These days, living sustainably is easier than ever. If you’re looking for simple ways to live a more eco-conscious life, why not drop by your local zero-waste grocery store?
Salina Derish is the founder and CEO of PickEco Refills, a zero-waste grocery store in downtown Chilliwack, B.C. PickEco allows customers to refill products rather than repurchase, making it simpler and more accessible to live, eat and shop sustainably.
PickEco sells bulk pantry staples (like dried fruits, grains, legumes, maple syrup, oil, etc.), personal care products, empty reusable jars and containers, cleaning tools and more. They also carry zero-waste essentials like straws, bulk bags and bamboo toothbrushes, offering a simple way to reduce your plastic footprint.Dori Marie Photography
Derish created PickEco after noticing a gap in her community for zero-waste grocery. “In my teenage years, I was always very passionate about the environment and sustainability,” says Derish, “While I kind of lost track of that a bit as I grew up, now that I’m an adult and have kids, I realized I wasn’t living a life that aligned with my values. I began reducing my waste and realized that there was nowhere for me to really get things in a waste-free way here in the Fraser Valley.”
Derish recalls reading stories almost daily about a whale washing up on shore with 200 kilograms of plastic in its stomach, or wildlife like birds and turtles being strangled by plastic bags. “What we’re doing to the planet is damaging, potentially beyond repair, and we need to do something about it.”
PickEco encourages customers to bring their own containers from home to carry their purchases, and never packages items in plastic bags. The store is also 100 percent owned and operated by women, including its employees and leadership.Dori Marie Photography
In addition to running the business, Derish also mentors people interested in opening zero-waste stores in their own communities. “There isn't really a resource out there for people who want to open up their own zero-waste store, so I mentor new and potential owners on things like how to refill products safely and in a sanitary way, or help them work with their vendors,” she says, “I think there needs to be a store like this in every city, so I want to do what I can to help!”
Derish adds that with so many details to learn, finding support can sometimes be a challenge. She also shares with them what “hiccups” to expect, so they “don't make the same mistakes."
When COVID-19 first hit, the business stayed open. “Being a food place, we never actually closed our doors,” says Derish, “Since we needed to stay open, we were doing deliveries like crazy and taking orders over the phone. We didn’t have an online ordering system set up yet, and it was all just really tough at first.”
Despite the harsh impact of COVID-19 on many small businesses, the shops on Chilliwack’s Mill Street and Wellington Street area (where PickEco is located) came together to support one another, giving each other shout-outs on social media or lending a helping hand.
For those looking to live a more “green” life themselves, Derish advises taking it one step at a time. “Going fully zero-waste can sometimes be intimidating,” she says, “So I like to tell people to start in a way that feels natural and comfortable, then take another step and slowly work your way into living sustainably.”