Pat Kane launched her ReUzi online store in 2018, and her shop in Foxrock, Dublin 18, just three months ago. The fledgling business now stocks over 700 lines of products to promote sustainable and zero waste living, from reusable cups, bottles and shopping bags to zero waste, Irish-made toiletries and cleaning products.
Originally from Brazil, Pat moved to Ireland nine years ago and worked in various industries, including with Paddy Power Group, before launching her business. She lives in Foxrock with her husband, accountant Stephen, and their two boys, Thomas, five, and Conor, who is nearly two.
“The idea for ReUzi was really born when I became a mum for the first time and I started to notice the amount of rubbish at the house raising at an alarming rate: nappies, the amount of things wrapped in plastic, all the things that come with babies.
"I was born by the beach in Rio and grew up to be very respectful of nature; I’m an animal-lover, a vegetarian, and myself and my husband would always have kept waste to a minimum but then the baby changed the whole picture and we started trying to find better ways to do things.
“We opened a shop three months ago in Foxrock Village. There’s a massive increase in awareness and we’re very lucky to be able to ride the wave. It was a bit more niche when we started, but we want to turn this into the new normal, because that’s the way it should be.
“This year, our Christmas is all about experiences. For my husband, I’m putting together a gift-voucher book: things like a night out, dinner, a trip to the movies, a massage, that sort of thing. I asked him for a big, luxurious facial for myself.
“For the kids, the little guy still doesn’t have much idea what’s going on, which makes it much easier; he’ll just get a few little sustainable toys and that’s fine. For Thomas, he’s already influenced by his friends in school and TV is a major problem when it comes to a message of consumption, so we told him he’s getting one present from Santa and then he’ll have some stocking fillers, either of things I stock in the shop or of little sustainable toys and that kind of thing.
We’re not using wrapping paper; I’m decorating with dried slices of orange and little pinecones and twine: simple things. I don’t believe in wrapping paper anyway; it just doesn’t last enough to justify throwing it away.
“We do our bulk grocery shop online as much as possible for things like pulses, pasta and grains. It’s packaging-free. For meat, we’re really lucky to have two great local butchers and a fishmonger close by. We bring Tupperware or our stasher bags, which are silicone storage bags, and we get them to fill them for us.
"They know that that’s what we do now, and other people are starting to adopt the same way of shopping too, and it means you don’t bring plastic home. We’ll definitely be doing that this Christmas.
“The major challenge is what others give us. I try to say to people, ‘if you want to give us a present, here are some sustainable clothes brands that are really good for kids.’ You can’t stop a grandmother from giving her grandchildren a nice little gift, right?
"But I’m trying to ask people to keep it to a minimum and suggest a few places to buy things that the boys like. Otherwise, it can get really crazy and out of control and we don’t want that to happen.
“We have a nine-year-old fake tree; we won’t buy a real tree, even though a real tree isn’t necessarily bad because they can be replanted. But we’ve had this one for ages, so we’ll keep using it. I don’t feel the need to cut a tree down just for a few days of the year, even though I do love the smell of a real tree. We have a cardboard tree made of recycled paper in the playroom for the boys to colour in, which is really cute.
“Stephen and I are on the same page with all of this stuff, thank God. Rubbish segregation is definitely his job. When it comes to the boys growing up, they watch their dad very closely, so he uses shaving foam bars instead of sprays; he’s added a few habits to his day-to-day to give a better example to the boys.
“I came to Ireland from Brazil nine years ago. Brazil has a big disparity between the social classes, but for wealthier people, just like here, the more they have, the more they spend. They’ll still buy too much food and create waste and things like that. The waste infrastructure is not good at all; apartment blocks don’t have good waste segregation and often don’t have composting at all.
“Thinking that you recycle and so that’s fine and that’s enough is the worst thing you can think. Only 34% of plastics in Ireland are recycled, so you can do a really great job with segregating the waste and making sure it’s all dry and clean and loose and follow all the rules, but at the end of the day, most of it won’t even be recycled. So recycling is part of the solution but it’s not the answer. It’s not enough.
“The plastics industry is always going to say that what they’re doing is ok, but it’s not. Plastics can only be recycled a few times anyway; it’s not like glass which can be recycled infinite times.
“We don’t bring products into the shop just because they are cute; we have a big list of requirements for suppliers. Bamboo cups have had a lot of controversy recently and I think there’s a lot of deliberate confusion about how best to be eco-friendly, but I don’t know if people read the actual articles and studies or if they’re just relying on headlines.
"If you’re curious about something, read about it and inform yourself. Don’t rely on alarmist headlines on Facebook.
“What I think people don’t understand about sustainability is that it’s not only about skinny polar bears and turtles with plastic around their necks. It’s about humans too. I work with sustainable living not only for the birds and the forests, but for us.
"If the environment is affected, we are all affected. I would like people to understand that sustainability is everyone’s business, not just for scientists and not just for hippies.”