Eco-friendly market in downtown Oshawa helping environment with refillable home products

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Published April 25, 2024 at 3:33 pm

ECO 360 Markets

A downtown Oshawa market devoted to accessible zero waste products, services and ideas is making it convenient for people to have a positive – and affordable – impact on the environment.

“We want to make it easy for Durham residents to reduce their household waste and reliance on single use plastics by providing refillable and zero waste products for their homes,” noted co-owners Brianne Blackman and Irania Ledesma.

The two, who met in 2012 when they both worked at the AIDS Committee of Durham Region office in downtown Oshawa and have been friends ever since, opened their business at 81 Bond St. W. a little over a year ago after offering a mobile service the previous year.

“We provided refill services and low waste products at local farmer’s markets, pop-ups and community events. We loved being out in the community, meeting people and giving them solutions to reduce plastic waste in their homes, but toward the end of market season, our customers began to ask where they could find us during the winter months,” the co-owners told indurham.

As luck would have it, a friend who owned a hair salon on Bond Street was moving so they took over the space in March 2023.

Brianne Blackman

“It seemed like the perfect opportunity for 360 Eco Market to get a permanent home,” Blackman said. “It’s been a very exciting transition from being mobile to a brick-and-mortar store.”

Both women adopted low-waste lifestyles during their time working together but “struggled” to find low waste services close to Oshawa. “We used to go to Toronto and all over Durham Region to get refillable products,” Blackman noted, “but it wasn’t very sustainable to be driving all over to in order to reduce our plastic waste.”

“It was inconvenient for even the most committed Zero Wasters and we realized there was a need for something like that here.”

They were also administrators of a zero waste education group on Facebook that had a strong following, “so we knew there was a demand for a refillery in our area. “

Ledesma said the fledgling firm’s biggest challenge is education. “Essentially we are selling a lifestyle change. People are so used to the ‘buy, use, recycle, buy again’ cycle, the idea of a refillery is a completely new concept to them. Most of us, we’re raised thinking that recycling was all we had to do to preserve the environment.  Now were finding out that recycling is not working – less than 10 per cent of plastic is actually recycled – but again we’re working against habit.  There’s a lot of education and ‘unlearning’ required for people to adopt new consumer habits, but we find that once people get it, they get it and once they get that good feeling that comes with doing something positive for the planet, they continue to refill.”

Irania Ledesma

They are currently working on transforming the exterior of the store with a mural and pollinator garden. “We’re passionate about community involvement, so we’ve volunteered with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterfly Way Ranger Program to encourage people to plant pollinator supporting gardens and to get neighbourhoods in Oshawa designated as ‘Butterfly Ways.’”

The storefront also serves as a business incubator, with On High Records – a source for import vinyl and rare records – inside, as well as six other business, primarily women-owned, that carry handmade low waste products.

“We definitely focus on carrying, supporting and promoting local businesses and we do have room for a few more like-minded businesses through our shelf rental programs,” Blackman noted.

Much of the business centres around household products such as laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo and conditioners, which comprise about half of all single-use products used in the home. “What if,” they asked themselves before launching the business, “instead of discarding and replacing your bottles when they’re empty, there was a convenient way to refill them with a product of equal quality?”

“Zero Waste living is not a trend,” said Blackman. “It is a commitment to healing our relationship with the earth, preserving the planet and disengaging from consumption patterns and corporations that are destroying the environment.”

The company encourages a ‘bring your own container’ philosophy and choose vendors with closed loop supply chains. “From packaging to product, our goal is to minimise waste in all areas of our business.”

Home delivery is also available throughout the region.

Hitting the farmer’s markets and pop-ups may also be a thing again this summer, the business partners said.

“We do have plans to get back out to the markets this year, because we miss being in the community. We’ve been fortunate that most of our market customers have found us at our new location and we’ve met a lot of new customers from Oshawa and surrounding area who are glad to have a refillery closer to them.”

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