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

A group of businesswomen on the west coast of Vancouver Island have teamed up to move the hospitality industry into a more sustainable, ocean-friendly space.
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)

A group of businesswomen on the west coast of Vancouver Island 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.

Shortly after, Pook and Scott met 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,” Pook says.

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

The Den currently works with 50 vacation rentals and two major resorts, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort and Long Beach Lodge, plus The Cabins, Surfs Inn, and Mackenzie Beach. Since opening in November 2019, they’ve helped divert the creation and waste of more than 80,000 single-use plastics, and are on track for diverting more than 250,000 single-use bottles for 2021.

Products used in housekeeping can have implications for people’s health and the environment, where there inevitably end up in local waters, says The Den co-owner O’Keefe in an email.

“By educating and inspiring other women, we sprout conversations 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.”

Adele Larkin, general manager of Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, 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,” Larkin says.

“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.”

Samantha Hackett, general manager of Long Beach Lodge, switched to refillable amenities in December 2020. They’re 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 says.

“From our first meeting with The Den and Mint and seeing the business models for both companies, 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.”


Please note that Provincial Health Protocols currently advise against travelling outside your region to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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