How Main Street Shops Can Take Steps Toward Sustainability

Find out how Plaques by Azra is ridding extra stock and unused products

As I welcome a new year, I start to plan how I can lighten my load. Out with the old, in with the new.

Our business started over 45 years ago, and my parents loved to keep stock. My first plan of action was taking on the basement — moving everything out so I could get off to a clean start. I decided to hire some part-time help, and the first thought that came to mind was, “Throw this out!”

But, I hesitated. If you read my feature article and know my background, you know that I lived in the East African country of Tanzania for the first formative years of my adult life. You may not know that I lived through days and nights without electricity and water. I lived through the stories my dad would tell me as we grew up in America. He would always advise that we turn off the lights and make sure we conserve when it comes to water consumption. That meant short showers, turning off the water between brushing, handwashing the dishes, etc. I knew the value of all these things, so I hesitated.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

At first, I emailed a local neighborhood business and asked if the owner would consider taking some of these items from me. Consolidate and consign. Either for free or at a really good rate.

We had trophy cup parts, figures, plaques, and so many JRS desk and wall holders made of metal.

I realized JDS Industries organized a trusted Facebook group, and I reached out to the admin for permission to post about giveaways. My strategy worked, and one man from the Facebook group messaged me back after fulfilling an order and wanted to know if I had more. By doing this, I could clear my shelf in the process and feel good about giving other small businesses a chance to do well with the products I no longer needed.

The excess wood plaques went to my friend’s husband, a talented carpenter, and he turned them into coasters and trays. I was so inspired by the beautiful products I sent him plenty more. It felt good to see them reused and refurbished rather than thrown away to get dumped in a landfill. That saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, really came true.

I also plan to give away some of our old cutting machines and drill presses to a friend who may use them to help teach kids in afterschool programs.

After all of this, I realized this is how we can promote sustainability in our corporate “Main Street” hubs. I have been incorporating sustainability goals more than ever in recent years. Whatever good we put out finds its way back to us. If not us directly, maybe it will benefit our children.

There are many ways we can incorporate sustainability in our organizations: Paying a fair wage to employees, advocating for rights, and reusing and recycling materials around the shop.

Let us do our best as we take on 2022 with new, innovative practices. How do you make efforts in sustainability? I would love to hear. Reach out to me at

Azra Khalfan-Kermali

Azra Khalfan-Kermali

Plaques by Azra

Azra Khalfan-Kermali owns Plaques by Azra, a custom awards, plaques, and banners business founded by her parents when she was born in the early 1970s. For Azra, owning her shop is about more than just producing orders and creating happy, returning customers. It’s about continuing her family’s legacy and fully leaning into her role as a woman of color entrepreneur.

View all articles by Azra Khalfan-Kermali   Visit Website

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