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Blue Sky Design Supply Sustainable Style

Written by Jane Trabert Schmitt
Imagery by Sandra Kicman

Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo has always been a cool place to explore, thanks to an eclectic mix of specialty shops, bars and restaurants, galleries and more. Now there’s another reason to visit this urban stretch of creativity and commerce: Blue Sky Design Supply.
    Small in size but big in impact, it’s a boutique for  “conscious consumers,” explains owner Tyra Johnson, who promotes the concept of sustainability through the hard goods and consulting services she offers. Here, in an old brick building with a simple storefront, her passion for social responsibility and earth-friendly products collides with her professional background in civil and environmental engineering. And the result is pure magic.
    “I have to believe that I am making a difference,” insists the Wisconsin-born Johnson, who practices what she preaches as she urges others to look at the big picture: a healthier planet for future generations.
    “Change begins with choice,” she said. “I’m trying to give consumers a choice, an option that may be better for them and for the environment, whether it’s having less fumes in your home, or something that doesn’t deplete our natural resources, or an item that is going to be more classic that you can embrace and keep for a long time rather than switch it out every couple of years.”
    The industrial look of Blue Sky Design Supply is the perfect backdrop for her wares, a unique mix of gift items and home accessories but also practical tools and durable products for individuals, building professionals and organizations. It’s a showroom of things that support a better approach and spread Johnson’s message that we must:
• Conserve natural resources.
• Reduce the waste going to landfills.
• Limit exposure to toxins.
• Use rapidly renewable and/or sustainably managed materials.
• Reuse salvaged materials.
• Create a comfortable and stylish living space.

    With lines by such manufacturers as Vermont Natural Coatings, Bog Berry, Daddy Van’s, Annie Sloan, American Clay, Artisan Enhancements and Nkuku, Johnson calls it “sustainable style ”that doesn’t force homeowners and her commercial customers to sacrifice aesthetics or quality.
    “I don’t think you have to be less stylish,” she said. “You can still be stylish and make good choices.” It’s a lifestyle choice for her and her family and the customers who come from all over.
    “I am a conscious consumer, and that’s what I’m trying to teach others to be – conscious in their habits and conscious in how they consume,” said Johnson, who teaches a course on sustainable business practices at Daemen College in Amherst, New York. “You will have to make difficult choices ... but just being aware of it is half the battle.” 

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