Michael Wiebe, restaurant owner and Green Park Board candidate, takes Mount Pleasant pilot success to international conference

Michael_Wiebe_organics_bin_by_Richard_Lam.jpgAfter Lower Mainland cities scoffed that Metro Vancouver’s organic waste ban was “unworkable”, restaurant owner and Vancouver Green Park Board candidate Michael Wiebe is addressing the Zero Waste International Alliance Conference to prove otherwise. 

Wiebe, Vice-President of Mount Pleasant BIA and owner of the successful, sustainably-based restaurant Eight 1/2 in Vancouver, is a panelist October 2 at the Nanaimo-based conference. He led the most successful of three pilot projects for restaurants to eliminate organic materials from their waste stream that Metro Vancouver conducted leading up to its organic waste ban in 2015. 

The eight-week-long test cases encouraging restaurants to divert and compost at least 70 percent of their organic waste were held in 2013 in Aldergrove, Vancouver’s Hastings Cross district and Mount Pleasant. But it was the Mount Pleasant pilot project that was most successful — and stuck. 

All the restaurants that have continued to participate are in a Green Zone within a two-block radius of Vancouver’s Main Street and 8th Ave.

“In the end we had the largest number of restaurants that stayed with the program full-time. We had six of the seven restaurants that went through the full program continue to this day to divert organic materials to compost, meeting the minimum requirement of 70 percent diversion,” says Wiebe, who lead the effort between Mount Pleasant BIA, City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Recycling Alternatives. 

Wiebe attributes the workable results to applying his early success and hands-on experience with composting organics at Eight 1/2 for the past three years. 

“People don’t want to spend the time to do it, but if you make it easy people like it. Everyone wants to be greener but you have to make the structure — you have to make it easy, and you have to make it financially feasible for small business owners,” he says. 

To that end, Wiebe attended to the smallest details, such as making sure collection bins were in the right place and the frequency of pick-ups. He then followed up, including sitting down with participants to get them to sign on and continue the project. 

He found that business owners were inspired by how diverting and composting organics improved his own comfort level and his business. 

“It’s hard for me to watch how much organic material a restaurant throws away,” Wiebe says. “Plus it’s actually keeps my staff happier — their morale has gone up because they feel like they work in a restaurant that’s leading edge and making a difference for the environment. 

“In an industry that has to keep staff long-term to be successful, this has been huge.” 

Wiebe and his Green Party colleagues running in Vancouver’s civic election will apply the same workable solutions and management strategy to Vancouver’s parks, schools and civic facilities. 

“Vancouver parks and facilities should be a leader in Zero Waste to help educate people on how to make changes at home,” he says. 

Photo by Richard Lam

 

 

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