Roger Foote, manager at the Salvation Army Family Store Bega, wanted to do something to address the lingering effects of COVID-19 lockdown on local businesses and help promote the use of recycled, handmade and local items.
After speaking to Bega business owners Gabrielle McGrath, from RedPeg Eco Studio, and Krystina Kasprzak, from Green Queen clothing, the trio came up with the idea of Sustainable Saturday.
Held on the first weekend of every month, the initiative is a way to bring people into town on what is usually a quiet day, all while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.
The first Sustainable Saturday was on 5 September and the next one will be on Saturday, 3 October.
“We wanted the feeling like it was an event without it actually being an event that would draw crowds,” explains Roger.
“Everyone has been in lockdown mode. Nothing is really going on so we wanted to create something that people could feel like they are doing together.”
On the first Sustainable Saturday, each shop had specials, including a $10 bag sale at Salvos, 10 per cent off at RedPeg, and a $10 rack at recycled clothing shop Green Queen.
“We’ll have different specials every month,” says Krystina. “The first one was so successful we want to keep doing them into the near future.”
All three businesses are passionate about helping people reuse or repurpose things that already exist rather than buying new.
Roger says he is a lot more aware of the power of recycling after two years managing the Salvos store in Bega.
“All the donations we get are local and the money raised goes back into the community,” he says. “It’s amazing the amount of stock that comes in.
“We can’t limit what an item is according to its original use. Working here has really opened my eyes. We get a lot of artists and tinkerers who can use almost anything.”
Now, when staff ask if something should go in the bin, Roger replies: “Nah, bag it up.”
Jewellery maker Gabrielle loves that precious metals such as gold and silver can be endlessly melted down and repurposed.
“Jewellery, like everything, goes out of fashion,” she says. “I’m often asked to recreate precious jewellery that now seems gaudy and over the top into something that the person will wear and enjoy every day.”
Christina’s aim with Green Queen – which features quality brands and vintage clothing, mostly sourced locally and sold on consignment – is to keep clothing circulating.
“We have so much, often sitting unused in our wardrobes,” she says. “Why are we hanging onto it? We can find someone who will love it and wear it.”
For Gabrielle, getting people into town on Saturdays – especially to the far end of Carp Street, Bega’s main drag, where her studio and Green Queen are located – is important for the survival of Bega’s retail market.
“I’ve had the studio for five years and I first opened with help from Renew the Valley, a fantastic initiative to fill empty shops and revive Bega’s main street,” she says.
“We’ve still got lots of empty shops and rents are still high. We have landlords who would rather have empty shops than to negotiate and let people try a shopfront at a lower price.”
If you’d like to support local businesses and bring the buzz back to Bega’s main street, mark your calendars for the next Sustainable Saturday on 3 October from 9.30 am until 12.30 pm.
“Make a morning of it, come in and fill a bag with us and then stroll down to RedPeg and Green Queen,” says Roger.
“It was such a nice feeling last weekend [5 September] – the event that isn’t really an event,” he smiles.
For more information about upcoming Sustainable Saturdays, follow the Salvation Army Family Store Bega on Facebook; Green Queen on Facebook and Instagram; and RedPeg Eco Studio on Facebook and Instagram.