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A seedling of hope amidst chaos
After graduating from Dalhousie University with a degree in Sustainability, Environmental Science and Marine Biology in 2016, 25-year-old entrepreneur Kate Pepler felt overwhelmed.
Although she loved her program, five years spent focused on the ways humans are destroying the planet left her seeking inspiration and a little hope.
To counter the doomsday narratives she’d become accustomed to, Pepler started Our Positive Planet (OPP), a website that highlights environmental success stories from around the world.
Initially a solo effort, today the site has more than 50 writers from around the globe, editors, ambassadors, and a board of directors, even an intern.
“The ‘doom-and-gloom’ narrative is one that dominates our news feeds, and is ineffective at inspiring change and action. Instead, it causes people to shut down and feel hopeless. There is hope for this planet, and we can get there, we just have to work together and stay positive.”
— Our Positive Planet
Through her work with OPP, Pepler was introduced to the zero-waste movement, a philosophy that encourages the elimination of waste.
As she began exploring ways to cut her own consumption — trading disposable coffee cups and water bottles for reusable versions, always carrying a reusable shopping bag — she started examining other ways to reduce her dependence on plastic.
While she found there was a lot she could do, individually, she realized there weren't many options for package-free shopping in Halifax, especially if you don’t have a car.
She decided to do something to change that, and at the beginning of October, Pepler opened The Tare Shop, Halifax’s first zero-waste bulk store, coffee shop, and community hub on Cornwallis Street in the city’s north end.
“Everybody makes mistakes, and that's okay. But when I started noticing all the plastic in my life, it was hard to unsee. And all the litter on the ground. And, well, most of the litter I see is plastic — a lot of single-use items. So I wanted to make a change,” says Pepler.
Between the lines
Although giving Halifax residents the option to go package-free is a big part of why Pepler opened her shop, it’s not her only goal. She hopes her space, and the community beginning to grow up around it will be a place for people to gather, share knowledge, and pay it forward.
They’ve already held a zero-waste meet-up, a clothing swap (with proceeds going to Out of the Cold, an emergency winter shelter), and hosted the first event in a speaker series this past Friday.
They also host a Monday ‘meet up and cleanup’ — folks meet at the store then venture out for an hour to tidy up their neighbourhood. The last two weeks they’ve even managed to raise funds for Back to the Sea, an organization dedicated to sparking curiosity for Nova Scotia’s local marine life and a desire to protect the ocean. And next week they’re offering a zero waste 101 and how to.
“I definitely don’t want to be just a place where people come to buy their lentils and rice and leave. My approach has always been to educate and inspire. I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere by shaming people. I think providing people with an easy and accessible alternative Is how we’re going to create change,” says Pepler.
One issue often raised when the question of reducing waste or going green comes up is cost. Not everyone has the same privilege, or opportunities, to live more sustainably.
While categorically true, there are ways most people can lessen their environmental footprint without breaking the bank. These days Pepler spends less living waste-free than before she made the switch. She attributes some of that to thinking more about purchases — the zero-waste lifestyle isn’t just about consuming responsibly, it’s dependent on buying less, too.
Zero waste is seen as more expensive, because of everything you can purchase to help lower your waste (travel mugs, beeswax wraps, cutlery travel sets).
But there are other alternatives. A mason jar can be a travel mug, or a plate can take the place of a beeswax wrap. Some products like menstrual cups and safety razors, do cost more up front, but if you can manage the initial cost, you will save more in the long run.
How to get started
According to Pepler, anyone looking to cut their dependence on plastics should start slow. Trying to go cold turkey is a recipe for frustration, and often failure. Wean yourself by making small changes, one at a time. Whether that’s using a travel mug or water bottle, or phasing plastic wrap out of your life, start with small changes and build from there.
Pepler suggests keeping a trash jar for a day or a week — a mason jar for storing trash — to help identify the kinds of garbage you create and see what changes you can make from there.
“We’re such a throwaway society. When we throw something in the garbage it goes somewhere, we just don't see it. It’s not magic. Shifting away from that mentality of just throw it away and forget it can be really eye-opening,” says Pepler.
Check it out
The Nova Scotia Mobius Awards of Environmental Excellence, hosted by Divert NS, honoured Pepler last week (at a ceremony held at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market) with their 2018 Emerging Environmental Leader award.
Want to know more about living zero-waste? Check out this TEDxMünster talk by Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, and veteran zero-waste advocate: https://bit.ly/2zcHwnB
Zero-waste resources for Canadians
Ready to cut back on waste and plastics in your life? Check out the resources below for information, education, and community to help you on your low-waste journey.
The Tare Shop
- 5539 Cornwallis St, Halifax
- Visit Pepler’s shop for tea, coffee, household items, and a growing variety of package-free bulk goods. Looking to meet others committed to wasting less or learn more about making the switch? Check out their events page and join in at one of their weekly ‘Meet up and cleanups,’ or plan to attend an upcoming Zero-waste 101, clothing swap, or community talk.
Our Positive Planet
- Looking for some good in the midst of all the doom and gloom? OPP features stories of environmental success from across the world. You can also check out their blog for tips on reducing your consumption, or visit the DIY section and try your hand at making your tote bag or dog treats.
Found Forgotten Food
- FOUND is a Nova Scotian organization reducing food waste by gathering and sharing forgotten fruits and vegetables they source from local producers, farmers’ markets, and homeowner gardens. For more information in Hants, Kings, and Colchester County contact Lindsay Clowes, at Lindsay@FOUNDns.com. In HRM reach out to Laurel Schut at Laurel@FOUNDns.com.
Clean Nova Scotia
- 126 Portland Street
- Dartmouth NS, B2Y 1H8
- 1-855-736-3474 (toll-free)
- Clean Nova Scotia helps build a more sustainable society in Atlantic Canada by fostering, educating, and supporting clean leaders in our communities. They also run events like the Great Nova Scotia Pick-Me-Up - the largest volunteer-driven community clean-up program in the province, providing supplies and support to participants of community-based clean-ups.
Zero Waste Canada
- PO Box 1639, Gibsons, BC, V0N1V0
- Zero Waste Canada is a non-profit grassroots organization, dedicated to ending waste in Canada and is the national affiliate of the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), the governing body for Zero Waste globally.