The Skeena Valley Farmers Market, in partnership with Plastic Free Terrace, now has a reusable bag program where customers can take a bag to shop with if they’ve forgot their own. (Plastic Free Terrace Facebook photo)

Zero waste tips for Terrace’s first Plastic Free July

Challenge encourages residents make reusable options a habit

Plastic Free July is coming to Terrace to encourage residents to keep single-use plastics out of the garbage and the environment.

The focus of the global movement is on replacing single-use plastic cups, straws, bags or containers with reusable options whenever possible, says Leticia Kistamas, founder of the grassroots Plastic Free Terrace group. She says small changes can add up to make a big difference.

“A lot of people say, ‘I have five kids, we’re both working full time, I don’t have time for this,’ Kistamas says. “I always tell them, ‘just pick one thing and go with it.’ Then they start to notice how much garbage they throw out at home.”

Kistamas started Plastic Free Terrace when her family noticed how much plastic had accumulated on the banks of the Skeena River, city parks and her own garbage can.

When Terrace City Council refused to phase out single-use plastics after her presentation earlier this year, Kistamas began establishing herself as a local leader for promoting a zero-waste lifestyle through the group. Currently, Plastic Free Terrace has 1,163 likes on Facebook.

READ MORE: Terrace resident asks council to consider city-wide ban of single-use plastics

Making the switch from disposable to reusable items has caught on in Terrace.

The Skeena Valley Farmer’s Market now has a reusable bag exchange program where buyers can borrow a reusable bag to shop.

ValhallaFest, Terrace’s first electronic music festival, went zero-waste this year.

Local businesses including Sidewalkers, WINGS, Blue Fin Sushi and Butter have all switched to reusable items. Xanders coffee shop downtown is also looking for people to try out their new refundable cup program, where customers can put down a $5 deposit to borrow a mug, then return it at any time to get the deposit refunded.

READ MORE: Terrace resident’s bill banning single-use plastics introduce in Ottawa

Don’t know where to start when it comes to reducing your own plastic waste? Kistamas shares a few tips to start moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle this month.

  • Forgot your shopping bag? Use cardboard boxes

There isn’t always a reusable bag ready to go when shopping for groceries, which can result in customers using store-provided plastic bags out of convenience. Instead, Kistamas recommends using a cardboard box instead.

“Sometimes at Safeway and Save-on-Foods they start piling up cardboard boxes so I will ask someone if I can take a cardboard box, but they usually don’t care because they have to pay to recycle them anyway. So you can put your groceries in there, ” Kistamas says. “Or I just put everything into my shopping cart and bag everything at my car, because I always have bags in my car.”

  • Reuse what you have instead of buying new products

Making the commitment to keep reusable items with you is also important, Kistamas says. Storing to-go mugs and shopping bags in the car can make cutting out single-use plastics easier when on the go. Bringing your own silverware, metal straws, and other items can save on having to rely on plastic utensils or Styrofoam to-go containers.

“Most of the time you already have what you need, you don’t have to buy everything new,” she says.

  • Use beeswax wraps to store food

As a mother of three, Kistamas regularly used saran wrap and Ziplock plastic bags to carry snacks or pack lunches. Now, she’s made the switch to beeswax wraps made out of cotton, beeswax and pine resin. She makes and sells the wraps herself at the farmer’s market, and is hosting a workshop on Friday, July 12 at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre.

“I put sandwiches inside of beeswax wraps and when you fold it, it’s sticky and it keeps your food fresh,” she says.

Kistamas is currently pursuing a non-profit license for Plastic Free Terrace so she can pursue grant opportunities to fund local initiatives. Providing free or inexpensive reusable options for low-income families, hosting workshops and events are all within the realm of possibilities, she says.

“I’ve had people tell me they’re throwing out one bag of garbage a week when they used to throw out five, and others who say they are thinking about what they bring home and if it’s recyclable,” she says. “I get a lot of positive feedback and I’m hoping it’s just going to keep catching on.”

For more information on Plastic Free July, check out Plastic Free Terrace’s table at the Farmers’ Market on July 13 from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. Kistamas will also be taking the stage to speak more about the challenge and alternatives to plastic.

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