Sustainable Shopping in Portland, Part 1

In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of clothing boutiques selling clothing made of sustainably produced fibers or accessories made from recycled materials. My personal observations may not tell the full story, but it seems that sales are slow for these cool but relatively expensive goods.

In Portland last weekend, I had the chance to visit two single-manufacturer boutiques in their home town, and I am happy to report that, at least when sales are on, store traffic was bustling.

My favorite brand in terms of creative styling and wow design is Nau. The brand started by an idealistic but experienced team, many of whom met while working at Patagonia, is all about sustainability whether in sourcing, distribution or retailing. Using fabrics created from recycled polyester and plastics, as well as organically grown cotton and cashmere, Nau’s clothing is surprisingly and pleasingly hip for a company focused on outdoor wear.

Nau isn’t just focused on its own efforts to green the world, it also raises awareness of the efforts of a number of local and international nonprofit organizations, by asking customers to select from among them for a donation of a percentage of purchase. Donating to environmental organizations is almost a must for sustainable businesses. (See my recent post on Brilliant Earth.) But Nau does something I haven’t seen anywhere else and that is they pay YOU to have them ship your purchases to you, to the tune of 10% of your purchases. It’s a great incentive to help Nau cut down on store sizes and product transportation costs.

nau storeMy only complaint about Nau is that the store I visited is in a high-end mall, which requires driving to get to from anywhere, as far as I can tell. However, we can all shop at

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my visit to another Portland-based clothing line that came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint.

About the Author

A strategy and marketing consultant, Leah enjoys highlighting the efforts of, and providing information for, social entrepreneurs. In her consulting practice, she works with cause-related businesses and enlightened investors--to see people succeed at doing good for the planet and local communities while doing good for themselves. Leah has a B.S. in business from UC Berkeley and an MBA and Certificate of Public Management from Stanford University. More information at