PUBLIC Chats: Bare Market

We love finding local go-getters who are bringing the profit with purpose motto to life. As part of our Plastic Free July mission we came across the incredible folks at Bare Market in Toronto. They’ve set out on a mission to bring waste free shopping to Toronto and they’re on a roll. We sat down with Bare Market’s founder, Dayna Stein to dig deeper into how she’s bringing this to life.

Give us a rundown on what the Bare Market is.

Bare Market is Toronto’s one-stop shop for package-free goods. We offer body and home care as well as DIY products. In the future, we’ll introduce food in bulk, including both food you’d find at a traditional bulk store as well as specialty and local items. At the heart of what we’re doing is trying to help consumers reduce their use of single-use plastics and other single use disposables. We do this in a judgement-free way, meeting people where they’re at. We know that there are so many barriers; physical, financial, and societal, that we can help to break down and make this lifestyle open to everyone!

How did the Bare Market come to life?

Bare Market’s story really stems from my story. I was living in Vancouver doing my undergraduate degree in Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture. I fell in love with a shop called the Soap Dispensary, that offers bulk soap and DIY ingredients. I loved the idea that we could take a little more ownership of how and what we’re spending, in a way that supports local producers as well as gives us more transparency into what we’re purchasing. While writing my Thesis, I interviewed Brianne Miller, founder of Nada, Vancouver’s first package-free grocery store. Inspired by what the Soap Dispensary and Nada were doing, I moved back to Toronto with the hopes of bringing waste free shopping here. After completing my masters and working as a sustainability consultant, I made the decision last October to quit my job and bring this thing to life.

By then, there were a lot more conversations around package-free goods, and more recently around plastic and its impact on our ocean ecosystems and our health. There wasn’t this much chatter around these topics a few years ago so I took this as a sign that it was leading up to the right time. We originally reached out to Patagonia to provide us with a pop-up space and they were very receptive to the idea. Once they confirmed, we reached out to farmers markets and since then everything has kind of snowballed! We went from having zero products and no space to sell, to having five pop-up shops scheduled and a whole lot of product coming in within the span of six weeks! It’s been so much fun to meet the community. We’re using this time to learn from them and see if this is something Torontonians really do want on a more permanent basis.

What do you think are the biggest barriers preventing both corporations and consumers from moving towards waste free consumption?

I actually do think that there are corporations that are further along the sustainability continuum than most people think. They are realizing that this is an issue and to be on the leading edge of innovation and to keep profits up, they need to actively work on sustainability issues. That being said, there are still huge gaps to fill. This is part of what we’re aiming to do.

There are many consumer-facing barriers. Affordability is a huge one. At Bare Market we’re purposely looking for local and sustainable brands to sell, all of which are reviewed by a third party cosmetic chemist to ensure they’re safe for your body and for the environment. These higher quality products come at an increased price but since we’re purchasing in bulk, we can pass those savings on to our customers to help reduce that barrier. There’s also the physical barrier and lack of convenience. In Toronto there are a few places that offer package-free goods, but there’s yet to be a one-stop shop for all of your daily needs. People need convenience. In terms of behaviour, it’s very difficult to admit as a consumer that you’re doing something wrong or in the wrong way. The way we’d like to approach this barrier is by providing consumers an alternative way to shop without shaming them into feeling like what they’re currently doing is wrong. We want to say, ‘here’s an option and if you’re interested, we’ll provide you with what you need’.

How will you continue to raise awareness on the issues Bare Market is tackling?

Aside from traditional routes of marketing, we’d love to have our retail space also act as a community space. While retail is incredibly risky and expensive, it is so important to us to have this space for communities to come together and have a space to interact in. We’d love to host workshops and events for people who already subscribe to this kind of purchasing behaviour as well as the everyday consumer. We want to find a balance between exciting both of these groups. I think the biggest consumer change comes from thousands of people doing small acts to change their consumption patterns, rather than a few people living with only one jar of waste for two years. While this is incredibly inspiring, it can inhibit the everyday consumer from thinking this lifestyle is possible. We want do do anything we can to raise awareness so that it’s not just a fringe movement in which only a small segment of society participates. If we can make it economically and socially acceptable to the larger portion of society—where behaviour change is needed—then we’ve succeeded.

What’s in store for Bare Market in the near future?

Right now we’re continuing to do our pop-ups—and we’re adding more farmers’ market style pop-ups into the mix. We just confirmed with Patagonia that our partnership is something both parties are very interested in and that we’ll be returning there every other Sunday! In terms of other events, you can keep an eye out on our website (www.baremarket.ca) and social media channels (Instagram, Facebook) for updates.

At PUBLIC, we absolutely love what you’re doing! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?

I just want to say that our products are also super fun and cool! Having lived away from Vancouver for the last five years, without as much access to this type of shopping as I’d like, it’s very exciting to see everyone so into the fact that we have things like bulk makeup and the extreme savings you can get from purchasing bulk products. We’re learning a lot everyday in our markets. By the time we get the space to open a retail location, we will have built a community that’s not afraid to tell us other ways we can help them delve deeper into waste-free shopping and move us even further forward.

Keep in touch with Dayna and the rest of the Bare Market crew on their website.

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