Sustainable shopping: terra20 seeks to make eco easy

terra20 is Ottawa’s first large-scale sustainable retail store, located at 2685 Iris in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre. (Inside the old Ikea.)

Pamela Tourigny is the community manager for terra20, a 15,000-square-foot retail store strictly offering eco-friendly products — from cosmetics to clothing to cleaning supplies. Tourigny calls terra20 a “totally different shopping experience” where people are welcome to browse for hours, educating themselves on the topic of sustainable shopping.

Would you call Ottawa a green community? How do we compare to the rest of the country?

Purple Urchin soap is one of the local eco products terra20 sells. (Photo credit: terra20′s Facebook page)

I can’t answer this scientifically, but I would say that Ottawa as a whole is a well-educated, healthy-living oriented, conscious-consumer community.  There’s a notable subset of individuals who take their consumer purchases very seriously, with a strong locavore streak.  Many people in Ottawa like it when they know the story behind what they’re buying (the wild success of all the farmer’s markets here demonstrates that), and I think terra20 fulfils that. Ottawa also walks that line between town and city; it has the amenities of a city and a growing population, but a small-town feel that puts great value on word of mouth. That’s been beneficial to us as a start-up.

What’s the driving force behind terra20? Why launch now?

The driving force is really making it super easy for ordinary people to make better, more sustainable consumer purchases.  There are many small, localized businesses that provide some of these products, and that currently serve their specific communities well — and they will continue to do so.  We want to attract people who aren’t already making these purchases to come and check out terra20. We want to change consumer behaviour.  It’s a lofty aspiration, but we believe that it is an absolute necessity if humans are to slow down the rate at which the planet is being harmed. Why now? Well, this was nearly three years in the making.  We were ready, and we think Ottawans have been waiting for this. The initial enthusiasm and excitement we’ve seen backs this up.

A terra20 staff member sorts through a selection of shirts ahead of the store’s opening. (Photo Credit: terra20′s Facebook page.)

What’s behind the name “terra20″ anyway?

In this new millennium, as the world’s population soars, it’s up to us to explore a more sustainable, earth-friendly lifestyle. The year 20-something will be the year we get it right.

terra20 has moved into part of the old Ikea building …. it’s 15,000 square-feet! Did size matter to the concept? (Why go so big so fast, if the green market is still gaining ground?)

Size does matter: We wanted to create an environment where we could cover a broad range of product categories, but also, to provide people with selection within each category. Nobody wants to be told: “Here are the two types of hand creams we carry; these are your choices.”  We also need to have the room to accommodate the customer requests we’ve already been getting for new products! The idea was to create something that reminds mainstream customers of the kind of store where they’re accustomed to finding a large selection, so that we can be competitive.

You’ve only been open for about a week, but what green gear is Ottawa most excited about?

Ottawans clearly want to go green in a clean way without the nasty toxins, as nearly all of our top selling individual items are in our cleaning category and half are from our fabulous ecobar assortment!. (At the ecobar, you pay a one-time fee for a reusable container that can be refilled again and again, with the customer paying for the amount they buy.) Our kitchen and apparel departments have also had strong sales.

The “Greens” are a line of kitchen utensils made from recycled material. (Photo credit: terra20′s Facebook page)

What’s one product you sell that Ottawans won’t be able to find anywhere else?

This is a really tough question in the age of eCommerce, but we do have some outstanding and simply stunning home accents that will wow even the most discerning designers, as well as gizmos for the techie such as solar rechargers, bamboo speakers for your iPod, and cork USBs.  I don’t think these are very readily available locally.

If you could describe Ottawa’s green community in three words, what would they be?

Discerning, well-intentioned,  enthusiastic.

If you want to see more of what terra20 offers, check out these reviews from EF Magazine and Ottawa Magazine. Or visit terra20 yourself (2685 Iris, in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre).