When we can’t get it second hand

Welcome to the 7th and last episode of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! We’re finishing up construction at Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how. Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reflecting on this process of Nada and sharing lessons learned. As a reminder, our design ethic took us through the following questions:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. Have we really exhausted our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, if we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

We’ve already shared stories of the first five questions (click the text above to check out our blogs!), and today we’re looking at the final two questions together, as they form part of the same story.

The thing about appliances

The last area where we tried really hard to buy second-hand was with our appliances (fridges, freezers, dishwashers, etc.). Buying these items second-hand made a lot of sense to us. Not only were appliances one of the most expensive items in our construction budget, they can also come with a high environmental impact due to the resources embedded in the materials. But sourcing these items second-hand was also challenging for a number of reasons.

  • Because we’re selling food, all of our appliances had to be suitable for storing and displaying food in a commercial setting. This means that our regular second-hand sources of Craigslist, Bunz, and Kijiji probably weren’t going to cut it.
  • Because these items are very big, the entire design of our store is dependent on the size of equipment pieces – anything with even slight changes in dimensions could require major changes to the construction, plumbing, and electrical systems in our store.

It was a challenging ask but we ploughed ahead – and had a couple wins, lots of stories to tell, and a change in perspective along the way.

The success story

Our biggest success came with our freezers, which we got second-hand from our friends at Blue Sky Ranch (formerly Urban Digs) who were moving out to Merritt and selling off some of their existing equipment. As much effort as we spent sourcing second-hand later on, this first win came  directly to us through the SVI community – a connecting forum for mission-based entrepreneurs, which both Alison and Brianne are a part of.  We received an email through the listserv that Blue Sky were trying to sell of their freezers, and though we were early on in the process, we jumped at the opportunity. It was a good sign that second-hand was going to pan out.

The long search

Hot on the heels of finding a great piece of equipment from the Vancouver community, we began our search for second-hand appliances in earnest. Starting with local resellers in Vancouver, we reached out to as many people as we could to find the right make and model for our store. It was here that we really began to understand the constraints of second-hand equipment sourcing – none of the retailers we reached out to had any models similar to what we were looking for, with alternatives that were either much too old and without much life left in them, or a few inches over or under what our design process allowed for. The timing was tricky – even though we started this process months ago, by the time we found examples, the design plans were set in stone and it was too late to change paths from what was originally designed for.

We broadened our search to online resellers around North America, and continued to only find items that were older, less efficient, and less reliable. (A fun tidbit we found out that allowed us to avoid several scams: all refrigerators have a serial number that allows you to track when it originally shipped out from the manufacturer. Although several resellers told us that the equipment was like-new, we could look up the items to find that the items were actually from the early 1990s!)

The change in perspective

At the same time, we were hearing from a lot of experts in the retail field that we should be very careful about buying these items second-hand, as we rely so much on them as a food-oriented business. Reliability had to be the number one consideration.

In addition, from a waste & sustainability perspective, although second-hand had a lot of initial appeal, we were also aware that if we invest in really good equipment from the beginning it will have a longer life overall.

After feeling that we had given second-hand a really good effort, we made the call that in this case it would not be right for our business. Second-hand is a great option, but we understood that it we couldn’t be dogmatic. If you can’t find second-hand that suits your needs, and that has enough of a life in it to actually serve your business, in our heads we made the call for quality, reliability, and durability – which in the end we hope will pay some sustainability dividends as well!

Though it wasn’t what we were originally looking for, we were happy with this decision in the end. We opted for something that is made relatively close by, and that we know is a really good product that will serve us well and last a long time.

 

Reclaiming Community Connections

Welcome to Episode 6 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reflecting on the construction process of Nada and sharing lessons learned about how to build and renovate as low-impact as we know how. We’re almost done our little blog series, and hope that you’ve learned something along the way – we’d love to see your comments of what has resonated or what other questions you might have!

Our blog series has taken us through the entire construction process – from the design stage, into deconstruction and construction, and through to the outfitting stage. Our design ethic through all these steps was to incorporate “Reuse” whenever possible – and we’ve already talked about some of our wins that came from crowdsourcing from our community and purchasing second-hand.  Today we’re looking at “Reuse” from a slightly different lens – how can we incorporate “Reuse” even when we’re building custom pieces from scratch?

Reclaim. Reclaim. Reclaim.

Despite all the equipment and fixtures we were able to find second-hand, there’s still a lot of “new” fixtures being built for Nada. I put “new” in quotations because although these fixtures are custom-built, the materials within them aren’t new at all! All of our millwork (cabinetry, shelving, snack bar, wall installations) are made from reclaimed wood – and its coming from some pretty spectacular partners.

Introducing our millworkers – Woodshop Coop. Woodshop Coop is a custom furniture and millwork company born from the realization that so much good wood is discarded as waste every year. As a worker-owned coop, their impact is three fold: providing meaningful employment to their workers (who are all paid a living wage), supporting local community development initiatives (such as their fabulous partnership with Hives for Humanity), and creating products that are ethically and sustainably sourced. They’re also the friendliest bunch around!

Photos courtesy of Woodshop Coop walking through the process of using reclaimed wood. To see some of the finished products, check out their webpage, here!

Even cooler, the wood we’re working with comes from a collaboration with our honey supplier, Hives for Humanity!! Hives for Humanity is an incredible social enterprise that encourages community connections through apiculture (beekeeping). How does that fit with reclaimed wood? They’ve also started a joint project with Woodshop Coop – collecting bed frames and boxsprings, breaking them down, and creating custom furniture from the reclaimed wood. All of our fixtures, POS station, tare station, snack bar, and all of our shelving are being made from wood from this joint project! Talk about community connection, right?

Using reclaimed materials requires a little bit more creativity than the status quo, but we hope that this example shows that it’s that same creativity that can lead to solutions that are not only more environmentally friendly, but that also strengthen community relationships and shared innovation. And that’s a win in our books!

Sourcing & the Second-Hand Economy

Welcome to Episode 5 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how.

We’re about half way through our list of questions, and by now you may have started to really understand our design ethic. We started with the planning process – being selective in our design and seeking opportunities to reduce our scope so that we have less of a demand for new materials. Then we looked within – what do we already have that we can make new use of in our store construction? For items we did not have, we turned first to the sharing economy, to see if anyone in our community was giving away items that we needed.

Today, we’re looking at second-hand purchases, and how we found several of our major items in store. Then next week we’ll conclude our blog series with some considerations of what we can do when we can’t find options second-hand (here and here).

Can we purchase it second-hand?

It’s easy to think that our purchasing options are limited to what is new. We may have an exact idea of what we’re looking for. We may want everything to match. We may have countless ideas of why second-hand might not work. However, when we avoid buying things new, we also avoid all of the production resources and packaging that comes with new items – which is an excellent reason to at least try it out.

And the good news is that the second-hand economy is thriving! In this Vancity report (from 2016), it’s estimated that 97% of British Columbians are active participants in the second-hand economy in some shape or form – from buying and selling, to donating to thrift shops, charities, and members of their communities. 

While a major driver of second-hand purchasing is affordability, Vancity VP William Azaroff hits on another major benefit of these statistics:

“The greenest product you can buy is one that already exists. The second-hand economy isn’t just about saving money, but shifting our purchases to quality over quantity. This has a ripple effect on every aspect of our economy, from manufacturing to the repair industry and recycling of goods.”

More affordable + more sustainable? You know we’re a fan!

A trip to Sears…

With all that said, our next #zerowastewin came from a pretty unlikely place. Earlier this year, Sears announced it was shutting down all of its Canadian stores, an event seemingly unrelated to the launch of Nada. That’s when our CEO & Founder Brianne Miller got a phone call from her dad, saying that Sears was selling off all of its fixtures, cheap and quick.

What followed was two weeks running back and forth to every Sears location in the Lower Mainland to see what they had… and frantically calling our design team to see if we could make the department store’s furnishings work with our design! The result? Perfect condition track lighting, shelving for our back-of-house storage, almost all of our FOH fixtures (shelving, tare station table, produce table), wet floor signs, and even a Roomba!

Here’s a few snaps of us measuring fixtures for store fit, hauling them back to the store, and considering how they might be brought back into our design.

Shout-out to our team of volunteers to came out to multiple Sears locations to help us haul items back to the store!

We were able to find items that had almost the exact same dimensions of what we were looking for (and in other cases, our incredible design team worked to incorporate the second-hand finds as best as we could). However, in most cases they didn’t quite go with our design…

It’s a painting party! We also asked our community if anyone had drop sheets to protect the floor during painting – check out these creative solutions!

It’s amazing what a coat of fresh paint can do to turn second-hand items into perfectly design-aligned finds! Thanks to our volunteers once again, who came in the store to spruce these fixtures up!!!

We swear, if we weren’t writing a blog about these fixtures, you’d never even guess that they weren’t brand-new custom pieces!

Is someone giving it away? A story of community crowdsourcing

Welcome to Episode 4 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how. Last week, we shared our overall construction decision process, which basically consisted of seven questions:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. OK, are we sure we’ve exhausted all of our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, fine, fine. If we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

Today, we’re on question three – and how we crowdsourced from our community rather than buying new!

Is someone giving it away?

We wouldn’t be able to write this post if not for the incredible community who has contributed towards this store. From the beginning, we wanted to involve you guys in the build-out as much as we could, in recognition that it truly took a community to create this store. We were so grateful to have a team of dedicated volunteers on hand to help us tear down the walls, sort materials, paint fixtures, and more – basically everything that needed to happen to help keep these #zerowaste hacks affordable, and thus possible for us.

But on the subject of giving stuff away, you guys truly came through. A couple weeks ago we asked our community to help us source a whole lotta random bits and bobs for the store – everything from dishcloths to barstools, plant holders to a computer! As always, you guys totally came through, and we had so many offers of donations to the store. We’ll be highlighting all of the stories of crowdsourced items in-store as we open, so that you can see just how much the community built this store!

It may not be glamorous, but here are some of our early wins: a cork board and storage racks from our neighbours at La Boussole, and even a commercial-grade Blentec taking a ride in the rain!

This not only helped us tremendously – helping us not buy new, helping us save some cash, helping us connect more with our community – but so many of you shared that these were items that were just sitting around for you, collecting dust. The expression “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” might be cliché, but it reminds us of all the stuff that is out there, if only we could find better ways to connect! So let’s give a huge high-five to the #sharingeconomy and to everyone in our community who shared with us!

Do we already have it? Reusing construction materials!

Welcome to Episode 3 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how. Last week, we shared our overall construction decision process, which basically consisted of seven questions:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. OK, are we sure we’ve exhausted all of our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, fine, fine. If we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

Today, we’re on question two – imagining ways we can use what we already have!

Do we already have it?

We’re big fans of making use of what we already have before we consider buying anything new. It’s a philosophy that has served us well in so many situations – from the clothes we wear (Do I need a new dress for an upcoming event, or can I repurpose one that I already own? ) to the food we eat (Is there anything currently in my fridge that can inspire my next meal? ). But would it be compatible with the construction process?

A huge win for us came from the materials salvaged from the deconstruction process. The first step in our build out was deconstruction – tearing down walls that had previously been in the space, which consist of steel studs, insulation, and drywall. The next step in the build out was construction – putting up new walls, which consist of steel studs, insulation, and drywall. Can you see where I’m going with this? Even though the old walls were entirely unsuited to our new plans, they contained a lot of resources which could be used as building blocks for our new construction.

 

All of this material was recovered from the deconstruction process.

It seems simple, but unfortunately reusing (and recycling) old materials isn’t always part of the construction status quo. So once again, we are so grateful to have found likeminded partners who taught us the what’s what of the construction industry and helped make best use of all of that material!

Our contracting team: Naturally Crafted

One of the superheroes in this story is our contracting team from Naturally Crafted – a sustainable contracting company focused on energy efficient and healthy buildings. General Contractor Adam Corneil and Project Manager Shaun St-Amour are both experts in sustainable building methods. They ensure that materials are separated in the deconstruction process so that they can be reused, and are conscious to use reclaimed materials in their build-outs.

Our contracting team – Adam Corneil & Shaun St-Amour!

 

We love this quote from Adam, who was recently featured in a CTV article about his work with UnBuilders – the sister company of Naturally Crafted: At the end of the day there’s always a place for these materials, and it’s not the transfer station.

Going back to Nada, here’s a little highlight reel of what happened to those materials. The insulation and steel studs were all separated and set aside so that they could be used again during construction!

Check out those studs! From the old walls … to the new!

The drywall was broken down and separated by colour (whites and others – just like our laundry!) which makes them easier to recycle. Then we partnered with the team at who crated all of the drywall out to the recycling station, rather than landfill!

And the drywall… before… separating it and carting it off… and finally off to the recycling station!

We should note that one of the biggest barriers to separating and reusing materials in the deconstruction process is cost – separating these materials takes more time than simply demolishing them, which translates to higher labour costs for construction companies.

As the profile on Adam and Unbuilders explains, for residential builds, there are major tax credits in place that can often make the overall cost of this process more affordable in the long-run than demolition. In our case, we were able to mitigate some of the labour costs by separating materials ourselves. We had a number of demolition parties in February where we got together with a team of amazing volunteers who were all passionate about keeping these materials out of landfill.

It may not yet be status quo, but reusing materials from the construction process makes a whole lot of sense, and is becoming more accessible, and more affordable from the efforts of values-driven companies such as Naturally Crafted.

Do we need it? Thoughtful design in Nada’s construction

Welcome to Episode 2 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how. Yesterday, we shared our overall construction decision process, which basically consisted of seven questions:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. OK, are we sure we’ve exhausted all of our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, fine, fine. If we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

Today, we’re expanding on how we tackled that first question, with a look at some of our partners in design!

Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?

The first step to out build-out was thoughtful design. As we’ve said before, this was our first time going through a store build-out, and though we had a pretty fabulous challenge, we didn’t really have much idea where to start. Asking the question “Do we need it?” can be challenging without a clear frame of reference.

With limited expertise, it was easy for us to look at these decisions and think that every idea would be necessary – from an on-site herb and vegetable garden to a children’s play area. (We admit, both of these would have been fantastic, but not strictly necessary for our opening!) On the other hand, there were a lot of technical items that might not have seemed necessary to us – but turned out to be essential for our intent to build the store with low(er) impact.

So, how did we go from “Do we think we might need it?” to “Are we sure we need it?” That’s where our partners in design came in! We partnered with values-aligned designers who we could trust to tell us what was a good idea vs. what might be a bit far-fetched. Given that they’re all experts in their field, they were able to help us determine what we actually needed, and provide us with the options that fit our values, brand, and budget.

Introducing – the Architects!

Before we even found 675 East Broadway, we were connected to our amazing architecture team at ZAS Architects + Interiors – Architectural Director Matt Hessey, Interiors Associate Leigh Collyer and their team members Sara Koedi and Thais Schmitt. ZAS is a full-service architecture firm who have recently begun to work with social purpose real estate projects – such as recently completed BC ArtsScape in Vancouver’s Chinatown, and EMBERS Eastside Works, also slated to open this month.

While a lot of design and architecture tends to focus on the aesthetics of a project, ZAS’ design focuses on whole project delivery: they helped us find the right site, navigate the lease process, connect with values-aligned contractors, and design in a way that could help and multiply our impact.

Left to right: Our building plans; Leigh & Thais poking through our steel studs; Halloween at ZAS; Leigh & Thais in a meeting with our GC Adam and PM Shaun (Naturally Crafted)!

Matt & Leigh were essential in ensuring that the build was as green as it can be, helping us to navigate the requirements of both LEED and ASHRAE standards, but more than that, they were incredible flexible in adjusting the plans real-time to accommodate fixtures and equipment that we found second-hand. We can’t tell you the number of times we called them up saying “We just found a great fixture on Craigslist/Kijiji/out in the world. Can it work with our plans?”. They would immediately jump on the phone with their mechanical & electrical engineer team (from MCW) and with us on one phone and MCW on the other, they would do their best to make it work. It’s been a real collaborative effort with a lot of moving parts, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their continual desire to make it work.

On the topic of “Do we need it?” – Matt & Leigh were very adept at understanding that we were not trying to create less environmental impact, but we were also working within a budget. They looked for ways throughout the process to reduce the scope in ways that were aligned with our mission. For example, when they saw our site already had a washroom and janitor’s closet in a shared corridor, they found a way to make that work, rather than building one new specifically for our unit. We reduced our construction impact (and our budget!) by not building as much and sharing services instead.

Introducing – the Design Team!

Our design team is also a story of collaboration and connection – as it all started with the brains behind our rebrand (hey, remember when we were called Zero Waste Market?): our advisor Jane Cox and her design team at Cause+Affect. (Cause+Affect was also the brand consultancy for VIFF, Fairer, and modo, among others!) Jane and her team helped us develop a brand that truly reflects Nada and its values, so we knew we wanted here team on board. Jane connected us with two of her former colleagues who translated our brand and values into a fantastic store build-out!

Our graphic designer, Zia Somjee, was part of our design team at Cause+Affect (he’s now started his own graphic design agency – ZAK!). Having helped develop the Nada brand from the beginning, Zia just gets us. He was responsible for the coverings you currently see on our windows, has designed much of the signage throughout the store, and has developed some sweet graphics that you’ll see popping up later this month!

Left to right: Becki with a parking lot full of second-hand fixtures; close-up of graphics; inspiration board for using reclaimed materials; window coverings by Zia.

Also formerly at Cause+Affect, Becki Chan came on as our spatial designer. Becki is a spatial designer and jewelry designer as well as the organizer for PechaKucha Vancouver! We love working with Becki because she is super resourceful, good at working within our budget, and amazing at working with reclaimed materials. Each time we found a new(-to-us) piece, we would not only run it by Matt & Leigh to see if it fit the space, but also ran it by Becki to see how it could fit our brand. She has an incredible eye for seeing the potential in materials, and more often than not found ways to transform the pieces into an effortless extension of our design. She also helped us source sustainable options for in-store signage and printing services, and designed our feature wall, which uses reclaimed materials to highlight our community partners!

A sneak peek at future blogs

We have plans to tell you all about some of our other partners as we share stories from the build-out, but for a sneak peek, here’s the who’s who of Nada’s construction:

General Contractor: Adam Corneil from Naturally Crafted (also with Unbuilders)
Project Manager: Shaun St-Amour from Naturally Crafted (also with Footprint Sustainable Homes)
Electrical: Wicks Electric
Plumbing: Sabtech Plumbing & Drainage
Millwork: Woodshop Co-op

The big lesson to take away from this episode is that when we’re stumped with a problem, we’re certainly not alone! We’re incredibly fortunate to have a host of values-aligned designers and contractors (and suppliers and community partners and customers) to learn from, and we can’t wait to share more about what we learned!!

Building a Low-Impact Grocery Store: A Blog Series

We’re ALMOST done the construction and build-out of Nada (!!) and are taking some time to reflect on the journey. This construction process has been incredibly educational for us all, as we have strived to build the store with as little impact as we know how. We learned a lot and that’s why we’re creating a little blog series sharing some of our lessons from the buildout – and who we partnered with – in hopes that it will inspire some of you out there who may be starting a project, or just want to know what cool alternatives exist for low-impact building! Stay tuned as we release more episodes over the next two weeks!

Our Challenge

Many of you have seen the “before” pic during our crowdfunding launch party or at one of our pre-construction pop-ups, but did you know that that space was only half the story? Our new space was actually two former units that we’re turning into one grocery store (plus an in-house cafe). Here’s what we were working with, with a few snaps of the space before and during demolition.

To create the new space, we had to tear down the dividing wall, put up new walls around what will be our storage area, and update the plumbing and electrical work for the new use. We then needed to build display units throughout and outfit the store with equipment and new(-to-us) fixtures.

Although we’ve never done a build-out before, we went into this process with a lot of concern about the waste that would be created in the construction process. In most cases, homes and businesses  that are being constructed are made of perfectly good materials – but these are demolished together and sent to landfill rather than being sorted and reused! Especially in the context of Vancouver, where homes are being built (and demolished) at insane rates, this worries us, and we wanted to do our best in making sure our own deconstruction didn’t add more to the problem (linked article features our very own General Contractor, Adam Corneil!).

Our Approach: Reuse, reuse, reuse

In every decision – from who to partner with to what sort of equipment we should purchase for our store – we are firm believers that the most sustainable option is usually the one that comes from following the 5 R’s (that’s Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot!). While we definitely thought about all of them at some point in the process, our journey let us to focus on the third R: Reuse.

So our construction decision process usually went something like this:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. OK, are we sure we’ve exhausted all of our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, fine, fine. If we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

These questions were the guiding points for our construction decision process, and they’re also the guiding points for this blog! Each day, we’ll share a story answering one of these questions and, as you’ll see, in most cases we were able to find the right solution far before we had to contemplate question 7!

You ready? Stay tuned for our next post tomorrow!!
[Post has been edited to include links to all of the blog posts – click on the questions to see!]

 

 

Nada joins SheEO – a Celebration of Radical Generosity

Yesterday we had the most incredible experience: surrounded by 500 smart, inspiring, radically generous women, we were announced as a 2017 SheEO Venture, alongside ANANDA Devices, Higher Ed Points, Discourse Media, AVA Technologies, Project SucSeed, and Made with Local.

For those of you who don’t know, SheEO is a radically feminist business model, born right here in Canada, offering a new model to fund, support, and celebrate women-led ventures through Acts of Radical Generosity. Of all the amazing recognitions we’ve received over the past two years, this has truly been one of the most inspiring experiences … and we’re only a few days in! We are so honoured to be a part of this group, who we have every confidence will change the world.

Margaret Magdesian (ANANDA Devices), Suzanne Tyson (Higher Ed Points), Brianne Miller (Nada), Erin Millar (Discourse Media), MJ Ryan (SheEO), Valerie Song (AVA Technologies), Emily Bland (Project SucSeed), and Sheena Russel (Made with Local).

So … who are these ventures?

Discourse Media asks us to reconsider what media would look like if it was built for people and not only for advertisers. And they’re currently offering the opportunity for all Canadians to become owners in the next generation of journalism!

AVA Technologies unlocks the green thumb in anyone designed to connect Canadians with their food, and replace screen time with green time!

ANANDA Devices brings drug testing to the 21st century. By applying nano- and micro-technology platforms to biomedical research and diagnostics, they are making drug discovery faster and more cost-effective.

Made with Local creates delicious, healthy, snacking options using local ingredients and employing production partners facing barriers to traditional employment. We’re so excited for them to bring their model to Ontario with their upcoming Whole Foods launch,  and then to BC!

Higher Ed Points enables anyone to convert loyalty points into funds for tuition and student loan repayments. It bridges the gap between academic scholarships and needs-based financial aid to democratize access to higher education for all students.

Project SucSeed is addressing food security in Newfoundland & Labrador and across Northern Canada with hydroponic units that help communities grow their own high-quality food. At the same time, it employs at-risk youth to improve the standard of living of the communities it serves.

We are also joining an incredible alumni group of 2015 and 2016 SheEO Ventures: Heartbeat Ai, Satya Organic Eczema Relief, SheNative, SleepBelt, The Alinker, Abeego, Lunapads, Magnusmode, Skipper Otto’s and Twenty One Toys.

We believe so much in each and every one of these ventures. Do yourself a favour and check them out!

The 2017 ventures are joined by the 2015 and 2016 cohorts, alongside SheEO founder Vicki Saunders and Federal Minister of Finance Bill Morneau.

Back up, what is SheEO?

“This isn’t about training women to succeed in a male-dominated system, this is about completely flipping the table and building our own culture that can support these businesses”  – Erin Millar, Discourse Media.

SheEO is radically transforming how we finance, support, and celebrate women-led ventures that are creating a better world. While women-led companies are starting-up, growing, hiring, selling, and thriving like never before, only 4% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs. This leads to missed opportunities not only for women-led ventures, but for the economy as a whole.

SheEO offers a new model, centered on ‘Acts of Radical Generosity.’ Each year, 500 women (‘Activators’) each contribute $1,100 to this model, creating a pool of $500,000. This pool of capital is loaned out to a group of Ventures over a five-year term. As the loans are repaid, they are loaned out again to create a perpetual fund. With two years having already paid back $200,000 of their loans, the pool this year was $700,000 – funding seven new Ventures. You can learn more about their incredible model, right here.

SheEO has a goal to reach 1 million Activators, who would create a $1 Billion perpetual fund.

Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO speaks to a room full of radically generous women! Photo: SheEO via Twitter.

And what’s all this talk about Radical Generosity?

One of our biggest learning points in the past few days, however, was that SheEO does not just give a pool of capital. It is fundamentally built on Acts of Radical Generosity. What does this mean? SheEO is flipping the nature of business relationships from competition and scarcity and fear to collaboration and abundance and generosity. We have been given the freedom to be radically open about our businesses, our needs, and the problems that we face. And each time we opened up, we were gifted with support, expertise, and encouragement.

Even more powerful, this relationship was not only unidirectional between Activators and Ventures, but supported all in the room. Throughout the SheEO Summit, we saw Activators supporting Ventures, Ventures supporting Activators, Ventures supporting Ventures, and Activators supporting Activators. In the past three days, we have solved problems that have been on our minds for months, gained clarity and insight on our strategic direction, and have made connections that we know we will hold for years. This is what it looks like to practice Radical Generosity.

Activators shared their vision, support, and expertise with Brianne Miller during the ‘Deep Dive with your Ventures’ session. Photo: SheEO via Twitter.

This has been one of the most powerful experiences we have had in a long time. If this resonates with any of you, please reach out and we would love to connect you with how to join this Radically Generous community.

Reflections from 2017

It’s the end of December and we’re all busy wrapping up the year before taking a much needed break next week. But before we become consumed by the busy-ness, we’re taking a few moments to appreciate all that has happened with Nada in 2017. We’ve had so many milestones this year – from rebranding to Nada, to securing our lease, to running our crowdfunding campaign to help open our doors early next year. We’re offering some reflections on growthimpactrelationshipspatience, and community.

We love the reflective moments that come at the end of the year, and encourage all of you to also take some time to reflect on your own 2017 … before we all charge forward together to take on the new year!

Growth

Even from a strictly “business” point of view, this year was a success, with growth in revenue, pop-ups, products, staff, customers, and community partnerships. We’ve also had a significant shift in focus over the past year, from idea validation to permanence & growth. This shift came to a crux in June, when we rebranded from Zero Waste Market to Nada.

Zero Waste Market was an important stage in our business, as we tested out the likes of a package-free grocery store. This simple idea resonated with so many people – we had come across a gap in the grocery store landscape that we had only hoped existed, and it was time to focus on growth.

The transition to Nada came from the realization that “Zero Waste Market” had become so much more than just a market. “Nada” gave us the opportunity to focus on a fresh new image that represents the creativity and innovation behind our business.

With this brand transition, we also gathered up the values we had been developing since 2015, and consolidated them into our Mission, Vision, and Company Values. These give us inspiration every day into how to be the change we want to see in this world.

Our mission is to cultivate a better world by inspiring people to change the way they shop for groceries. We’re standing up for a just food system and an unpackaged future.

As we consolidated, we also grew. Here’s a few ways we grew in 2017:

  • We hired two more staff positions, welcoming Michelle Cho as our Information Systems & Operations Engineer and Brianna Brown as our Marketing Assistant & Impact Manager. This grew our little team to FIVE!
  • We hosted 24 pop-ups! In addition to monthly pop-ups at Patagonia, we formed a new partnership with the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, and also popped up at events around the city … just this past weekend we hosted our first pop-up in our Fraser & Broadway space!
  • At those new pop-up shops, we introduced many new products, with lots of amazing, local, community-focused and environmentally-conscious suppliers now on board (and so many more lined up for our permanent store!)
  • We’ve begun to get some great recognition for our small but growing business. We were nominated for three Small Business BC Awards and have made it to the top ten finalists for Innovation!
  • We were also selected as a Top 25 Venture for SheEO, an amazing network of women funders supporting women entrepreneurs. Cross your fingers for us to make it to the top 5 in the new year!!
  • As individuals, Brianne was nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award and Alison for a BC Business Top 30 Under 30 Award.
Proud to show off our new colours at the Mount Pleasant Mural Fest, meeting lots of new people while celebrating art and culture in this city!

Impact

As we have grown, we have also increased our impact. We believe that our business is only one part of the solution to critical social & environmental problems around plastic pollution, food waste, and food security in Vancouver and beyond. We are proud to partner with other businesses and community partners to address these issues together.

Since our start in 2015 we have been donating 1% of our sales to grassroots non-profits tackling key social and environmental issues. This year we strengthened that commitment through membership with 1% for the Planet! We are excited to join a community of business partners who believe in the imperative of giving back to our communities. In 2017 we partnered with the Georgia Strait Alliance, the Binners’ Project, Food Stash Foundation, and Fresh Roots.

Some of our friends who came along our clean up of Mount Pleasant Park on a very rainy October Saturday.

Another way that we give back is by hosting community events that foster information-sharing and relationship-building among some incredible folks in Vancouver. Events we hosted this year included a film screening of A Plastic Ocean (see our blog post, here!), a Zero Waste Hike & Snack Workshop, Earth Day events at Earnest Ice Cream, MEC, and Nature’s Path, and a community picnic co-hosted with Rob Greenfield. Through these events we engaged 400+ people, and are excited to host many more events in the new year!

Relationships

We’ve also had the incredible opportunity to partner with like-minded businesses, which we believe strengthens the fabric of social entrepreneurship in Vancouver. In January, we were delighted to join the 2017 cohort of UBC’s CCS iHub business accelerator program. As alumni of Spring Activator and SFU Radius, we have tapped into a myriad of start-up resources which have been so critical for our ongoing success. In addition to providing mentorship and resources around funding, business development, and growth, we’ve been able to foster some amazing relationships with other social entrepreneurs in Vancouver.

Biggest shout out to our fellow iHub cohort members – ChopValue, GRAIN, Quupe, and MeatMe!

We’ve also deepened relationships throughout our supply chain. We believe that a key contributor to our success has been great relationships with our suppliers. These relationships not only mean that we have confidence in where our products are coming from, but they have also allowed us to experiment with innovative solutions to further reduce packaging at the source.

Patience.

Perhaps the most notable milestone of this year was securing our permanent storefront at 675 East Broadway!! We know that for package-free shopping to be a successful alternative to the status quo, it needs to be convenient. It needs to be available any day of the week. It needs to have a full range of product offerings. And it needs to be easier for our customers to bring their own containers, have them weighed, and not have it take all day!

As we end the year, we are well on our way to making this dream come true, with a truly amazing location, a team of talented individuals who surpass our expectations every day, and some tricks up our sleeves to make this store the very best it can be.

At our first pop-up in our new space, we asked our community what YOU want to see from Nada! These ideas will feed in to our strategy to make this store the very best it can be.

But it hasn’t been an easy journey … this year has also been a huge lesson in patience, not only for our customers, but also for us. Time and time again over the past two years we have proven the demand for a package-free grocery store in Vancouver, but that does not mean it has been an easy road to secure a permanent store. In February, we first announced that we were close to securing our permanent storefront, and attracted 20,000 signatures in support (you guys rock!). Yet it still took until July for the lease to be secured, and we are still waiting on the building permit approvals before we can begin construction.

During this time, we have been motivated by the amazing talents of our design team, the fantastic support of our business and community partners, and of course by you – our ever-inspiring community. We were so excited to welcome 300+ people in our space for our crowdfunding launch party in November, and despite the theme of patience, we CANNOT WAIT to welcome you all in once the store is complete!

Community

You might have noticed a common theme throughout all this, and that is community. Every pop-up, every event, every campaign, every Facebook post or Instagram story or Tweet … we are so delighted to have you all beside us as we strive to create not just OUR but YOUR dream package-free grocery store.

You guys constantly blow away our expectations, like when we launched our petition in February and received 20,000 signatures in support of our model, or more recently when we launched our crowdfunding campaign and received $55,555 from 499 backers! Your dedication and support are a guiding light that YES this is exactly what Vancouver (and the world) needs!

At our November crowdfunding launch, we crammed over 300 friends into our new space for the first time! What an amazing feeling to have so many wonderful beings in one room!

We’ve also been delighted to see this movement begin to move from the niche to the mainstream. Every pop-up we see new faces who are trying out package-free shopping for the first time, who are beginning to ask questions about how their food system works, and who are beginning to consider what actions they can take to live a life more aligned with their values.

You guys keep us going, you really do. We’ll be looking to make this next year even greater, pushing forward towards an unpackaged future. We challenge all of you too, to expand your zero waste horizons and commit to a new zero waste goal for 2018.

Thanks for everything this year, and here’s to a KILLER 2018!!

10 Reasons we LOVE local systems, on #BCBuyLocal Week, and throughout the year!

In 2007, Vancouver-based writers Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon published their book The 100-Mile Diet, which tracked their experience with choosing to only consume foods within 100 miles for an entire year. This book catalyzed a Canadian and international discussion on the benefits and challenges of eating locally. Parallel to that conversation, the last decade has been highlighted by a wealth of movements that promote bioregional consumption in its various forms; drawing inspiration from the ecologically-defined term ‘watershed’, we now have conversations about ‘foodsheds’ and even ‘fibresheds’ – all attempts to live abundantly within the boundaries of our regional ecological systems.

Ecologically speaking, there are lot of great reasons to protect and promote these bioregional systems, and you can expect a blog post on some of those reasons in the future. But there are also a lot of reasons this is a great economic choice as well! This week is #BCBuyLocal Week, “an annual celebration of the unique contributions that B.C. businesses make to our economy.” Buying from local suppliers is tremendously important for Nada, and to supplement some of the fantastic reasons for buying local highlighted in the campaign, here are some of the reasons we love local: For our economies. For our communities. For our planet.

For Our Economies:

Nada’s zero waste picnic, from September. We shared stories from the wealth of local changemakers tackling food waste and plastic pollution within Vancouver! Happy to collaborate and amplify our shared impact!

For Our Communities:

  • International supply chains are an extremely messy thing – it’s hard to know where exactly your products come from and what human rights and/or environmental issues might be involved. By buying local, and buying direct, we know many of our suppliers personally and have visited their production facilities and farms. This gives us confidence that our products are supporting both people and planet.
  • These personal relationships also allow us to collaborate more, meaning that we can amplify our shared impact in our communities and beyond. Personally, we have become good friends with many of our suppliers. Professionally, we can offer ideas, support, and mutual promotion.
  • When we and other local businesses give back, our donations and volunteer hours contribute to local causes. From our 1% for the Planet donations, to collaborative initiatives with our upstairs neighbours the Vancouver Native Housing Society, we’re seeking to build a more just food system in our own community.
Nada’s Brianne Miller with Lovena Harvey of the Gathering Place (Cortes Island) and Shelley Bolton of East Van Roasters (Vancouver). By partnering with these amazing organizations, we not only increase transparency and traceability within our supply chain, but are among friends while we do so!

For Our Planet:

  • In general, there is both less waste and less emissions associated with buying local. When the products we purchase travel fewer km to get where we are, they emit less GHGs (when they’re personally delivered by bike, they emit even less! See next photo!).
  • They not only emit less GHGs, they’re also less likely to be damaged or spoiled along the way, meaning less food waste. And because they’re less likely to be damaged, they also don’t need as much protection, meaning less packaging waste.
  • More than that, our direct, personal relationships allow us to work collaboratively on more environmentally-friendly policies, like implementing a reusable container system with our suppliers so we can bring products to YOU package-free.
  • When we support local agricultural systems, we’re also supporting better land policies, better soil health, and more diverse, resilient farming practices, right here in the Lower Mainland.
Our friend Tamiae Squibb of Lakehouse Foods delivers all products by bike – Check out her fully mobile market! By buying local, there’s no packaging at all. We simply swap bins back and forth.

Not to mention that it’s all so totally fun! Eating locally means eating seasonally, inspiring us to be creative in the kitchen with whatever new fruits and vegetables are popping up in our CSA boxes or Farmers’ Markets. It allows us to connect more deeply with those we purchase from, adding layers of community and, dare we say, friendship in our daily routines.

The #BCBuyLocal week is encouraging you to shift just 1% of your spending towards local businesses (take note: that would create 3100 jobs and $94M in wages!), but we think you might be able to do even better! Check out this list of ways YOU can support your local economy, and might we add Banking Local to that list as well?