For five years, Jordan Blackhurst had been making efforts to be more conscious about what she brought into her life. Whether with people or things, she was living more intentionally, embracing the concept of minimalism and what she now understands is a sustainability-focused lifestyle, before she even had the terminology for it. However, looking at her shower one day, she found herself wondering whether or not she was doing enough.
“I was standing there, and there is all this waste – plastic bottles and such,” Blackhurst says. “At that point, I’d thought I had been thoughtful about what I was purchasing, but there, I had all this waste and wondered what I was going to do with it. It got me wondering if there was something out there, a resource that helps people make better, more conscious decisions —whether that’s the product itself and its ingredients, the impact on the people creating it or on the planet when people are finished with it. So, I started texting my friends and asking them if there was a resource out there to help them make better decisions, would they be interested in that?”
A little over a year after that revelation, Blackhurst is shepherding people who want to live more consciously through her business, Dharma + Dwell, a storefront and online shop whose mission is to make low-impact living more accessible and convenient. By offering eco-friendly, package-free and responsibly sourced home goods, beauty products and vintage items, Dharma + Dwell aims to be a catalyst for sustainable living by helping people make small to large changes in what they bring into their lives.
For Blackhurst, the road to Dharma + Dwell started well before that light bulb moment with her conditioner bottle, and goes far beyond the brand’s brick and mortar and online shops. A student of psychology with special focus on gender issues in the workplace, she found herself working for Ameren in their Human Resources department on leadership development and succession planning. Passionate about social, gender and environmental justice issues both in and outside the workplace, Blackhurst found herself increasingly interested in figuring out how all of those issues could be tied together and applied to her career. In doing some research on the intersection of those issues, she came across the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Not only did it open her eyes to the relationship between these seemingly different matters, it also gave her the language to help her think through what her role could be.
“It was the first time that I had seen all these things I was interested in, captured in the broad language of sustainability,” Blackhurst says. “I was like, ‘OK, this makes sense, and how can I tie all these things together – whether environmental issues, entrepreneurship and innovation, women in the workplace – with a different lens?’”
Empowered with this new language and inspired to make a change in her own consumption, Blackhurst began sketching out how she could best make an impact. At first, she considered starting a consulting company, modeled on health and wellness coaching, that would help people make more sustainable and conscious decisions. Next, she pivoted to the idea of launching an app, but she quickly scratched that because she lacked a tech background. Then it hit her: Why not put together a pop-up shop? There, she could get out in front of people and educate them by sourcing products for them.
“I wanted to make it easier for people so they wouldn’t have to do the research I had,” Blackhurst says. “I didn’t want them to have to stand in the aisles at Target reading labels. I felt I could make it more accessible.”
Blackhurst launched her first Dharma + Dwell pop-up in January of 2020 with big plans for doing more. However, when the world was turned upside down just two months later thanks to the ongoing global health crisis, she pivoted to an e-commerce site. It didn’t take long for it to take over her house, prompting her to begin looking for a brick and mortar location. Driving down Big Bend Boulevard one day, she came across a spot that immediately grabbed her attention.
That space, an empty storefront – painted the exact deep green color of her Dharma + Dwell branding – in the heart of Webster Groves’ Old Orchard Shopping District, was being leased by John and Kelley Barr, owners of the Frisco Barroom, the Annex and Civil Alchemy. Those businesses, located along the same strip as the shop Blackhurst was interested in, were much more to the Barrs than simple eating and retail establishments; they were part of their larger vision to create a vibrant, independent and consciously-focused small commercial district that was breathing new life into a part of the neighborhood that had been previously underutilized. The Barrs saw Dharma + Dwell as fitting in perfectly with what they were trying to cultivate in the area, and, after several discussions and some generous offers she couldn’t refuse, Blackhurst agreed to a lease.
“They gave me the space to explore an area of interest that was pretty low-risk for me,” Blackhurst says. “There was just something about them. I had a lot of confidence in them not just with me, but with what they are doing for that street. They are not just landlords; they are there if I need anything.”
Blackhurst opened Dharma + Dwell’s Old Orchard storefront in January of 2021 – just one year after founding the company. True to her goal of making conscious and sustainable choices easy, she offers everything from bulk personal care and household cleaning products (shoppers can either purchase reusable containers or bring in their own) and package-free products, to reusable and plastic-free items. She also offers a selection of vintage goods, stocked and curated by Hannah Storment of Mayfield Vintage, which dovetails with her mission to find new uses for often discarded things. She admits it’s been exciting to see how well her shop has been received, as well as to feel the energy around the neighborhood that places like hers and the other businesses are creating.
“There is a really good buzz and feeling of people coming in and out of all these places,” Blackhurst says. “Almost always, they have something from one of the other shops in the area. What’s really cool, too, is that I am very selective about where I purchase from, and there are a handful of places in the area that I would go to. When I think of being in the same space as those business owners, I would never have expected to have a shop in the same vicinity as them.”
Perhaps even more surprising than the success of Dharma + Dwell is how much of what she has learned has made its way into her day job at Ameren. Not only has the company supported her endeavors outside the workplace; they have given her a new role on their renewable development team, working on sustainability issues there as well. As she sees it, being able to incorporate the issues she cares so much about in both her personal and multiple professional lives might inspire others to see that they can, too – and that making change does not have to be so daunting.
“I think if your perspective is that it is very dramatic and different than what you do every day, it can be overwhelming,” Blackhurst says. “I tell people to pick one place in the house and evaluate – whether that is in the kitchen or bathroom – and think about how they can swap one thing out in a way that is convenient. It’s a more positive spin on it which can help create behavior change. I didn’t want people to feel guilty or that they have to do something because they are guilted into it.
“I think of it as a way to demonstrate your values to the world – that if you met someone, would they be able to tell what you care about?”
Join the Story
- Shop Dharma + Dwell’s sustainable products on their website.
- Check out Storment’s latest vintage finds on her Instagram.
- Read our stories on other St. Louisans with ethical, sustainable practices in their businesses: Patrick and Spencer Clapp and their Fox Park cafe, Coffeestamp; and Eric Schwarz’s reclaimed resale shop, Refab.