Rachel Lessne learned about organic cotton one day in her Textile Science class at the University of Rhode Island. Immediately curious, she began doing her own research, trying to locate gifts and items for herself that benefitted people and the environment. She couldn’t find any store that offered these items, and so she decided to open her own. In 2008, exactly one year after she graduated from URI, at the age of 23, Rachel opened Green Envy Eco-Boutique, where each item is handmade by a local designer or by a fair trade artisan in a disadvantaged country.
Located in busy downtown Newport, Green Envy offers jewelry and accessories, greeting cards, clothing, skin and hair care items, cosmetics, and gifts. Some local artists featured are OuR Island Apparel organic tee shirts, Mophat recycled soda tab jewelry and accessories, Natural Glo Designs handmade jewelry, and Zoradia handmade purses and jewelry made from up-cycled vintage fabrics and gems. Green Envy also sells items that were made right in the store, like their popular Recycled Newport Bridge Token Necklaces. Even better - each item in Green Envy has a story behind it that makes it special. For example, the purchase of a colorful greeting card means a meal to a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. The purchase of an organic cotton tee shirt means a tree is planted, and support of local farmers.
“Just walking in the door puts me in a good mood.” – Customer Hannah P.
The response from shoppers has been overwhelmingly positive, and most are repeat visitors. Says Lessne, “We have so many loyal customers; I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, ‘this is my new favorite store’ from a first time customer. At least once a day somebody thanks me for having a store like this because they can see all the good it’s doing. The more people who make eco-friendly choices like this, the bigger the impact.”
Green Envy has grown significantly over the past few years. They’ve been the recipient of several awards, including “Best Eco-Friendly Clothes & Gifts” from RI Monthly Best of Rhode Island, “Best Local Gifts” from Newport Life Magazine Best of Newport County Awards, and “Best Place to Buy Green Items” from Providence Phoenix Best of Rhode Island Awards. The shop recently moved into a larger location at 8 Franklin Street in Newport, and Rachel is considering other locations at the request of her customers. She also invites local artists to email her to set up an appointment to show their work. They should know that they must use only organic, natural, recycled, or fair trade materials – bonus points if a portion of their proceeds is donated to a charity!
Lessne teams up with other local business owners, as well. She has worked with Green Grocer in Portsmouth and A Market in Newport to host events and benefits. Upcoming events include the Re-Opening for their new location in October, a donation-only yoga class with Julie Cloutier in November (proceeds will be donated to a local charity), and a Holiday Green Drinks Event where people can mingle, enjoy complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and browse for holiday gifts.
Green Envy’s admirable mission is to benefit people and the planet. Says Lessne, “We also love educating new customers. People always walk out with a smile because just by browsing in the store, they now have the realization that going green can be easy, beautiful and fun.”
To be updated on upcoming events: