East Toronto businesses, residents join zero-waste movement

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Businesses and residents in Toronto’s east end are working together to reduce their impact on the planet.

In recent months, two chapters of the “Reduce Waste” movement, a zero-waste campaign that got its start earlier this year in Roncesvalles, have come to the Danforth and the Beach. Beaches Reduces Waste kicked off in May, while the Danforth Reduces Waste chapter started in August.

Businesses are invited to come on board as community partners, with the goal of reducing the amount of single-use packaging they use and distribute to their customers. Participating retailers put a sticker in their window to show their support for and involvement in the no-waste movement.

Shoppers also play a key role as they’re asked to think about how they can reduce their environmental footprint when they purchase things like groceries or takeout food. Some of the ways they can do this is by using resealable plastic, glass, or stainless-steel containers, reusable shopping bags (especially those made of cloth or mesh), as well as reducing the use of single-use items like plastic straws, cutlery, and water bottles.

So far, 11 businesses in the Beach and surrounding area have joined the movement. Morning Parade Coffee Bar at 1952 Gerrard St. E. in Beach Hill is one of them.

“To me it was a no-brainer,” said owner Elektra Simms, who also lives in the east end near Danforth and Coxwell avenues.

“We all — as small business owners — have the responsibility to do what we can to reduce our waste.”

One of the ways Simms’ coffee shop is doing its part is by giving customers a 25-cent discount if they bring their own reusable mug. She also uses hot and cold cups and straw-less lids, has clearly defined bins for recyclables, organics, and waste, and uses all-natural cleaning products. Further, Morning Parade Coffee Bar donates any leftover food to Second Harvest’s food rescue program.

“We’re going to keep looking for more ways to reduce, to use more environmentally-friendly practices as we continue to grow,” she said.

Adrianna Couto, Beaches Reduces Waste’s project organizer, heard about the concept on social media and felt compelled to get involved after learning 91 per cent of items intended to be recycled around the world actually end up in a landfill.

“That system is broken. We have to focus on ‘reuse,’” said Couto, whose background is working with non-profits and international development.

Beaches Reduces Waste, which is sponsored by the Beach Village Business Improvement Area, is Couto’s first foray into the zero-waste movement.

“It’s such a simple concept that holds the capacity to create change. It’s one step at a time,” she said, adding the key is finding sustainable replacements for everyday items like plastic straws, coffee cups, takeout packages, and plastic bags.

“it’s about changing habits. (The zero-waste movement) is all about reusing what we have, as well.”

Couto said it’s her hope one day Toronto will be designated as a BYO (bring-your-own) city.

This fall, the local group will also be holding two cleanup events in the Beach. Visit https://www.facebook.com/beachesreduces/ for more details.

In Riverdale, Katrina McGuire has been involved in reducing waste for more than a year, after reading about China’s 2018 ban on foreign recyclables and the global challenges to deal with waste.

“I wanted to participate. I didn’t just want to be reading about the state of the environment,” said McGuire, who then decided to re-evaluate her consumption and change some of her habits — for the better.

“With the whole reduce, reuse and recycle movement, we’ve forgotten about the reduce and reuse.”

Last summer, McGuire — who has lived near Broadview and Danforth avenues for two years — pioneered a zero-waste station at the Withrow Park Farmers Market, where people can use ceramic plates and cups and silverware.

Like Couto, she heard about the “Reduce Waste” concept on social media and through the Green Neighbours Network, a grassroots community network of people and groups working to make Toronto greener, healthier, and more sustainable, and decided to take her efforts to the next level.

On Sept. 14, Danforth Reduces Waste will be one of the local groups taking part in Coun. Paula Fletcher’s Environment Day on Jack Layton Way. Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/danforthreduceswaste/ for more info.

Reduce Waste chapters are currently in discussion in the Upper Beach and in Leslieville.