By Marissa Burr, Assistant Opinion Editor
After immigrating from China, Tracey Wei met her husband Michael in New York City and started a family before moving back to his hometown of Buffalo, NY. In July 2021, Tracey opened Little Salmon, a shop that specializes in refillable, biodegradable and reusable products. This store is one of the first of its kind in the Buffalo area, which added another risk factor to the already difficult task of starting a business. But, according to Wei they “took a leap of faith, poured our hearts out, worked our butts off and hoped for the best!”
Now over a year later, the business is operating out of a space located at 230 Lexington Avenue and carries numerous earth-friendly options for products people use every day. Some of their best-selling products include soap and shampoo bars, natural deodorant and cleaning supplies. By shopping at small businesses like Little Salmon, Wei says that “your shopping experience is more catered and unique, because the business owners care on a personal level.” She also says that mainstream industry can be “very pollutive and exploitative” and so when becoming a business owner herself, she tries her best not to be that.
Last month, I had the chance to visit the storefront with my best friend, as well as my significant other. After spending over a half hour just roaming around the adorable space, I came out with a reusable grocery bag made of organic cotton and a pack of natural loofah sponges, not to mention a Christmas wish list a mile long. I could completely revamp the kitchen of my apartment with all the different products they had available, as well as completely change over my hygiene routine with the razors, toothpaste tablets, reusable makeup remover pads and so much more. Since starting to live on my own, I’ve been looking for ways to cut down on my carbon footprint now that I am in control of the products I use in my home, but they’re not easy to come by. Places like Amazon and Target have a larger selection than other corporations, but it feels counterintuitive to be supporting a big business that looks to make a profit, rather than provide products that are sustainable. So when I can, I shop at small, local businesses like Little Salmon that get their merchandise from in-country businesses that share their same values. By shopping locally “you are keeping your community vibrant,” Wei said.
Even for college students who don’t have their own place yet, Little Salmon has many products that can be incorporated into their lives. “College students can benefit from products that can help them declutter their small dorm rooms, such as laundry detergent sheets, toilet paper with cute wrapping paper on them, Swedish dishcloth (reusable paper towel), so they don't have to waste room storing them.” For those not living in the dorms, Little Salmon also has candles with jars that can be returned to the business once they’re empty so that way they can be reused.
Wei encourages trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, and vehemently believes that it is possible to do while still in college. When in school, she says, “students open up their minds like a sponge to absorb information, to learn. I love that stage of the mind. In fact, I think everyone should keep an open mind no matter what stage their life is at.” It can be as simple as filling up a reusable water bottle, composting in the kitchen and using refillable hand soaps. This holiday season, instead of giving gifts where once the recipient has used it the rest will end up in a landfill, consider biodegradable or reusable products. By finding these products at small businesses, you can support your community along with the planet. When it comes to taking care of the environment, Wei says “the little changes we make can add up to be a big impact.”