Zero Waste Month: Okanagan’s Best Products

 In Vendor Spotlight

(Courtesy of Okanagan’s Best Products)

Okanagan’s Best Products has come up with a creative and edible way to reduce their waste at market! Inspired by her passion for sustainability, Kathleen says all of the wooden toothpicks she went through for sampling had to go.

In the past we were going through tens of thousands of toothpics in a market season. These all would end up in the landfill because they are not reusable. While wood is definitely better than plastic in terms of sustainability and environmental impact, it still wasn’t a zero waste situation.

So Kathleen searched for a more sustainable solution and tired it all! Keeping in conjunction with her products, she wanted to make sure that what was being used as tasters was as well.

Once gluten-free products became available in standard grocery shops (though still not at wholesale stores), the decision to move to spaghetti toothpicks was easy.

Okanagan’s Best Products’ initiative has gotten great response from customers. Kathleen says it also provides a space for quick conversations about sustainability, environmental issues, clean food and clean living.

(Courtesy of Okanagan’s Best Products)

…All issues that are part of Okanagan’s Best ethos. In BC, our customers are pretty savvy. They are generally quite switched on about environmental issues because we live in the most beautiful part of the country, and we’d all like to keep it that way. Less waste, more sustainable products just makes sense to them already, so it’s an easy conversation to have!

Kathleen says another great benefit of spaghetti is that if the toothpicks are inadvertently dropped, they will biodegrade and not hard any animals who might come across them.

…And the kids love to just chew on them rather than put them in our garbage.

In addition to the spaghetti tasting spoons, Kathleen says she has been and continues to look into various ways of packaging their products for customers at market, including decomposable bags and butcher paper.

Because our products are kept iced, they are often wet and
cannot be carried in paper bags, so we have no option but to put them in plastic bags. At the moment, many customers bring their own reusable shopping bags, so we often dry the packages of sausage for and place them in their own bags. So we always ask ‘would you like a bag,’ because we do have them available but prefer not to use them. In future, we are thinking of providing reusable cooler shopping bags at cost. We are always on the lookout for ways to reduce our footprint.

Kathleen says that in the continuous search for more sustainable products and practices, she’s come across potential production methods of noted environmentally friendly products that may not be as sustainable as previously thought.

(Courtesy of Okanagan’s Best Products)

We were very surprised ourselves to learn through experience and expense about decomposable plastic bags and how, while touted as ‘environmentally friendly’, the methods used to produce them are not compatible with products that may be moist or damp in terms of immediacy of the decomposing process when wet, and the off-gassing that happens. It does make us wonder about how they are made, what chemicals are used, that they give off a scent when beginning to decompose that can actually affect the products, and just how ‘sustainable’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ they actually are.

For Kathleen and everyone at Okanagan’s Best Products, the opportunity to speak with customers about sustainability at market is always a pleasure.

We have had wonderful market experiences with people who were previously ‘undecided’ about purchasing, actually try and buy our products because our little changes like using spaghetti toothpicks really matter to them.

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