prices.

The “fast fashion” industry operates on a similar model. It relies on cheap materials and labor while creating tremendous waste, and the resulting goods are low quality. That’s why your $10 shirt fades, stretches and falls apart so quickly.

What if you, as a consumer, could buy better-quality clothing and household goods, help reduce environmental harm, and at the same time support small businesses, locally and globally?

For Waxhaw retailer Alara Baltmiskis, the journey began with a “lightning bolt” moment. “In my whole life, I had never considered that an actual person made my clothing,” she says. Committed to opening a business in the community where she and her family live, Baltmiskis founded her shop, Siela, with the goal of “using trade as a force for good in the world.”