Growing up in Wading River, Jessica Leale remembers walking along the beaches with her family and taking in the natural beauty of her hamlet.
Now living in Robbinsville, N.J. with her husband and three children, the Shoreham-Wading River graduate has launched an eco-friendly product line she says is much inspired by the community she grew up in.
Her line – are you? — offers an array of gift items: jewelry, clothing, candles and note cards, each created with sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials.
She developed a heightened sense of awareness of the waste her family was producing, she said, while raising three small children.
“I saw thousands of diapers go into the garbage, plastic toys being thrown out,” said Ms. Leale, 38. “I wanted to be more eco-friendly.”
Ms. Leale, who worked in the finance industry for 15 years and now works part-time for an investment company, spent the last two years planning and developing her “eco-gift” company. In early March, her products became available at areyoudesigns.com and in a boutique in Princeton, N.J. She’s also looking into selling her gifts in stores in the Hamptons.
Each item is labeled with an inspiration question. “Are you following your dreams?” is printed on a soy wax candle, which emits less smoke and toxins than other candles poured with paraffin wax.
Ms. Leale said the way her products were made, with sustainability in mind, tie into the motivational messages printed on them.
“If you’re trying to do good, you might as well do good all around and use natural resources,” she said.
Her notecards, made from organic cotton fibers are tree-free.
Are you? necklaces, bracelets and keychains are made with a recycled form of silver. Ms. Leale purchases silver through a company that melts and refines unusable silver, instead of one that mines for silver, a process that can pollute water and wildlife.
The t-shirts, which come in different shades of gray, are made with organic cotton and a mixture of recycled polyester and traditional fibers. The shirts are sewn together on vintage sewing machines, Ms. Leale said. And all items can be giftwrapped in recycled craft paper and tied with organic jute twine instead of ribbon.
Ms. Leale, who has no previous experience in retail, said she runs the small business by herself, managing the marketing, accounting and design, but solicits help from her 8-year-old, Jack, who comes up with the copy.
She said she hopes the messages on her products become a source of positive energy for her customers.
“Sometimes you go about your day and moan about it, and these gifts are little reminders,” she said. “Are you taking chances? Are you making memories? It’s a short life. I think people should be reminded to make the best of it.”