Farmers’ market vendors source sustainable initiatives
By Sue Tiffin
Published July 12, 2018
With every steaming or iced coffee Oliver Zielke sells, he shares with his customers the health benefits of drinking freshly roasted coffee, like that served at the Rebel Elixir Coffee Roastery booth he sets up at local farmers’ markets. Lately, when he’s done his pitch, he also remembers to ask a question: “do you want to use one of our reusable mugs?”
And more often than not, those seeking a fresh cup of java hesitate only briefly to consider whether they really need to take their drink in a disposable paper cup, opting instead for one of the travel tumblers displayed in a basket next to the booth that can be returned once the coffee is gone. For those who are at the tail-end of their market trip, Zielke says, no bother – return the mug next week, or in a year from now.
“It’s true, I would sell more, but it’s just adding garbage, so I refuse to do it,” he said. “I get so aggravated by the amount of waste in society, and how much more attracted to packaging people can be.”
And the mugs come back.
“Even if a few go missing, it could be worth it just to get the idea across,” said Marla Force, Zielke’s partner. She came up with the idea of the “need a mug, take a mug” idea at the booth in an attempt to lessen the impact disposable coffee cups are having on the natural environment, citing this year’s news that about 2.5 billion cups in England are used annually, with very few being recycled. Although Rebel Elixir Coffee Roastery uses compostable cups, Zielke points out the fine print suggests that not all cups can be composted in the area they’re used.
“It’s all about the environment,” said Force, who Zielke said is sensitive about waste, and who notes herself that she has long cared about conscious consuming. “It’s a step in the right direction. When I came up with the idea immediately people were talking about it. I’m really pleased it’s caught on.”
Force washes all the mugs herself, and said that while they are also made with plastic materials, they will be able to be used longer, reducing the number of disposable cups thrown away in the same time.
“It’s like a library card,” she said.
Sustainable practices are popping up throughout the farmers’ markets, held on Fridays in Stanhope, Saturdays in Minden and Tuesdays in Haliburton.
At the McKecks booth at the Haliburton market, paper straws are offered to reduce plastic straw use, an initiative that has carried over into McKecks Tap and Grill and other local establishments – Kosy Korner and the Dominion Hotel have not offered plastic straws at all since last year. Karen Frybort, McKecks general manager, said they are still sourcing better take-out containers.
Into the Blue Bakery was finding they were using more disposable products than they would have liked, having to sometimes double up on paper plates to hold the weight of the pizza they offer at farmers’ markets. They’ve now sourced plates and a water dispensing system so that people who are eating at the market can use reusable tableware, reducing the amount of throw-away materials.
“People are very, very happy about it,” said Cynthia Kocot, who estimated the pizza bakery is using a quarter of the paper products they used before. She said there was a cost to purchase the reusable plates, but in the long run, considering environmental impact will make an economical impact as well with less paper products needed.
At the Raisin the Root booth, Alexis Macnab said nonchalant use of disposable materials makes her feel irate, but she thinks people are recognizing more how reliant society has become on single-use plastic. She offers cutlery she has thrifted, which she asks people to bring back if possible, jars for use as containers, and rarely offers a plastic bag – but when she does, she ensures it is reused. She also offers discounts to people who take the initiative to be earth-friendly and bring their own cup or container.
“I’m sure people think I’m cheap, but it’s about reusing, not saving money,” said Macnab.
Faye Adamson, Farmers’ market manager, is dedicated to using sustainable practices at her own booth, Water St. Market Garden, where she sells a variety of heirloom vegetables, infused salt and dried herbs. She reuses all containers, avoids all single-use plastic, and only uses bags that have been “scavenged from under sinks.”
Adamson also accepts returns of the packaging that she does use, including wooden crates created by locally sourced wood. She sells a lettuce ‘living salad’ box and offers a substantial deposit when the crate is returned, so that she can use it again.
“I don’t have anything that is going in the garbage, hopefully,” she said.
Adamson does note that it’s expensive to be morally ethical, citing the cost of her recycled business cards and that it’s unfortunate there are still barriers to being environmentally-minded.
At her Water St. Market Garden booth, she sells beer jelly and wine jelly, also made from locally sourced ingredients, that sell well as gift items. One customer told her if she wrapped every one in cellophane that she would sell even more.
Adamson said there are numerous vendors in the market who are willing to accept returned packaging, and also small businesses in the community that are open to doing that.