Shopping doesn’t mean you have to compromise your values. Dollars can be more powerful than bullhorns, fueling community economies and supporting local makers.
With a little thought, your purchases can be a form of activism, supporting the causes and communities you value, giving back as you buy. Philadelphia offers hundreds of alternatives to Amazon and the big box stores.
In this city, “shop small, shop local” is a way of life. Here are some ideas for where to do it, now and throughout the year.
Note: This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but if there’s another one you really think we should add, please let us know: [email protected]
Perhaps you’ve read about the excessive textile waste, overconsumption and exploitative labor practices of the fast fashion industry. Fortunately, Philadelphia is a hub of green fashion, offering ethical, ecological alternatives.
700 S. 6th St.
Nicole and Jordan Haddad envisioned their “slow fashion” clothing line as zero waste. They use organic cotton and printing ink and dead fabric, and waste nothing – even shredding their leftover fabric into pillow stuffing. You’ll find clothing, accessories, ceramics and ethically produced homewares.
3605 Lancaster Ave.
This black-owned, women-owned, sustainable shop sells small batch lines and one-of-a-kind garments made from repurposed thrift clothing and recycled materials. Founder Kimberly McGlonn and her design team are also activists, selling shirts with messages like “End cash bail” and sharing their profits with organizations like Books Through Bars. (Note: This is also a B Corp, see below.)
This sustainable fashion market from Philly collects responsibly made clothing and accessories on its website and works with stylists to help users find their look. Customers can shop by values and filter by cause: black-owned brands, women-owned brands, vegan, gender-inclusive or second-hand.
Greene Street Consignment
700 South St.
21 Snyder Avenue.
8524 Germantown Ave.
The original green fashion is thrifty, an essential part of the circular economy. Founded in 1997 on the Main Line, this consignment store has expanded throughout the region and now operates three locations in Philadelphia. Store curators take some of the labor out of the hunt, sorting out the best options to hang on their shelves.
What does that B logo on your flour or coffee mean? It’s short for “benefit,” and it means that the company behind the product has proven that it exists to serve the common good. In an era of greenwashing, the brand shows a company has underwent a rigorous process to verify its environmental and labor practices, management and community involvement. Bonus fact: This global movement was actually born in the Philly suburbs.
United by Blue
205 Race St.
3421 Walnut St.
If you’re shopping for outdoor clothing, travel packs or boho homewares and decor, this is the place. For every product purchase, the company removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways. Every local store is also a cafe, so it’s easy to browse with a coffee while you read, or you can get your hands on gifts like the Greta Thunberg ornament online.
Triple bottom brew
915 Spring Garden St.
Named for its triple bottom line—people, planet, and beer—this brewery is making an impact in the Spring Arts District and beyond. Powered by renewable energy and committed to fair practices, Triple Bottom is a second-chance employer that hires people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration. You can stop in for a drink and snack, but also pick up craft brews and merchandise.
MIO Home Furniture
Sustainability is at the heart of the Salm brothers’ Philly-based home interior design company, which offers “furniture for creative people.” These include tiles, dividers, furniture and accessories that are versatile, made in the USA, flat packed, recyclable and playful. Think a rocking couch, a ‘shroom lamp’ or colorful felt bowls made by one of the last working milleries in the US
Where you buy your books matters. In addition to giving you another way to support small businesses, a local bookstore is a gateway to a community. Shopping this way lets you encounter new people and ideas and make spontaneous discoveries that no algorithm can replicate.
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books
5445 Germantown Ave.
“Cool people. Baptism books. Delicious coffee.” It’s an apt moniker for Marc Lamont Hill’s Germantown cafe and book emporium, which serves his neighborhood as a meeting place and idea hub. This black-owned bookstore hosts author readings and community events, all in a cozy setting.
Julia de Burgos Bookstore
2600 N. 5th St.
The bookstore at Taller Puertorriqueño, the Puerto Rican community center in Kensington, sells books in English and Spanish by Latino authors, with a focus on cultural heritage, history and social justice. The center also hosts author events, educational programs and local art exhibits.
258 E. Girard Ave.
Jeannine Cook’s Fishtown bookstore is named after Harriet Tubman, and its shelves focus on women writers, artists and activists. You can also find activist T-shirts and gear with compelling messages, like the one listing black women poets (“Sonia, Ursula, Yolanda, Trapeta”), the “Run me my reparations” running shoe, or a sweatshirt that simply states “Well read Jawn.”
2202 Fairmount Ave.
Used books are the ultimate eco option, especially when you can buy them from a thriving independent small business. Book Haven is one of the best, a cozy and well-organized store in the heart of Fairmount that has everything you need.
When showing your Philly pride, is it easy to keep your money local and support small businesses and makers? There are many alternatives to mass-produced souvenirs and nationally licensed sportswear.
107 S. 13th. St.
In the part of the Gayborhood known as Midtown Village—which this shop’s owners, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, have helped transform into a bustling place—this boutique offers a collection of homewares and artsy Philly goods, including 215 throw pillows, neighborhood key tags , funny glassware, baby gear, city wear, localized note cards and much more.
35 N. 3rd St.
This quaint Old City boutique features the work of local artisans and makers, with stylish jewelry, ceramics and prints, and plenty of hometown pride. Look for Philly manhole covers, “Jawnaments” and other locally inspired and created merchandise.
Illustrator and textile designer Ana Thorne makes pillows, baby blankets and tea towels from intricate hand-drawn patterns. What’s in the designs? Think wooden ice cream, pretzels, Reading Terminal Market, Independence Hall and sports icons. Find ornaments, keychains, stickers and wallets at pop-ups around town or on her website.
You’ve probably seen his hand-drawn designs – his skyline-covered Phanatic and the vice-weary Gritty are becoming iconic. Illustrator Paul Carpenter sells Philly-centric apparel, posters and pint glasses at pop-ups and on his website, where you can also download coloring pages when you make a donation to Philabundance.
The Fair Trade certification means that farmers, artisans and other producers are paid a living wage for their work. It seeks to help remedy a long history of labor exploitation, particularly in the production of items such as chocolate and coffee in the global south.
1315 Walnut St.
8331 Germantown Ave.
With stores in Philly and the surrounding suburbs, this outfit is one of the pioneers of the Fair Trade artisan movement. Its maker-to-market model brings homewares and accessories from around the world to its colorful stores. You can buy the beautiful jewelry, tableware, pottery, candles and decor with a clear conscience.
Philly Fair Trade Roasters
You have many options for Fair Trade java, but this is a great option for ethical, organic, small-batch coffee. It’s roasted in North Philly and sold at markets and cafes around the city. Company founders compost and recycle and work towards a zero waste industry. The site offers coffee subscriptions, flights and gift packs, or single-origin coffee by the pound.
559 Carpenter Lane
8424 Germantown Ave.
Weavers Way, one of the country’s oldest food co-ops, sells a solid selection of Fair Trade foods from every location – think coffee, chocolate, bananas – plus a small collection of crafts and bath and body items in the wellness department.