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21 Feb 2017 5:30 PM • Kits House: 2305 west 7th Ave, Vancouver
28 Feb 2017 5:30 PM • 2305 West 7th Ave, Vancouver
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One-Percent For The Planet

Green 2 Go - Phase 2!

by Carol Weinstock

Many of us stop by our favorite restaurant for Chinese or other take-out on the way home from work. It’s easy to do after a long, hard day. Then we eat, dump the container in the trash and relax.

That container, however, has a life of its own. If it’s Styrofoam, it may well sit in a landfill for up to a million years, according to some estimates. And no packaging can be recycled if contaminated by even a small amount of food. So SPEC, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, launched Green 2 Go to reduce take-out packaging and encourage use of fully reusable, compostable or recyclable alternatives. This might include pizza boxes, disposable cups and plates, bags, cartons, wraps, trays and more. Such waste adds 25,000 tonnes to local landfills annually.

Funded by a community grant from VanCity, SPEC has completed a study to help restaurants choose a more sustainable to-go container, explained Sara Blenkhorn, the organization’s waste committee coordinator.

The study, to be released in the next few weeks, shows that of 500 BC residents polled via social media, 91 percent favour a surcharge of up to or more than 25 cents to pay for sustainable packaging “Restaurants might band together on to-go containers that can be returned,” she said, citing one possibility. These might be metal, such as a tiffin-style lunch boxes, which are widely used in India and can keep food warm for two to three hours. “Our research targeted (restaurants)…we’re giving them the information they need to make the right choice.”

The study will be uploaded to SPEC’s website, condensed into a handout with graphics, and also sponsor workshops, presentations and various outreach efforts to inform restaurants, other businesses and the public about the Green 2 Go project.

There is urgency to SPEC’s efforts. By May 19, 2014, as part of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, restaurants and other businesses will be held responsible for whatever they put into local landfills. While restaurants are the main target of this project, all businesses will need to switch to environmentally friendly wrapping, stickers, bags, shipping boxes, prescription bottles, gift wrapping and similar materials. There is an opportunity for businesses to get a head start by exploring alternatives now.

SPEC is working collaboratively with both The Tiffin Project and StyroFree on Green 2 Go. Hunter Moyes, who created The Tiffin Project in 2012, helped design Green 2 Go this year. A Chef who has worked in the management teams of various Vancouver restaurants such as Tacofino, Nuba and Burgoo, Moyes knows the hospitality industry well and has extensive experience working with organizations like Oxfam Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and the Green Party.

“Our goal is to advise restaurants on the environmental impact of their waste and their options to reduce it, be that composting, recycling or using reusable containers,” Moyes said. “Ideally people will drop Styrofoam in favour of compostables and potentially introduce a surcharge to subsidize the difference between the cheapness of Styrofoam and the price of environmentally friendly alternatives.” “There is a change coming and SPEC is filling the gap,” he said, adding “Waste diversion is complicated and misunderstood.”

SPEC is preparing staff and volunteers to visit restaurants and businesses to advise how they can make the mandated changes gradually and avoid reacting in a panic next March. To do this work, SPEC will draw on its past experience educating about composting, recycling, waste reduction and related topics at community centres, schools, and cities around the Lower Mainland. SPEC began its public education and advocacy work in 1969 with the goal of creating a truly healthy, livable environment.

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