What’s environmental about buying local?
Typically, no one thinks about the lifecycle of the items we buy in chain stores. It’s convenient and a reasonable price; what else matters? But have you ever though about the emissions it took to place that item on the shelves? How many emissions were released to create, package, then ship it internationally? How many distribution centres was it stored at and transported between before it was put on the shelves? What’s your carbon footprint from simply driving between the store and your house? What about the worker’s carbon footprints? How about after you throw it out? This is a lot to think about for every purchase, and usually takes a lot of time to find the answer to these questions. Well don’t fret, cause shopping local gives an eco-friendly solution to most of these questions. Here are the top 3 reasons that simply buying from a local business is more sustainable than big box stores.
1. Shipping emissions
Shopping local cuts down a lot of carbon emissions, as transportation emissions are drastically reduced. Most local businesses buy their products or ingredients locally, meaning no international shipping, less distribution centres, and less transportation overall.
2. Employee’s Carbon Footprint
Local businesses tend to be centralized in downtown areas or shopping districts. This means employees spend less time commuting, as many large chain stores are located on the outskirts of cities or towns due to the vast amount of space they require. This centralization also means there are more environmentally friendly transportation options available (bus, bike, walk). All this results in a reduced carbon footprint for employees. In addition, this centralization of location is also connected to another eco-friendly aspect: size. Highly urbanized areas tend to have smaller buildings, meaning local business take up less space. Less space means less energy consumption in the maintenance of stores. That is, less electricity to light the storefront, less heating and air conditioning required. All this adds up, especially when you compare the large warehouse-style chains like Walmart or Home Depot to the local downtown café. That’s a huge size difference.
3. Accessibility and lowering customer’s carbon footprint
The tendency for centralized locations also impacts the patrons. The more urban the location, the more accessibility there tends to be. Bussing, biking, and walking downtown is very simple. Everything is close enough together that these eco-friendly alternatives to driving are fairly easy to do. However, bussing, biking, or God-forbid walking to your big box stores? That’s a nightmare. You either have to walk or bike on the side of a major roadway or wait 30 minutes for the one bus to take you to and from the shopping centre. Not ideal – trust me, I’ve tried! This all results in a reduced carbon footprint for the costumers. Win-win!
Well now, you say, that’s all well and good but have you considered how hard it is to find good local businesses that don’t cost a fortune? And besides, local shoppes are all on Whyte, why should I keep reading this? Well buckle up, because Edmonton has more to offer than its… somewhat disappointing shopping avenue.
Behold: a comprehensive, environmentally focused guide to local Hole-in-the-wall shops that you might not have heard of.
Each local business is separated into its content category and will have a little blurb concerning who they are, what their focus and goal is, and what they sell. This will be followed by 3 criteria: price, accessibility, environmentally oriented. (should I explain these categories more?)
Books and stationary
The Glass Bookshop : Edmontonian duo Jason Purcell and Matthew Stepanic saw a lacuna in Edmonton’s bookstores and in 2018, remedied this by creating the Glass Bookshop. Which absent niche is that you ask? Canadian, BIPOC, and queer writers, as well as their independent publishers. While they sell all the typical books as well, they became the solution to this neglect in Edmonton’s bookstores by cultivating a collection to showcase the often dismissed voices in our society.
Price: Exact same prices as Indigo and Chapters, so really, is there even a choice anymore?
Accessibility: Good. Just a short walk from Bay/Enterprise Square LRT Station.
Environmentalism: Yes! They are eco-friendly – as much as a book store can be. Their free delivery service has books arriving in compostable paper bags and no excess packaging.
Audrey’s Books : Owned by Husband-Wife, Steve and Sharon Budnarchuk, Audrey’s books is a quaint little bookshop that carries anything book related. This two-story shop has a wide selection of books from bestsellers to journals. What makes them unique is their focus on supporting Canadian writers with their stocked shelves of local books, as well as their pre-covid literary events. They would rent out and host literary events with the common theme of promoting local writers.
Price: Same prices as chain book stores. So now you have a choice. They do have slightly different selections than Glass Bookshop due to their varied foci.
Accessibility: Extremely accessible. Just across the street from the Corona LRT Station.
Environmentalism: Not so good. No eco-friendly pursuits are mentioned.
Parcel and Prose : This shop curates and sells Canadian created stationery products. With a little biography on each company and person’s work they sell, Parcel and Prose is a true Canadian shop.
Price: There aren’t any prices on their website, however because this is a local shop with mostly handcrafted items, it will be more than the typical factory made Dollarama card stock.
Accessibility: Average. Located on 124th Street, its one bus ride away from Central LRT Station.
Environmentalism: Decent. There do not seem to be any environmental measures taken, however there is still reduced carbon emissions as their stock is Canadian, and does not need to be shipped across borders.
Knifewear : Founder Kevin Kent started small: selling knifes from his backpack while working as a chef in Calgary. Apparently not being arrested for this, he grew his entrepreneurship into the multiple-city franchise it is now. These high-end knives are created by Japanese blacksmiths, ensuring quality and authenticity. If you’ve never used one of these knives before, just know that these knives slide through the toughest of foods with such an ease you’ll always end up feeling like that Chef Gusteau in Ratatouille.
Price: Expensive. The prices of these speciality knives reflect its quality. (However, if you’re looking for gift ideas, this would be a great collaborative gift to a parent or culinary enthusiast)
Accessibility: Good. Located on Whyte ave, there are a decent amount of transportation alternatives to driving.
Environmentalism: Decent. No specified environmental actions taken, however these knives are designed with longevity and quality in mind, meaning it’s eco-friendly by praxis.
Barb’s Kitchen Centre : This family owned business sells everything kitchenware. From appliances and gadgets to fresh baking products, Barb’s got it all. To top it off, they offer weekly culinary classes.
Price: Looks to be reasonable prices, however I have purchased a total of zero kitchen items in my life, so I honestly have no idea.
Accessibility: Good. One bus ride away from Southgate Station.
Environmentalism: Not good. No specified eco-friendly actions, and imports international products.
Workhall Studio : Workhall is a newly opened, Indigenous owned, clothing shop. Their foci are sustainability and community. Environmentalism is a priority which they pursue by selling fabrics that are either plant-based, or plant blended, and reduce fashion waste by offering life-long alterations and tailoring.
Price: A bit pricey, which is a result of the type and quality of fabrics their clothes are made from. If you have the extra spending money and their products fit your style this is definitely a Must-See.
Accessibility: Good. Also on Whyte ave, there are plenty of options available depending on where you live.
Environmentalism: Excellent! An awesome sustainable alternative to Aritzia and the like.
Nowhere Fast : There’s not much about the founders or their purpose, other than this is a newly up and running local skateboard shop. They sell boards and related apparel, giving this shop the foundation to be the local go to.
Price: Average. The boards are all $90 and the clothing is about what you’d expect for a local shop.
Accessibility: Good. Just a 6-minute walk from Clairview LRT Station.
Environmentalism: Above average. While not a core pursuit, they have Canadian-made products meaning less subsequent transportation emissions.
Dots : This family owned business was created to give people a more affordable alternative to designer brands. I don’t know how they do it, but they’ve done just that, and their clothes are a constant “50%-85% less than other stores”.
Price: Excellent. Extremely affordable prices and almost always have very good sales happening.
Accessibility: Decent. They have two locations: one downtown and one on Gateway. This variety allows for more options when it comes to transportation.
Environmentalism: No specific actions are outlined as environmental, but this shop sells
“…older designer lines that would have been otherwise thrown out.”Mercedes Hendrick, local Dots connaisseur and enthusiast
Therefore, giving this shop a solid “good” rating.
BLACK SWAN : With no website or Facebook, this eclectic shop is as Hole-In-The-Wall as they come. Their yellow pages (Just how old is this shop?) lists the types of content it sells, with one patron describing it as “Grandma’s most prized possessions”. Which I gotta admit, is quite accurate. Stepping into the Black Swan feels like you’ve been transported into an antique curio shop mixed with an explorer’s attic. There are antique pieces from a wide range of cultures, and small trinkets that you wouldn’t know you wanted until you saw them. Even just a perusal of this shop leaves you feeling slightly overwhelmed and in awe. Important note: do not wear a large backpack or you’ll spend the whole time trying not to knock over displays.
Price: Pricey. The wide range of items means a wide range of prices, but overall everything is just expensive enough to make you consider if you really do want that random sculpted brooch. (The answer? Yes. It’s always yes.)
Accessibility: Good. It’s located at the beginning of Whyte Ave, meaning a fair amount of transportation options.
Environmentalism: Good. The nature of this shop (antiques) means it opposes consumerism and repurposes items. The literal embodiment of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The QUILTBAG : Essentially a collection of all things queer, this shop is a combination of queer content and queer creators. They mostly sell pins and badges, but also have cards, posters and binders (Not the stationery kind). Because of the nature of this shop, their content is always changing as new creators release items and old creators make new content. The QUILTBAG also has a Trans Community Fund that can be donated to via the QUILTBAG itself or the CHEW Project – a registered charity.
Price: Varies. Due to the various creators, there are a wide range of prices, however most prices are similar if not slightly more than regular retail stores. However, if you were to buy similar products online, it would be the same cost as the more expensive items at the QUILTBAG once shipping costs were factored in.
Accessibility: Good. Also located on Whyte ave, with all the transportation options that entails.
Environmentalism: Good. While not explicitly environmental, the localized nature of their products means reduced emissions.
The Print and Paper : Amsterdam, NYC, Paris and Berlin inspired, this little dream shop has a little bit of everything. Essentially a blend of a bookstore and gift shop, its items are described by the owner as “full of everything I love”. The foundational direction of this store is the incorporation of a personal side to commerce. With the amalgamation of passion with interpersonal relationships, this shop is bringing back the era of small town businesses where the shop owner is also your neighbour. This focus on community looks to absolve the impersonal seller-purchaser relationship, and replace it with a “communal experience that gives both you and me a sense of identity and belonging.”
Price: On the pricer side, but the wide variety of items means a wide price range.
Accessibility: Decently accessible. It’s on 124th Street, meaning one bus ride from Bay/Enterprise Square LRT Station.
Environmentalism: This store doesn’t seem to pursue environmental ideals, however the nature of the shop encapsulates it. By selling items that are more about craftsmanship, quality, and personal value, these items are by nature sustainable and less consumption-oriented.
Maven and Grace : Maven and Grace is a vintage style gift shop with a wide variety of products united by their use in a home. Some categories they advertise are stationery, sundry goods, and fragrances. The common theme of their store is giving old items a new home.
Price: Pricey. Not overly expensive, however more than typical.
Accessibility: Good. Located on Whyte ave.
Environmentalism: Good. While not an outlined priority, they do sell eco-friendly products and the nature of this shop encapsulates sustainability.
Hideout Distro : Hideout was created by Tory Culen in 2016 as a space for local artists, brands, and musicians to share their creativity with the world. Since its opening, this shop has combined this creativity and community oriented foundation with carefully curated vintage pieces. Now an established store that ships nationally, Hideout distro is a unique space filled with unique products.
Price: Varies. Once again, because this shop is a collection of local works and items, prices range quite significantly. Some are quite expensive due to their quality and being handcrafted, while others are quite affordable.
Accessibility: Moderate. Located on 108th Ave, this store is downtown, meaning a central location, however it’s not the easiest with the transit system.
Environmentalism: Good. Their products are mainly from local creators.
Item Specific Stores
Misiyo Candle Co. : Started in 2019 by Shelby and Sherah, Misiyo incorporates environmentalism with social activism. Via The River, (a Rwandan not-for-profit) each candle purchase gives a designated number of months of health insurance to someone in need. As there are 3 sizes, the health insurance duration starts at 1 month, then 2 months, then 6 months respectively. To top it off, each candle is made from an eco-friendly wax mix. Currently, they do not have a storefront, but have a farmers market schedule on their website, as well as delivery for online purchases.
Price: Above average. More than a regular retail store, but not overpriced either. For what the money is used for, it definitely justifies the extra dollars.
Accessibility: Depends. Because they sell via farmer’s market, it depends on the market. However, delivery is offered.
Environmentalism: Excellent. Eco-friendly and supports a good cause.
KENT OF INGELWOOD : This Canadian store was founded by Kevin Kent, and focuses on socially conscious, quality beard care products. All their products are chosen based on quality, utility, ethicality, and environmental responsibility. Their foci centre around promoting diversity/inclusiveness as well as community and environmental responsibility. To achieve this, they sell quality products, many of which are handmade, that are designed with longevity in mind. To promote community responsibility, they donate yearly to a number of charities. To account for environmental responsibility, they choose products with sustainable, eco-friendly materials, and are from local creators. Overall? A perfect place for any beard related needs.
Price: Pricey. Because of the types of products they sell, this isn’t the place to go for a cheap deal, however, because of the quality and longevity, it’s worth the extra bucks.
Accessibility: Good. Once again, located on Whyte ave and the related transportation.
Environmentalism: Excellent. What more can you want in your beard care products?
Clo’s General Leather Co. : The embodiment of dreams becoming reality, this business has increased in size and customer base over the years before residing in its current location. Clo’s General specializes in quality, handcrafted leather goods. Clo’s also offers workshops on how to make leather belts and wallets.
Price: Expensive. These products are more costly than the typical factory-made leather products, but as a result of its handcrafted quality, they’ll last longer. An investment that you won’t be disappointed in. (Probably. I haven’t bought anything from here yet.)
Accessibility: Difficult. Clo’s is located in 80th Ave which doesn’t have too many bus routes. Pretty difficult to get there unless you live in that area or drive.
Environmentalism: Decent. You win some you lose some – they are leather products, but very sustainable.
Cafés, Coffee houses and Restaurants
The Carrot Coffee house : The perfect synergy of coffee shop and arts community. What started as the HQ for Arts on the Ave, The Carrot has grown to be a hub for people to connect and experience art – all with the comfort of a steaming mug of coffee. Volunteer operated, the Carrot is a not-for-profit that’s environmentally conscious, as all its coffee is from Detour, a Canadian coffee company that engages in direct trade to lower emissions.
Price: Varies. The Carrot duals as coffee shop and artist showcase, meaning the prices for the art you can buy changes by artist.
Accessibility: Moderately difficult. Located in Alberta Avenue, it involves a lot of bus transfers if you don’t live nearby.
Environmentalism: Good. Local artists, Canadian coffee, this place is as community orientated as it gets.
The Lotus Café : The Lotus Café is art gallery and Persian café combo. With the local art downstairs and café on the main floor, this shop cultivates the immersive vibe of each aspect perfectly. In the café portion, their herbal teas are next level. Their food is also amazing and if you’ve never had Persian food before, just enjoy it with an open mind – cause you’ll lose it once you try their menu. For all you non-adventurous eaters out there that don’t know where to start? Don’t stress, their employees are phenomenal and can help you out. Want to know what to expect before you go? Well skim no further: for teas, I’d definitely start with a borage tea (don’t forget that lime), but any of their teas won’t disappoint. For food, I have two favourite dishes. One is a type of thick soup called Aash, and the other is Fesenjaan which has the perfect mix of sweet, savoury, and sour. That being said, if you’re not a picky eater and willing to try new foods, you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.
Price: Affordable. The prices are very reasonable, especially for what you’re getting (I’m talking quality)
Accessibility: Good. Located on 124th street, its generally a bus ride and a walk.
Environmentalism: Average. There are vegetarian option, but all their entrées include meat. There aren’t any vegan options aside from the salads.
Tokiwa Ramen : This local ramen shop’s goal is centred around local, natural ingredients, and traditional flavour. Their ingredients are locally sourced when available, and don’t include any artificial seasoning, preservatives, or MSGs. They stay true to their roots, and have flourished because of it.
Price: Average. The quality is reflected in the price, but aren’t overpriced. You pay for what you get.
Accessibility: Moderately difficult. Located in the brewery district, this isn’t an easy place to take public transport to, however taking the train and then biking is quite easy.
Environmentalism: Good. They use local ingredients whenever possible, cutting down on a ton of carbon emissions.
Good Taste : There’s not a lot of information on this business, but this little restaurant is my neighbourhood Chinese food restaurant that I’ve been going to for over 10 years. According to my very official expertise, I can confirm that this little shop has perfected their recipes. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, and have flavours that rival the most established of Americanized Chinese food places (Yes, I’m looking at you Panda Express).
Price: Average. Better quality and better prices than that one franchise that shall not be named. (It’s Panda Express.) Once you try Good Taste you’ll never go back, trust me.
Accessibility: Good. A quick walk from Century Part Station.
Environmentalism: Better than that one franchise. (Take a guess which one I’m referring to. Go ahead, I’ll w-Panda Express. It’s Panda Express.) Good taste uses paper bags and sturdy tin foil type containers. Much better than the typical pesky plastic coated take out containers that can’t be recycled.
Filistix : This food truck turned restaurant decided to take the risk and fill Edmonton’s lacuna of quality cultural street foods. Many countries are known for their established street food, which is seen as an indicator of a rich urban centre. A big bustling city has become recognizable by its plentiful street food vendors and various street meats. What does Edmonton have? The odd ice cream and hot dog vendor. Well not anymore! Filistix filled the need for street food that was health conscious, locally sourced, and prepared from scratch. What does all this mean? Quality and flavour. This restaurant filled that niche, and filled it with taste – and we’re better off for it, as their food truck was one of the pioneers of Edmonton’s food truck scene.
Price: Average to pricey. And once again, with quality, locally sourced ingredients, comes a price hike. Prices for the lunch menu ranges from $12 to $18.
Accessibility: Very good. They have two locations: one downtown and, drum roll please… one in our very own U of A SUB. Congrats, there’s now no excuse to not buy a healthy, tasty meal.
Environmentalism: Very good! Locally sourced ingredients, made from scratch – it’s ticking all the boxes.
Roadrunner Pizza West : This little family owned restaurant has the best pizza I’ve ever had. The bread crust is crunchy, while the dough itself is soft and chewy. The cheese to sauce to crust ratio is just perfect, and it doesn’t have any greasy undertone. Don’t want pizza? Well Roadrunner also has a selection of Italian dishes, wings, salad, fried chicken and more. This shop also has a mini arcade in one corner while you wait.
Price: Amazing. $10.50 for the basic 10″ pizza, $11.50 – $12.50 for the speciality ones.
Accessibility: Average. A short walk to the residences by West Edmonton Mall.
Environmentalism: There are no outlined eco-friendly actions.
Jacek : Jacek is Edmonton’s very own local chocolate shop. The founder, Jacqueline Jacek, combined her passion for fashion and chocolate to create her own business where she creates all their recipes from scratch. Jacek launches seasonal chocolate collections so there’s always new flavours to try.
Price: Expensive. Similar in price to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. These are fine chocolates, not your basic chocolate bar. Gourmet desserts with a price to match. (These chocolates are for people with jobs, no student loans here.)
Accessibility: Very good. Jacek has three shop locations, and there’s a list of grocers and retails that also carry their chocolates.
Environmentalism: Unknown. Environmentalism is mentioned a total of zero times on their website and consequent articles.
Black Tusk Athletics : POC owned, community orientated. If you’re looking for a gym that values community along with health, this is the place for you. Black Tusk has programming and coaching, with a variety of training types to suit your needs. To adjust for covid, they’ve started a virtual training program to stay in shape over the winter quarantine.
Price: Here’re the rates, I can’t help you more than that. (I have… not set foot in a gym that isn’t paid for by tuition)
Accessibility: Moderate difficulty. Located on 124th Street, this isn’t the easiest spot to travel to via bus if you don’t live nearby.
The Lobby : The Lobby was created by Kevin, an avid horror movie enthusiast. Once you step foot in here you’ll be blown away. This place feels like a temporal rift to a horror movie lover’s basement in the 80s-90s. I won’t describe it anymore than that, cause seeing it for yourself is half the fun. This movie rental place (remember when those were common?) has all things horror and sci-fi along with a selection for purchase. Don’t have it? Don’t worry! The owner can special order it for you no sweat. Don’t know where to start? Don’t fear, Kevin’s super knowledgable and can help you find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
Price: Very affordable. While they only take cash, the price is so affordable, you can rent a movie on a student’s budget, no sweat.
Accessibility: hmm, it depends. I won’t say anything other than it’s located on Whyte ave, and not to come right at opening (This store is the owner’s second job, and he opens it whenever he feels like it) Finding this obscure shop is quite difficult, but half of the experience. I’ll just leave you some words of wisdom from someone who spent a solid 30 minutes searching for it my first time – look down.
Environmentalism: Good. It’s a rental place. Not much to see here.
Plaza Bowling : A Family owned business since 1959, these guys know their stuff. Plaza Bowling is all about the traditional bowling experience, with a wide array of local craft beers and snacks by Drift Food Truck. There’s not much else to say – it’s an old-school bowling alley that speaks for itself.
Price: Affordable. $6.50 game rate, $3 shoe rental, $5.50 per sleeve of beer.
Accessibility: Decent. Located on 118th Ave, the 9 Eaux Claires takes you where you need to go.
Environmentalism: Good. They have local beers and local food. Other than that? Not much to say – it’s a bowling alley.
Re:Plenish : Created by two University of Alberta graduates, Meghann and Karine saw an absence of environmental options for refilling household cleaning products in Edmonton. Their passion for sustainability and reducing waste started as a weekend passion project, and has just recently been upgraded as their full time jobs with a new location. This refillery and retail shop carries home cleaning products, personal care items, and sustainable alternatives to single use items such as bandaids. All of these products are united by their sustainable, environmental, and ethical materials. Along with this retail side, Re:Plenish cuts down on packaging by allowing patrons to bring their own containers to refill with bulk cleaning products. From Windex bottles to washed out yoghurt containers, this reduces the amount of recyclables Edmontonians are throwing out, as recycling isn’t as environmental as we tend to think. In addition to all this, Re:Plenish sells local products that they source through farmer’s markets and makers shows, thus eliminating the majority of carbon emissions typically created via transportation. Ethical and environmental!
Price: Average. Something to always keep in mind when shopping at zero-waste shops is that these items are an investment. They’re more expensive than box store alternatives, because environmental items are built with better, more sustainable materials. Yes, they cost a bit more upfront, but they also last longer, evening out the cost difference between planned-obsolescent items and sustainable ones.
Accessibility: Average. Located on 77th Ave, it’s not the easiest to bus to as it typically involves a couple transfers. This being said, it’s a pretty central location for a shop not downtown. This means that biking isn’t too difficult.
Environmentalism: More than excellent: they excel. (I mean, they better, considering the type of shop they are)
Carbon Environmental : Carbon Environmental Boutique, along with Earth’s General Store, was one of the first environmental shoppes in Edmonton. Carbon Environmental partners with brands and creators that represent this shop’s values of reducing “harmful impacts to the environment”. This shop extensively background checks all their products to ensure the entire lifecycle of the item is green. Factors like sourced ingredients, working conditions as well as the sustainability and utility of the item. For a customer, this is difficult information to find, and Carbon Environmental does this for you. As such, Carbon Environmental has created an extensive collection of environmental alternatives to health and beauty products and daily life necessities that are ensured to be ethical and green.
Price: Pricey to expensive. It’s not the cheapest store, but then again, these items will last longer due t their sustainability, meaning you’ll have to buy fewer replacements. You win some you lose some.
Accessibility: Moderate. Located downtown, it’s not hard to bus and walk/bike.
Environmentalism: Very environmental.
Local restaurants with no website, but can be ordered via Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, etc.
Koultures afro-continental restaruant
852 Hong Kong Café
Green Onion Cake Man
More local businesses
Vivid Print – print shop
New Classics – clothing, $$$
Swish – vintage clothing and antique items, wide range of $, but clothing is quite expensive
Shop Chop – gift shop, $$
Majesty and Friends – gift shop, $$
Royal Bison, local artists work, wide range of $
Yardbird Suite – live jazz, $$
Color de Vino – liquor, specialize in wine
ANNMs – clothing, $$$
Lost Stock Coffee – Average price
Red Star Pub
Double Greeting Wonton House – restaurant
Baiju and Little Hong Kong – restaurant
Pho King – restaurant
Yoshi express – restaurant
Sugarbowl – restaurant
Boocha – restaurant
Good Care Studio – skin care
New Classics Studio – clothing, $$$$
Arturo Denim CO. – clothing
Raschelle Campbell Rugs – custom rugs, $$$ (because handmade)
Vistek – photography
Runaway Workout Club – gym
Lace and Leaves (Ellerslie Gift and Garden) – plants and gardening
Written by: Janelle Lentz