Reduce, REUSE

Wes Koch, owner of The Soap Exchange VictoriaFrom an environmental standpoint, some of the best things we can do as a consumer is  REDUCE our consumption and REUSE items as much as possible.  These are values that we hold near and dear, and we are proud to partner with other local business that do too.  The Soap Exchange Victoria has been in business in Victoria for 22 years.  They have their main storefront on 1393A Hillside Avenue, and quite a number of satellite refill stations in other businesses around the city. 

The Soap Exchange products are 100% biodegradable and are made in Canada.  Many of them are concentrated, so a little bit goes a long way.  The crowning jewel, however, is their refill system: A nominal deposit is charged on their bottles and buckets (or you can bring your own if you head over to their Hillside Avenue location).  They do this so that customers are encouraged to bring their bottles and containers back to be refilled and reused, ultimately reducing the strain on our waste and recycling systems.  

The Good Planet is a proud exchange partner for The Soap Exchange.  We will swap out bottles and buckets for new ones, and send the old ones back to The Soap Exchange so that they may be cleaned and refilled there before being re-sold.  We carry the basic line of products from The Soap Exchange, but do encourage customers to check out their website - we are always happy to special order items if you are unable to make it to their storefront!

We asked Wes Koch, owner of The Soap Exchange Victoria, some questions about what he does:

On average, how long do the bottles/buckets last a customer?

We still have customers re-using packaging (primarily powder buckets) that they received from us in May 1993.  That is an amazing 22 years or reusing.  I would say the average “life span” of our packaging is more in the neighborhood of 6 – 8 years.

What's your estimate on how many bottles/buckets/plastic is saved per year from the Soap Exchange users? 

Based on the number of transactions we carry out per month and on the fact that most customers re-fill 4 – 6 products per visit, my conservative estimate would be that we divert 4000-5000 ½ Litre and 1 Litre bottles from landfill sites and recycling facilities per month.  In addition to this, I would estimate that we divert 200 – 300 4 Litre bottles and 80 – 100 20L buckets per month from the waste stream as well.  Multiply that times 22 years of being in business and it is astounding to think of the amount of space this would take up.

What is your best selling product? Why? 

Our best-selling product is our laundry powder (Envirowash)(close to 25% of our sales).  Next would be our unscented dish soap (Soft Shine) and unscented liquid laundry soap (Terge).  Closely following would be our all-purpose cleaner (Nature Power) and bathroom cleaner (Red Marvel).  Our personal products such as our Sensibility Hair Shampoo, Conditioner and Hand & Body Lotion have also been gaining in popularity over the past few years.

What is the biggest benefit of Soap Exchange products? 

There are many benefits to using Soap Exchange products.  One of the most important benefits is obviously the re-using of packaging and the positive impact this has on our local environment.  Another benefit is that it a consumer suffers from a sensitivity to fragrances and dyes, we offer many dye-free/scent free products (particularly products that make continual contact with the hands and body such as laundry soap, dish soap, hair shampoo, hand and body soap, etc).  In addition, virtually 95% of our products are Canadian made with many being locally sourced so consumers are supporting ethical Canadian business as well.  Another benefit would be economic.  As most of our (non-personal care) products are concentrates, customers are required to use much less product to get the same or better results of the more well-known eco and non-eco brands.  In turn, customers should realize a cost savings in their average monthly cleaning product purchase expense of 20 – 30 %.

Are there any drawbacks? 

The only drawback I would suggest is that customers have to make a special trip to our store or to any of our retail outlets/distributors scattered throughout Victoria and the surrounding area.  Convenience is a big factor for people and it is much easier and more appealing for people to be able to “one stop shop” at their neighborhood grocery or health food store.  To help mitigate the inconvenience of making a special trip to our main store on Hillside Avenue, we encourage our customers to bring in all of their containers at the same time and we in turn simply “top up” the bottles that are not empty.  This results in customers not having to come to the store every time a bottle is empty.  They can refill everything at the same time, avoiding having to wait to make a special trip when a bottle runs out.