Jorden Klingbell (left) and Nicole Dodge, the Quesnel eco-ambassadors. Heather Norman photo

Eco-ambassadors are starting the conversation around single-use materials

A few local businesses have already committed to more sustainable practices

Quesnel’s new eco-ambassadors are focused on talking with businesses and individuals about their waste practices.

How often do they use single-use materials, like plastic straws, take out containers or plastic bags? What are the eco-friendly alternatives to these things?

The eco-ambassadors are two students who work for the city throughout the summer months. Last year, they were tasked with spreading awareness about the storm drain system, and also coming up with a water quality and conservation program.

This year’s students are meant to start a dialogue with businesses and the community within Quesnel about waste management, prior to a technical review of the city’s waste management system.

Jorden Klingbell and Nicole Dodge make up the eco team this summer. Both are going into their fourth year at UBC, but are originally from Quesnel. Klingbell is studying environmental engineering, while Dodge is taking biology.

The two students started work by going around to every restaurant in Quesnel and giving them a letter, requesting they get in touch with the ambassadors. “Not many got back to us, so we’ve been slowly calling all the restaurants,” says Dodge. “And quite a few, at least five or seven, have already started not giving out straws unless asked, or have started thinking about switching to paper or different kinds of straws that aren’t plastic.”

Granville’s Coffee, for example, is part of that number. Ted Martindale told the Observer that Granville’s is working toward trying paper straws—though the last time he tried to order them the company he was ordering from had run out, so it’s unclear when they’ll make the switch. Martindale says they’ll try the paper straws, but they are more expensive so it might not stick.

Throughout the summer, the team has also been handing out surveys to measure individuals’ views on waste management. “There’s a surprising paradigm shift so far,” says Klingbell. “As we go along throughout the summer, the number of people who would consider switching [from plastic to reusable bags] continually go up. It seems like a steady rise as information gets out there. I’m interested to see if that continues.”

Both of the students were sure to mention that a number of local businesses had already started to think about ways to become more environmentally sustainable before they came along.

This is not entirely unexpected.

Mayor Bob Simpson says that part of their mandate has been to chat with local branches of larger chains, like Booster Juice, to see what’s going on at a corporate level.

He says the world is changing the way it deals with waste, and the city wants to know what impact those changes have had on bigger corporations. “If they’re reading the writing on the wall and they’re making the changes themselves then you don’t have to do the by-law process. Because that shift is already occurring.”

One big chain that came out recently and said they would be phasing out one-use plastic straws in favour of recyclable lids is Starbucks. The coffee giant plans to have phased out plastic straws by the year 2020.

One thing the ambassadors would like people to know moving forward, says Dodge, is that “just because you want your plastic to be recyclable, it might not be.”

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