Blue Market: Putting the refuse in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’

The Little Blue Market Cart at the Spenard Farmers Market. (Photo by Sam Davenport

The Little Blue Market Cart at the Spenard Farmers Market. (Photo by Sam Davenport

It’s a Saturday morning at the Spenard Farmers Market. Under the windmill, Jessica Johnson and Jennifer Gordon are at their trailer-turned-cart, Blue Market — the first of its kind in Anchorage.

Their cart — dubbed “Little Blue Market Cart” — almost resembles something an apothecary would have used back in the day, and is stocked with products like beeswax wraps and reusable sandwich bags, as well as Alaska-made shampoos, bath and body oils and lotion — all of which can be filled by reusable containers.

The unpackaged store is dedicated to shifting the focus from single-use plastics to a more eco-friendly model, by encouraging shoppers to refill instead of resorting to a landfill.

Both women were on their own journeys to produce less waste and were connected through the Alaska Zero Waste Facebook page. Gordon, a sailer, spent over a year on a sailboat with her family traveling over 8,000 miles from Seldovia to Guatemala. During her time at sea, Gordon became hyper-aware of plastics — especially in oceans and on beaches.

“I didn’t think about it at first, but in the tiniest little cove you would find a bottle cap or a plastic bottle cap or a piece of netting or whatever,” Gordon said. “Something where there’s no civilization, right? As we went further and further south, it became more relevant.”

Gordon wasn’t the only one. Johnson was making strides to produce less waste, like signing up for seasonal CSA boxes and driving around town to fill up her jars from bulk bins, among a number of other things — but her efforts were draining. 

When Gordon and Johnson got together, they realized they were on the same page. Gordon had already started a business plan, and Johnson was eager to partner and create a one-stop-shop for zero-waste. 

The Little Blue Market Cart is introducing Alaskans to a zero-waste lifestyle and the duo is currently shopping for real estate. Johnson says they want the storefront to be a relieving experience for customers. 

“We’ve done all the research for people — so all of our products are either local or hit on some other sustainability factor,” Johnson said.

About 75 percent of products on the cart are locally-produced, which is in part due to the fact that they aren’t selling food. The storefront will have at least 33 percent of Alaska made products. Gordon and Johnson hope to carry pasta, rice, nuts, beans and a variety of other bulk foods, household cleaners, personal care items and general cooking oils and sauces. Currently, the women are in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign to open and stock their Blue Market brick and mortar and are three-quarters to their goal of $30,000 with 18 days left of their campaign. 

And while the storefront won’t be unveiled until spring of 2020, Alaskans can still visit the cart Wednesdays at Fire Island and Saturday at the Spenard Farmers Market until Sept. 29. Gordon encourages shoppers to bring their empty containers — which includes plastics.

“We’re going through the transition at the same time that we’re asking other people to start thinking about it,” Gordon said. “We don’t want this to come across as a militant anti-plastic movement. Anti-single use plastic, yeah, that maybe we are a little more militant about. But that Tupperware that you have that you use that’s made out of plastic, but you reuse it for a lifetime? That’s fine.”

While reducing, reusing and recycling is a necessity, Gordon says we need to add another “R” to the equation — refusing plastics in the first place. The women aren’t perfect, and they don’t claim to be. At the cart, they display their basket of shame — a bin used to store excess packaging materials and plastics.

“I have one box of gallon Ziploc bags that I’m coveting because I’m not going to buy another one, right? But I do use them. I use them and I reuse them and I reuse them,” Gordon said.