Going shopping doesn’t mean you need to shelve 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 isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but if there’s another you really think we should add, please tell us: [email protected].
Perhaps you’ve read about the excessive textile waste, over consumption and exploitative labor practices of the fast fashion industry. Happily, Philadelphia is a hub of green fashion, offering ethical, ecological alternatives.
700 S. 6th St.
Nicole and Jordan Haddad tout their “slow fashion” clothing line as zero-waste. They use organic cotton and printing inks and deadstock materials, wasting nothing — even shredding their leftover fabric scraps into filling for pillows. You’ll find clothing, accessories, ceramics, and ethically made housewares.
3605 Lancaster Ave.
This Black-owned, women-owned sustainable shop sells small-batch lines and one-of-a-kind garments sewn from upcycled thrift clothing and recycled fabrics. 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 Philly-based sustainable fashion marketplace gathers 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, woman-owned brands, vegan, gender-inclusive, or secondhand.
Greene Street Consignment
700 South St.
21 Snyder Ave.
8524 Germantown Ave.
The original green fashion is thrifting, an essential part of the circular economy. Founded in 1997 on the Main Line, this consignment shop has expanded through 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 racks.
What does that B logo on your flour or coffee mean? It’s short for “benefit,” and it means the company behind the product has proven it exists to serve the common good. In an age of greenwashing, the mark shows a company has undergone a rigorous process to verify its environmental and labor practices, governance, and community engagement. 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 apparel, travel packs, or boho homegoods and decor, this is the spot. For every product purchase, the company removes one pound of garbage from oceans and waterways. Each local shop is also a cafe, so it’s easy to browse with a coffee while you peruse, or you can snag gifts like the Greta Thunberg ornament online.
Triple Bottom Brewing
915 Spring Garden St.
Named after its triple bottom line — people, planet, and beer — this brewery makes an impact in the Spring Arts District and beyond. Powered by renewable energy and committed to equitable practices, Triple Bottom is a second-chance employer, hiring people who’ve experienced homelessness or incarceration. You can stop by for a drink and snack, but also pick up craft brew and merch to go.
MIO Home Furnishings
Sustainability is at the heart of the Salm brothers’ Philly-based home interior design company, offering “furnishings for creatives.” These include tiles, dividers, furniture and accessories that are versatile, made in the U.S., flat packed, recyclable, and playful. Think of a seesaw bench, a ‘shroom lamp, or colorful felt bowls made by one of the last working millineries in the U.S.
Where you buy your books matters. Aside from giving you another way to support small business, a local bookstore is a gateway into a community. Shopping this way lets you encounter new people and ideas and make spontaneous discoveries no algorithm could replicate.
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books
5445 Germantown Ave.
“Cool people. Dope books. Great coffee.” It’s a fitting tagline for Marc Lamont Hill’s Germantown cafe and book emporium, which serves its neighborhood as a meeting spot and idea hub. This Black-owned bookshop 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 book store is named for Harriet Tubman, and its shelves have a focus on women authors, artists, and activists. You can also find activist T-shirts and gear with compelling messages, like the one that lists Black women poets (“Sonia, Ursula, Yolanda, Trapeta”), the “Run me my reparations” running shoe, or a sweatshirt that declares simply “Well Read Jawn.”
2202 Fairmount Ave.
Used books are the ultimate eco option, especially when you can purchase them from a thriving independent small business. Book Haven is one of the best, a cozy and well organized shop in the heart of Fairmount that has everything you need.
When showing your Philly pride, it’s easy to keep your money local and support small businesses and makers. There are plenty of alternatives to mass-produced souvenirs and nationally licensed sports garb.
107 S. 13th. St.
In the part of the Gayborhood known as Midtown Village — which this shop’s owners, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, helped turn into a buzzy spot — this boutique offers a collection of housewares and artful Philly merch, including 215 throw pillows, neighborhood key tags, funny glassware, baby gear, city garb, localized notecards, and a ton more.
35 N. 3rd St.
This cute Old City boutique features the work of local artisans and makers, with attractive jewelry, ceramics and prints, and plenty of hometown pride. Look for Philly manhole cover coasters, “Jawnaments,” and other locally-inspired and created merch.
Illustrator and textile designer Ana Thorne crafts pillows, baby blankets and tea towels from intricate hand-drawn patterns. What’s in the designs? Think wooder ice, pretzels, Reading Terminal Market, Independence Hall, and sports icons. Look for ornaments, keychains, stickers and purses at popups around the city or on her website.
You’ve likely seen his hand-drawn designs — his skyline-bedecked Phanatic and the vice-weary Gritty are becoming iconic. Illustrator Paul Carpenter sells Philly-centric clothing, 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 certification Fair Trade means that farmers, artisans and other producers are paid a living wage for their work. It tries to help correct a long history of labor exploitation, especially in the production of items like chocolate and coffee in the global south.
1315 Walnut St.
8331 Germantown Ave.
With shops 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 housewares and accessories from around the world to its colorful shops. You can buy the gorgeous jewelry, tableware, pottery, candles and decor with a clean conscience.
Philly Fair Trade Roasters
You have plenty of options for Fair Trade java, but this is a go-to 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 are working toward zero-waste operation. The website offers coffee subscriptions, flights, and gift packs, or single-origin coffee by the pound.
559 Carpenter Lane
8424 Germantown Ave.
One of the country’s oldest food co-ops, Weavers Way sells a solid selection of Fair Trade foodstuffs out of each location — think coffee, chocolate, bananas — plus a small collection of handicrafts and bath and body items in the wellness shop sections.