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Eco-friendly retail store aims to keep Great Lakes clean

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Sisters Melissa Matthews and Lisa Ladouceur say their eco-friendly store isn’t just a business, it’s a way of life.

They opened Great Lakes Refill Co. in early September at the Downtown Market, 140 Christina Street N.

It’s a one-stop shop to minimize single-use items in the home such as straws, plastic cutlery and paper towels. It’s also a refill depot for bulk products including biodegradable shampoo, dish soap and laundry detergent.

“We learned so much while we figured out what the right products are for us,” said Ladouceur. “What happens with our products at the end of their life is really important to us.

“They must be biodegradable, compostable or, as a last resort, recyclable.”

Ladouceur, 29, works full time in the finance department at Lambton College and never expected to be co-owner of a business. But fate stepped in.

“I was saddled with student debt and looking for how to live with less,” she explained. “I began approaching life with a minimalist attitude and reducing waste in my home.”

She found she needed to go to five different stores to find reusable products in Sarnia. Even then, there were many she couldn’t get here.

“And I realized we really need a one-stop shop for this. Our mission is to keep the Great Lakes clean.”

She approached her sister, who was a full-time mom with two kids. Matthews, 33, has a background in merchandising and has worked with children and youth.

She sees Great Lakes Refill Co. as a viable venture that can make a difference.

“When I read all the stats about how polluted our planet is, I want to make change in our community,” she said.

The sisters say part of their marketing strategy involves educating people about sustainable lifestyle products that cost the same or less than unsustainable ones.

“Beeswax food wrap has become one of my favourite things,” said Matthews. “It’s totally replaced plastic wrap in my house.”

Pliable fabric covered with beeswax, resin and jojoba oil can be used for at least a year in place of plastic wrap.  When it wears out, it’s compostable.  A set of five wraps sells for $30.

Ladouceur uses dryer balls, negating the need for fabric softener or dryer sheets.

“If you add a few drops of vinegar to them, you get rid of static cling,” she said.  A set of three dryer balls sells for $19.50 and last indefinitely.

Customers are encouraged to bring their own empty containers for refill from bulk containers at Great Lakes. The store also carries a line of empty jars and bottles.

Three lines of refillables are available. The more economical Pure products are made in Canada, are non-toxic and work well, said Matthews.

There’s also an organic line from Quebec called Oneka and Carina Organics skin creams and hard soap.

Prices are based on weight. For instance, 500 ml of shampoo costs $6.50.  A 2.5 litre bottle container of ultra-concentrated laundry soap is $16.

Great Lakes will refill any size container up to four litres.

There are about 30 different products aside from the refillables and more to come. Great Lakes carries bamboo toothbrushes ($4.99 each); cotton and wood pulp cleaning cloths to replace paper towel ($11.50 for four); and reusable straws in glass, bamboo, and stainless steel priced at $2.50 to $10 each.

Great Lakes Refill Co. is open Thursdays 3 – 6 p.m.; Fridays 3 – 8 p.m.; and Saturdays 11 – 4 p.m.   Visit www.greatlakesrefillcompany.ca for more details.


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