New Brunswick

Moncton mom's eco pop-up shop aims to reduce single-use plastic

Moncton mother, yoga instructor and 911 dispatcher Shawna Berthe was already busy — but when she looked at the amount of garbage at her curb every week and then at her 13-year-old son, she knew she had to add something else to her "to-do" list.

Shawna Berthe says thoughts about her 13-year-old son's future led her to open eco shop selling reusable items

Shawna Berthe is getting more and more requests for her pop-up shop of reusable items to replace all of the single-use plastic in our lives. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Moncton mother, yoga instructor and 911 dispatcher Shawna Berthe was already busy — but when she looked at the amount of garbage at her curb every week and then at her 13-year-old son, she knew she had to add something else to her "to-do" list.

She was so sick of disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and all of the other single-use items that end up in landfills that she decided to try to find alternatives for her family.

Berthe found many items online but said finding reusable items available locally was "next to impossible."

"Driving around looking for items isn't necessarily the most eco-friendly way to find eco-friendly items," she said with a laugh. "So I figured trying to put them all in one place would be most ideal."

Some of Berthe's most popular items are reusable, stainless steel straws and reusable food wrap that is made from beeswax. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

That collection of reusable items she found for her family has now become a small, pop-up shop business, called EZ Eco.

"​What we have is everyday items that you use on a regular basis — except that they're the eco versions of those items," Berthe said.

"I kind of felt, having a 13-year-old, the decline of our planet right now is at such a fast rate — what's it going to look like when he's 30? When he's 40? Sixty? It's really unnerving, so it's important to try and do something about it."

Happy mediums

Berthe said she loves the concept of zero waste, although she isn't sure it's a realistic goal right now.

For her it is more about taking steps in the right direction and encouraging others to do the same.

For instance, she said her son wasn't comfortable taking his lunch to school in the shiny, reusable, stainless steel container she offered, but he was fine taking his sandwich in a reusable plastic wrap.

"There's happy mediums … I have a plastic wrap that's reusable — so he uses that instead of separate baggies so it's all about stepping stones. It doesn't necessarily have to be all or nothing so I offer different options."

Berthe said the plastic wraps can be thrown in the dishwasher or just wiped clean with hot water.

I'm surprised to see how open people are to making changes. Small changes. And that's why I say the zero waste movement is really fantastic and a good direction but it's not all or nothing — you can make little changes.- Shawna Berthe

She also points to reusable coffee cups made of glass as a way that people can make a big reduction in the amount of garbage they are producing.

"Most people think that disposable cups, they just disintegrate, they just go away after a short amount of time but in actuality they're lined with plastic so they're really, really hard to recycle because they're wet and it just doesn't work," she said. 

"So having one cup can last you well over three years depending on how well you take care of it. And think of most people drink a few coffees or a couple coffees a day so it really adds up."

Grocery store tips

Berthe said finding reusable products does require "a lot of digging" and most of what she has brought in comes from Canada.

​Her favourite items include a glass spray bottle that has a recipe for multi-purpose household cleaners marked on the glass, and a reusable plastic wrap that is made from beeswax.

"You just warm it up with your hands a little bit and then it moulds to whatever you have whether it's fruit, vegetables or a bowl … it works way better than plastic wrap because you don't fight with it every time you try to use it."

Berthe says packing a lunch in these stainless steel containers was a tough sell to her 13-year old, but there is a wide range of alternatives to single-use plastic bags. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Her tips for the grocery store include no longer using produce bags for every type of fruit or vegetable you put in your cart.

"You're going to wash them anyway — just put them in your cart or put them in your own bag and even if you go to get almonds or something in the bulk section, if you forgot your bag there's the little paper bags that you use for the mushrooms.

"Just grab some of those and write the number on them and it still works."

Berthe said you can take the same approach with meat. She encourages people to ask employees in the meat department to put your chicken wings and pork chops in a reusable container.

"Bring it with you and they can put [the meat] in there. Even if it makes them a little uncomfortable or they're like, 'I don't know what to do,' they can find out. It's part of their job. It's possible and the more people ask, they're going to accommodate it."

Demand growing

Berthe said she has seen increased interest in reusable, everyday items, both online and at her pop-up shop.

"I'm surprised to see how open people are to making changes. Small changes. And that's why I say the zero waste movement is really fantastic and a good direction but it's not all or nothing — you can make little changes," she said

"If people keep requesting it, I'll keep going and get bigger hopefully and spread the word — the more people are educated the more readily it'll be available."

Berthe's pop-up shop will be at Festival Inspire in Moncton on July 14 and at the Breathe Yoga Festival on July 28.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vanessa Blanch is a reporter based in Moncton. She has worked across the country for CBC for 20 years. If you have story ideas to share please email: vanessa.blanch@cbc.ca

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