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Do as I do. Local firms with a green heart

Illustration by Belle DeMont
Illustration by Belle DeMont

Environmental footprint shrink, local-style

Environmental sustainability is making a slow creep from the obvious to the everything, including our food systems. From growing to eating to putting away food, the world is waking up to a new model, with a shared mantra:

Don’t hurt the earth.

The good news is change is happening, and it’s as much about customer demand as it is about personal the beliefs and consciences of those on the seller side.

Take a sneak peek into some of Nova Scotia’s business owners and their thinking to learn how they’re attacking environmental sustainability, from the inside out!

Boxing Rock Brewing Co. — Shelbourne, Nova Scotia

Beer in cans is a growing trend. Contrary to popular belief, however, the shift isn’t customer-driven or an environmentally sustainable solution. (But that’s another story for another time.) So when Emily Tipton, Co-founder of Boxing Rock Beer, is asked when she’s going to put her beer in cans, she has a simple, one-word answer, bucking the trend.

“Never.”

She and her partner at the brewery, Henry Pedro, think a lot about the environment. Call them constantly conscious, working hard every step of the way on a sustainability footprint. They keep their supply chain as local as possible and are on the prowl for ways to work towards being zero-waste brewery.

So, why no to cans? Well, as Emily explains, bottles are actually a better environmentally sustainable choice, and one that, by the way, Canada should pat itself on the back for. Unlike other countries, Canada long ago established a standard beer industry bottle, meaning after sorting and cleaning bottles, any brewery could use any bottle. Presto! The result is a staggering 97 per cent of all brown glass is returned and reused, each and every bottle heading back for a refill 20 to 30 times. Glass is also made of silica which is plentiful, natural, not to mention there are heaps of it. Even with the sorting, transportation and washing, bottles still come out on top, while the alternative, cans, well, if you want the skinny, check out boxingrock.ca and read Henry’s recent blogpost on the topic. (And by the way, both are engineers!)

Oakview Farm — Kingsport, Nova Scotia

Kevin Graham is a long-time farmer. A man of conscience, his customers didn’t need to ask him to make changes to his farming practices. He got there on his own.

Watching factory farming begin to fail both the land and the food it produced, Kevin started moving his farming practices another direction, working to mindfully reduce pesticide’s grip on food by finding creative ways to treat his land and crops. As he sees it, healthy land produces healthy food, and the less chemicals, the better.

People with environmental sensitivities started noticing, arriving at his farm to buy his strawberries and peaches, both untouched by pesticides. Their appreciation for what he was doing spurred him to explore more, better ways, and sometimes, old ones. He tells the story of an aphid plague that used to hit his greenhouse every spring, and how, instead of spraying, he introduced an insect that preyed on aphids, but didn’t hurt the plants. After a couple of years, the predator established a natural population that now takes care of the aphid pests, every year.

Kevin just returned from the Niagara Region, where he attended a conference to learn more about farming methods that focus on healthy soil and plant health. As he attests, food grown without synthetic chemicals aren’t only better for you, they’re tastier, too. While his farm isn’t certified organic, he offers a low- or no-pesticide alternative, and more importantly, the chance to talk to the farmer actually doing the growing. You can visit either his farm or his stall at the Halifax Waterfront Market. (Oh, and mid-summer, you can bite into some of his non-GMO corn.)

Beezy Wrap — Rines Creek, Nova Scotia

Sandra MacDonald didn’t intend to start an environmentally sustainable business. Rather, she was looking for ways to reduce her own environmental footprint.

When China told Nova Scotia they would no longer accept Nova Scotia’s recyclables because they didn’t meet purity standards, Sandra woke up. She’s never thought much beyond sorting her trash into recyclables and garbage and depositing the remains at the curb, thinking she’d done her part. The rejection by China awakened her consciousness. She began to explore what happened after waste was picked up and decided to take responsibility for what she put in those bags. Her goal was to make a difference in what she put on the curb from her own household, one change at a time.

Eliminating her personal use of single plastic cling-wrap was the first target. Turning to the internet, she discovered Beeswax food wrap was a viable, sustainable alternative. And then she hit the kitchen, conjuring up her own recipe, using friends and family to try the product. Eventually, the wrap became so popular, she couldn’t afford to give it away and a business was born.

What’s been interesting to her is how well it’s been received and the breadth of customers. While she expected millennials to get it from the get go, what surprised her was that no matter the age, from 20 to 80, everyone gets it and wants to do better. Her customers flock to her stall at the Halifax Waterfront Market, and she has retailers from BC, the UK and the US knocking at her door. Besides a thriving business, Sandra has gained a far more valuable reward. As she explains, “Every single person I have sold wraps to, all of those people are no longer using plastic wrap and that will add up to big change in time.”

Dilly Dally Eats — Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sandra MacDonald didn’t intend to start an environmentally sustainable business. Rather, she was looking for ways to reduce her own environmental footprint.

When China told Nova Scotia they would no longer accept Nova Scotia’s recyclables because they didn’t meet purity standards, Sandra woke up. She’s never thought much beyond sorting her trash into recyclables and garbage and depositing the remains at the curb, thinking she’d done her part. The rejection by China awakened her consciousness. She began to explore what happened after waste was picked up and decided to take responsibility for what she put in those bags. Her goal was to make a difference in what she put on the curb from her own household, one change at a time.

Eliminating her personal use of single plastic cling-wrap was the first target. Turning to the internet, she discovered Beeswax food wrap was a viable, sustainable alternative. And then she hit the kitchen, conjuring up her own recipe, using friends and family to try the product. Eventually, the wrap became so popular, she couldn’t afford to give it away and a business was born.

What’s been interesting to her is how well it’s been received and the breadth of customers. While she expected millennials to get it from the get go, what surprised her was that no matter the age, from 20 to 80, everyone gets it and wants to do better. Her customers flock to her stall at the Halifax Waterfront Market, and she has retailers from BC, the UK and the US knocking at her door. Besides a thriving business, Sandra has gained a far more valuable reward. As she explains, “Every single person I have sold wraps to, all of those people are no longer using plastic wrap and that will add up to big change in time.”

- Belle DeMont
- Belle DeMont

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