Reducing waste on Rainy Lake

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Rainy Lake Refill is a small business that provides consumers with eco-friendly and refillable alternatives to their current home and personal care products in Rainy River District. Today, it sets an example for sustainable living by providing customers with refill options while raising awareness on the importance of waste reduction.

Rikki Kellar, business owner and local entrepreneur, said the name of her business came naturally out of her desire to protect Rainy Lake, the place where she spent many summers growing up.

“It’s just such a beautiful lake and I would say fairly clean, and we just want to keep it that way. I think my whole business is trying to do what’s best for our planet and it can start right here right with Rainy Lake,” she said.

Some of the sustainable swaps provided by her business include but are not limited to bamboo products for everyday items like toothbrushes and beard brushes, natural deodorant with options for vegan lifestyles, refillable soaps and lotions in both scented and unscented options, and a wide variety of house cleaning products. “They’re all products that I was trying in my personal life and really enjoyed and found to be effective,” she said.

In 2019, Kellar bought her first house and began looking for non-toxic cleaning supplies that would be less harmful to her, her pets, and the environment. She also realized the amount of waste produced when products ran out and decided to buy her products in bulk, ordering refill sizing and eco-friendly substitutes.

Most of the products she purchased were Canadian brands, however, not offered locally in the District.

“And then when COVID hit and we were all forced to sit in our houses and question our life’s paths, I came up with the idea of the business so that other people in the area can also have access to these sustainable options and then have the option to reduce plastic,” Kellar said.

Today, Kellar delivers orders on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 8:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Those who would like to refill their jars can place the empty jars outside their home before the scheduled delivery hours to have them replaced with full jars.

At pop-up markets, people can refill their empty containers and will only be charged for the cost of the product, Kellar said, a model that encourages people to think about where their waste is going.

As the sole owner of her independently run business, Kellar is grateful for the community’s support but admits that explaining the business model to people who have not seen the importance of waste management has been a challenge.

“There’s a whole debate around climate change where there shouldn’t be, so just trying to raise awareness and maybe change people’s minds a little bit would be the biggest challenge,” Kellar said.

“There are people out there who don’t see the harm of the products that we throw in the waste and the amount of plastic that we distribute every day,” she said. “So just trying to raise that awareness and not necessarily to increase my sales, but just just to help the planet.”

Seeing people putting out their blue bins on the sidewalk every other week for recycling has been a positive step toward protecting the planet, said Kellar. She acknowledged the Food Cycler pilot project conducted in Fort Frances is a step in the right direction as well.

“We don’t need that handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly,” Kellar said, quoting zero waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau.

To give a few examples of how people can help reduce waste in their daily lives, Kellar suggests purchasing products packaged in glass rather than plastic, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, taking public transportation or carpooling when possible, washing laundry with cold water, to name a few.

There’s all these little things that you can do just to reduce your carbon footprint,” she said. “If we’re all doing it together, then we really can make a difference.”

To learn more about Rainy Lake Refill, visit or on Facebook @rlrefill.