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‘Small actions inspire big change’: new entrepreneur in Smithers talks zero waste

Emilie Schmidt opened ReJar Zero Waste on July 7
Emilie Schmidt pumps laundry detergent into a reusable jar. Schmidt officially opened ReJar Zero Waste on July 7. The store sells everything from cosmetic items to food staples with a focus on encouraging a reduction in waste and the reuse of everyday household objects. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

It’s a bit of a twist on the old adage: one landfill’s cardboard is another zero-waster’s wrapping paper.

But for one of Smithers newest business owners, Emilie Schmidt, this saying hits the mark. As of July 7, the local entrepreneur has officially opened ReJar Zero Waste, a store focused on encouraging a reduction in everything from single-use plastics to cosmetic items to food waste.

“The whole idea is to come in and be able to shop while reducing waste and purchasing products that are not only bulk, but that are eco-friendly, biodegradable and natural,” she told Smithers Interior News.

But as Schmidt explained, while the store opening might be recent, her background and interest in zero-waste lifestyles goes much further back than ReJar.

“I’ve always used something until it breaks,” she explained. “If a jar lid breaks on something I use it for water. If I have a yoghurt container I use it for picking berries. I compost everything. I collect all my own rainwater.”

As for packaging, Schmidt said she has asked all her suppliers to ship her the minimal amount of waste possible, something which has led to some creative uses for the small amount she does receive.

“My cupboard is full of all the packaging that has been shipped to me, like the brown paper that you stuff in between the products,” she explained. “I take every single piece of the wrapping thats come out of the box and I flatten it out and I put it in squares and I have a cupboard full of it, so when I’m wrapping somebody’s gift I just reuse that.”

She said one of her favourite things about the zero-waste movement is how multifaceted it is and the extent to which it applies to everyone in varying degrees.

“You may not think that you live a zero-waste lifestyle, but you have a reusable coffee cup — so it does pertain to you.”

Schmidt said it’s important for environmentally-conscious individuals to begin the conversation about zero-waste because that’s how it snowballs into a larger social conversation, adding that she feels the ball has already gotten rolling in this sense.

Similarly, with regard to COVID-19, she said she feels more people are waking up to the concepts of of zero waste, the importance of local supply chains and being cognisant of what you’re putting into landfills.

To that point, Schmidt said that to the degree she can control it she buys Canadian whenever she can, adding that to her while local can mean the surrounding area it also means supporting Canadian businesses as a whole.

Giving the examples of reusable masks or bringing cardboard boxes to put your groceries in at the supermarket, Schmidt highlighted how it’s possible to keep waste to a minimum, even during the pandemic.

On top of a number of cosmetic and household cleaning products, ReJar will also offer foodstuff in the form of staples like grains, nuts, seeds, flours and spices.

“I have spices from three years ago,” she explained, articulating a larger frustration with arbitrarily-sized sealed packages people have to buy at traditional supermarkets versus being able to bring your own containers in and sampling a number of products in a zero-waste manner.

Due to COVID-19 the store has had to adopt a number of policies surrounding the purchasing of goods, namely requiring customer-brought containers to be sanitizable and having staff members fill customers’ food orders as opposed to customers doing it themselves.

Schmidt said she hopes the pandemic as a whole turns more individuals onto the path to zero-waste living, highlighting the idea that it’s important to have a large amount of people adopting the mentality, even if they aren’t perfect at it, versus a handful of hardcore zero-wasters doing it perfectly.

“Something that I’ve always lived by is small actions inspire big change, so if you’re reusing one jar that had salsa in it and you reuse that jar for a whole year but you’ve refilled it with 40 products, you’ve saved 40 jars from going into the landfill,” she said. “It needs to be a conversation that individual people have so that a conversation can be had among many.”

The store is located at 1226 Main Street, in the back alley between Kitchen Works and Blue Water Sushi.
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