Shopping with a cause in Newtown
For the sustainably minded and ethically conscious, shopping is often regarded as a capitalist pursuit that’s rarely great for the planet. But what if your purchase could make the world a better place?
By Adeline Teoh
Alfalfa House (alfalfahouse.org)
113 Enmore Road, Newtown
This neighbourhood corner store is a small but friendly community co-op where the shop buys minimally processed products in bulk – think fruits and vege, dry goods like grains, pasta, legumes and spices, plus liquid condiments and household items such as cleaning products. Customers purchase as much as they need using their own containers to minimise waste. Much of what they offer is organic and everything is ethically sourced, often direct from farmers and producers. As a not-for-profit co-operative, the shop is partially funded by members (who get a 10% discount) and run by volunteers (who get a 20% discount for a two-hour shift).
Cat Boutique (catprotection.org.au)
85 Enmore Road, Newtown
Formerly an op shop, the Cat Boutique is now a dedicated retail space selling cat products with the proceeds directly benefitting the Cat Protection Society. Here you’ll find cat toys and accessories, food and treats with some merchandise for the felines’ human companions such as clothing, jewellery and stationery. Make no mistake: this is a store for cat lovers. Profits are funnelled into the charity’s cat welfare programs.
Noffs Op Shop (noffs.org.au/social-enterprises)
461 King Street, Newtown
The Noffs Op Shop is part of the social enterprise arm of the Noffs Foundation, which helps socially disadvantaged and disconnected young people through drug rehabilitation, counselling and mentorship programs. As an op shop, the goods here are secondhand donations ranging from clothing, shoes and accessories to a small selection of homewares, books and toys. All proceeds go back to the Foundation.
Red Cross Op Shop (redcross.org.au/places/retail-stores/newtown)
359 King Street, Newtown
Focusing on a curated range of fashion, both vintage and modern, the Red Cross Op Shop is a boutique-style thrift store that offers both donated secondhand and retail overstock items. Come here for the clothing, but also browse its small selection of homewares, books and accessories. Funds go to the Australian Red Cross, which provides a range of services, from disaster aid and community assistance, to blood donation collection.
The Social Outfit (thesocialoutfit.org)
188 King Street, Newtown
A clothing label that is the antithesis of a fast-fashion sweatshop has its headquarters on King Street. A retail boutique is downstairs where you can try on and buy a range of styles, from colourful prints to smartly tailored pants, eye-catching totes to vibrant scarves. The Social Outfit provides employment to people from refugee and new migrant backgrounds who make the ethical and sustainable clothing in the workroom above the store. They are fairly paid for their work and all additional revenue goes back to the charity behind the label so it can run training and education programs for that same demographic.
187 King Street, Newtown
Once upon a time, you had to steel yourself for a trip to Vinnies Newtown and prepare to rummage. These days, the staff and volunteers keep the sizeable store orderly. Expect a classic secondhand shopping experience with numerous racks of clothing but also a solid offering of homewares, books and even a substantial record collection. Sourcing from individual and brand donations, the stock is in good nick and, being Newtown, you’re likely to find something quirky without browsing for long. Revenue flows back to the St Vincent de Paul Society, a charity that provides a range of services, from disaster recovery to support for homelessness, addiction and food insecurity.