Growing up on Toronto Island, Kate Pepler spent a lot of time playing by Lake Ontario. But when she travelled to other bodies of water, she was struck by a realization: the amount of litter in her hometown lake was not normal.
Inspired by a love for the planet, Pepler studied sustainability, environmental science, and marine biology at Dalhousie University. There, she felt much of the message was “overwhelmingly doom and gloom.”
“We spent more time learning all the ways we’re harming the planet, instead of how we could be solving the problems we’re facing today,” she says. So she turned to the zero waste movement. “I started making steps in my own life to reduce my plastic consumption. But it was really hard at the time in Halifax, and there was no one-stop shop for that kind of thing.”
With a desire to find creative solutions to the environmental crisis, Pepler opened the Tare Shop, Halifax’s first zero waste coffee shop. Since its 2018 inception, Pepler says the response has been amicable, with customers keen to learn about reducing plastic and packaging in their own lives.
The Tare Shop’s model is simple; it includes both a package-free bulk foods store and coffee shop. Choosing from more than 200 bulk products like flour, nuts, chocolate, olive oil, and even cleaning supplies, customers pay by weight and bring their own containers or bags. The deduction of the container weight is called a “tare.”
Pepler believes that no matter where you live, the waste generated from packaging and disposables has a big impact.
“Our Earth is in crisis and a big part of that is single-use plastics, which are polluting our waters and making their way into our food system through microplastics and nanoplastics. Plastics have been found in fish, drinking water, and table salt. Doing small things like bringing your own coffee cup or water bottle do make a difference.”
A lot of long-term differences made by individuals come down to building new habits.
“Making changes takes a little bit of time, but I don’t even think about some of the things I do now. I think the big thing with the zero waste movement is to remember that everybody has different values and priorities. It’s important not to judge other people on what they’re doing. You have to do what is feasible for you.”
When she’s not running The Tare Shop’s zero waste operation, Pepler can be found offering workshops on living package-free. She’s also currently developing a Skillshare class and a four-week course on how to live zero waste.
“It’s always been my dream to open up a second location, so I’m starting to think about that,” she says. “I think it’s inspiring knowing what a difference one person can make. [Changes] can seem small and insignificant, but seeing the ripple impact that one person can have is huge and has the potential to create big change. The way that we’re treating the world right now is not sustainable and we all have to do what we can to make the world better for future generations.”
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