Ten and Co. founder Christen Irwin is not your traditional eco-conscious business owner.
The Oakville native was selling screen-printed items at farmer’s markets before quickly switching gears after receiving an eco-friendly sponge cloth from a friend. She began to notice the environmental impact of many commonly used kitchen items and created her signature eco-friendly, functional and beautifully-designed Swedish Sponge Cloths and Tea Towels.
Irwin’s personal sustainability journey has been a much-welcomed side effect to her business ventures. A happy “accident”, she says. Along the way, Irwin has learned that contrary to popular belief, eco-conscious living doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
“I think people get so caught up in feeling like they’re not doing sustainability right, that they don’t do it at all,” she tells us. “Doing something imperfectly is way better than doing nothing at all. We always say small actions can change the world and it’s true. All of these little things add up and they are going to make a massive impact.”
She reminds us that it’s about the simple switches, like being conscious of what you’re putting on your skin.
“As a household, we have always tried to stay away from fragrance and chemicals and that kind of thing. So, we’ve been trying different things with our laundry,” Irwin explains. “The Dryer Balls from A Greener Place are something I’ve never tried before. My mom uses dryer balls and swears by them.”
One of Irwin’s own personal holy grail items? Cotton bowl covers. She’s putting the Organic Cotton Bowl Cover (Medium) from A Greener Place to good use this summer.
“I am such a fan of that brand and the cotton bowl covers are so easy to use and amazing for leftovers. I love using them outside because sometimes flies and bugs can come,” she says. “Even if something’s a bit warm or moist, it doesn’t get gross underneath and the food can still breathe.”
The Wood Server from The Artisanville is another tool Irwin’s adding to her summer kitchen set up.
“I love that it’s local and beautifully handmade, but with natural materials. They always last longer,” she says. “And in all honesty, I love when through lots of use, things kind of develop their own natural patina.”
From the kitchen to the bathroom, Irwin is always looking for swaps that encourage her kids to live eco-consciously.
“My kids are given plastic toothbrushes at the dentist, and we still haven’t managed to get away to a more eco-friendly alternative with those. I’m excited for them to be able to try the Single Bamboo Toothbrush – Natural from The Artisanville,” she says. “Having things available for the kids to do every day that are sustainable helps them move forward and make great decisions.
When it comes to upgrading her self-care, she’s trying the Non-Toxic Vegan Nail Polish from she.boutique.
“I do sometimes get my nails done or I do them myself, but I use old gross nail polish,” Irwin says. “I would love to find an alternative that’s better for the environment and better for myself.”
In addition to making eco-conscious choices, Irwin is passionate about supporting local businesses.
“The quality of each item is better because that’s their thing. It means so much to small business owners to create an amazing product instead of something that’s mass produced that isn’t being touched by the maker,” she says. “Every time that they fill the tube of Spice Is Nice – Natural Lip Balm (by Painted People Co.), it’s a super awesome high quality product.”
Above all, Irwin credits making small changes as the biggest catalyst for change.
“I’ve seen it with friends of mine where caring for the environment or choosing sustainable options was never even on their radar,” she says. “The people around you notice, they may not say it, but they notice, and then they want to start making changes,”
Whether making an eco-conscious choice, or opting to shop local, Christen Irwin reminds us that there is “great power in what our community can create”, and it’s up to us to lead by example with one small decision at a time.