Montreal

The next generation of pharmacies want healthy people — and a healthy planet

About 80 pharmacies in Quebec are going green by shedding wasteful packaging and single-use products.

Consulting company Maillon Vert helping stores across Quebec make eco-friendly changes

Pharmacist Kristapore Manoukian, left, and store manager Brandon Cross have been working to make the Proxim Pharmacy in Kahnawake more eco-friendly. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Pharmacies are in the business of healing and supporting their clients' well-being, and now that philosophy is expanding beyond people, to supporting the well-being of the planet. 

"We're not only taking the step to be responsible for your health, but also for what we put in your body [and] what we put in our environment,'" said pharmacist Kristapore Manoukian.

Manoukian owns the Proxim pharmacy on Old Malone Highway in Kahnawake, the Mohawk territory on Montreal's South Shore.

His is one of about 80 pharmacies in Quebec that have gone green, shedding wasteful packaging and single-use products in exchange for more sustainable options.  

It launched the initiative about six months ago, starting small, with a single shelf of products. Now the entire store reflects an eco-responsible approach.

Some of that takes the form of selling items in bulk, with refillable containers for products such as soap, shampoo and laundry detergent. 

In the past month and a half, the pharmacy has gone through about eight 20-litre jugs of lavender bulk laundry detergent — their most popular item.

Biodegradable toothbrushes, natural toothpastes, cloth diapers, reusable straws and natural cleaning products also fill up the shelves. 

This pharmacy in in Kahnawake is encouraging customers to bring their own containers and buy organic items. 1:22

Ultimate goal: to go carbon neutral

Manoukian said when he realized how much waste the pharmacy was generating, he decided to make a change, joining forces with Marc-Andre Mailhot, the founder of Maillon Vert, which helps stores like his figure out how to become ecologically responsible. 

In addition to changing what they sell to organic brands that favour waste reduction, Manoukian said they're working to make sure the store itself makes sustainability a priority.

"The pharmacy is recycling close to 88 per cent of all waste product that comes in. So that's about two tonnes a year," he said. 

Manoukian's next step is to replace all the lights with LEDs to save electricity, and to install a more efficient heating and cooling system. 

After that, the goal is to become entirely carbon neutral.

Brandon Cross, the store manager, researched and ordered most of the new inventory. 

He said at first, he wasn't personally invested in natural products, but that changed after doing the research and talking to customers. He and other staff said there's been an overwhelming response from people in Kahnawake — one they didn't expect.

"It's really fun, you know?" Cross said. "It's like a shared initiative with our customers."

Kristapore Manoukian's Proxim pharmacy on Old Malone Highway in Kahnawake started switching its products about six months ago. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

About the Author

Jaela Bernstien is a reporter based in Montreal. She's covered a wide range of news topics, ranging from criminal trials to ice age caves, and everything in between.

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