A Zero Waste Challenge starts today at the downtown market. From left to right are: Jade Gregg

Nelson’s Wednesday market promotes zero waste

Two Nelson organizations are excited to be collaborating on a project that offers Wednesday market participants the chance to go waste free.

Two Nelson organizations are excited to be collaborating on a fun project that offers Wednesday Market participants the chance to go waste free.

Earth Matters and the West Kootenay EcoSociety have issued a Zero Waste Market Challenge that is running at the weekday market throughout August.

“This is an opportunity for vendors and customers alike to reduce their waste and make a difference,” says Sarah Bresnahan, Earth Matters Zero Waste project coordinator.

To participate, consumers are asked to bring their own reusable anything and/or everything to the market. It can be as simple as bringing a reusable bag or coffee mug but containers, bowls, cutlery — even straws are something people can bring from home and reuse over and over.

“These are habits we want to instill in Nelson,” says Bresnahan

Jesse Woodward, markets director with the EcoSociety is pleased to partner with Earth Matters on this initiative. The EcoSociety operates the Downtown Nelson Local Market as a project to promote local food security, relocalization of the economy and to create a meeting place for arts, culture and community networking.

“I think going Zero Waste is a good dove tail to what the EcoSociety does,” he says.

At the end of Wednesday’s market, Woodward takes out five bags of garbage from the cans within the one-block radius of the market. He says garbage is more prevalent at events with people leaving their recycling routines at home. Marketfest is a big producer of waste, for example.

On the other side of the coin, this year’s Starbelly had a zero-waste policy with someone hired to take on this goal. Woodward would love to see this flourish in Nelson with manpower needed and this Zero Waste challenge is just the thing to start the ball rolling.

“This is hopefully the beginning of doing what we do better,” he says.

Earth Matters is a program of Nelson CARES society. The Zero Waste Youth Project has been running as a project of Earth Matters since fall 2012. Using tents left behind at festivals as a medium, they have been sharing the message of waste education with Nelson’s youth and the surrounding community. Over the year, the tents have transformed into re-claimed products such as produce and shopping bags and are for sale for $1 to $5 as a reminder to save a plastic bag and reduce waste.

Many vendors already work toward reducing waste at the markets and Bresnahan estimates 90 per cent of sellers are on board with many eager to know what more they can do. One vendor decided to thrift store shop for spoons to give with food sold.

“We’re getting a really positive response,” Bresnahan says as she and fellow coordinator Jade Gregg spent time talking with vendors at the previous market.

Participating vendors will encourage customers each week and provide tokens for the grand raffle. Gregg says this isn’t about “finger waving” rather feeling rewarded for doing a positive thing — and having fun while doing so.

“So many vendors in this area are really good at this already. And so many consumers. We just want to celebrate those folks and with that celebration, educate,” she says.

A customer who uses something reusable for their purchase will get a token made from the same tents reclaimed into bags. The vendor gets one too. That piece of fabric is then taken to the EcoSociety booth, a mainstay at the market, where a name can be entered for a draw.

There will also be weekly trivia questions that will test people’s knowledge about recycling and waste production, and many more opportunities for great prizes including an “ultimate zero waste prize package.”

With Nelson full of vacationing tourists, Bresnahan feels this is the perfect time to host a Zero Waste challenge. It promotes Nelson by showing off what this community does well but strives to do better, she says.

The RDCK is ranked second in the province for waste reduction per capita. In 2009, the central subregion including Salmo, Kaslo and Nelson produced 10,775 tonnes of waste. A total of 5,315 tonnes of recyclables were collected.