Sarah Levy once lived in the building across from Cleenland, the low-waste shop she now owns on Norfolk St. At Cleenland, you’ll find everything from laundry detergent and shampoo to compostable dish towels and utensils. All you need to do is BYO bottle, container, or bag. Her vision and inspiration for this unique, one-stop-shop was pretty simple — she wanted to reduce her own waste. We sat down with Sarah to get to know her & to learn more about Cleenland, Central Square’s first low-waste brick & mortar.

Before the Store:

Before opening Cleenland in June 2019, I grew up in upstate NY, went to Brandeis University, and moved to Central Square in 2011. I actually lived in the building across the street. Back then, this space was known as Tite’s Tropical Market. It’s an honor to be in the old Tite’s spot.

The Concept:

The most common question we get is, “How does this work?” and really it’s quite simple — everything is priced by weight, so people bring in a container, we weigh it, they take as much as they like, we weigh it again, and then they just pay the difference.

My goal for this shop was to make the space intriguing & inviting so people will come in & ask about the concept. It’s hard to communicate what is from the outside, so the key was creating an inviting exterior that brings people in.

What was your inspiration for the store?

I just wanted this kind of shop to exist — especially because there’s nothing else like it in Cambridge.

Which products are most popular?

Dish soap, laundry detergent, and toothbrushes. Most people don’t have an allegiance to a certain brand of detergent, so this model allows them to try something new in a way that leaves a lighter environmental footprint.

What does it mean to you to be located in Central Square?

There’s a long history of people living here and a real community that has existed for a while. Many people know the history of this building, and I want to always respect that. My ethos stems from operating in a neighborhood — I want to meet people where they’re at. I don’t want to be an “eco-warrior” or shame people for not being “perfect recyclers.” Being in Central is all about balancing that history but also knowing that it’s changing a lot, and I want this shop to be a positive part of that change.

Central is an incredible place to do business. So many people pass through — whether they’re coming for an event at The Dance Complex or stopping by for coffee at 1369 Coffeehouse, this street especially gets super densely populated with tons of people walking by & coming in.

On Reducing Waste:

Most people think of reducing waste by not doing something. This shop serves as a vehicle for something people can do, by reusing a container to get the stuff they need & want.

My goal for this shop is to be like the affordable, low-waste local CVS where you go to get the stuff you need. People often think that things that are better for the environment are more expensive, when in reality, somethings are artificially cheap, not artificially expensive. I work with family owned companies to give you stuff that you need. I’m resisting the impulse to become a gift shop.

Anything else you want people to know?

We’re hosting a low-waste gift-wrapping event on Sunday, December 15th — all proceeds will benefit the Margaret Fuller House! We’ll be using donated brown paper, stamps, and other well-loved wrapping supplies.

Learn more about Cleenland at or visit their Instagram @cleenland