Lea Pigage

Meet the biologist & business owner who sparked our Plastic Free July challenge.

Lea Pigage challenges the need for single use plastics. She began ditching plastic in 2017 for her first Plastic Free July challenge. Since then, she has tried to reduce her use of single-use plastics such as plastic bags, cups, cutlery, water bottles, and straws. What’s remarkable is how Lea has incorporated plastic-free and other zero waste practices into the varied facets of her life – as a biologist, businesses owner, and parent.

Lea and her husband own and operate Urban Caribou Bed and Breakfast in Whitehorse, where she uses simple practices to reduce waste while operating a successful business. These practices include sourcing cleaning and food products in bulk (then decanting into smaller containers) to reduce packaging, lining compost and waste bins with old newspaper, only washing towels upon request, and baking their own homemade bread for guests. Coffee is purchased in bulk using in 5 lb reusable bags from the Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, mini bars of soap are bought in bulk from Yukon Soaps Co., and growlers are provided for guests to refill at local breweries. As much as possible, the preserves they serve are jams made from local berries and all of their bed and breakfast communication with guests is electronic so no paper waste is created.

For those trying to reduce waste, Pigage recommends “starting with things that are easy.” Take inventory of your behaviors, look at what is in your garbage bin, and then “challenge the normal.” She recommends beginning with something simple, like using reusable produce bags. “You can also look for opportunities to buy local, buy bulk, and tweak behaviors. Finding suppliers that share sustainable practices and are willing to accommodate package free options is also really helpful. Riverside Grocery now has a really great bulk section where you can bring your own containers to fill.”

For Pigage, the benefits to her business and community far outweigh any initial inconveniences. According to Pigage, her waste reducing practices are not only good for the environment but also connect her business to a “niche market that supports sustainable practices.” For Pigage it’s clear – “reducing waste is totally possible, if you take it one step at a time.”

To learn more about Lea Pigage and her B&B visit www.urbancaribou.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northwestel

Northwestel serves the largest operating area in the Western hemisphere and provides service to over 120,000 Canadians in Northern communities. So what motivates the largest communications company in the Yukon, and service provider for almost one third of Canada’s land mass to make their offices Zero Waste and create a comprehensive plan for reducing waste?

According to Northwestel, it’s all about their long-term commitment to Northern people and communities. This is the driving principle behind their focus on safety, respect for their customers and employees, and the minimization of their environmental footprint. This includes encouraging reduction, reuse, and recycling in all their activities.

Cables are collected for recycling in Northwestel’s compound (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)

 

Northwestel’s parent company is Bell, Canada’s largest communications company. For years now, Bell has been a leader in corporate responsibility, including maintaining ISO 14001 Certification.

What’s that you ask?

ISO or, International Organization for Standardization, is an independent, non-governmental organization that publishes international standards for almost every industry. ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard that lays out requirements for an environmental management system (EMS).

“It’s about transparency, accountability, relevancy,” says Kevin Rumsey, Northwestel’s Manager of Environmental Stewardship. “It sets a standard for other businesses.”

The standard is also far reaching, encouraging better environmental performance of suppliers and accounting for all aspects of product management from supply chain through to end of life.

 

Northwestel’s Environmental Management System

 

As part of the Bell family, Northwestel is held to the same rigorous standards for environmental management. As a result, they have developed a meticulous environmental management system, one that Rumsey says is driven by comprehensive data management.

“There’s a quote, that what gets measured, gets managed. At Northwestel, everything is tracked and inventoried,” says Rumsey.

“Our EMS consists of over 70 annual reporting tasks, of which recycling is just one. This management plan tracks data for all aspects of the company’s environmental footprint, from the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) we emit, to what type of paper we use, which is FSC certified,” he explained.

What does this look like?

Environmental training is mandatory for many employees, and was completed by 392 employees in 2016.

In 2016, Northwestel diverted 670 kg of used oil, 237 kg of paints, 1640 kg of alkaline batteries, 274 kg of fluorescents, and 808 kg of absorbents, just to name a few.

They operate 8 solar-diesel hybrid power stations in remote northern sites, reducing GHG emissions, energy costs, and their dependence on fossil fuel as an energy source.

They collect and recover mobile phones and chargers, and in 2017 they diverted 19 tonnes of e-waste for recycling.

E-waste is put on pallets at Northwestel to be shipped south for recycling  (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)

 

Zero Waste Offices

 

Northwestel’s environmental policy extends into their office spaces as well. Offices in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Fort Nelson have rolled out Zero Waste programs, and feedback from employees is positive. These programs include increased waste separation at the source and contracting for pickup of all recyclables including glass, paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, cardboard and organics.

Their compounds also separate out waste, wire, cardboard and plastic, resulting in their only having a small garbage bin they empty maybe once every three weeks. As much as they can, they are committed to keeping materials out of the landfill.

On top of that, all waste is weighed and tracked so their actions can be evaluated and improved upon.

Zero Waste recycling stations in Northwestel’s Whitehorse offices (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)

 

Social Conscience

 

On top of their industry leading environmental policy, the company is also committed to social responsibility. With more than 500 employees across the North, they want to make Northern communities better places to live and work. As a result, there are many ways they are enhancing the quality of life for Northerners.

They have been operating a directory recycling program for 15 years. This program awards cash contributions to schools in Yukon, BC, NWT and Nunavut for collecting and recycling telephone directories. Over the course of the program, they have rewarded close to $250,000 to Northern schools and recycled over 190,000 phone books.

For information on the 2018 Directory Recycling program, visit nwtel.leafsolutions.ca.

Students from Takhini elementary recycling old phone books at Raven Recycling as part of Northwestel’s directory recycling program (Photo Credit: Raven Recycling)

 

They also support numerous community programs, youth initiatives, aboriginal community and culture programs, and are strong supporters of local mental health initiatives. Northwestel gives over half a million dollars annually to non-profit organizations across the North.

This social conscience, meticulous data management and implementation of a comprehensive environmental management system, has placed Northwestel at the forefront of corporate responsibility, and is setting an example for other businesses to learn from and hopefully, follow.

Learn more at www.nwtel.ca.

 

Leslie Leong (Yukon)

Visual artist Leslie Leong’s work uses and is inspired by a wide variety of materials that may no longer be considered “useful” for their original purpose. These include computer parts, old maps, copper pipes and bits of Gold Rush-era glass, all turned into pieces of jewellery.

Leslie was originally inspired to create art from things that would otherwise be considered “waste” shortly after moving to Whitehorse in 2009. Her husband was trying to get rid of an old computer, and when he was unsuccessful in doing so, she and her son decided that they should take the opportunity to see what was inside it. She found the contents of it beautiful, particularly the pieces of motherboard with gold contact pieces, and decided to make herself a necklace with pieces of it, for which she received many compliments. She started making jewellery to sell in 2010, and continues to expand in terms of both the original materials and final products. Indeed, at the beginning of our conversation she showed me one of her more recent projects: earrings made from old guitar strings.

Her work is driven by her motivation to reduce the need for new materials by increasing the lifespan of products and materials that are already available. “We have so much stuff in the world; we don’t need new stuff, we should just use what we have now,” she says, adding, “I hate that planned obsolescence thing…I want to un-planned-obsolescence things!” Her workroom is filled with items that already have a planned re-use, and others that she has picked up but isn’t quite sure yet what she’s going to do with them. “I’ve got all sorts of things that I just need to find a use for, but I like them!” she says, pointing out for example a number of old mirrors lying against one wall. Those she might attach to old silver trays, giving them new life with a different, old-timey style.

In addition to making jewellery, Leslie has also been introducing young people to the potentials of material re-purposing. She has done art programs in schools, and this summer has been an instructor at a camp put on by Arts Underground to make art from recycled materials. She’s interested in spreading the idea that many materials don’t need to go straight to the recycling or garbage bin when they’ve been used once. “I don’t think people realize how useful the materials are that we have right in front of us,” she says, before rummaging through her workspace to show me one more item that she’s found a new life for.

More examples of Leslie’s work can be found at leslieleong.com.

Kate White

Kate White and the City of Whitehorse Mini-Carts Program

In the spring of 2014, the City of Whitehorse put out a call for participants in their “mini-cart” waste reduction pilot program. Kate White, MLA for Takhini-Kopper King  saw the ad and put her hand up to take steps towards minimizing her waste.

The City of Whitehorse launched the small cart trial as these carts are easier to move, easier to store and help shift behaviour with regards to waste management by emphasizing the smaller capacity for landfill and the larger capacity for compost.

Kate’s full-sized black curbside garbage cart was replaced with one that has about half the volume of the original, which she continues to use to this day. Kate still has a full-sized compost cart, and recycles everything she possibly can. This means that even after two weeks, her garbage is still not full; and the contents of the garbage is mostly dog poop, which cannot be composted at the City’s facility.

If you are interested in getting your large cart swapped out for a mini-cart, please contact the City of Whitehorse at 668-8312.

Mike Bailie / Lorne Mountain

Mike has been the driving force behind the Mile 9 Dump in Lorne Mountain for the last twenty (20) years. He has helped to make it a community facility that hosts events and facilitates education!

According to Mike, at Lorne Mountain they currently divert 50% of their waste, and have been doing so for close to a decade. That is something to be proud of! They set up measurement systems, actual weights when they could get them and conservative estimates when they couldn’t. They actually went into dumpsters in the wintertime and weighed/measured how much stuff in them was recyclable. It turned out that 80% of the materials were recyclable! They left it all out of the dumpsters to show people what could be done differently. They then wondered what could happen with a little education…

They got ten (10) families and helped them learn about recycling as well as helped them set up easy in-home waste management systems. The families weighed their compost, recycling and garbage over a four (4) month period and the average was 75% diversion with 4 families over 90%.Not bad – but that was residential garbage…

They then moved on to see how much could be diverted from Industrial/Commercial settings. They had Aroma Borealis, Lorne Mountain Community Association (LMCA) and Golden Horn School involved in trying to see how much they could divert. They went into the classrooms and talked to kids,  set up recycling stations in each class and got them competing against each other and the teachers. Aroma Borealis was able to divert 95% of it’s waste over a six (6) month period (and still does several years later), LMCA did over 90% and Goldenhorn School was over 70%.

Our latest project is to increase our community diversion rate to 75%. We plan on accomplishing this through intensive 1-on-1 education as well as ramping up diversion programs such as our electronic waste program. We are tearing down electronics and appliances that aren’t recyclable into their base components and recycling them. Almost everything is made of paper, plastic, metal or wood so if we break things down to that level then we can recycle the materials and divert it from the landfill.

Darren Holcombe

Darren lives outside of town and goes to the Deep Creek dump each week to drop off their one tiny bag of garbage and some wood/tin scraps from projects. More often than not he comes home with much more than he left there.  In the above photo, he and his partner Lara are modelling the brand new shirts they found (still in the packaging!). Below is a photo of what they brought home from a single trip…

His work bench was created entirely from salvaged wood, complete with a salvaged vice that was modified to fit the bench. Darren also creates various pieces for sale such as funky birdhouses and beautiful toolboxes made from repurposed materials.

Here’s Darren discussing his low-impact lifestyle.