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November 02, 2008

Sustainable spending: Eco-friendly shops

Shop till you drop gains new meaning with eco-friendly options

Sonya Procenko

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GREENER LIVING IS about buying and consuming less. If you need to go shopping, you can make green(er) choices.

Alberta has a multitude of stores, suppliers and organizations offering eco-friendly products and services.

“Your spending choices shape the world we live in,” says David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich. “How you spend not only determines the quality of your life—what you eat, where you live—but also contributes to the success of the businesses where you shop.”

“As more and more Canadians are choosing greener products, the prices are dropping all the time,” the author writes.
Take heart, green(er) products can be found in many categories from food to clothing to home building, thanks to responsible Calgary and Edmonton stores and organizations.

You are what you eat
Founded in northern Alberta, Planet Organic Market now has locations in Calgary and Edmonton. Why choose organic food? “Organic foods are spared the application of potentially harmful long-lasting insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers,” says the company.

“We truly believe in the benefits of natural and organic food,” says Diane Shaskin, co-founder of Planet Organic Market. “Better health and well-being; better farming and conservation practices; and of course better tasting food.”

Blush Lane Organic Market has expanded with its new Aspen Woods locations in Calgary. The store is “dedicated to connecting people with local and organic foods.” Consumers will find offerings from Alberta and B.C. organic farms and orchards. This new market also features Sunworks Farm organic free range, chicken, turkey, pork, beef and bison; Canadian and organic cheese and artisan breads.

Wear without the tear
Riva Mackie and her husband Andrew founded Riva’s Eco Store on 17 Avenue S.W. Calgary. The store has become a steady favourite with the city’s more environmentally conscious crowd. Product categories include clothing, shoes, accessories, baby, skincare, linens, mattresses, cleaning supplies, air & water, home and garden, books and green building.

“We carry a wide range of alternatives to toxic home products,” say the couple. “We have a strict criteria for all of our products. They include the use of sustainable fibres, organic/biodynamic/pesticide-free production, fair-trad and ethical labour. We strive to provide products that are both healthy for the planet, and healthy to those that use them.”

More than skin deep
Located on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue, every year Wild Prairie Soap Company makes over 10,000 pounds of handmade, natural, biodegradable soap. Using over 5,000 pounds of olive oil, the soap is comprised of 50 per cent olive oil.

“We use natural ingredients so all our products are biodegradable which means you can feel good about minimizing the amount of chemicals that are put into our water system,” says the company. “On a personal level, you can feel good about reducing the chemicals coming in contact with your skin.”

Home is where the ‘eco’ is
If you’re renovating or decorating, you can shop greener at Home Depot. Look for the Eco Options Brand at the retailer with locations in Calgary and Edmonton. Each Eco Options product promises “less of an impact on the environment than competing products.” Among the eco-friendly benefits these products offer are sustainable forestry, energy efficient, healthy home, clean air and water conservation.

Get organized
Increasingly, Alberta organizations are becoming sources of sustainable living information and products. Clean Calgary Association offers invaluable information at workshops, events and on its website. One recent addition is the Green Building and Renovation Guide of Residential Products and Resources, which is available to download.

Clean Calgary Association’s EcoStore on 4 Avenue S.W. is one branch of the association. Its mandate is “to carry products that are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner, are designed to reduce waste and/or reduce our environmental footprint.”

REAP what you sow
REAP Calgary is a not-for-profit association of Calgary businesses concerned with sustainability issues. “We know that every choice each of us makes—what to buy, what to eat, what to wear—affects our planet and the lives of its inhabitants,” says the association. “So our mission is to help you make choices that have positive consequences.”

One sustainable shopping option is the REAP Passport. The Passport offers free items and deep discounts valued at over $850 at environmentally-aware Calgary merchants.

All’s fair in sustainability
The recent EcoLiving Fair in Calgary gave Calgarians an opportunity to learn more about sustainable living, alternative technologies and sustainable lifestyles. It was a one-stop shopping opportunity for sustainable products and products that enable a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s a wash
Clearly, the challenge facing consumers in today’s marketplace is becoming knowledgeable about green products. That means asking lots of questions like ‘What is this made of?’ and ‘How was this made?’ and ‘Where was this made?’

“The tough part is that figuring out what’s green and what’s greenwash, what’s eco-friendly and what’s ozone-deadly can be downright dizzying,” says Adria Vasil, author of ECOHOLIC: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada.

“This is where knowledge comes into play. The more you know, the more effective your choices, actions and movements can be.” CL

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