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Gabriola students challenged to try to go plastic-free in July

Michelle MacEwen and students gathering info to present to Gabriola grocery store
Ava Teichroeb, left, and Michelle MacEwen seek to reduce their plastic usage on Gabriola Island. (MIKE McKENNA photo)

An educator and executive of a non-profit on Gabriola Island is challenging students to reduce plastic usage in July.

Michelle MacEwen, Gabriola Island Recycling Organization general manager and environmental educator at Gabriola elementary, has six students taking part in a plastic-free challenge. The children have done a lot of work exploring climate change and what’s occuring on Gabriola Island in terms of infrastructure.

MacEwen said they reached out to Nesters Food Market, which she said has numerous items that are heavily packaged in plastic. She said the group is trying to create a toolkit for Nesters’ head office.

Nesters is open to making changes if MacEwen and her group provide data, she said.

“So we put together a zero-plastic, or consumer plastic survey … and we’ve completed about 400 surveys, which is almost 10 per cent of the Gabriola population, and sort of gives us a much clearer idea of what Gabriolans would like to see in regard to plastic packaging in the stores,” said MacEwen. “And to support and bring more awareness to it, we decided to do a plastic-free challenge as well.”

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MacEwen said students seek real solutions that can possibly create a circular economy or stop the amount of plastic coming from Gabriola.

Ava Teichroeb, one of MacEwen’s students, said all of her purchases for the month are free of plastic and while she can’t control her family’s purchases, she hopes to inspire them to buy less plastic. You can’t completely cut out plastics, she said, but she is trying.

“For food, there’s not really, really good alternatives, when you look at all the options in the grocery store, you see which ones have the least amount of packaging,” said Teichroeb. “There’s also beeswax food wraps, which are a replacement for Saran Wrap. Using plastic containers for your food so that you’re not buying the already packaged stuff at the store.”

While it may have been easier to co-ordinate during the school year, MacEwen said it works well in the summer as well.

“Actually, in some ways [it] works out maybe more realistically because the kids, a lot of them are on road trips or camping or staying at a relative’s place, so they’re learning what those challenges are when you’re travelling on the road … so you’re no longer just dealing with what you can buy on Gabriola. You’re then dealing with the bigger picture of the world outside of our island and how hard it is to avoid plastics,” said MacEwen.

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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