Clean Surf — Elizabeth Calver

Betty Shop’s small store front sells the laid-back life to customers to help sustain its majestic beach front.

Betty Shop in St. Pete Beach, Fla., is a small brick-and-mortar on the busy Gulf Boulevard that is a beach haven for shoppers looking to help the ocean and shop for sustainability.

Liz Calver runs the store and is as light and breezy as the sustainable clothing on the racks. Her constant smile and laid-back attitude welcome tourists coming in from the beach and locals who she kayaked with earlier that morning. Liz says “she knows everyone in St. Pete” as she laughs and rings up a customer’s locally made stickers and soaps. Betty, as she calls her shop, is her bread and butter, and like her family and the ocean, it is near and dear to her heart.

“I started the shop 10 years ago in 2012. My background is a weird combination of the arts, nonprofit management and marine sciences,” she explains. “I started this business with the goal of being an eco-ocean friendly business that gives back and encourages people to go out and live their adventure. Specifically, women encouraging women and lifting women up.”

Liz combined all her passions, and the result was Betty. Named after her grandmother, the shop is a homage to her grandmother’s bad ass way of living. The shop states “est. 1981” which is the year her grandmother died. Her grandfather and her were moving to Florida from Northern New York to retire in their dream home and another car blew through a red light and the accident killed her instantly. Liz was born two weeks after her death and was named after her.

Betty is Liz’s love letter to her grandmother and the beach town she grew uplives in as well as the ocean she adores, and the store does all it can to push sustainable fashion. The shelves carry Carve Designs™, a brand “born at the beach and endlessly inspired by the outdoors.” 85% of the company’s clothes are made from sustainable materials, and 100% of their swim collection is recycled. Carve’s swimsuits are made from sustainable fabric that is sourced from recycled plastic bottles, where one suit is made from five bottles. The company also sends their items to Betty in 100% biodegradable, compostable and plant-based packing.

Another company Liz works with is prAna™. The company makes their clothing in an ethical and responsible way and states they were “sustainable since day one.” Their story starts with their founders delivering clothing in upcycled fruit boxes and continues to them becoming the first North American apparel company to bring Fair Trade Certified™ apparel to the market. They made a goal to become 100% plastic product free in their packaging, and in 2017 they met that goal with their direct-to-consumer (DTC) product packaging.

“Our clothing brands are like Carve Designs™ and prAna™; they’re all sustainable, eco-friendly and made of recycled materials. Even their packaging is biodegradable,” Liz explains. “That’s how we roll as far as clothing. Plus, it’s tailored an active lifestyle because that’s part of our brand. It is encouraging women to get out and to be in nature.”

Liz purchases assortments for her store two seasons in advance, and orders small batches for her small shop. Betty Shop doesn’t carry back stock, and Liz doesn’t market the store as a trendsetting hot spot. Liz sees the store as a “women’s outfitter” that encourages women of all sizes and brands for all women to feel good about themselves. She wants women to buy clothes that are not only environmentally friendly, but that also encourage women to get out and have their own adventure.

Betty Shop doesn’t stop their sustainability at clothing brands but takes it a step further by helping their local beaches and artists. Liz sells locally sourced jewelry, homewares and other accessory items.

“A lot of it is either local makers within St. Petersburg, Tampa or other coastal communities throughout the southeast,” she says. “We have a couple people from Cape Cod and a couple people from the west coast, but a lot of it is definitely local which is awesome.”

“She was a musician and an artist and a conservationist and an entrepreneur and she was a teacher, and she owned a travel agency, and she was way ahead of her time. For lack of a better word, she was just a bad ass lady,” Liz laughs. “So, growing up my dad — it was his mom — would tell me stories about her. I grew up to be like her, including how I look. So, when it came to naming the shop, to me, it was a no brainer. Full circle.”

The shop is Liz’s way to honor Betty and keep her spirit alive. Liz explains that her grandmother was always encouraging everyone to live their dream, especially women, and she runs the shop to emulate her grandmother’s spirit.

“Our mission is to push other women to believe in themselves. And I feel like she’s kind of our mascot, our guide and our spirit,” she says. “The store is really in her honor and it’s really a representation of living your life like that. We have a bumper sticker that reads ‘What Would Betty Do,’ WWBD. She would do it all, she would see what she wanted, and say go for it. So that’s kind of how we feel.”

Liz continues to build her shop’s relationship with her beach community of St. Pete Beach. Her vibe may be laid-back and boho, but her drive and passion are anything but laid-back. The shop first donated a percentage of sales to causes like Oceana, but they now donate a percentage to their own nonprofit as they build it and reach more students. The nonprofit is also not limited to Tampa Bay, as they work with schools all over Florida. She launched the shop’s nonprofit, the Clean Coast Initiative (CCI) last year. CCI’s mission is to empower the youth through education and conservation efforts. Liz and her team have a three-step process that takes place during the school calendar year.

“We’re currently just doing one school a month, but I believe in the next calendar year we’re going to be doing several,” Liz says. “We first go in a week or two prior to their beach cleanup and we give a presentation on coastal conservation, our coastal ecosystem, how and why it’s so important to keep our beaches clean, how it affects not just the ecosystem and the wildlife of our coastline, but also [how] it affects us as humans too, and the oceans. We get give that in like a fun way, especially depending on the age group. We have different types of presentations.”

A club, a class or even the whole school can sponsor the cleanup. After Liz’s team gives the presentation, whoever sponsored the event has a week or two to do their own research, take the information they were given and sell the idea of the event to their community and school.

“For an example, Shorecrest Prep just did an Earth Day one, and we gave a presentation to their middle school. Then they went and gathered additional information on their own and took the information that they learned from us, and gave presentations to the lower elementary,” Liz explains. “They also gave a presentation to the high school kids. Then they encouraged everyone to come to the beach cleanup and gave out information about their event.”

The kids oversee promoting and marketing their own event. They are encouraged to create signs that are made of reclaimed materials to promote the beach cleanup. Liz and her team always have a guest speaker at the event such as a shell expert or turtle conservationists. They give the kids and their families materials for the cleanup, either a five-gallon bucket made from recycled ocean plastics or gloves and a bag that are also biodegradable and made of plants.

“It’s a hands-on, immersive educational event. They’re not only taking action, but they’re really learning,” Liz says. “They’re also creating a youth leadership with taking the role on of not just educating the rest of their peers but marketing and promoting the event. Then coming to the event, completing the event and learning more. And then once they’re all done, they get a ‘Clean Coast Crew’ eco-friendly sticker and a certificate.”

The Betty team wants CCI to reach as many kids as possible because they believe that is how they are going to make a difference when it comes to sustaining our planet.

“We’re so far gone as a planet that unless we make actual impact and change with our youth, there’s a loss of hope. I think that real change stems from the younger years, and [from] education at a young age and immersing them in something like CCI,” Liz says. “Not only are they learning but they’re really doing and feeling proud, which has a longer effect and hopefully will create bigger change in the world in the long run. With kids you get to shape and mold their brains and if you can reach them, even one or two, I think that’s where change starts.”

Liz has long-term goals for the shop that include launching ‘Workshops in the Wild.’ These workshops will be their own entity but will still be under the umbrella of Betty. The mission of the workshops is to combine the outdoors with creative expression and self-awareness. They will vary in time from a few hours to a whole day to short retreats. Some of the workshops will include kayak excursions combined with beach yoga, meditation in nature, saltwater watercolor and nature journaling. The Betty team is working on finalizing the first couple workshops. A launch date is yet to be determined. “It really ties into what Betty Shop stands for, which is being free, being you [and] living your best adventure while being ocean friendly, eco minded and good to yourself,” Liz says.

Conversations with Samantha Stanich. Written by Samantha Stanich. Edited by Maya Quarker & Jess Lo.

Page design by Kortney Cochran.