COLUMN: All I want for Christmas is less waste in the landfill

Soap-maker makes a plea for locals to recycle less, reuse more

'Tis the season to make responsible purchases.

Fortunately, we live in a town where that is made relatively simple. One can easily find beautiful, often hand-made gifts for the holiday season with minimal packaging, direct from the maker.

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Kirstin French, the owner of Be Clean Naturally, started making soap, body, hair, household cleaning, and dog care products out of her home eight years ago. She worked a regular booth at the Squamish Farmers' Market relentlessly until all signs pointed to her opening a storefront — which she did just over four years ago.

Her shop on Cleveland Avenue is bustling even on a slow day, her products are available around the Lower Mainland, and production for all these delights takes place right on site — wafts of fragrant essential oils can be detected up to half a block away.

This month, you'll find a festive vibe inside: slivers of handmade soaps, sold in sets of three to be used as tree ornaments or gift "tags" adorn the shop; beeswax from a variety of candles fills the air, and on the front counter there are holiday body butters and jars of "Christmas Essentials" for last minute gifts.

Since opening, French has added all sorts of products, but her values remain the same. Everything she sells is non-synthetic, and she utilizes refillable bottles and jars almost exclusively. Reusable is the crux of her business plan.

Hot sellers for the holidays include vanilla spearmint body butter and "Christmas Love" essential oils, beeswax candles, and handmade soaps stamped with snow flakes and coniferous trees. - Kirsten Andrews

When we sat down to chat I was reminded of the way blue boxes were first introduced. Reduce, reuse, recycle. When it came to re-inventing the three Rs, there was intention behind the order in which these words were presented, and it's worth the reminder, French says.

"Recycling isn't always the most environmentally responsible choice," said French, who relies on customers to help her stay in stock with some of her more popular packaging, namely one-litre amber glass bottles with swing-tops used for laundry soap, body wash, and shampoo.

Customers who bring in a dozen amber bottles can select a free bar of soap in exchange.

When glass goes to a return it depot, sometimes they can be reused or reformed into new bottles, but there's the transportation and shipping that has to happen as well.

"It's much easier to just drop them off here. We're eliminating all of that work that needs to be done. Just bring it to us and we will clean it and use it again — it doesn't need to leave Squamish."

Christmas ornaments and gift hangers made of soap slivers hang in a display at Be Clean Naturally. - Kirsten Andrews

French also carries other great reusable options such as copper straws and mugs ("great for providing trace metals needed in one's diet"); reusable anodized stainless and glass drinking straws; and personal cutlery kits with a fork, spoon, and screw together chopsticks.

If you're looking for unique gifts for a colleague, favourite teacher, or in-law, you won't have any shortage of delicious smelling soaps to choose from. For the holidays, French has created unique blends using combinations of vanilla and frankincense, or spearmint, orange, and cinnamon. They are stamped with words like Noel, or cute images of snowmen, snowflakes, and trees.

Visit for more information, or to register for workshops on learning how to make many of these products in your own home.


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