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A Revelstoke refillery’s pursuit of local sustainability

Forage and Fill operates as both refillery and consignment store
Amber Nap and Jenise Lamoureux in Forage and Fill. (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

This article appeared first in the Revelstoke TIMES magazine.

Wedged between an Indian restaurant and a pizza parlour on First St, in downtown Revelstoke sits Forage and Fill Eco Retail Ltd. Acting as both a consignment store and refillery, the store epitomizes the pursuit of sustainability and its owner, Jenise Lamoureux, equally embodies the store and its message.

“It’s always kind of inherently been a part of me since I was young,” said Lamoureux.

Lamoureux is the owner of Forage and Fill, which has a strong reputation in the community for championing positive sustainable change. She’s also one of the minds behind Thuja, a business whose goal is to dismantle greenwashing. Whether it’s supplying others with the means to be more sustainable or holding big companies accountable, Lamoureux has established herself as a leading voice in the community for positive environmental change.

Lamoureux said her environmentally conscious business and lifestyle has always been part of her. Raised in the ‘oil and gas hub’ of Ft. Saskatchewan, AB, she said that it didn’t take a ‘coming to God realization’ to understand the environmental consequences of the industry of her town.

“I remember being quite young and being like ‘but when does it stop’? So, I think for some reason that was always kind of ingrained in me,” she said.

Lamoureux moved further west about 13 years ago. Although she had a strong sense of environmental sustainability from a young age, even she admitted to going through a period where it slipped due to the demands of her life at the time.

“I was just trying to get by, so then I fell into this complacency.”

The lapse ended when she met her business partner for Thuja (pronounced ‘too-ya’), Arnoul Mateo.

“We just had so many good conversations and he’s a born activist. He never became complacent. And I was really inspired by him.”

Thuja was the first of Lamoureux’s business pursuits, and aims to dismantle greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a form of marketing that positions businesses as eco-friendly to attract well-intentioned consumers trying to opt for more sustainable products. Methods can vary from packaging, tags, or advertising campaigns, making it tough for people to decipher whether a company is working to be sustainable or using it as a marketing tool to gain more business.

Lamoureux and Mateo ‘dismantle’ greenwashing by doing thorough investigations into brands, providing a clear measure of their status on four elements: product, climate and ecology, social justice, and third-party verification.

Thuja, Lamoureux explained, is a testament to working towards something you’re passionate about, as the business still doesn’t generate revenue. She wants it to be used as a tool by consumers who want to make responsible choices, but don’t necessarily have the capacity to do their own research.

Her work with Thuja led her to Forage and Fill.

“It was just such a good match,” she said.

Lamoureux took the store over in February 2023 from Sarah Sampson. At the time, the store was operating solely as a consignment store, but she has since expanded its operations into a refillery.

(Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

“There’s so much clothing in this world.”

Forage and Fill’s thrifting policy differs from other shops, as it will allow clothes with light stains or rips to be sold in the store. The decision was reflective of Lamoureux’s overarching sustainability goal of increasing circularity. Rather than adding to the clothing already in circulation, Lamoureux said she’d rather see pieces get mended to increase their lifespan.

“We’re not going to take something that’s janky as f––k,” she said with a laugh.

Lamoureux explained that the shop receives roughly 100 drop offs a month, with an average of 12 pieces, making for 1200 pieces of clothing coming through the doors every month.

The expansion into refills was an inspired idea that she got from the ‘Nerdy About Nature’ podcast that examines sustainable commerce. On her walk to work, Lamoureux listened as the guest spoke about something she wanted to replicate in her own business.

“It was a refillery on Vancouver Island, who were doing exactly what I wanted to do,” said Lamoureux.

She picked up the phone and called the business when she got to work and asked them if they would give her some more information about their process. The business responded more positively than Lamoureux imagined.

“They’re like, ‘we will just take you under our wing and give you our full business model’.”

The owners of the business told her that they were strong believers in the program and were eager to share their expertise. With the help of the Den Quality Goods & Refillery, Lamoureux has been able to get Forage and Fill’s refillery operations up and running quickly and without many issues.

(Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

“It came together really, really beautifully,” said Lamoureux.

She explained that the refillery was an integral element of the store that she wanted to introduce to the community.

“I was very hell bent on introducing this to Revelstoke.”

The help of the island’s refillery helped with the speed of setting up Lamoureux’s operation, but it still took time and effort. She was introduced to suppliers, she organized bottling and labelling. In all, the process took several months, allowing her to fully launch in June 2023.

With the systems suddenly in place, Lamoureux gleefully set about contacting different clients to start putting the refillery to use.

“The reception has been incredible,” she said with wide eyes and a big smile.

Partnering with property management companies and several lodges, Lamoureux has secured more than 50 different customers. The business has been so successful that it’s kept her busy, and unable to chase any more clients since last September.

But all the growth and expansion can exact a toll. Business and busyness are sometimes hard to manage for Lamoureux, forcing her to rely on some coping mechanisms.

“I cry a lot,” she sighed before bursting out laughing.

Later, Lamoureux pointed to her relationship status as perhaps another key to her success.

“I’m also incredibly single so that helps,” she said with another burst of laughter, explaining that she has more time to devote to her business without a significant other.

When her laughter paused, Lamoureux pointed to two specific things that she felt helped with her growing success. She pointed first to her people.

“My staff are incredible,” she said.

With effective delegation, Lamoureux can avoid stretching herself too thin with the competing priorities of the three-pronged business.

The other trick to avoiding burn out for Lamoureux was ensuring that there are projects that the business takes on that give her a sense of passion.

“I’m learning to incorporate things that really fill my cup,” she said.

Lamoureux explained that coming out of school with a business background sometimes came with pressure to only focus on the tough inner workings of business. Accounting, inventory, and sales are important, but without something that makes the business feel worthwhile, takes the fun out of it.

The business’ upcoming foray into skin care is an example of a project that brings Lamoureux joy; another is some denim jackets that she will be getting custom embroidered for resale.

“The past few months, I’m really leaning in to just having a good time with it. And so doing things that are work that are also very fulfilling for me, really keep me going.”

Lamoureux takes on projects that help ‘fill her cup’ so that she can avoid feeling burned out, including creating custom embroidered denim jackets for resale. (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

The crying and relationship status aside, Lamoureux suggested two practical ways that businesses can sustainably grow — both of which have been instrumental in the success of her businesses. They address two important facets of growth: building capacity, by relying on her team, and looking out for personal well-being in the process.

For Lamoureux, defining sustainability is easy.

“Sustainability is really easy. Use what you have as long as possible,” she started, “but in saying that, I’ve been a ski bum for a long time, and it’s expensive to be poor.”

She explained that within the context of clothing, sometimes the price of 10 less expensive pieces of gear can be more expensive than buying one great piece that lasts a decade. Still, Lamoureux insisted that sustainability is not out of reach for those in tougher socioeconomic positions.

“Truthfully, it’s the higher earners that have the highest carbon output comparatively to someone that makes an average income,” she said.

As a business that was founded on the principles of sustainability, Lamoureux said it’s important to remember to give ourselves and others grace.

“I strongly believe that everybody needs to vote. But we also can’t be at each other’s necks because of personal choices that we make. This did not come about because you or I. It came from a lack of top-down action years ago, and now we’re dealing with it.”

Like the pieces of clothing in Forage and Fill, people can wear out too, and faster when the demands on them are high — like balancing a housing crisis, a climate crisis, and an overall affordability problem. Lamoureux suggested that those willing to have tough sustainability conversations with themselves, are already ‘miles ahead’ of other people.

“It’s just all kind of a s––t show, and that’s kind of why I do what I do. I don’t know what I can do, but I know I can do this, and I know this comes easy, and it’s for a good cause, and people want to see it. So, I’m just going to keep f––king doing it.”

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