plastic

Meet: Plastic Free Blue Bayfield

In 1998, a group of citizens responded to concerns about the quality of the water in their river and lake, resulting in the formation of FRIENDS OF THE BAYFIELD RIVER (FoBR). Since its inception, FoBR has planted hundreds of trees along the length of the Bayfield River, organized annual beach cleanups, restored riverbanks, lobbied all levels of government and worked with sister organizations along the coastline to raise awareness of the threats to their waters. FoBR was instrumental in having ultra violet water treatment added to the Clinton sewage system.

In 2005, FoBR became alarmed with plastic debris found during cleanup, much of it single-use water bottles. At the time, the Council of Canadians introduced the Blue Community Project. This project asked municipalities to acknowledge water as a human right, end the distribution of single-use bottled water and denounce the privatization of this resource. FoBR sought and received the support of 40 village organizations. As a result of this support, Bayfield is one of many worldwide communities, including Paris France, Zurich, Switzerland and many Ontario towns that are BLUE COMMUNiTIES. 2500 refillable bottles have been distributed and with the help of sponsors, five refill stations can be found in the village. Over 30,000 refills have been undertaken at these sites.

Recent Studies of the Great Lakes indicate that there are more than twice the pieces of plastics per square km in the Greats than in the oceans (225,000), – (440,000). This figure hastened the then Blue Community to join groups around the world intent on changing attitudes towards single use plastics. In the UK and throughout Europe, towns and villages have joined the campaign organized by the Surfers Against Sewage that is based in St Agnes, Cornwall. The Cornish coast and indeed the coastlines throughout the UK and Europe, were awash in plastics. These communities thus became part of the PLASTIC FREE COMMUNITIES project that now numbers 500.

Over 80% of Bayfield eateries (and growing number of retailers) now have committed to eliminate all single use plastics and polystyrene. This is just the beginning.

Thank you to the residents of Blue Bayfield for your leadership on plastic advocacy and awareness!

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LEAF: A look back at where we started, and where we are now.

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The Dishwasher was rhythmically humming while the sink behind it filled up two industrial basins of water to thaw some chicken. Hood fans worked constantly over pre-heated fryers and flat tops that were cranked and working at full capacity. House lights were all on.

No one was in the restaurant though.

In the evenings, I’d melt ice in the bar sink by running hot water, and then scoop handful after handful of plastic straws and throw them in the garbage. It was a moment of awakening that I realized that the foodservice industry is incredibly wasteful. Foodservice has one of the largest carbon footprints of commercial operations, yet it is a driver of our economy and a past time for many. There had to be a way to improve the way we do things. I looked into what sustainability resources were available for foodservice establishments and found very little. The seed was planted, and after two years of research and development, a nationwide non-for-profit was launched that focused on reducing the environmental impact of the industry and certified restaurants that are operating more sustainably.

It was the community of like minded people around me who made the first steps possible. The emerging green movement in Calgary welcomed and supported my idea. Our pilot restaurant was River Cafe, a high-profile restaurant in Calgary whose owner shared our philosophy and passion for sustainability, while keeping us mindful of important considerations in a successful business. This like-mindedness was then discovered across Canada.

LEAF started with one restaurant in Calgary and has grown to what it is today, nearly 100 LEAF certified facilities across Canada, from independent restaurants to small cafes and campuses. We want to make a big impact on the world around us in terms of environmental efficiency and waste reduction, and help reverse the current environmental direction we’re headed. This is the passion that drives us daily. Wo do this in two ways: we educate restaurants about the benefits of sustainability, both environmental and financial, and provide guidance to improve their operations. And it goes far beyond local food. We look at everything from the menu, to the chemicals they use to clean, energy practices, water use, social policies and more. But we also engage in the consumer world where we help consumers find our LEAF certified restaurants so they can show their support and feel good about where they choose to eat.

We now have third-party auditors and LEAF certified restaurants in most major cities in Canada. The auditor’s role is to work within their communities to reduce the environmental impact of local restaurants, and improve their environmental and economic sustainability, which ultimately benefits the local community. A lot goes into a restaurant getting a LEAF sticker on their door. The places that have it are passionate about sustainability, their communities and people.

As a non-profit, we work hard at creating more awareness for LEAF and what it means, why it exists. We know people tend to feel better by eating somewhere they know is more sustainable. These people who feel that it is important tend to spread the word and it’s this organic growth that propels us forward. We use social networks to increase awareness of the restaurants that are doing good things, and then that relationship is continued face to face and off the network, when our audience visits a LEAF restaurant for a truly great experience.

How can you help? Reduce your own impact by refusing disposable plastics when you go out to eat, look for LEAF certified restaurants and encourage your local restaurants to get LEAF certified. If you work in the foodservice industry and want to improve the sustainability of your restaurant, get in touch!

LEAF support UN's Clean Seas campaign

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LEAF is proud to announce that we have agreed to support the UN’s Clean Seas campaign by continuing our commitment to tackling the plastic pollution problem. In June, we launched our Plastic-Free Dining Challenge, asking restaurants to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics, and earlier this year we launched our criteria version 4.0, which places a heavier emphasis on eliminating single-use plastics and requires all LEAF certified facilities eliminate plastic straws, bags, stir sticks and sandwich pokes, with requirements getting more stringent at each level.

Do your part to reduce plastic pollution - sign up for the Plastic-Free Dining Challenge

And sign up for the Clean Seas campaign here: http://www.cleanseas.org/take-action

LEAF launches Plastic-Free Dining Challenge

Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images

June 1, LEAF will launch our Plastic-Free Dining Challenge - a campaign aimed at addressing the use of single-use plastics in the foodservice industry and actively working to reduce them.

Plastics are entering our oceans at an alarming rate. According to Ocean Wise, an astonishing 86 per cent of all plastic packaging is used only once then discarded. It can take an estimated 400 or more years for plastics to degrade in the environment, meaning a large percentage of every peice that has ever been created, still remains. Read more here.

With the incredible success of recent movements like #StrawsSuck and #LastStrawToronto, the time is now to build on this momentum and look at ways to further reduce plastic pollution. We are asking you to join us in tackling the plastic pollution problem!

Restaurants and Foodservice facilities: Sign up here to participate in LEAF’s Plastic-Free Dining Challenge!

Not a restaurant? Encourage your favourite restaurant to join us! 

LEAF releases annual Guide to Canada's Greenest Restaurants

LEAF has released our annual Guide to Canada’s Greenest Restaurants for 2018. For the past number of years, sustainable dining and various aspects of it , including local food, sustainable seafood, meatless menus, and environmental practices, have been listed as some of the top trends in restaurants and food service. Increasingly, restaurants are realizing that operating as a more sustainable business is also good for their bottom line.

Restaurants waste an average of 50 tons of food each year, and use 2.5 to 5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. 96 per cent of LEAF restaurants compost their food waste versus just 9 per cent of conventional restaurants. 85 per cent of LEAF restaurants use energy efficient or ENERGY STAR appliances versus just 52 per cent of conventional restaurants. LEAF restaurants consistently outperform conventional restaurants.

Consumers are increasingly more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions, and gravitate towards more environmentally sound purchasing choices when presented with options. Dining at a LEAF certified restaurant takes the guesswork out of the equation for consumers.  The restaurants on this list have all been audited by an independent third party, and demonstrate a commitment to operating in an environmentally sustainable manner. Canadian diners can find an updated list of LEAF certified restaurants in their area, year round, on the LEAF website.

We are continually raising the bar for what it means to be LEAF certified. In the coming weeks, LEAF’s version 4.0 criteria will be released, which places a greater emphasis on single use disposable plastics and food waste.

Support a more sustainable foodservice industry - visit a LEAF certified restaurant in your area today!

Don’t see one on the list in your area? Send them this link and suggest they get certified!

Follow LEAF on Twitter @LEAF_Canada, on Instagram @LEAF_Canada, and on Facebook L.E.A.F

Moment on the lips, forever in our midst: an epidemic of single use plastic

Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images

Six years ago, while visiting the University of Guelph and their Sustainable Restaurant Program (UGSRP), I first heard the term “straws suck”. Bruce McAdams, UGSRP’s co-creator and sustainable hospitality expert, and I were discussing the issue with plastic straws, when he said he wanted to have t-shirts made that said “Straws suck” to build awareness. The phrase was was clever, and it was accurate.  

It has only been the last couple of years though, that awareness of the issue has grown and a slow rebellion against single-use disposable plastics is forming. Local and federal governments are taking steps to eliminate these sources of plastic pollution, such as implementing plastic bag, straw and micro bead bans and using Canada’s G7 Presidency to encourage other countries to take action such as a plastics charter. Canada has also joined the United Nation’s CleanSeas Campaign

With approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean every year, the CleanSeas campaign is working with governments, the private sector and the general public to phase out the production and consumption of single-use plastics and microbeads within the next five years. If no action is taken, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.” (Source). 

Where government leadership is lagging behind, non-profit organizations like Ocean Wise  and Surfrider and consumer-based movements are working to bring awareness to the issue. 

 

Why the attack on plastics?

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Resource intensive, used for only a brief amount of time, and then discarded to live out an eternity in a landfill or oceans, single-use, disposable plastics don’t make sense. According to Ocean Wise, an astonishing 86 per cent of all plastic packaging is used only once then discarded. It can take an estimated 400 or more years for plastics to degrade in the environment, meaning a large percentage of every peice that has ever been created, still remains. 

It is estimated that we throw out 57 million plastics straws per day in Canada. Plastic bags (produce and grocery), coffee lids and plastic bottles and caps are also among the top plastic items that are consumed and discarded almost immediately. This culture of convenience has created a literal sea of plastic pollution. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. The now infamous North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, occupies an area that is twice the size of Texas. According to the UNESCO, Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

For sea birds and larger marine creatures like turtles, dolphins and seals, the danger comes from being entangled in plastic bags and other debris, or mistaking plastic for food. Turtles cannot distinguish between plastic bags and jellyfish, which can be part of their diet. Plastic bags, once consumed, cause internal blockages and usually result in death.” -

But, despite these major issues, plastics have become part of our lives and, in some ways, (yes I’ll say it, and cringe as I do) have made it better. Working in hospitals, I know plastics are everywhere. Plastic IV and medication bags deliver life-saving medications and improve sterility for patients who are at high risk for deadly infections, and plastic breathing tubes keep people alive when they are critically ill. Yes, plastics can serve a vital purpose that we have no adequate replacement for in the present. But whether it’s useful or not, the evidence is clear: our planet and wildlife simply cannot handle the amount of plastic that we currently produce and dispose of.

 

Let's talk solutions

Unfortunately, we will probably never be entirely rid of plastics. However, we can and absolutely should do everything we can to decrease our use and get away from the convenience-centric mindset that is contributing to the mass amount of plastic pollution.

REDUCE

Health care aside, there are many industries that can significantly reduce or even eliminate plastics altogether right now (excessive plastic packaging comes to mind). Straws and bags are the target today, but all single-use and disposable plastics are on the chopping block. As consumers, we can become more aware of our own plastic consumption, refuse items that don’t meet our standards, and ask that companies provide better alternatives.

FIND ALTERNATIVES and INNOVATE

These two really go together. There will always be people who want their convenience and a even a need or desire for plastic-like material. We need innovation to find suitable alternatives for plastic materials that won’t end up polluting the environment and don’t result in harmful micro plastics as they breakdown. There are many companies that are developing innovative solutions to replace plastics, and even keep some or all of the convenience that we’ve become accustomed to. Sometimes, the solution may be painfully simple, such as going back to the way things were - e.g. milk and beverages in glass bottles.

LEGISLATION

Putting the onus on companies who produce these plastics to find ways to properly collect and manage them, and taxing those that don’t comply, may provide an incentive to reduce their reliance on them. Better recycling options for plastics that are, for now, unavoidable. 

CLEANUP THE MESS WE’VE MADE

Lastly, while we focus on reducing further plastic pollution, a group of brilliant engineers, researchers and scientists can develop plans to clean up the plastics that are already in the oceans. Organizations like The Ocean Cleanup are working on just that.  

This is the beginning of LEAF’s renewed focus on plastics. Version 4.0 of the LEAF criteria places a heavier emphasis on reducing and eliminating single use plastics. Stay tuned for more exciting initiatives to address plastic pollution in the coming months. 

If you're a restaurant or foodservice operator, contact us to get involved. 

Janine Windsor
President & Founder, LEAF