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NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
A British Columbia native with a passion for the environment is excited to bring the concept of package-free shopping to the East Coast.
Britannia Willes, who moved to P.E.I. seven months ago, had been living a zero-waste lifestyle in Vancouver for the past few years.
In one year, she produced such little waste, it fit into a one-litre mason jar; everything else was composted or recycled.
However, when she landed on the Island, she found that lifestyle basically impossible to sustain.
Realizing there aren’t package-free options for grocery shopping and stocking up on household items, the 26-year-old decided to provide a solution to a problem Islanders have faced for quite some time.
Unpacked, Charlottetown’s first-ever package-free shop, will open inside of Kent Street Market this fall.
The idea is that the shop will offer the same brands and products that a grocery store would, but because they are in bulk, there’s no plastic packaging involved.
“It allows customers to come in with their own reusable containers and refill them,” Willes told The Guardian this past week. “It effectively eliminates the plastic packaging waste that would typically end up in landfill.”
As studies on climate change get released, Willes said it becomes clear the earth is facing an environmental crisis and it is time society started looking at moving forward in a more sustainable way.
One such study released recently by Environmental Defence Canada indicated that only 11 per cent of plastic in Canada is being recycled, with the remaining 89 per cent ending up in landfills.
“We need to start making environmentally-conscious decisions the forefront of our priority list,” she said. “I want people to know that, as an individual, the changes that they make are going to make a significant impact. No one is too small.”
Aside from the environmental benefits to package-free shopping, Willes said it can also help save money and reduce food waste.
“If you’re on a budget, you’re not married to buying a full dozen eggs if you only just need three to get you through the week,” she said. “You buy what you need, as opposed to excess.”
The entrepreneur said the outreach and support she’s received so far tells her the Island is ready for a package-free shop.
“I can tell that Islanders need this. They’re demanding it. They want it. They’re ready for it.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on single-use plastic to come into effect in the next couple of years, something Willes said is a step in the right direction but doesn’t believe it’s enough.
“I would like to see (government) ban plastic altogether, I really would, and I think that it’s more than possible.”
The next step for the package-free shop is to crowdfund and organize fundraisers.
Willes hopes to continue to receive support for the community in their efforts to generate some funding and spread the message of sustainable living.
Unpacked is hosting an information session and fundraising launch party at Startup Zone in Charlottetown on Tuesday, June 18, 6:30-8 p.m. The session will inform residents about the process of package-free shopping, what to expect and the brands Unpacked will carry.