In a world with many wasteful consumer options, Solita Work created ReWorks Upcycle Shop as a way to provide local eco-friendly products for Calgarians.
Growing up in Nelson B.C., Work became aware of the ever-increasing waste and pollution at a young age.
“In Nelson, they had a city dump right on the lake and it used to irritate the crap out of me.”
Part of the problem, Work says, is consumerism. Mass-produced items cause pollution and there are hidden costs that are attached to them.
“When they’re shipping stuff from China or Indonesia or whatever, there’s a huge amount of pollution that goes into the air from those ships, but they don’t have to pay for that, there’s not a carbon tax or anything, but we have to pay the price as consumers.” – Solita Work
Work used to work as a graphic designer but says a lot of the industry she was working for was oil and gas, so she opened her own store called ReWorks Upcycle.
“It just so happens that I decided that I wanted to do something that was hopefully going to make a difference in the long term, so I’ve decided to focus on eco-friendly stuff.”
Helen Corbett, a long-time friend of Work, says that she’s always noticed how creative Work is. You can see her creativity in the little details of the shop, such as her window displays.
“She used to paint window scenes, like Christmas things when she grew up in the Nelson area, that was her first involvement in art. So, now she just makes windows absolutely come alive in the most original way,” said Corbett.
The products that Work has in her store, like the drinking glasses made from recycled beer bottles, are the heart of the creative vibe of the store.
Corbett says that little details behind the products, such as the fine jewelry made by a Manitoban artist, add to the charm.
“You look at these and think, what delicate person made these? No, it’s this giant from Manitoba. So that’s how I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the stories get richer as she’s come to know the makers,” said Corbett.
Since opening the store, Work says that keeping her focus on entirely local and eco-friendly has proven a challenge.
“It was a little hard at first to find products to fill the store, almost too challenging, we haven’t got to that point yet where we recycle everything, so I have expanded it to include local made stuff, I think local and zero-waste is part of the solution.”
One of the popular items in her store are the recycled seatbelt bags. Trevor Kehler, an artist from Revelstoke B.C., makes them by hand.
Kehler has been making the bags for a while and says being an artist in Revelstoke has been interesting.
“They know that this is what I do and I’ve been doing it a long time so it’s interesting, that’s for sure. I’m that guy right, like you know the guy on the corner that sells French fries, that’s the fry guy right.”
Kehler has been selling the seatbelt bags in Work’s shop since it opened. They share the same ideals when it comes to living a sustainable lifestyle and has made that their career.
“To buy local, to sell to locals, brick and mortar stores, you know, it’s the base of the whole thing,” said Kehler.
Work says that supporting people like Kehler and being able to make products like his available to the public is part of the reason the store is so important to her.
“When you have your own store, you can see how excited customers are … they feel that they’re purchasing something that’s making a difference, or that they are supporting a local artist, so those are the kinds of things that keep you going,” said Work.
Work has also added a coffee bar, so you can sip local grounds while browsing.
Additionally, the shop now offers bikes rentals and bike tours and Work hosts a number of free group rides, which fits in nicely with the eco-friendly theme.
“I find riding bikes would be a really great solution to climate change, especially for our inner-cities, I think we could reduce traffic so much if we just got more people riding bikes.”
Work says she wants the shop to continue being eco-friendly and to promote others to buy local.
“My vision is a busy little shop that is also like a little community hub for a more sustainable way of living.”
Editor: Matt Hull | firstname.lastname@example.org