Being Green in Grand Rapids

by Anna Wright

Marta Swain, photo by Two Eagles Marcus

Named “America’s Greenest City” by Fast Company nagazine, Grand Rapids is no stranger to the green movement. Grand Rapids has more LEED-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country and achieved a number of LEED firsts including the nations first LEED-certified art museum. From city hall, through universities and grassroots initiatives, a wide range of sustainability efforts flourish in this community. Going green also means helping the environment by making personal choices and decisions. Here are three innovative local companies offering earth friendly products and solutions to consider:

Clothing Matters

Mary Brooks, photo by Two Eagles Marcus

Founded in 1996 by Marta Swain, Clothing Matters’ mission is to “provide the highest quality sustainably manufactured apparel, and to support practices that conserve natural resources, reduce pollution and promote social justice.” They first started out as the Eastown clothier Hemp Goods, but as the store evolved, came a name change, as well as a wider variety of textiles. Organic cotton, soy, bamboo, hemp, wool and recycled fibers are among the many different types of materials used to produce fashion with a conscience.

“We not only care about the materials used, but how we benefit the people and communities that make them,” explains Mary Brooks, a bubbly four-year-customer-turned-salesperson, as she shows me their indigenous section. “All of this clothing was handmade by women in South America from impoverished communities. Making clothing helps them support themselves and their families, as well as their entire village.” They make sure that all of their regional, domestic, and overseas partners’ practices confer with Fair Labour Organization standards, and their practices benefit both humans and animals alike. “We love peace silk,” explains Brooks. “In it’s production, the silk worms aren’t killed, and the moths are allowed to emerge from their cocoons and live.”

Red Wedges by TOMS
Marta advises you to “put the good stuff on your precious body.” Good stuff available at Clothing Matters for head to toe includes handmade headbands, early friendly jewelry, and shades and shoes by TOMS. Marta notes “we’re serving people who are frustrated with buying TOMS shoes online. They get a chance to put them on here and get what fits, including half sizes. We have 12 different styles of fabulous wedges in the store right now.” Her passion is evident as she invites you to feel and try on comfortable and figure flattering tops, skirts and pants. Goddess sizes are available for customers with “greater curves and frames.” Menswear is also found on the racks.

Colorful apparel by Yana Dee

Apparel by Michigan designers have become top sellers at Clothing Matters. “Last year in five months we more than tripled sales of products designed and hand made in Michigan, compared to all five years prior,” Marta reports. One of their top selling designers is Yana Dee of Traverse City, their longest running Michigan design partner. Marta attributes the success of Yana Dee’s line to “the simplicity and sophistication and outrageousness of her designs.” Marta adds, “We’re having the best year ever.”




Founded in 2011 by Dan Tietema, Organicycle takes organic waste and turns it into nutrient-rich compost. “We provide the region’s only curbside composting service for both commercial and residential customers,” notes vice-president Justin Swan, “It’s a zero waste initiative which allows businesses and homes to be landfill free.” Using an all-natural, greenhouse-gas free process, waste is sorted, shredded, allowed to naturally decompose and then pasteurized. Once in compost form, it is then re-sorted and put into bags, where it is sold to the public. Organicycle collects paper waste, food waste (including bones), yard waste, and all types of pet waste, including cat litter.

Customers involved in the program receive a separate Organicycle waste container and they still throw “normal” (non-recyclable) trash away in the garbage. Though they’ve only been around for two years, this convenient and innovative program is already making a huge difference right here in west Michigan. “We are diverting 95% of household trash out of the landfill for GR customers, and 85% for commercial customers,” notes Swan. “It saves the community money because taxpayers pay to operate incinerators, waste plants and garbage trucks, and with less of a need for these services everybody wins.”


Horizen Hydroponics

Horizen Hydroponics is a Grand Rapids-based year-round gardening company.  The word hydroponic derives from Greek origins, hydro = water, and ponos = work. Hydroponics is an advanced method of growing plants that offers a variety of benefits for the grower and the environment. Despite pop culture and common stereotypes, people don’t only use hydroponics to grow the illegal sort of greenery.

Many fans of organic produce want to be able to grow their own goods year-round, and this is the best way. “Our most popular herbs are basil, oregano, and sage,” notes founder Bridgette Ejlaky. “Wheatgrass is popular too, as are lettuce, tomatoes and peppers.” Products include growing lights and systems, a vast variety of supplies and organic products. Ejlaky and husband John founded Horizen back in 1999, when they only had an online store.


“Our mission has always been to educate the community about the many benefits of year round gardening, while providing quality product at a fair price,” notes Ejlaky.

For more information:

Clothing Matters –

Organicycle –

Horizen Hydroponics –

Photograph of Anna Wright, Women's LifeStyle Magazine writer


Anna Wright is a budding writer, yoga and music enthusiast.  With a deep interest in culture of all kinds, she loves all things art, nature, and travel. She’s also obsessed with small  fluffy dogs.