Photo credit: Lola Rosa
Concertation Montréal, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and lead regional development through consultation, launched the project last year My zero waste business as part of the initiative I accelerate my transition to support companies in their ecological transition. Among the elements that supported this project, the 2020-2025 Residual Materials Management Master Plan – the City of Montreal’s collective roadmap to achieve the objective of moving towards zero waste by 2030 – and the arteries businesses that are identified as an important economic and social driver.
“Businesses are central to the habits of citizens, and we realized this all the more during the pandemic, underlines Janie-Claude Viens, development officer – Ecological transition, Concertation Montréal. They have the power to influence both suppliers, therefore production, and customers, therefore consumption. They are therefore key players when the time comes to communicate this ecological transition. »
The call for applications was open to all types of businesses, but a majority of food businesses responded to the call. “Last summer, the City adopted a by-law banning certain single-use plastic items in food establishments. It will come into effect on March 1, 2023 and has not yet been officially communicated, but it can be found in the Residual Materials Management Master Plan. Food businesses are therefore more encouraged to start the transition. They may also be getting into it out of need: it’s a type of business that moves extremely fast, and which has been hit hardest by the pandemic. Food shops are also present in good proportion on a commercial artery, ”analyzes Janie-Claude Viens.
It is therefore to food businesses that Concertation Montréal has chosen to dedicate the first cohort, which met for the first time in the fall. The opportunity to offer them a more specialized range of services, especially since the 14 participants – including Lola Rosa, Resto Plateau, Resto Végo, Pino Café + Bistro, the Botanical Garden restaurant and Espace pour la vie catering – have already taken steps towards zero waste. “They’re already doing a lot, a lot more than we expected,” said the development officer. We would like it to become a reflex to strive for zero waste, but this is not currently the case. With the pandemic, we have returned to a lot of single use. So there is a lot of work to be done, including raising awareness. »
Create a network
Several challenges encountered by companies were targeted during the first discussions. Merchants, for example, are caught up in operations and have difficulty freeing up time because of the shortage of labour. Employee turnover was also mentioned, since zero waste involves training, particularly to raise customer awareness. The financial stakes can also be significant, for example for large-volume businesses that set up composting. “You also need to have energy and creativity! As they are already advanced in their steps, they must show resourcefulness and be able to get in touch with others,” adds Janie-Claude Viens.
The intention of Concertation Montréal is to provide information, resources and tools and a network so that merchants can quickly mobilize. Group support, which will last about a year, involves two-hour workshops every six weeks, during which experts discuss a theme, talk about their experience in the field and popularize information to enable traders to act quickly. The first workshop was given in January by Guillaume Cantin, co-initiator of the project and general manager of La Transformerie, who spoke about food waste. More specific responses to each of the participants can also be found during telephone follow-ups aimed at defining how to use the information they have just received.
“We’re setting up a community of practice, so the participants are part of the same industry, they’ve all done tests and learned things, they all have expertise to share,” enthuses the development officer. This allows them to save research time and benefit from free advice. There is a financial saving at the end of the day. »
Restaurants already sensitized
Lola Rosa is thus part of the first cohort. “It’s good to say that the government must take action, but beyond that, as a business, we can act at our level, no matter how small, and that’s important, insists the co-owner of Lola Rosa Eric Bieunais. On our side, we have always had very strong environmental values, which is also the reason why we went from a vegetarian to vegan menu in 2020. My zero waste businessit is simply a logical continuation of the actions we have been taking for 17 years. »
Among the actions already carried out, the restaurant has adopted 100% compostable containers from the local company Cambium and is in the process of implementing the Retournzy reusable container service. “When we explain to customers that they have to bring back the container to recover the deposit, it still remains a problem today, some prefer compostable. We therefore postponed the single release of reusable containers, also because there are not yet enough recovery points in Montreal,” says Éric Bieunais.
As another example, he uses corn chips from Tortilleria Maya for his nachos, but 10-15% of them break during transport. After years of research, the entrepreneur has just discovered that he can grind them to make flour used to make cornbread, which will soon be served in one of his branches as an accompaniment to chili.
With My zero waste businesshe has set himself the goals of working on food waste, then improving his compost, and even building a garden on the roof. Issues of time and money are raised by Éric Bieunais, for example when doing an audit of losses since this involves paying an employee to study the contents of the trash can, then analyzing the various solutions and finally implement. A job that he estimates to take several weeks, even several months.
Include employees and customers
“The challenge is above all the timing!, specifies the owner. We are coming out of COVID-19: restaurants have had a lot of trouble financially and salaries have gone up, so we have much less room for manoeuvre, we have to make choices. Is it the right time to launch a project now knowing that we are entering the big part of the season which would allow us to make some money again? Is it better to do it when it’s a little calmer, when we can follow the employees and retrain them to integrate good habits? It is a decision that is made with the employees. »
He considers that most of his employees share Lola Rosa’s environmental values and are therefore understanding. On the other hand, the clientele would come first “because the food is good”, and he therefore thinks of betting on communication to involve him in the change. “It would be a question of giving him a bit of the starring role rather than putting ourselves forward, for example by indicating on the invoice “Your vegan meal today saved 500 L of water , thank you !”. The customer, even if he didn’t come for that, has to be able to give himself a pat on the back to encourage him to come back and talk about it to those around him,” says Éric Bieunais. With the pandemic, he was forced to make cuts, especially on the communication side; but he intends to rehire a manager in the coming months.
“What I find really interesting with the cohort is to know that we are not the only ones to be in this situation, to ask questions and to encounter difficulties, and despite everything, we are there to introduce changes. , even if they will not serve our businesses and even if they are expensive. More than solidarity, it’s the feeling of belonging to a group and a movement that I find quite compelling. »
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