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About one year ago, in September 2020, the borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, in collaboration with Earth Day Canada, launched the Zero Waste Challenge – Business to provide support to businesses in the neighbourhood that wish to adopt eco-responsible practices and reduce waste at the source. A total of 127 restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, bars, dépanneurs and pharmacies participated in this first edition of the challenge to reduce their environmental impact. Among them, 40 chose to go the extra mile and obtain the Action/Reduction certification® developed by Earth Day Canada.
These businesses have benefited from a personalized coaching session with Mathilde Messersi, who is responsible for this project with Earth Day Canada. Together, they were able to identify challenges specific to their business and the correlative eco-friendly actions that would have the greatest impact within the context of their business. Then came the time to integrate these new practices into their everyday activities, making sure that both staff and clients could adopt them with ease.
The Action/Reduction Certification is a journey to alter your habits and visibly reduce your impact. To get a better understanding, we visited one business that participated in the first edition, and two that are just getting started.
Returnable Cups and Infinitely Recyclable Plates: Alternatives That Change Everything
A stone’s throw from Maisonneuve Park, l’Épicerie Urbaine is a gem on Masson for good homemade food.
The ready-to-eat grocery store is one of those projects that has always been aligned with sustainable development strategy. Indeed, Mélodie, the owner and chef, has always been keen to promote local and seasonal products in order to support small producers in short circuits. However, the support provided by the Action/Reduction Certification program has allowed her to push her sustainable commitment even further, for her benefit and for the benefit of her community!
Like many, Mélodie was disillusioned when she learned that there was no real processing infrastructure for the “compostable” containers she was using. Two clear alternatives then emerged: to propose to clients to bring their own containers and to choose aluminum packaging, which are infinitely recyclable. Likewise, since she handles a lot of prepared meals, it was clear that an additional fridge would further help limit food waste. Finally, the introduction of a returnable cup system has allowed them to do away with single-use cups for the sale of these hot and cold drinks!
Mélodie sees a real benefit: “All these changes require effort, but they are worth it, especially when the clients follow suit.” After coaching, she also decided to offer frozen products to further limit food waste. To her surprise, these low-cost dishes flew off the shelves like hotcakes. Everyone seems to benefit from these changes!
Supporting a Better Ecosystem One Supplier at a Time
Café des Habitudes, a colorful new addition to the neighborhood, at the corner of Saint-Zotique East and Christophe Colomb, has had ecology at the heart of its identity since its opening. Johanna, its founder, has chosen to use only reusable items (returnable cups, cloth napkins, snack bags, etc.) and plant-based milk in bulk provided by a young Montreal company. The bright space is also 95% furnished with second hand furniture.
For Johanna, there is no room for procrastination: it is essential to do one’s part for the environment as a citizen but especially as a business. As she explains in simple terms, “The impact of a coffee is one thing, but with 100 coffees a day, I have the impact of 100 citizens. In only 3 days, I have the same carbon footprint as a person in a year. Favouring plant-based milk over cow’s milk then makes a huge difference in terms of GHG emissions.”
Crédits photo : Gaëlle Levesque
The Café des Habitudes is looking to make a difference, one coffee (and one bulk snack) at a time, relying on the enthusiasm and curiosity of customers and the emergence of suppliers with the same goal.
As part of her work to obtain the Action Reduction certification, Johanna has chosen to find (and support) suppliers who tick as many eco-responsible boxes as possible (organic, local, zero waste) for the supply of all these foods. She also wants to recycle the café’s main waste material, coffee grounds, as well as the receipts that have to be printed by the hundreds every day.
“We have already made a lot of progress and we are aware that we have to deal with the reality of finding viable alternatives to “business as usual”. The support provided by the Action/Reduction program allows us to ‘go the last mile’!”
Making More Room for Reusability
A neighbourhood cafeteria located in the Angus sector of the Rosemont neighbourhood, La Caféshop is as proud of the fresh dishes offered each day on its menu as it is of its social mission: the team is made up of people with mental illnesses or psychosocial issues who seek professional reintegration.
Faced with high demand, Josée, project coordinator, had already taken the lead and made several changes towards sustainable alternatives such as swapping her polystyrene containers for ecofriendly ones or directly filling the dishes brought in by the customers. The opportunity to participate in the Action/Reduction Certification is therefore welcomed with open arms: “We are aware that people want greener alternatives and Mathilde has seen for herself that we are already doing a great job on food waste. It’s important to us to be able to contribute to the green movement in the neighbourhood too!”
The Caféshop will benefit from the support of Earth Day to go further in its approach to reduce (single use items such as cups and various containers) and reuse at the source.
The Zero Waste Challenge – Business continues with more than 120 businesses including some 40 establishments like La Café Shop who have chosen to participate in the Action/Reduction Certification®. We look forward to sharing the results of their efforts with you!
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