Store owner of Home Ec. Market Jordyn Morton (left) shows customers Jack Boone (middle) and his brother Mike Boone (middle-right) her selection of soaps and shampoos during her grand opening at 410 Main Street in Presque Isle on Feb. 21. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Presque Isle native has returned home to open a biodegradable cleaning product business.

Home Ec. Market, a zero-waste store that offers environmentally friendly cleaning products, opened today on Presque Isle’s Main Street. Next door, the Braden Theatre noted the store’s opening on its marquee.  

Mainers are known for living sustainably and working with what they have, store owner Jordyn Morton said, but there aren’t enough businesses catering to that mindset. As pandemic restrictions eased, co-ops and similar stores brought bulk and plastic-free shopping back, but those options have so far been limited in Aroostook County.

Home Ec. Market is the area’s only zero-waste and biodegradable product store and the only business like this Morton knows of north of Portland.

“We are trying to reduce the amount of waste that we have,” she said. “Rather than just throw that plastic container away, reuse it and make use of it.”

Zero-waste living includes reusing and recycling, repairing rather than buying new and donating instead of throwing away, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection. The efforts aim to preserve the environment and minimize trash that goes into landfills. 

Originally from Presque Isle, Morton had moved away to attend college and eventually went to California to find career opportunities. There, she began living a zero-waste lifestyle.

Morton moved back to Presque Isle in September 2020 at the height of the pandemic, and wanted to find similar eco-friendly products to those she had found on the West Coast. 

She lived with her grandmother, who had dementia, but when her grandmother moved to a health-care facility Morton decided to jump into opening Home Ec. Market, an idea she had been developing for three years.

It took six weeks to get Home Ec. Market off the ground. Since she self-funded the store, she did not acquire financial assistance from the city.

The business carries eco-friendly, cruelty-free and biodegradable items, along with vegan-friendly products without animal fat. 

Morton favors products that do not include sulfates or phthalates and are low in toxins.

Sulfates are salts used in some cleaning and personal care products to create lather. They can cause irritation to eyes and skin but are considered safe, according to a National Institutes of Health study. 

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more durable. They have caused reproductive effects in animals, but human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are not clear, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though she expected to educate the community about what zero waste and low toxicity mean, she found there was already a demand in Aroostook County — but residents weren’t able to find stores that sold those products.  

Customers can bring in their own containers to fill with soap, all-purpose cleaners or laundry detergent, to name a few. There are also glass containers that patrons can buy.

Morton also recommends bringing in washed-out plastic containers to be reused, which supports a circular economy. 

“I am really happy to be pulling all these people together, who all have the same values and they want the same things but they didn’t have anywhere previously to [shop for] it,” Morton said.

One particular product –  biodegradable toilet paper – has already been a big hit with customers, and has been flying off the shelves. 

The biggest challenge for Home Ec. Market will be Main Street parking, but the city is looking into redesigning the downtown area soon.