Round-the-world: Sydney’s sustainable design shops

Increasingly, small independent shops are creating new aesthetics to pair up appropriately with eco-friendly and otherwise sustainable product and wares. Sydney boasts several boutiques that are in one or another way ahead of the global curve. Following are three shops, all opened within the past year or so, that merge sustainability, upcycling, and even a sense of community with retail purpose. These shops sell mostly portable objects. They are thus ideal places for visitor to Sydney to find gifts as well as usable household items.

Shelf/Life, a home furnishings store at 50 Reservoir Street in Surry Hills, is full of gorgeous little items yet somehow feels spacious and delicately filled. Opened in December 2009 by Jess Yee, Shelf/Life (see a photo of the after hours storefront above) focuses on strong design and craft both ethical and well-made. Standouts include letterpress greetings cards, fair trade crafts, handbags, recyclable polypropylene cups by Melbourne’s KeepCup, and handmade candles by Sydney’s own Gascoigne & King.

I Ran the Wrong Way, also in Surry Hills (at 378 Cleveland Street) takes a folksier approach. Opened last year by Melinda Tually, the shop’s tiny space is crammed with beautiful eco-friendly and fair trade items, like strikingly bold Cambodian fish feed bags that have been transformed via creative upcycling into laptop bags. Also of note is the shop’s jewelry collection, which is drawn from local and overseas sources both. Tually is an enthusiastically green-minded sort. Check out her shop’s impressive “eco creds” here.

A Coffee and A Yarn
at 413 King Street in Newtown is another fantastic shop. A Coffee and A Yarn is exactly what is sounds like: a yarn shop that doubles as a café. The shop combines the current revivalism of the craft of knitting with an appealing and very social coffeehouse setting. During my visit, owner Ellie Teunissen led me through her yarns with beaming enthusiasm, pointing out several of Australian provenance. The icing on the cake? “We wanted to do a very good job with the coffee.” Mission accomplished.

Check out other posts in the Capricorn Route series here.