MARIA CAMILA VASCO
Founder & CEO
By: Frank Morris Lopez
Awards & Recognitions
2022- Best of Boston 2022 for Best Sustainable Shop
2020 - JFK Award for Academic Excellence
Born in Colombia and living in Chelsea, Maria Vasco considers herself “very much a Boston girl.”
She attended University of Massachusetts Boston, where she was originally a political science major and wanted to become a lawyer. Then, she discovered an environmental science course.
“It was my first time ever hearing about environmental issues. My mind was blown,” she said. “I realized how important these issues were because they impact everyone in the world.”
Today, she is the founder of Uvida Shop, Boston’s first and only zero-waste store. With a strong online business and two popular store fronts in the North End and Brookline, Uvida offers plastic-free home essentials — eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products.
But this wasn’t always the plan. Upon discovering her passion for saving the planet, Vasco thought she would become an environmental lawyer to protect Indigenous People’s lands. Then during college, she went to Europe, where she lived in Spain for three months. Down the street from where she stayed was a zero-waste store, where she would go to refill her dish soap container and get other household goods, free of any plastics. The idea was something she became quickly obsessed with.
“I was living back in Boston for a month and was already running out of stuff. I thought, I can’t go back to the way I was living before. It’s just so unsustainable,” she said. As she would talk about the need for a zero-waste store in Boston, her academic advisor told her, “If you want this store to exist so much, why don’t you make it happen?”
At the time, UMass Boston was offering an entrepreneur scholarship for $5,000 to help students start a business. She won the award, and a month later, with no business background at all, she started her business in 2019. It began with pop-ups on campus, followed by pop-ups throughout New England. Just months after graduating college, she opened her first physical site in December 2020.
Her grand opening had just five people in attendance. “Obviously, in the beginning, it was very difficult. Nobody knew about me,” she said. Then one day, she had a Tiktok video go viral. Since then, she’s gained a good deal of media attention, and now, people make it a point to stop at her shop — whether they’re making social media videos of their own, they’re exploring the sites as visitors on a Duck Boat tour, or they’re genuinely interested in picking up some reusable silicone wine cups or some plastic-free makeup.
“Do something that you are passionate about because it’s not going to be easy,” she said. “Never dream too small, dream big and really believe you can do it. If you believe it, that’s the only way it can happen.”