Our Alternative Approach to Run Against Plastic

We’ve made it to Alberta, the second last province in our east to west virtual tour across Canada! Alberta is one of two landlocked provinces in Canada, along with last week’s Saskatchewan, but this hasn’t stopped them from being a positive force in the fight against plastic pollution. With 473 provincial parks, five national parks, and six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this province alone, there is a lot of beauty to protect! The organizations that we have chosen to introduce you to today understand this and have taken a stand against plastic. Together, they’re helping reduce plastic and provide solutions in Alberta! 

When we last checked in with Andy Sward, the man behind Million Bottle Pledge, he had just wrapped up a 1,063 km run through British Columbia where he collected 4,390 bottles from the roadside!

Not one to rest for long, Andy ran from Coquitlam to Aldergrove and back this weekend to join the Cleaning Up Aldergrove team in their community cleanup. Together, they collected 17 bags worth of litter off the city streets!

Thanks to Andy and Cleaning Up Aldergrove for this amazing effort!

We begin this week’s tour with a stop at Waste Free Edmonton (WFE), a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing and eliminating sources of waste in Edmonton, Alberta! Though we all know the importance of recycling, WFE emphasizes the other two Rs in the recycling triangle: reducing and reusing. By starting here, we can create less waste in the first place.

WFE has several ongoing initiatives, but let’s start with the Holiday Campaign! The Holiday Campaign encourages residents of Edmonton to reduce their waste around the holiday season. Gift-giving, wrapping papers, and decorations all contribute to the spike in waste that Canadians experience around the holidays. This influx of extra waste overwhelms our garbage and recycling systems, and is often diverted to landfills.

Luckily, WFE has created a handy online booklet that provides tips and tricks on avoiding pesky holiday waste! The booklet is free for anyone to access, available online to prevent paper waste, and can be used again every year! Many of the tips can also be used for other year-round celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, or graduation parties. Through their Holiday Campaign and booklet, WFE helps the residents of Edmonton reduce their holiday waste and focus on the festivities instead!

Another great initiative from WFE is their Last Straw Campaign. This campaign ran from May to July 2018, but has shown a serious lasting impact! WFE joined forces with another Alberta-based organization, Plastic-Free YYC, to challenge local bars and restaurants to go straw-free. Since Plastic Free YYC is in Calgary rather than Edmonton, this campaign was also a challenge between the two cities to see who could sign up more establishments! In the end, 86 Edmonton businesses and 62 Calgary businesses pledged to go straw-free — and that’s only counting those that signed up in the three-month campaign period!

Many businesses in these cities were already straw-free or have gone straw-free since, keeping tens of thousands of straws out of landfills and our oceans! Plastic, single-use straws are a major problem in the plastic pollution crisis, as they easily harm the marine life that mistakenly eats them. Thanks to WFE and this campaign, there are less straws in Edmonton (and Calgary)!

The WFE provides waste-free know-how to Edmonton residents in the form of campaigns, contests, and educational materials. Thanks to their help, the concept of reducing waste at the source rather than relying on recycling programs has become much more common and accessible.

Check out the Waste Free Edmonton website to read up on their other initiatives and learn more about reducing your own waste!

Next up, we have a name you’ll probably recognize from above, Plastic-Free YYC (PFY)! This non-profit organization is made up of dedicated volunteers leading the charge for a plastic and waste-free Calgary. And despite being based in land-locked Alberta, PFY knows that they “are not excluded from contributing to both the problem and the solution” when it comes to plastic pollution in our oceans.

A great resource on the PFY website is the Zero Waste Directory, a map of local shops and suppliers that offer low or zero-waste shopping options. Visitors to the PFY website can filter the map by the products they’re looking for, such as groceries, health & beauty, or even take-out food! The directory serves as a great starting point for anyone looking to shop more eco-consciously. This resource also benefits the local shops featured on the map as it brings more customers in that are interested in zero-waste choices. With this directory, PFY is helping people reduce their waste while shopping, as well as helping out local businesses committed to a similar goal.

Merino wool felted facial soap - After the Rain YYC

And now that we’re in Plastic Free July, PFY is also running a virtual contest! Every Wednesday morning of July, PFY is posting a challenge for their Facebook and Instagram followers to avoid plastic and reflect on alternative products. For example, the July 1 challenge is all about reusable water bottles! Followers are asked to share photos of their own reusable water bottles and talk about the adventures they’ve had with them over the years. These challenges encourage the PFY audience to try new things, reflect on what they’re already doing, and learn about other people’s plastic-free stories.

Every week, one lucky follower who took the challenge and entered the contest will win a prize sourced from local, Calgary businesses. Choosing reusable beverage containers such as water bottles, coffee mugs, and even smoothie cups is a great way to reduce single-use plastic and inspire others to do the same!

PFY is committed to cutting back plastic usage in Calgary. They do this by connecting with residents, hosting fun contests and events, and helping people make zero-waste choices wherever possible. 

Visit the Plastic-Free YYC website to find more upcoming events and plastic-free inspiration.

And finally, we end this week’s tour with Little Plastic Footprint: Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Store (LPF), an online store based out of Calgary! The founders of LPF started their plastic-free journey after watching A Plastic Ocean, a film that Plastic Oceans helped distribute. Inspired to reduce the plastic waste in their own lives, they began LPF as a blog in 2018 and expanded it into an online store just one year later. Today, LPF is helping turn the tide on plastic pollution in our environment and oceans.

Since LPF’s mission began with lifestyle changes to reduce plastic waste, they sell a lot of different things on their website! Their shopping categories include health & beauty, home, on the go, office, pets, etc. We can see, just from these categories, all the areas in our own lives where we can make positive changes to reduce plastic use. 

Merino wool felted facial soap - After the Rain YYC

Local and Canadian businesses also take priority at LPF, with the majority of suppliers being based in Western Canada. Some of the local products available include felted facial soap, natural deodorant, and beeswax wraps — all made in Alberta or British Columbia! And, of course, none of these products use plastic packaging either!

The LPF shop also supports a couple of Canadian charities through their sales! A minimum of 10% of all their profits are donated to Plastic-Free YYC and Myeloma Canada to help support their efforts. We already know a bit about Plastic-Free YYC, but Myeloma Canada is a charity supporting people impacted by multiple myeloma in Canada.

LPF isn’t just an online store in Alberta — there’s a lot more beneath the surface! Through providing plastic-free products, supporting local businesses, and donating profits to Canadian charities, LPF is making a positive impact on their community. 

Go to the Little Plastic Footprint website to check out their inventory and learn more about their mission. 




Thank you for joining us on our virtual tour of Alberta. Check back next week when we explore British Columbia! And if you missed our last stop in Saskatchewan, not to worry! You can read it here.

Rachel Petersen was a Communications Intern for Plastic Oceans Canada, studying Professional Writing and Communications at Humber College.