It was the plastic jugs of laundry detergent that first set Sharon Clarke-Harvey on the road to a zero-waste life.
She could never get any of the bottles completely empty. She felt guilty for contributing to the amount of plastic in landfills. And she worried about using products that produce toxic fumes when they burn. So she began trying to reduce her carbon footprint.
“Eventually, my family got down to one bag of trash a week,” Clarke-Harvey said. “The rest was either recycling or compost. People hear about a zero-waste lifestyle, but they don’t know how easy it really is.”
The result of a decade’s worth of her family’s experiments resulted in the opening in May of Cupla, a store in downtown Annapolis founded by Clarke-Harvey and her sister, Shannon Barron.
”Cupla” is the Gaelic word for “twins.” Though the 47-year-old lifelong Annapolis residents bear a striking resemblance to each other and, as Barron put it, “share the same brain,” they are fraternal twins.
“Everything in here is predicated on us being a woman-owned company,” said Barron, who spent the past decade as a buyer at the Kokopelli, the popular Maryland-based women’s clothing boutique.
“We sell things that are handmade, things that aren’t on Amazon.com, things that are small-batch and sustainable. Over the past year, we’ve realized where we put our dollars is super important.”
Other stores nationwide share aspects of Cupla’s mission. Some establishments specialize in fair-trade merchandise, others are women-owned, and still others focus on zero-waste products.
The sisters think what sets Cupla apart is that it offers products for every room of their customers’ homes, from pet toys to kids’ and adult clothing to jewelry to soap to picnic baskets.
But Cupla wears its environmental values with style and a sense of humor.
There’s a line of acerbic glassware (sample lettering: “Cheers, bitches,”) and a selection of offbeat stationery with such relatable mottos as “I’m so glad we haven’t murdered each other yet” and “The Everyday Achievement Award.”
Admit it — you definitely deserve one of those.
Prices range from $4 for a bamboo toothbrush to $160 for an perforated blue maxi dress held up by straps that tie at the shoulders.
During Barron’s years working for Kokopelli, founder Jill Lehr came to appreciate her right-hand woman’s unerring instinct for unusual merchandise that customers craved.
“We would go to the markets together, and Shannon would always find things that were different,” Lehr said, “She has a great eye for things that appeal and that you didn’t see everywhere else.”
Before she had children, Clarke-Harvey worked in the corporate offices of White House Black Market. After her marriage, she occasionally helped out at Kokopelli during the holidays, displaying, Lehr said “a warm and lovely personality” that customers responded to.
“We’ve always had this creeping idea that we wanted to go into business together,” Barron said. “I have a strong aesthetic, and she has a stronger one. We’re both very clear on what we want to do.
“If we can get people to make small changes, over time it will start to add up.”
Cupla is open seven days a week at 37 Maryland Ave., Annapolis. For hours of operation, which will change seasonally, call 410-268-0994 or visit shopcupla.com.