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Greenbriar Market celebrates one year of in-store sustainability

Greenbriar Market + Refillery founders Mathew Beaudoin and Shawn Kearns were inspired to open their store during the pandemic.

Greenbriar Market + Refillery founders Mathew Beaudoin, left, and Shawn Kearns.

Greenbriar Market + Refillery founders Mathew Beaudoin and Shawn Kearns were inspired to open their store during the pandemic when the world was thrown into chaos. With a passion for sustainability and reducing their environmental impact, they launched an online store in 2021 and then opened a physical market and refillery in northwest Calgary last June where they offer a full-service refillery service where customers can bring their own containers and have them filled with non-toxic and sustainable products. The store aims to support small Canadian businesses, reduce waste, and encourage customers to make changes gradually. We spoke with Shawn Kearns, co-founder of Greenbriar Market + Refillery, about how the store is faring.

What motivated you to open a store that focuses on local and sustainable bath, body, and home products?

Shawn comes from a family of small business owners, so naturally, he started thinking about creating his own business. Doing everything else together for 15 years, building a business seemed only natural for Shawn And Mathew. Moving to a plant-based diet year prior, they were already on a journey to reduce their consumption of resources and environmental impact. After mastering tofu they shifted focus to what they were putting in and on their bodies beyond food. It didn’t take long to realize it was no easy task to shop sustainably without scouring the far corners of the internet.

How do you ensure that the products you sell are non-toxic and zero waste?

We've found the best way to ensure we are getting non-toxic and zero-waste items is to partner with other local and Canadian small businesses that are making their own products. We are always excited to let people know that all of our vendors are Canadian with the exception of one small American company, No Tox Life, who simply makes amazing products that fit in alongside our collection. One of the things that was important to us when we started is that we try not to use the term zero waste as that feels like an impossible task. We also find the preachiness of it can turn people off.. We encourage customers to make changes a little at a time so that it's not overwhelming. We source products that reduce waste, are more sustainable options than what you can find at a big box store, and support small companies, artisans and makers.

Can you describe your Refillery service and how it works for customers?

When we opened, we were the only full-service refillery in the city. Customers can bring in their own clean containers, bottles or jars and we weigh them, fill them, and deduct the weight of the container from their purchase. We do all the work which our customers like. There's no mess for them, refills are done behind the counter by our team while customers have time to check out the rest of the store. If you don't have a container you'd like to use, we offer a number of options in-store for purchase! Because we are full service, we can eliminate waste which helps keep our prices lower!

What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting and running a business that focuses on sustainability?

Our main challenge is simply people knowing what a refillery is and feeling comfortable to come in the store and ask or even just come and see all of the different categories we carry. A comment we often get is that they can't believe the range of products we have in store once people do make their way in. We have approximately 60 vendors from across the country with a third of them based out of Alberta! There's lots to see and experience.

What message would you like to send to customers who are interested in shopping sustainably and supporting local businesses?

I would love customers to know they are welcome to come in and ask questions and just say hello. We love sharing the stories behind the products and the brands we carry. Any one of us is happy to 'take you on a tour' of the store. We always tell people the best way to shop sustainably is to use what you have already (unless you've found out it's really quite toxic or isn't working) and start small! Start with things you are running out of and make a swap. Also, don't be discouraged if the first product you try isn't exactly the right fit for you. We are constantly researching and testing new brands and products to find the ones we love the most. Not everything makes the cut and that's ok.

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