An old convenience store in southwest Detroit has been turned into its polar opposite: A “zero waste” store featuring locally made, all-natural products without any plastic packaging.
“We’re all about refilling your cups – mentally, physically, spiritually, and environmentally,” said Veronica Vela, co-owner of Natures Compliments, located at 1741 N. Green Street in Detroit.
At Natures Compliments, customers bring in glass containers and fill them with any of the number of all-natural soaps the store offers, from shampoo to all-purpose and veggie cleaners. The store also sells candles, tea, used books and clothes, and other items, all without plastic packaging.
The zero waste store offers environmentally sustainable brands and minimizes plastic waste by offering bulk, package-free items. There are several zero waste stores in Metro Detroit, but Natures Compliments is the first in the city proper.
“The suburbs have organic stores and whole food stores right around the corner, why can’t we?” Vela said. Before Natures Compliments, the closest option was Walking Lightly, about 15 miles away, in Ferndale.
“My whole idea was to help reduce single-use plastic in your home, because that’s the number one cause of landfill waste,” Vela told BridgeDetroit.
Single-use plastic is disposable plastic that comes in the form of plastic utensils or plastic wrappers. It’s a significant contributor to landfill waste, harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and often ends up in rivers and oceans. To reduce its use and sale, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Wednesday announced a ban on the sale of this kind of plastic on public lands. The department plans to phase out the sale of plastics by 2032.
No plastic is to be found at Natures Compliments.
“Everything is made organically and sustainably,” said Vela, who is studying to be an herbalist and makes a lot of the products herself. Customers can request specific products too, and work with Vela to find personal hygiene products that are right for their skin type.
Vela has lived in the neighborhood her whole life and opened the store last year, with her Aunt, Connie Arreola, also from southwest. For them, it’s about more than just reducing waste. Living in the shadow of pollution, around gangs, and with liquor stores and fast food on every corner, they wanted to show the community that there’s another way of doing things. So they created a place to promote environmental, physical and mental health.
“It all intertwines,” Arreola said. “We want the community to be uplifted as well, along with us. Whoever wants to come and educate the community or offer their cooking, we’re welcome to.”
In that regard, they sell local products, host food pop-ups and partner with community members on workshops to offer tips on being more environmentally friendly, journaling and Reiki, a Japanese form of alternative healing. They also host family game nights and pop-up markets to feature local businesses.
Anna Villasenor visited the shop Thursday for the first time.
“I got more than what I came in for,” she said, showing her haul to BridgeDetroit. Her purchases included crystals, candles, affirmation cards, and a ball for making loose leaf tea without the paper and plastic packaging. “I’ve been needing one of these [tea balls], so it was nice that they had one.”
In the next few months Natures Compliments plans to create a mural on the side of the building and a community garden outside, to bring more awareness to the shop.
“We want to keep reeducating the community no matter if we have to do it repetitively,” said Vela as she periodically paused to yell hello across the street to neighbors and kids walking by. “We want to reeducate our community on things that are important, which is mental and environmental health.”