Not only is Em a legend in her own right (check out her IG account and you’ll see what I mean), she’s also my cousin! We hadn’t seen each other in well over a year while she’s been traveling the world and sharing her passion in keeping our planet clear of waste! We caught up recently and I’m dying to tell you what she’s been up to. Here goes…
What is the Bear Minimum? What do you stand for?
The Bear Minimum is a rad single-use plastic awareness group here in Banff, Canada helping both the community and businesses consider their plastic consumption by looking at how alternatives can be used in their daily lives! Our aim is to think recyclable or compostable not disposable. We are living in such a disposable society currently, where things are used once and then thrown away – by 2050 scientists predict we will need three Earth’s to sustain our current produce needs!!
Why plastic? What drew you to create the Bear Minimum?
About three years ago one of my close friends asked me to present with her on the topic of plastic and it was then that I really discovered the magnitude of the problem. I knew that waste was a massive problem, with thousands of kilograms of rubbish ending up in our oceans every day, but little did I realise that even though I didn’t litter, I was still part of the problem.
Coffee cups, plastic bags and toothbrushes that I was throwing into their respective bins were still destroying my beautiful planet. This could be from them finding their way into waterways indirectly after leaving my hand, not only causing injury or death to wildlife, but also entering our food chain (and stomachs!).
I created the Bear Minimum because even though Banff isn’t by the ocean, people were unaware of the problem because they weren’t able to see the effects. And you know what the best part is? Without question Banff has gotten on board and is full steam ahead on this mission for plastic extinction!
What’s been your biggest challenge in spreading the Bear Minimum message?
My greatest challenge is definitely living in a tourist town where you get people from all across the world with little to no knowledge on the topic. It is extremely hard to teach people about the effects of plastic when for one they might not even speak English but also when they have trouble understanding not only the use of plastic but even things such as littering!
It all comes back to what we have learnt growing up about what is right and wrong and understandably it isn’t the first topic on every parents’ mind when raising their children haha.
The amount of single use plastics we use daily is staggering, what do you think are the obstacles for consumers using plastic-free alternatives?
Plastic is EXTREMELY convenient and cheap. Every business you walk into runs off the use of plastic due to those factors, so its hard to convince consumers to support those with minimal plastic or bringing their own items.
We live such fast, disposable lives where so much is happening and we are always on the go, but being able to show people it is just as easy to use alternatives and that it can actually sometimes be cheaper to invest in something that isn’t meant to last once but instead years of usage!
You regularly host workshops and encourage the community to get their hands dirty with DIY projects in lieu of buying ready made, plastic laden products. What has been your most successful workshop?
We’ve recently partnered with ethical fashion giant Patagonia which we’re really stoked about, we’ve held information workshops in their stores in Banff and they’ve been going off!
But the workshop everyone is always super excited about is bag making. We held a fun craft day where people drew on their own bags and painted designs they were proud of and stoked to rep everyday! Future workshops we are hosting include; creating beeswax wraps, DIY toothpaste and other natural body care products, produce bags and many more to come!
What initiatives do you use to reduce your footprint when you travel?
I found the best way I could reduce my impact was through focusing on my waste trail. When grabbing snacks I always look for lots of fruit and veggies (the best/freshest stuff can be found travelling!) or foods that are available in bulk that I can purchase in my handy little cloth produce bags.
If I order food off street vendors I would give them my own glass food container that they could put my food to take away in which nine out of ten times the locals would find hilarious and quite bizarre but they loved it!
It was also super important for me to learn how to say “No bag please” or “No straw please” in the language of the country I was visiting and then flashed them my own bag and stainless steel straw which once again was quite the sight for many locals haha!
In terms of water, a LOT of the hostels I’ve stayed at had safe drinking water so I always carried my own water bottle and filled them up whenever possible (try and seek hostels that provide safe drinking water). You can even look into travelling with a SteriPen to sterilise your water and make it safe for drinking.
The biggest thing when I’m travelling is being prepared. When you’re a backpacker you already have a bag filled with necessities so adding a water bottle, glass food container (with a spork or fork and knife), produce bags, and a straw really shouldn’t be a problem at all!
Lastly, how can people contribute to the Bear Minimum community in Banff or anywhere around the world?
Please follow our Instagram and Facebook Bear Minimum Banff pages and keep updated with our progress! We post a bunch of advice on plastic alternatives which will hopefully inspire others to start something similar in their community!
I love answering any questions (so reach out to me on facebook!) and would be more than happy to help others, so I really hope people find what’s happening in Banff as a useful tool when starting their own groups about things they are passionate about. I also love connecting like minded people so we can all run full steam ahead on the road to zero waste!
As always: share, share, share! @bearminimumbanff
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