Growing up in an eco-friendly household and working in renewable energy, Tara Meyers has always been environmentally conscious. But after hearing about a shop in Vancouver that refills household products, Meyers was inspired to open Canary Refillery & Zero Waste Market to limit plastic waste and replace products with a more sustainable and “zero-waste” option.
Sustainability was always at the forefront of Meyers’ mind.
“I've always been quite aware of what materials I'm using and what they end up as at the end of life,” she said. “When I was little, we never had a lot of fake, processed stuff. We ate whole foods and that kind of thing, so I think a bit of it's in my DNA.”
“We may be tagged as an oil and gas town, but there's a really passionate group of people here who want alternatives.”
- Tara Meyers
With her genetic connection to the environment, it was natural for Meyers to choose a career path in renewable resources in the non-profit sector.
She worked for a non-governmental organization that created solar energy projects in the developing world for 10 years.
“Access to clean, solar electricity not only has the obvious global impacts of reducing CO2 [emissions], but helps lift families out of poverty and impacts all aspects of development such as health, education and economic opportunities,” she said, referring to what made her work in international projects so rewarding.
Meyers said the job was perfect because it combined her awareness of environmental issues with the fact she’s a “big nature lover.” But after ten years of an “interesting and rewarding” career, Meyers felt it was time for a change.
“I just wanted to do something entrepreneurial and something that had more of an impact in my own backyard, because I studied international development for so long that I was interested in doing something that had more direct local impact.”
Health concerns also played a part in her career switch, referring to scientific reports that “all of us have plastic in our bodies” through the ingestion of microplastics.
Bringing zero waste to Calgary
To keep her green career path on a local scale, Mayers approached her long-time best friend, Lisa Watts, who has a background in health and wellness to create a zero-waste shop in Calgary.
Meyers had heard about The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and the work that they were doing to provide sustainable alternatives for everyday products such as soaps and household cleaners and [noticed] Calgary didn't have a dedicated zero-waste shop.
That inspiration led Meyers and Watts to create Canary, a refillery and zero-waste market in the Kensington area of downtown Calgary that was opened in February of this year.
“Lisa and I were both interested in taking on a new challenge and thought there's a need here for this kind of thing and ever since we've opened, there's other places that have opened [too].”
“Even existing shops have gone more in this direction now, which is awesome. The more this gets mainstream the better,” Meyers said, referring to the extra publicity zero-waste products are now getting.
She thought having a dedicated, zero-waste, shop in Calgary would be a big way of communicating to people that, “this is actually a movement and there's a problem that needs solving.”
The consequences of plastic pollution have been popular in the media recently, with strikes happening here in Calgary as well as on a global scale, all with the goal of raising awareness on global warming and the future of this planet.
“I feel like there's been a rising tide of coverage and awareness about the fact that we are on a planet with limited resources and a growing population and this stuff that we're producing and consuming doesn't have a responsible end of life.”
“We're very soon running into a situation where in particular, cornerstone species in these ecosystems [are at risk, and] once they collapse then we have no idea what is going to happen as a result of that,” Meyers said, referring to the environmental consequences of climate change and pollution.
Meyers and Watts want to empower individuals to take responsibility for their actions and make more sustainable choices. From doing so, Meyers said, “collectively, the impact could be quite great.”
“I think once you start to inform yourself, there's so much potential for growth and learning about other ways to reduce your [environmental] footprint.”
“We may be tagged as an oil and gas town, but there's a really passionate group of people here who want alternatives,” Meyers said.
As Canary continues to provide alternatives for plastic-based or packaged products, Meyers hopes that sustainable options and sustainable lifestyles will become the norm.
“I think anything is possible,” she said in regards to a zero-waste future.
“I just feel like the technology is there, it's just more a question of political will and consumer demand meeting in the middle. Certainly I think we have the technology, the intelligence and the creativity to design ourselves out of these problems.”
- By Mackenzie Mason