The data is clear and unequivocal: single-use, disposable plastics are wasteful, polluting, and, in the vast majority of cases, unnecessary.
Policy makers and government officials already have all the information they need to take action. And yet, often, the necessary actions are not taken until it is too late. With courageous leadership, we can take bold action now.
This is why our GreenStep team has committed to not only reducing waste internally, but also to help our clients do the same. Below, we’ll share some highlights of the work we do to help our clients (and our team) reduce waste and in particular, single-use plastics (hereby referred to as SUPs!).
How does GreenStep help its clients reduce waste?
Since GreenStep’s inception over a decade ago, we have worked tirelessly to help our clients reduce waste in a wide variety of sectors: from multi-family buildings, academia, hospitality businesses, public events, and beyond. Some of our waste services include:
- Waste education coaching
- Waste audits
- Life cycle assessments
- “Green Police”
Life cycle assessments: waste is a critical component
While life cycle assessments include a larger swath of impact including water and energy, waste is key. Some of our notable LCA clients have included tentree, Pela Case, Lomi, SOLE, and INCA Renewtech.
With LCA projects, we’ve been able to demonstrate that by using materials other than conventional plastics or synthetic textiles, overall impact is lower across the board. This builds the business case for why companies can and should be focused on more sustainable, non-plastic materials.
How does GreenStep help its clients reduce single-use plastics?
Given our existing work in the world of waste, diving into single-use plastics was a natural leap for us. Recently, GreenStep debuted a Single-Use Plastic-Free certification with our first SUP-free-certified business: Fairmont Pacific Rim, a luxury hotel in Vancouver, BC.
As we have all experienced, hotels and other accommodation-based businesses are typically rife with wasteful and unnecessary plastics. The fact that a major hotel brand and chain has signed on to go SUP-free, is a Big Deal.
We’re actively working to update the certification, expand beyond the hospitality sector, and add a zero-waste component to this offering. Stay tuned!
But, in the meantime, GreenStep also has the privilege of helping several other businesses in the tourism sector lower their waste footprint, through its Sustainable Tourism division. Many of our members work in, on, or with the nearshore environment of Canada’s waters and actively participate in its stewardship.
From remote shoreline cleanups to specific actions taken to reduce plastics in the business, members like Orca Spirit Adventures, Spirit of the West Adventures, Maple Leaf Adventures, Outer Shore Expeditions, and Bluewater Adventures (among many others) are committed to reducing their plastic footprint.
Check out some of the ways our members have found to creatively reduce SUPS in their businesses:
- Planet Bee Honey Farm and Honeymoon Meadery – offering packaging-free, locally produced shampoo & conditioner bars in their gift shop, moving their honey tasting station to zero-waste by switching from single use toothpicks to stainless steel spoons (washed and reused), as well as establishing a honey refill program for locals
- Elmhirst’s Resort – offering guests a “Sustainability Kit” prior to check-in to reduce use of disposable containers and other environmentally harmful products
- Echo Valley Ranch – offering reusable water bottles to guests
- Orca Spirit Adventures – establishing water refill stations, no longer selling bottled water, and reusing supply packaging
- Whitewater Ski Resort – introducing a ‘Kootenay Cups’ initiative to reduce single-use coffee cup wastage.
GreenSteppers walk their own talk
And, of course, our own team members are walking the walk! When polled, 100% of our team said they…
- Carry a reusable water bottle when out and about
- Bring their own bags for shopping
And, well over 80% of our team engages in more actions to reduce SUPS, including…
- Opting for a reusable thermos for hot beverages
- Making food from scratch to reduce buying packaged snacks
- Refusing single-use cutlery
- Requesting “no straw” for drinks when dining out
- Avoiding produce bags at the grocery store, and
- Shopping at a farmer’s market
We also asked our team about other actions they take to reduce SUPs and we received a variety of really amazing suggestions.
Some were simple and straightforward:
- “Simply refuse. For example when ordering coffee asking for a reusable mug rather than take away packaging.”
- “Recycle soft plastics, and a wide variety of other plastic materials for free through TerraCycle!”
Others made lunchtime at the office sound like a whole new world of fun:
- “Pack lunch in Bento boxes or reusable glass containers [and] store food in fridge in glass containers rather than ziplock bags”
While some ideas suggested hacks for removing or reusing plastics in the home:
- “‘Reuse’ plastic bags (from spouse’s work) to clean out cat litter boxes, deliver all single use plastic to recycling depot, wash and reuse ziploc bags”
- “When other plastics come into personal/home use I make sure to separate and properly recycle them; including bringing in the flexible plastics to the depot.”
Plus, an idea for saving money all while reducing plastics from our household cleaning routines:
- “Refill spray bottles from concentrate rather than buy new full spray bottles”
We also heard that sometimes, it can be a struggle to find certain items SUP-free (or plastic-free in general) and we appreciate the honesty here. Refusing or avoiding plastics can be a challenge and all we can do is our best.
- “I usually refuse to buy items in single-use packaging, but not always. I still struggle to find certain items available in other ways, and life can be challenging enough without having to shop at 16 different places to get what I need for my family. I’ve also ended up with bike basket smoothies (ie. smashed berries from a market) and don’t have the freezer space to bulk anymore. Any tips about this would be welcome.”
While most of our SUP focus is on things like cutlery, straws, and coffee cup lids, another surprising culprit are single-use gift cards. Did you know that in many cases, they can be reloaded? One of our GreenSteppers had this to say:
- “Reloading gift cards is a small way to reduce having to recycle them when used once.”
GreenStep is proud to work with clients who are committed to reducing SUPs in their business, and we’re also walking our own talk. If you’re a business looking for ways to reduce waste in your operations, we’d love to chat. Please reach out to us!