New ‘Eco-Shop’ Treats Pets and Nature Right with Curated Product Line
When news broke that a pandemic had triggered quarantine orders in the United States, Jordana Vasquez was half a world away, learning how cities in the European Union are transitioning to a truly sustainable future, with zero waste and a circular economy.
“COVID-19 and the quarantine were the furthest things from my mind and my present,” Vasquez says. “But as soon as I came back to Hoboken, I dealt with the news of a family health emergency, a furlough and notices of life never being the same.”
In the space of a week, it seemed to Vasquez, life as she knew it changed drastically. As the pandemic dragged on, she discovered, as many of us have, that pets are a critical source of comfort.
“The lack of routine and restrictions on movement and socialization took a toll on many of us, but thankfully—and I’ll dare to generalize here—our pets played a big part in picking up what was left of our normalcy,” she says. “In my experience, being a ‘pawrent’ has been the biggest blessing, mood-upper and joy-filler of a responsibility.”
The pandemic also provided opportunity and inspiration for Vasquez to start a new business merging two of her passions: pets and sustainability. The online pet eco-store, Hoboken Jengo, might not have happened otherwise.
“The sudden change of pace in life allowed me to train my dog, observe his patterns of behavior, test out certain brands on him, and meet like-minded dog parents around Hoboken,” she says. “That’s when the idea came to me. I knew firsthand what a struggle it is to find beautiful, unique, cost-effective, sustainable treats and toys. Hoboken Jengo was born out of the need to identify brands that would bring out the best in our pets without compromising the planet’s health.”
After months of researching pet products and their environmental impact, Vasquez launched Hoboken Jengo in November 2020.
“Since then, our main mission and obsession has been to advocate for minimally processed, high-quality treats, lasting toys and ethically-sourced products that spark joy, foster health and make a positive difference to the environment,” she says.
Because she and her staff have already done the heavy lifting of ensuring that all products are eco-friendly, customers of Hoboken Jengo don’t have to spend time searching the treats, accessories and gifts it offers.
“Here, in one place, you can find products designed, manufactured and shipped in a way that protects our planet and allows dogs and cats to live their best, full lives,” she says.
The process of choosing the products that Hoboken Jengo sells begins with its Sustainability Criteria Questionnaire (SCQ), which Vasquez and her staff created to vet vendors and let customers know why their products are suitable for pets and the environment.
“Each brand we’ve joined forces with has been carefully selected because of their strong commitment to making a positive difference on the planet and in our pets’ lives,” she says.
When Vasquez began this journey, she had a rough idea of what products her store was going to offer, so she and her staff created five main categories—treats, toys, grooming, wearables and sustainable lifestyle—to guide them in their search for small business vendors who shared their vision. For each category, they ask specific details—not just about materials and ingredients, but also about social-impact practices, nationally recognized certifications, and packaging and shipping practices.
Vendors of consumable products are asked to report if their treats meet the following criteria:
• are regulated by AAFCO
free of meat meal, bone meal or
• contain locally sourced ingredients
• are byproduct free
• are wheat free
are grain free
For nonedible products, the SCQ asks about materials’ characteristics, such as whether they contain organic cotton, repurposed recycled materials, hemp or other natural fibers.
Vendors of toy products are also asked to report if the items meet the following criteria:
• promote environmental awareness or education
• encourage reduction of plastic
• are made in the USA
• are woman owned
• are handcrafted
are locally sourced
“We’ve been fortunate to partner with small and medium-sized business owners who appreciate the idea of accountability and are more than willing to submit the SCQ form,” Vasquez says. “It’s a continual work in process. Every month we reassess which products are more popular, why, and how to keep introducing exciting and diverse items from our rotating selection of high-quality items.”
Vasquez says the next steps are to continue spreading the message that Hoboken Jengo is open for business, to refine their SCQ criteria, to diversify their inventory and to identify more US-based suppliers.
She’s also finding more ways to make her business practices sustainable and socially responsible. By partnering with Sendle—a package delivery service—Hoboken Jengo offers free carbon-neutral shipping while working to offset its footprint. It also partners with Noissue to offer sustainable, 100 percent compostable or recyclable packaging.
Even though Hoboken Jengo is just a few months old, its success as part of last December’s Main Street Pops Holiday Market has given it an opportunity to develop a physical presence in Hoboken. Customers can find it under the 14th Street Viaduct, rain or shine, the third Sunday of every month and the first three Sundays in December 2021.
“We’ve learned that seeing the products in person and having the dogs interact with an item or kindly asking for one of our treats makes a big difference in their willingness to try something new,” Vasquez says. “We hope to continue building on our launches’ success and become one of Hoboken’s favorite sources for delicious organic treat options; fun natural, non-toxic toys; exceptional, long-lasting accessories; and unique hand-made toys.”
The shop doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location yet—although Vasquez would love to have one.
“My dream is to own a zero-waste boutique-style pet shop in Hoboken, with a funky curated ensemble of creative, high-quality, colorful items that dogs, cats and their humans love,” she says.
In the meantime, “pawrents” anywhere can
visit Hoboken Jengo any time online.
For more information, visit HobokenJengo.com.