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West Coast businesswomen empower hospitality industry to champion a zero waste, ocean-friendly future

“Always surround yourself with women who support you and challenge you.”
From left: Mint Cleaning Service founders Monika Scott and Robyn Pook, The Den founders Kristen O’Keefe and Diane Rudge, and Black Rock managers Adele Larkin and Lara Kemps celebrate their new partnership. (Jordan Dyck photo)

West Coast businesswomen have teamed up to move the hospitality industry into a more sustainable, ocean-friendly space. The convergence includes switching those tiny plastic toiletries to natural, biodegradable and refillable amenities, plus swapping harmful cleaning products for non-toxic alternatives.

Laying the foundation for the change are The Den Quality Goods and Refillery co-founders Diane Rudge and Kristen O’Keefe and Mint Cleaning co-founders Robyn Pook and Monika Scott.

“Our passion is switching over hotels from using toxic chemicals to all-natural cleaners. We want to get toxic chemicals out of peoples homes and break down myths that all-natural cleaners don’t work because they do,” say Ucluelet-based Mint Cleaning mompreneurs Pook and Scott.

When Pook and Scott first started cleaning with toxic chemicals, they said they were noticing such harmful side effects from using them all day – bad eczema, blood shot eyes, and even scarring on the lungs.

Shortly after, Pook and Scott had a meeting with the businesswomen from The Den about switching to all-natural products.

“We were really ready for a change and then COVID happened and we started to experiment with our own recipes. We noticed a change right away. We felt so much better,” says Pook, adding that Mint Cleaning is celebrating their first year anniversary.

A fast partnership was soon formed with The Den to distribute their handmade product line.

The Den is currently working with 50 vacation rentals as well as two new major resort partnerships with Black Rock Oceanfront Resort and Long Beach Lodge along with supplying refills to: The Cabins, Surfs Inn, and Mackenzie Beach. Since opening in Nov. 2019, they have helped divert the creation and waste of over 80 000 single use plastics, and are on track for diverting over 250 000 singles use bottles for 2021.

“In housekeeping, 70 per cent of the working force is female. We have learned while researching product for our refillery that most products being used to clean are quite dangerous for women’s health (hormone imbalances linked to fertility issues, skin & hair irritation, etc). These products inevitably end up in our water streams and directly into the ocean via Tofino,” notes The Den co-owner O’Keefe in an email.

“By educating and inspiring other women, we sprout conversation that go beyond single use plastic, to empower one another to make sure we are all healthy, including Mother Nature. A healthy community is a thriving community and we feel grateful to be apart of a region that has a mentality of local support and caring for one another,” O’Keefe went on to say.

Adele Larkin is the general manager of Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. Larkin recently partnered with The Den and Mint Cleaning to source 100 per cent natural cleaning products and refillable guest amenities.

“The zero-waste dream started with a conversation. It reflects how we feel about the natural environment and our desire to protect the rainforest and ocean. It’s better for community, environment, visitors and staff,” says Larkin.

“I think we will see this initiative growing within the hospitality sector. As an industry we are all looking at ways of improving our overall impact on the environment. (Making the switch) is not difficult, but patience is required,” she said.

Samantha Hackett, general manager of Long Beach Lodge, switched over to refillable amenities in December 2020. They are also in the process of changing to eco-friendly cleaning products.

“The thought of the initial investment can be daunting, but really when we put all the numbers to paper it wasn’t a big investment at the start and it was more about doing the right thing and really looking long-term,” Hackett said.

“From our first meeting with The Den and Mint and seeing the business models for both companies, is that there is so much passion and excitement and heart and soul. They care just as much about our guests and what we do on a day to day basis as we do and vice versa. It’s been really amazing to have that experience and see what the partnership really can look like,” she said.

Monday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. One of IWD’s main themes this year is challenge and call out gender bias and inequality.

“Always surround yourself with women who support you and challenge you. Share your challenges and successes with each other freely and openly. Celebrate often,” Larkin says.

“Tofino and Ucluelet women are one of a kind, and we are thankful for everyone’s commitment nature as well. It takes a village, and we’ve got a great one,” O’Keefe says.

Mint Cleaning masterminds Pook and Scott say women are amazing business owners.

“When we get together, it’s a powerful force. We just want to help them in any way we can and it goes both ways. Women together is just the strongest thing ever, and that mentality has brought nothing but success to us,” says Scott.

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