Increased waste from pandemic leads to innovative businesses

Canary Refillery: Lisa Whitford Poses in front of the Checkout of Canary Refillery in Calgary on Jan. 22, 2022. Lisa is Co-Owner of Canary Refillery. (Photo by Tate Montgomery/The Press)

With increased waste caused by the pandemic, Calgarians might be looking for new ways to offset their carbon footprint in more ways than ever before.

The increased burden of single use waste due to personal protective equipment, medical supplies packaging, and other waste brought on due to the pandemic is estimated to be in the millions of tonnes as reported by the National Academy of Sciences journal, without a real end solution to the waste.

“There’s obviously transportation and manufacturing emissions involved in generating large quantities of [PPE],” said Jessica Lajoie, a Program Specialist for the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation. This just being one of the most direct correlations made between the issues of pollution caused by PPE and the pandemic.

Lajoie also notes that’s due to the increase in takeout consumption, there are more takeout containers finding their way to landfills, cautioning people to pay attention to which containers can be recycled and which can’t, potentially helping ease takeout related pollution.

Buying in bulk is another way that Lajoie recommends Calgarians can reduce their carbon footprint, as it can reduce the amount of packaging getting sent to stores.

“Assuming that [the stores] truly receive [the product in bulk],” said Lajoie. “That’s a fantastic way to sell things and have people fill their own containers up instead of having a single packaging every time.” Lajoie also said she found many products she loved within the beauty and home goods sector, moving to more eco friendly and sustainable packaging.

Companies such as Calgary’s very own Canary, a refillery and zero waste market based out of Kensington are among companies offering more eco-conscious packaging options. Canary offers, among many other eco-friendly options, the chance for customers to bring their own containers in and fill them with their favourite beauty and home products.

“We wanted this to be something meaningful,” said Lisa Whiteford, co-owner of Canary. Started by two friends, they soon found once they were up and running that “Everything just flowed,” Whitford said. With the niche in need of filling, and wonderful community response, the shop owners soon found they felt good providing something meaningful for their community, but they didn’t want to stop at keeping single use waste out of the home, but out of their store as well.

Eco-friendly options: The wall of Refills in Canary in Calgary on Jan. 22, 2022. This is the wall where customers can find some of their favourite products to fill their own containers with. (Photo by Tate Montgomery/The Press)

“You can actually be a voice for your customer,” said Whitford. When the company began, there were many companies not selling their products in bulk; but they found that just by asking, they could usually find a way to get it, but even then, the systems in place weren’t perfectly green.

“They would ship us 20 litres of product in a big cargo, which is just a huge plastic square, that will be around for the next 20 years,” said Whitford. This, not aligning with their eco-conscious consciences, the pair decided to see what they could do about making a change up the chain; which is exactly what they did.

“Now, they ship it to us in a big box, with a thin plastic bladder that we collect, and then recycle back to them,” said Whitford. It is closed loop systems like this that Canary is proudly able to say 90% of their products participate in.

I got to realize that we do have a voice as we are all individuals supporting this space, including myself. – Lisa Whitford

“I got to realize that we do have a voice as we are all individuals supporting this space, including myself,” said Whitford. “But all our voices together, have a big impact on the way things are produced.” While progress may feel slow at times, it is small businesses such as Canary, and the community that supports them, that is helping create good and green change within the beauty and home goods industry.

While we may not be able to free ourselves from all single use waste, we can all make small changes, that can result in a big difference, as exemplified by the work done by Canary.

About Tate Montgomery 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Tate Montgomery is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.