Single-use plastics should be a thing of the past.
In preparation for Waste Reduction Week, we virtually sat down with Chantal from Red River Co-op to learn a bit more about how their stores made the very important step to eliminate plastic bags before Canada’s commitment to ban single-use plastics was put in place.
Why is reducing plastic waste important?
The majority of plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, meaning every piece of plastic ever manufactured is still on the earth today. Additionally, most plastics contain toxic materials that leach into the ground once disposed of and these toxins pose a serious threat to our water, soil, air, and wildlife.
The City of Westminster published a Plastic Waste Guide with some really practical solutions! Here were some that seemed most useful:
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you to avoid purchasing more plastic bottles
- Buying second hand — you can often find good-as-new items via retailers of refurbished office furniture. See here for a case study.
- Use reusable bags when you go shopping, such as canvas tote bags.
- Opt for less packaging — your business’ shopping and procurement is one way to make a significant difference over time.
- If you haven’t already, switch to a reusable option.
“Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled while the rest ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or the environment.”
(Government of Canada)
As important as it is to ensure we dispose of our plastic waste properly, recycling should be a last resort; refusal & reuse should always come first. For example, you can reuse plastic bags and other alternatives again before they break and need to be disposed of. However, plastic alternatives may not be the most economical option, and that’s exactly the objective of these companies.
Environmental and social costs are often overlooked when it comes to product manufacturing and disposal. Many consumers will opt for the most financially sound choice, with little knowledge about the adverse effects this has on the environment.
Red River Co-op’s Mission
Our mission is to capture the hearts and minds of our employees, members and communities to grow our co-operative while returning profits to our member-owners. Red River Co-op is a different kind of business, and we operate our business with five guiding pillars: We are locally invested, community minded, offer lifetime membership benefits, and care for the environment.
Sustainability is a major pillar for Red River Co-op and we see the impact our businesses can make in the community. This includes decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions and updating all our food store locations with up-to-date equipment and energy-efficient equipment.
What makes Red River Co-op different from other grocery stores?
At Red River Co-op, we are guided by always trying to do things right. We aim to do the right thing for our members and customers, our employees, our communities and the environment.
Co-ops are built by – and for – the people they serve. We are a different kind of business. We are a co-operative that is owned by our members who live in the communities we do business and a co-operative that is committed to investing in those communities to make them better places for everyone. Red River Co-op profits are returned to members and therefore reinvested in our communities, not in the pockets of far-way shareholders.
- In 2021 we gave $308,436 to more than 70 non-profits and charities doing important work in our communities and were also recognized as Manitoba’s Top Employers in 2022. We work hard to give back to our community partners and provide opportunities for our employees to give back.
- Red River Co-op has a longstanding history of supporting local growers and producers. To us, local is more than supporting Canadian and western Canadian businesses. We see local as offering product made right here in Manitoba. In 2021, we had more than $12 million in sales of over 600 Manitoba grown and made products in our food stores.
- We have partnered with inclusive employment agencies such as Ready, Willing and Able, an organization that supports job applicants with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, and the NEEDS Centre, which supports newcomer youth to Canada.
- We work hard to make our food stores inclusive places to work. In 2021, we developed buttons (“Hello, I speak _______”) for 22 different languages to allow our employees to indicate when they are fluent in a language other than English. This allows them to showcase their linguistic talents, take pride in their heritage, and provide enhanced service to our members and customers.
When asked about one of the most valuable lessons Chantal has learned from her role at Red River Co-op, her answer was one that many could take something from:
“That as a co-operative, the future of our success relies on the health and well-being of our communities – including our environment. We must continue to evolve and grow as a co-operative and make our communities a better place to live, work and play. ”
Green Action Centre is proud to see our partnership with Red River Co-op to reduce plastic waste in their stores in its fourth year.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Green Action Centre to further be better stewards of the environment and bring our customers and members along for the journey through educational opportunities.”
Thank you to Chantal and Red River Co-op for doing their part as an Eco Champion by doing great work to benefit our community and planet.
For more information about their services, click here, or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
(Anne Marie Bonneau, The Zero Waste Chef)
For more information on plastic waste, see our sources:
Bonneau, Anne Marie, The Zero Waste Chef
The City of Westminster, Plastic Waste Guide: https://cleanstreets.westminster.gov.uk/plastic-waste-complete-guide/#2
Lacoste, Chantal, Community Partnership & Event Coordinator, Red River Co-operative. The virtual interview took place on October 14, 2022