On April 10th, Melanie Gonzalez and Jennifer Hannaford hosted a soft opening for the newest addition to Port Jefferson’s downtown scene: The Long Island Center of Environmental Activism (LICEA). The space, originally the zero-waste shop Simple Good and neighboring gallery Hannaford Studios, will serve double duty as a hub for sustainable practices and education.
Gonzalez and Hannaford met two years ago when they opened their businesses next to each other. Over shared interests and visions, they quickly became close friends—they even adopted puppies together. Hannaford describes her art—a mix of feminism, social justice, and art that have earned her regional acclaim—as “artivism”, a combination of art and activism. Gonzalez’s store, Simple Good, has a 100% commitment to sustainability, “putting people and the planet over profit.” She handpicks products that are well-sourced and low-waste while also donating a percentage of her proceeds to the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization.
Threatened by closure due to the pandemic and urged on by increasingly distressing climate news, the two friends decided they needed to do something different. Hannaford was on the brink of shutting down, and Gonzalez felt “paralyzed” by all the bad news and little action. Their solution? Join forces and start LICEA.
“We want to show people the ‘why’ [of climate change]. When we understand why we got here, we can begin to understand the ‘how’ — how we can change behaviors to drive positive change. We want people to understand what our local environmental issues are” Gonzalez said.
So, Hannaford and Gonzalez broke down the wall between their spaces to open up the center, where art, retail, and community organizing could mingle. They aim to raise awareness and spread knowledge about sustainable practices, including recycling, waste reduction, composting, and mindful consumerism. When the pandemic ends, Gonzalez and Hannaford will focus on education, hosting classes and various events for all ages. LICEA will also found a nonprofit to fund other eco-education programs. Ultimately, the duo wants to transform Long Island into a leader in battling climate change.
For both women, this venture is just one chapter in a longer story of second lives. Hannaford, a forensic-scientist-turned-artist-activist, switched from science to oil painting as a way to channel her creative juices through large-scale landscape and portrait panels. Gonzalez worked in high positions in product design for over 15 years, but “repurposed” herself into a small business owner, as she said during opening remarks.
One can find Hannaford’s landscapes adorning the walls for the opening exhibit, as well as guest artwork by Douglas Ball and Smithtown and Port Jefferson High School students all centered around environmental themes.
Check out the center at 25 Chandler Square off of Main Street to see their first exhibit and browse the latest zero-waste lifestyle products.