When I think about my first memories of things that were package-free, I land on summer camp. Hot days playing dodgeball in the sun, sweat running down my face and blurring my vision just long enough to not notice that I was about to get beaned by a violently hurled red rubber ball.
Out of the game for a spell, I would stand in a long line by the drinking fountain behind other kids who had suffered similar fates waiting for my turn at hydration. There were no personal water bottles or dreaded plastic bottles, this water was package-free. At least that’s how I see it now.
It seems nothing is package-free anymore. Even vegetables in grocery stores are offered on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in a film of plastic, or in a sealed plastic bag for some reason. What’s the point in buying organic if the organic seal is printed on plastic?
Finally, there’s a beacon of light on the package littered streets of Long Beach. And that eco-friendly bat-signal shining high in the sky over Fourth Street is the forthcoming shop: Ethikli Package-Free Goods. The first package-free, ethically sourced, vegan grocery store in Long Beach is located at 352 E. Fourth St., just down the block from vegan eatery Ahimsa.
The entire store will be offering not just environmentally conscious sundries, but actual foods where you can bring your own jars, bags, and containers and refill them with everything from coffee beans to vinegar.
“My main focus is dry goods like beans, rice, nuts, seeds, flour, fresh ground nut butters (that you can grind yourself), spices, coffee (Long Beach’s own Black Ring), tea, fresh bread, oils (Nuvo Olive Oi), vinegars, and snacks,” owner Katy Impellizzeri, who hopes to open her store in the next few weeks, told me in an email.
“We also will have some refrigerated items like plant-based milks and cheeses, olives (from Adam’s Farm Olives), pickles, tofu, tempeh, even fresh herbs, and other edible plants.” She’ll be adding more as she grows.
This is all in addition to the more traditional package-free items one might see in the world of sustainable goods. There will be ethically sourced vegan home goods like laundry detergent, face and body soaps, shampoo, conditioner, reusable paper towels, yoga props, pet toys, and baby supplies, including EKP Creations (up-cycled candles), Cloud Rinjani (handmade cleaning and body brushes), and Bai Li deodorant.
Impellizzeri says that the concept of a woman-owned small business supporting other small businesses and farms was born out of both necessity and a passion for change. “My mission is to make ethical, sustainable, and vegan shopping simple and accessible to all,” she says, “and to decrease and, eventually, eliminate single-use packaging and food waste.”
The sole owner of this package-free utopia, Impellizzeri is a recent transplant to Long Beach. Originally from Reston, Virginia (just outside D.C.), she moved to LA in 2013 and fell in love with Long Beach when her best friend moved here in 2016, and in 2020 she finally made the move herself.
Ethikli (pronounced “ethically”), stems from Impellizzeri’s base idea that she wanted everyone to know that the items in the store were ethically sourced, so ETHI from ethical, plus her personal initials KLI. Ethics are important to Impellizeri, and in part, this concept stemmed from her frustration with corporate greenwashing (a tactic companies use to make their products appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are). “After teaching yoga for nearly 8 years, the pandemic shut down studios and gave me an opportunity to switch gears and follow my other passion: Earth,” she explains. “I’d lived a relatively ‘low/zero-waste’ lifestyle since 2013 and always found it difficult to find a one-stop shop that wasn’t just sustainable but ethical and vegan, too.”
She explains that she wanted to do her shopping in one place, without having to spend five minutes in each aisle reading every single label. She was that person in the aisle researching brands on her phone to make sure she wasn’t funding child labor.
“I decided to just do it myself,” she says, “partially out of selfishness to make it easier to shop for myself, and partially out of wanting to make ethical and sustainable shopping accessible to as many people as possible.”
If you’re worried about not having any containers on hand, or driving around with a box of empty jars, Impellizeri has you covered. Her plan is to offer an “adopt-a-container” section offering complimentary containers, alongside new containers for purchase. There will also be pre-filled jars for those in a grab-and-go hurry, in addition to an in-store pickup option or local delivery.
At the moment Impellizeri is working on partnering with a local CSA to offer a discount on produce delivery, and if that isn’t enough, the former yoga teacher turned environmental hero, plans on offering yoga and meditation classes on Saturday mornings.
Her goal is to become a non-profit and give back to the community. “I already organize monthly beach cleanups, but would like to host them weekly and expand to street, sidewalk, and park cleanups as well.” She also plans to work with the city on getting composting stations set up around Long Beach.
“My ultimate goal is to eventually see Ethikli in every neighborhood across California, the U.S., and beyond! Providing ethical, sustainable, vegan, and affordable groceries to all.”
Ethikli Package-Free Goods, 352 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, ethikli.com Instagram: @ethikli