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Angela Topp knows that “going green” can seem like a daunting task without the right help. She recalls her own experience a few years ago, trying to buy supplies to start vermicomposting. She had to order her supplies – including her worms – online, and was frustrated that she didn’t have a place to go or anyone to talk to when she had questions.
“Everything within the green industry is kind of overwhelming. Whether it’s recycling or composting or buying safe toys for your kids, it all seems like it’s too much when you first look at it, like the picture is too big,” Topp said. “I just got sick of buying everything online. A lot of people really don’t do a whole lot because they don’t necessarily know how to get started, and they don’t really have anywhere to go or anyone to talk to that just says, ‘hey it’s actually really easy.’"
In 2010, Topp opened the first Tree Hugger store in Holland. Last August, she moved into her second location in Grand Rapids last August. Located at the corner of Diamond Avenue and Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, the store is dedicated to green living and prides itself on being a place where customers can feel comfortable asking questions.
Since coming to Grand Rapids, Topp has quickly established herself as a leader of Grand Rapids’ green movement, regularly holding in-store workshops on recycling, worm farming, composting and gardening.
“The store has become a learning center. We are putting a lot of effort into workshops and seminars. In a way, the store is just a way to pay my bills to make all the other things we do possible,” said Topp.
Everything that Topp sells in Tree Huggers is environmentally-friendly in some way, and whether it’s organic clothing or a toy made from recycled milk jugs, Topp personally researches every product she carries in her store. There is also a “bulk station” where customers are encouraged to bring in their own containers to purchase environmentally-friendly and safe cleaning products, soaps and even vinegar.
Besides selling products and holding workshops, Tree Huggers also runs an in-house recycling station that takes a lot of items the city won’t, like potato chip bags, toothpaste tubes, wine corks, and other atypical recyclables.
“Everyone is always asking me ‘can I recycle this or that strange item?’ The joke is that our recycling center has helped clean out a lot of basements,” said Topp.
Besides running Tree Huggers, Topp is also a regular contributor to Rapid Growth Media where she blogs about green issues in the business community.