Less Than’s future is eco-conscious



Less Than’s refill station, full of concentrated cleaning and hygiene products in glass dispensers.

Jennifer Mejia|Marlin Chronicle

Less Than is an eco-conscious store and refill shop that offers sustainable products ranging from household and personal care products, to pet supplies, cosmetics and even baby care items. The store reduces packaging wastes and instead promotes reuse in order to minimize one’s carbon footprint. This alone supports sustainable consumption, but the store also offers eco-friendly alternatives compared to traditional retail stores. 

With five stores in Virginia and two stores in North Carolina, the Less Than mentality and its focus on sustainability are growing along the East Coast. Their Norfolk location is only 20 minutes from campus and provides a refill station for those who wish to use it. If Norfolk isn’t your preference, Less Than is also in Virginia Beach, Newport News, Richmond and Midlothian, as well as Cary, and Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Chris Simmonds, the owner of Less Than, and an Old Dominion University alumnus with a degree in Psychology and in Behavioral Health, was inspired  by his upbringing in the U.S. Virgin Islands to cultivate a zero waste shop in the 757 area and completely change how people shop. 

“We didn’t treat waste the same way it’s treated here in the U.S.,” said Simmonds.

This ideology manifested itself into an online business that adopted a mobile shop component during the COVID-19 pandemic. “That’s how Less Than came about being able to buy products that were made sustainably from good companies, sustainable practices, clean ingredients, vegan whenever possible, while being considerate of the planet,” Simmonds said. 

The store became a way for Simmonds to connect with individuals interested in living sustainably and help them along their journey in such a consumerist society. Even the method of acquiring local products to sell is coupled with partnerships that help small businesses expand. This change in his career, from running a mental health agency to owning a shop, truly resonated with his desire to prioritize behavioral health. 

“It’s a continuation of the idea of giving people the tools necessary for them to live the life that they want to live and make these things accessible on a community level, not just on the internet,” Simmonds said. 

With small businesses closing or being limited due to the pandemic and social distancing, Simmonds opened Less Than in its first brick and mortar shop in the Ghent neighborhood in Norfolk. They struggled initially with a lack of foot traffic and synergy with neighboring businesses, but Simmonds’s outlook was always optimistic with hopes for future expansion. 

The shop has been met with great success, with shops opening in areas such as Northern Virginia in the near future. In Norfolk, where it all began, Less Than has definitely reshaped the local community’s shopping habits and encourages students to start too. 

Reducing waste and using eco-friendly products helps the planet and your body, and it can help reduce some long term costs. The pricing on green merchandise can border a college student’s level of affordability, but it also reduces the need to repurchase products when you could use the refill station located at most of the Less Than stores. 

Simmonds understands that there is competition, especially in pricing. “If we have something that a competitor has, and our ingredients are better, and our packaging is better, and our practices are better, then it comes with an understanding that the price is going to be different,” Simmonds said.

“It doesn’t matter your age, or your gender, or your socioeconomic status, you’re typically going to brush your teeth every day, you can wash your hands, wash your dishes, face and more. So we’re really in the community for everyone,” Simmonds said. 

Less plastic, fewer chemicals, less processing, less waste than before, Less Than is a futuristic way of shopping for everyone who desires to make a difference in their sustainable lifestyle choices and take a part in their environmental responsibility. Less Than is rooted in assisting people in living in a more meaningful and intentional way. 

To find out more information, patrons can go onto their website, GoLessThan.com.

By Jennifer Mejia