New website helps consumers shop locally, responsibly

Natalie Moreno didn’t just want the new deck for her Coquitlam home to look good — she wanted to feel good about it.

The former regional environmental manager for the 2010 Winter Olympics wanted the wood to be harvested in an environmentally responsible way by a company with socially responsible values.

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But finding such a company took a lot of time and online research.

There must be a better way, thought Moreno, who has spent her entire professional career working in the environmental and sustainability field.

Two years later, Moreno and business partner Medea Curteanu, who’s based in Edmonton, have launched 100mileliving.ca, a web portal that connects producers and vendors of sustainable and socially responsible products with consumers who want to reduce their environmental footprints.

Moreno, 40, said she believes the time is right for such a venture.

“People are more conscious about where their products are coming from and the impacts they have on the environment and people," she told The Tri-City News.

In fact, the Business Development Bank of Canada has identified responsible consumption as one of its five business “trends to watch.” The BDBC report said 97% of Canadian consumers try to buy local to support their community.

These consumers are also researching corporate practices to determine if companies are integrating the same sense of environmental responsibility they’ve adopted in their own lives, according to BDBC.

Moreno said the web portal takes care of a lot of that legwork. Entrepreneurs, artisans and companies can list their products or services on the site for free, including a description of their commitment to sustainable and socially responsible practices and whether they support any local causes. Visitors to the site can search for the particular product or service they’re looking for, or by the distance from their location.

“One of the biggest benefits of buying locally is reducing the environmental impact of pollution from transportation,” Moreno said.

So far, the site has listings for about 20 vendors, mostly from B.C. and Alberta. They offer more than 80 products or services, from beard oils to farm-fresh eggs to cedar dog houses. And while visitors can’t buy those products through the website, they can learn about the vendor, their sustainability practices and possibly link to their own vendor site. They can also post reviews.

Those will act as a kind of accountability check on the vendors’ practices, said Moreno. “It keeps them honest.”

Most of the listings at launch have come from Moreno’s own personal connections to local makers and entrepreneurs, as well as a lot of visits to various farmers’ and artisans’ markets. But as awareness of the site grows, she’s hopeful vendors from all parts of North America will begin reaching out to join the site as part of their own marketing strategy.

“We want to help develop the community connections” — and save responsible consumers time and energy — Moreno said of the advertising-supported portal. 

“It’s getting more important for consumers to feel good about the buying decisions they make,” she said. “They’re more conscious about where products are coming from and the impacts they’re having on the environment and people.”

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