I’ve always had a lot of awareness around my carbon footprint and the things I can do to help reduce my environmental impact. Bringing those beliefs from my personal life into my business have always been front of mind for me. I’ve had moments running a retail store where I’ve struggled with whether my beliefs were aligning with my business as much as they could. It can be challenging, but I remember that what sets Scout apart is the thought put into everything I bring into the shops. I think about how each item will be used or loved and what kind of purpose it will serve. That’s just the start though.
Today, on World Environment Day, I wanted to share with you some of the things you see—and some you don’t—that go into making sure we’re doing our best at Scout to continuously reduce our impact on Mother Earth! Our hope is to shine a light on how your support in our stores or online could be making a greater impact than you think and perhaps inspire some other businesses to make similar eco-friendly changes to their daily practices.
Not only does buying from local artists have a positive direct impact on our local economy, but it also cuts down on a lot of unnecessary waste and packaging that comes from shipping product from afar. No need to use bubble wrap or packing peanuts when it’s not going through the mail. Most of my local makers drop their orders off in person, so they’re biking, walking, or taking transit instead of sending it via a courier truck, meaning a smaller carbon footprint getting the goods into our shops. Lucky us, we get to showcase beautiful handmade goods, see our makers in person, and help the environment while we’re at it—it’s a no-brainer!
Not everyone is able to drop their orders off in-person. We do carry products from makers all across Canada, the U.S., and a few international locations after all. While we opened an online shop almost two years ago, we have only purchased packaging once for our shipping station thanks to all the packaging that comes through the shop! To fulfill our online orders, we reuse boxes, bubble wrap, kraft paper, and anything we can that comes through our door. We even save all the packing slips and customs printouts to reuse as scrap paper in the shop. Call us pack rats, but we truly don’t like to throw anything out!
We also practice recycling and reducing as much as we can in our day-to-day. It’s rare we fill a garbage bag a week, so it feels like we’re doing something right! We have recycling for all the unwanted receipts (we don’t even have to print an itemized receipt, which is a nice little paper-saver), as well as for any other recyclable products staff are using. We use microfiber cloths for most of our dusting and cleaning needs. For the times we absolutely need to use paper products, we only purchase recycled, this includes the bags we hand out to our customers (though so many of you bring your own bags, which is awesome to see). We only use recycled paper shoppers and jewellery boxes.
On top of being able to incorporate eco-awareness into Scout’s business practices, as the business owner, I also encourage my staff to use reusable coffee mugs and water bottles for work. I even gifted keepcups to each of my employees when we first brought them into the shop. Modelling eco-awareness can easily spill into other people’s practices, hopefully making a difference in their own homes.
Not only do we use reusable cloths for cleaning but we also stay away from chemicals! We use just water in a spray bottle for most cleanups, and water and white vinegar for messier situations when needed. We’ve actually had many customers comment on the cleanliness of our store and are surprised to hear how well these natural solutions work. (One of our sales associates was a self-declared skeptic when she started but has since gladly adapted these same cleaning solutions in her home, showing that leading by example really can work!) We stay away from anything harsh, even within the company for personal use. Just like the beauty products we carry in the store, personal items provided for staff use are free of phthalates, parabens, and anything that could be harmful to us or the planet.
There are some brands we carry that I feel could rethink their packaging and I have never been afraid to reach out and voice my feedback. It’s harder with larger companies but some of the smaller ones we work with have been very open to feedback. An example of that is Midnight Paloma. A Vancouver-made clean beauty brand, Tayler is really thoughtful with the ingredients in her products and doesn’t use any chemicals throughout her line. We love her beauty tools, and they’ve been such a well loved item in the shop, but they felt overly packaged. I understand the struggle of wanting your product to merchandise well on the shelf, but I also think this can be done well with minimal packaging. Tayler heard us out and starting this Spring, she will be redoing her packaging after considering that feedback! It’s encouraging to know my little voice can be heard and that people I work with are open to those changes. I know there is still a long way to go in retail, but I think awareness and voicing concerns around that and working together as a community to lower our impact, is the first big step.
It’s not only about the moves we’re making within the company but also about encouraging others to find ways to reduce their environmental impact in the world. We carry a broad range of products that can help you do that. From reusable coffee tumblers to cotton produce bags, we recently put it all together in a handy blog post. See some of our recommendations to make thoughtful, small changes that can have big impact. We add to this list regularly, so we encourage you to come in store and see what's new and learn how these purchases can help you live a greener lifestyle. We've also set up a new section on our website to show you some of the waste free options that you'll find in store.
This feels like a big one for our little business—2019 is the year we have decided to sign up our Roncesvalles location with Bullfrog Power! We’ve considered it over the years but the current news on the environment really made the choice easy. Choosing renewable electricity with Bullfrog Power means we begin offsetting our electricity use with green energy. For every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity we use, one kWh from a pollution-free, renewable source is put on the grid on our behalf. Our support also helps to fund new green energy projects all across Canada. We’re really excited to be part of the Bullfrog mission to inspire and empower people to lead the way to a renew-ably powered future.
Owning a retail shop and having care for the environment can sometimes feel like a tug of war in two different directions, but as a business owner, I’ve realized there are steps I can take to be more thoughtful of that struggle and the ways in which I can make a difference in how Scout operates. We’re not perfect. There is certainly a long way to go, but I’m leading my business in a way that prioritizes positive changes and encourages constant awareness around my day-to-day business choices. Being part of two neighbourhoods that truly care about these causes has also had a positive impact on Scout’s business practices. From the new initiative of Roncy Reduces to the welcome questions and concerns customers have at both shops, it’s inspiring seeing that people want to make change.
Picture of volunteers, including Scout shop owner Leah, at the Roncy Reduces cleanup 2018!
What are you doing as a business or individual to put the environment first? Share your eco-friendly tips or zero-waste ways with the Scout community below so we can also start to incorporate more thoughtful practices into our daily lives. We’re in this together after all!