I thought readers might be interested in the following report from the (relatively) new organization, Zero Waste Simcoe. This is one of several “ZW” entities popping up around the country. This one is led by a municipal councilor, Gord McKay. The group wanted to do something concrete to promote Zero Waste thinking, and yet not sound shrill or negative. They picked a real winner in a promotional campaign (that used volunteers in front of grocery stores) to promote greater use of re-usable shopping bags.
They didn’t specify what these should be made of, and they didn’t overly “attack” other kinds of bags — they simply promoted what everyone agrees is the most sustainable kind of shopping bag. The stores themselves were very receptive to this initiative and, in fact, positive.
Here is the note that one participant wrote up about the event:
I am very pleased with the outcome of Saturday’s Campaign at Midland IGA, Mike’s Food Basics, Real Canadian Superstore and Midland Valu-Mart.
I think the best indicators, at the end of the day, were the enthusiasm of our 12 volunteers who engaged arriving and departing customers at our displays, and the reaction of customers and staff at the stores.
Many arriving customers were apologetic about having left cloth bags at home or in their cars. Many went back to their cars to get their bags. A few brought plastic bags from home to use again. And some bought cloth bags in the stores because they had been reminded of the benefits of decreasing consumption of plastic shopping bags. Some, as expected, were not interested. We were able to talk directly to many people about the environmental and taxpayer costs of the ever-increasing use of plastic shopping bags, and other plastic packaging in food stores and other retail outlets. And that awareness is precisely what Zero Waste Simcoe is trying to encourage throughout our County.
Store managers are enthusiastic about our Campaign, because we are supporting their efforts to decrease consumption of plastic shopping bags – and their operating costs. In the long term, these retail business initiatives reduce the amount of plastic material sent by consumers for disposal in municipal landfill and incineration facilities – and reduce taxpayer cost of “waste management”. One store had special cloth bags that they gave for free, one per customers, until their supply ran out. Another had cloth bags on sale for 50 cents each. One store allowed checkout counter staff to wear our “Bring Your Own Bags – BYOB” tags.
There was, understandably, much more interest in the cloth vs plastic issue, than in the broader scope of the Zero Waste concept. Shoppers have a very direct stake in the choice between cloth and plastic bags.
Christina Bernardo, a reporter for the Midland Free Press showed up at Food Basics. She interviewed Liz Dow and Sharon Nix and took pictures of them with our display. Watch the Free Press (likely last week of September). Christy tells me she is working to a deadline on an article for Tiny Ties.
Next Saturday, our teams will be at Penetang Foodland.
I believe the initial test Campaign justifies future local Campaign days and roll-out of the project across Simcoe County. In the near term we will call a meeting of the Action Committee to review progress and to plan next steps. Remembering that our long term goal is to drastically reduce or, preferably, eliminate the consumption of plastic shopping bags.
Thank you to everyone in ZWS for making our first action effort a success! Well done!