LINCOLN SQUARE — A new Lincoln Square business opening during the pandemic is trying to fight a big problem created by coronavirus.
Eco & The Flamingo is a zero-waste general store trying to reduce plastic waste created by the pandemic by selling their products in reusable containers.
The store at 4754 N. Rockwell Ave. carries items like herbal salves for skin irritation, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, body scrubs, pasta, coffee, teas and bars of soap sourced from small independent vendors in Chicago, Texas, North Carolina and Missouri.
Reliance on single-use plastics has surged during coronavirus, particularly because of delivery packaging and medical supplies, according to the The World Bank.
To help combat this, 119 scientists from 18 countries issued a signed statement this month saying reusable containers do not increase the chance of virus transmission if they are washed properly, according to The Guardian.
All of Eco’s products are ethically sourced and have either no packaging or are placed in 100 percent compostable or recyclable packaging.
“When COVID first happened one of the only bright spots in this horrible pandemic was how the environment was recovering,” said co-owner Bethany Barbouti. “But that’s being undone with the massive amount of single-use plastic waste being used.
“We’re trying to find the safest way to provide customers reusable containers and are always erring on the side of caution on sanitation.”
Co-owners Barbouti and Jackie MacCartie have been friends since attending Main West High School in suburban Des Plaines. They became interested in living a “zero-waste” lifestyle a few years ago and decided in June 2019 they’d open a business to help promote it.
The friends felt the word “eco” represented the sustainable aspect of the store while “flamingo” represents the fun and beauty of their products.
“We got the name from a lost idea journal that had flamingos on the cover. We were ecstatic when [that] was recovered, and from then the word flamingo was stuck in our minds,” Barbouti said.
Before the pandemic, the two picked out the Lincoln Square storefront with the goal of moving in March 1 and opening their doors to the public April 22, which was Earth Day.
But they delayed their opening due to the virus and started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover overhead costs as they transitioned to online sales, which they launched in early May.
“The thing that threw us the most during the early days of the pandemic was the disruption in the supply chains. Everything was delayed like crazy and the shipping times were getting so far extended,” Barbouti said.
Eco started allowing in-person shopping Wednesday, though the store is limited to five customers at a time based on the city and state’s regulations to help slow the spread of the virus.
Customers who order a 16-ounce jar of dish soap can ask for their purchase to be included in Eco’s refill program. Once the jar is empty, the customer can wash it and contact Echo for a refill.
“You just hand us the clean empty jar and you take a fresh jar with a refill of soap. You don’t have to wait or anything. Just grab it and go,” Barbouti said.
Echo & The Flamingo is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. The store is closed Tuesdays.
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