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Wash away environmental guilt

Looking to shrink your environmental footprint? Tammy Ward has a few simple suggestions. To start, stop throwing out soap bottles. Instead, refill them at her store, the Good Karma Eco Shop.

Looking to shrink your environmental footprint? Tammy Ward has a few simple suggestions.

To start, stop throwing out soap bottles. Instead, refill them at her store, the Good Karma Eco Shop.

Behind the till stand six, five-gallon water jugs full of hand soap, dish soap, concentrated laundry liquid, fabric softener, bath and tile cleaner and kitchen surface cleaner.

It’s all shipped up from Edmonton by either Nature Clean or Bio-Vert, two big manufacturers of eco-friendly cleaners.

“We just wanted to reduce the amount of plastic coming up,” said Ward. “Recycling is good. But it still takes energy.”

All of the formulas are phosphate-free, safe with septic systems and biodegradable.

The price, per 100 millilitres, ranges from 77 cents for fabric softener to $1.45 for laundry detergent.

That “works out to be pretty much the same” as the price at a big box store, said Ward. “And you get to feel good about helping the environment.”

Ward would like to offer refills for shampoo and conditioner, too. But, so far, it’s been tough to find a distributor.

Ward opened her store as an eclectic gift shop in July. She’s since pared down her stock to focus on eco-friendly items.

Ward has always sold the locally made Lilli Pie line of lotions. But now she also makes them, after buying out Becki Brauen and rebranding the line as Taiga Naturals.

The facial mask is a popular seller. It’s made from a local, green-tinted clay that’s mixed with essential oils.

The body butter is popular, too. It helps dry, cracked skin as winter approaches. It contains shea butter, an ivory-coloured fat extracted from an African nut, and the lotion smells like key-lime pie.

Shea butter also serves as a natural sunblock. Ward uses it on her one-year-old daughter, Autumn.

Ward’s also created a line of baby items, which feature sweet orange and Roman chamomile essential oils. There’s balm for baby rash, and a lotion that’s mixed with finely milled oatmeal to help bind moisture to skin.

And there’s also teething oil. It has the essential oil of cloves, a natural painkiller. “It’s been used for centuries for dental problems,” said Ward.

She’s working on developing a natural toothpaste, but Ward’s still fine-tuning the formula. Right now, it’s too salty.

The store’s “number-one bestseller” is a substitute for Cling Wrap, called Abeego. It’s basically highbrow oilcloth, made from hemp and cotton cloth, infused with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil.

“It works just like Saran Wrap,” said Ward. She has a sample wrapped atop a bowl, but it could just as easily be used to cover up the end of a sliced cucumber, she said.

And it’s reusable. Just wash it with cold, soapy water.

The wraps come in packs of three. Sandwich-sized cloths are also available, with string ties.

There’s also a variety of stainless-steel lunch containers. Some are bento-style, with dividers inside them. Others have screw-on tops, to carry soup without spills.

Ward doesn’t yet have tiffin boxes - cylindrical, stackable steel lunch boxes popularized in India. But she will.

“People have asked for them like crazy,” said Ward.

Cotton-mesh produce bags not only let you forego plastic. Wet them, wring them, then store produce in the fridge, and “they’ll keep your produce longer,” said Ward. They’re made by Credobags of Montreal.

For the bathroom, Ward sells hemp shower curtains, which she says are naturally resistant to fungus and bacteria, not to mention water, so that no plastic liner is needed. “It’s tightly woven enough, nothing will get through,” she said.

Another popular item are bamboo toothbrushes. Besides being biodegradable, they’re also harvested from sustainable bamboo, so “it doesn’t affect the panda bears’ food,” said Ward.

And bars of shampoo soap are on offer “for people willing to forego bottles entirely.”

She even sells stainless steel straws. “Lots and lots of straws end up in the landfill,” said Ward.

“Everyone asks, ‘How do you clean them?’” With tiny pipe-cleaners, which come with them.

But, in an act of apparent heresy, Ward’s store does stock one item that’s made entirely from plastic.

It’s a collapsible water bottle, made by Vapur. “It’s better than buying plastic all the time,” said Ward. “And some people don’t want the bulk of stainless steel. And they’re made in the USA, so it’s better than China.”

Before she became a store owner, Ward hauled fuel and groceries up to the territory as a truck driver. That gave her a close-up view of how much unneeded packaging was being packed up the Alaska Highway.

Her store opens up into the Birdhouse Smoothie and Gift store, which is owned by Ward’s friend, Brook Bouquot. The two stores were separated by an open interior door. Now they’ve knocked down the wall, to make things “more open and friendly,” said Ward.

Her store is at 307 Wood Street, beside Kutters Hairstyling. An open house sale is planned for December 10.

Contact John Thompson at