Guest post alert!
We asked the folks at Riverside Grocery to tell us about their Zero Waste efforts – here’s their story!
Moving towards Zero Waste has been a work in progress for us. Beginning with single use plastic grocery bags, we continue to brainstorm ways to eliminate more and more unnecessary waste that we produce. While we have increased our awareness and reduced our waste by approximately 90%, there are still a lot of ways we can continue to improve.
In July of 2015, we announced that we would be eliminating single use plastic grocery bags in the upcoming months. We received a mainly encouraging response, and a lot of questions about why we made this decision. After seeing so many bags littering the streets and wilderness of not only the Yukon, but the oceans, forests, and beaches we visited, we were inspired to make a change. The elimination of bags turned out to be an easy transition and our customers were so supportive. On October 10, 2015, we gave away our last single use plastic grocery bag. To ensure continued success we provide cardboard boxes for customers to take home, help customers carry groceries to the car, and of course encourage everyone to bring a bag.
Riverside’s delicious soft-serve ice-cream can be served into any container, and they encourage customers to bring their own!
We were happy to see the positive response from our community, and from there we were aware of all the other areas we could easily improve upon. We had sourced compostable cups for our coffee, soft-serve ice cream and slushies, but we were still using plastic straws. In 2016 we sourced bulk compostable paper straws so everything we provide for ice cream and slushies is completely compostable.
When the City of Whitehorse began the pilot program for businesses to have compost bins, we jumped in whole-heartedly. Having an organic produce section in store it made perfect sense. Between composting and being much more aware of our recycling, especially paper and cardboard, we have reduced our garbage production by approximately 90%.
In addition to our compost bin, we put all of our certified organic produce that would be composted aside for Ibex Valley Farm. The chickens at Ibex Valley eat all of our no-longer-perfect organics and produce quality eggs that we sell. This mutually beneficial relationship reduces waste and energy, strengthens the business community in town, and gives us a great way to get to know the impressive and wonderful business of Ibex Valley Farm.
The next phase came in spring of 2018 with the arrival of our bulk bins. We had wanted bulk bins for years, and we knew all along that when finally got them we wanted them to be as waste-free as possible. We would need a reliable ‘tare’ system so customers could bring any container they had available, and and easy to learn system of refilling containers. We always encourage customers bring their own container when possible, and foster a learning environment for bulk shopping. From our own experience we know it can take a few reminders to bring containers and bags; it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight.
There are numerous options in bulk at Riverside, and the best part is you can tare your own container, something the larger grocery chains don’t allow (Photo: Riverside Grocery)
When we got the tare system up and running (‘taring’ is the ability to weigh a container before filling it, allowing someone to pay for only the weight of the product inside the container, and not pay for the weight of the container itself), the sky was the limit. We now offer a Bring Your Own Container option for everything in our bulk bins, soft serve ice cream, slushies, icebergs, penny candy, locally brewed Summit Kombucha, and bar soap and shampoo bars from fellow Zero Hero, The Yukon Soaps Company. It is so encouraging to see so many people coming in with containers doing their best to reduce their waste. From coffee mugs from home for ice cream, to home made cloth bags to grab a few handfuls of snow peas from the produce cooler.
Zero Waste soaps from the Yukon Soaps Company in Mayo, YT.
We still have a long way to go on the road to Zero Waste, and we have a few more ideas up our sleeves. While everyone tries their best, it is a work in progress and we still love seeing someone carrying a big cardboard box filled with groceries out the door if they forget their bags. The participation from the community is what keeps us inspired and motivated to do more. We are learning along with the rest of town; only 5 short years ago the thought of Zero Waste was barely on our minds. However, it is amazing to see what a close-knit town of like minded, outdoor adventuring, passionate people can achieve.