Living sustainably in Steinbach just got a little bit easier, and trendier.
Julia MacCharles is a new shopkeeper on Main Street offering up zero-waste and reusable products, an upgrade from her mobile mart she hauled across the region to markets over the spring and summer.
Fresh from travelling across the continent and overseas MacCharles sought a way to integrate her eco-friendly, zero-waste lifestyle into the mainstream.
"It was hard to access products I use regularly [in town] so I thought, why not bring it here?" she said.
The aesthetically-pleasing downtown shop boasts products like reusable straws, bamboo toothbrushes and cloth nursing pads made from sustainable materials, but the draw for most are the cleaning and bath products available to be filled in one’s container of choice.
Toilet bowl cleaners, toothpaste, shampoo and dish detergent are among some of the offerings consumers can fill up their containers with to reduce their plastic consumption — most of which ends up in landfills.
Practicing the four R’s — reduce, reuse, recycle and refill — while living in makeshift living quarters built from a van, and seeing how sustainable other countries were compared to Canada, MacCharles latched a trailer to the back of her tiny home and rode off to sell eco-friendly products across the Southeast after settling back into Manitoba.
Beginning the business in April, the trendy trailer became a staple at markets in St Malo, Kleefeld and even some in Winnipeg. With demand for products high from those looking to continue the path of living sustainably, the 24-year-old business owner secured a space on Main Street for a mid-September opening.
"I was really excited to see how many people were actually interested in being more sustainable or have been making their own products for years and now they're like, ‘Oh, this just saves me time,’" MacCharles said.
In recent years big box stores and restaurants have rid themselves of single-use plastic bags and utensils to try and be more environmentally conscious. It’s estimated 4,667 kilotonnes of plastic are introduced to the domestic market every year, while a report from Environment and Climate Change Canada suggests only nine percent of eligible products in Canada get recycled, and one percent is leaked into the environment.
While sustainability isn’t in everyone’s vocabulary, MacCharles said her shopping demographic varies from young to old, with younger people shopping to reduce their carbon footprint and older generations buying products which remind them of the era they grew up in.
"People like that remember using cloth diapers and reusable products so for them it just makes sense."
Living a zero-waste lifestyle often gets a bad wrap because of a false notion it’s more expensive than buying single-use products, MacCharles said. However, reusable products end up saving the consumer money in the long-run, and less products end up in landfills.
"If you buy reusable paper towels it’ll cost you $20 but they last three years instead of buying cheaper, single use ones and they only last a few weeks," she said.
It’s the little things that add up when converting to a sustainable lifestyle, MacCharles said, like converting to reusable straws and storage containers, or reusing bottles and getting them filled at the shop instead of buying new ones.
"Dish soap and laundry detergent are two of our biggest sellers because it's no different than the products people already use," she said.