Home Hardware locations in Gravenhurst and Orillia are taking extra steps to make their stores more environmentally conscious.
The Gravenhurst Home Building Centre and the Home Hardware in Orillia are both working to reduce their use of single-use plastic and amp up their recycling in an effort to reduce their environmental impact. The Orillia location stopped offering single-use plastic bags as of Feb. 1, instead offering customers two styles of paper bags as well as reusable totes and cardboard boxes to carry their items. The free paper bag option is a standard grocery-style bag, but customers can purchase a more sturdy paper bag with handles for 50 cents or a reusable Home Hardware tote for just over a dollar.
Owner and manager Chris Locke said that corporate is working on a plan to reduce the use of plastic and make other environmental changes at all Home Hardware stores, but the team at the Orillia location decided to get a head start.
“[Corporate has] to contend with all of the different provincial and territorial legislations, so they’re a little slower in getting something together, but we didn’t want to wait,” Locke said. “We were running low on our inventory of our traditional plastic bags and thought, ‘Well, let’s not reorder. Let’s go this direction because it’s the right thing to do.’”
Last year, the staff switched the fluorescent lighting in the store to LED and they plan to change their exterior lighting in the parking lot and yard to LED come spring. They’ve also amped up their in-store recycling program, going from two or three big blue bins every week up to 20 or more. In addition, the store has a paint recycling program as well as multiple water stations so that staff can fill up a reusable water bottle instead of drinking out of single-use plastic bottles.
Locke said it can be hard for people to avoid things that negatively impact the environment in their everyday lives, but he hopes the small steps they’re taking at the store will help inspire others to initiate change. Most customers are used to bringing their reusable bags into the grocery store, he said, so he wants to help shift the mindset and convince people to make a habit of bringing their reusable tote to the hardware store as well.
“Small gestures when they start to add up collectively make large movements and so we’re just hoping to be part of a larger cultural change that’s happening,” he said. “It’s good for the environment, it’s good for our customers, it’s good for future generations. I’ve got two kids that I want to grow up in a world where they can breathe and be happy.”
The Gravenhurst Home Building Centre also committed to transitioning away from plastic bags in the fall of 2019. They offer free grocery-style paper bags and cardboard boxes, but customers can still ask for one of their remaining plastic bags, which are stored under the counter. However, once their stock runs out, they won’t be reordering the plastic bags and store co-owner LeeAnne Gidwani said they’re working on sourcing more user friendly bags with handles in the meantime.
The Gravenhurst store also stopped selling 500 millilitre single-use water bottles last September, aiming to further reduce single-use plastic waste. They still offer water bottles that are about 1.5 litres, which Gidwani said provides the convenience of single-use plastic bottles while hopefully still reducing the amount of plastic used.
“We’re trying to crawl before we walk and run,” Gidwani said.
For years, the Gravenhurst centre has had a recycling program led by their in-store recycling guru, Emily. Paper recycling bins can be found around the store and at every workstation, and the staff makes sure to sort and recycle plastic waste from areas across the store. The team also has a compost for staff lunches and they regularly pick up litter outside the store, a habit they picked up from their team trash pick-ups on Earth Day.
In addition, the store has had a paint recycling program for the past 10 years, which accepts any and all paint donations including latex paint, oil paint and stains, and they recycle an estimate of about 700 cans a year, Gidwani said. A battery recycling program they’ve been running for five years is currently on hold, but they hope to continue the program once they find a new recycling partner.
“We’re just trying to keep the planet in good working condition for our next generation, making sure that we have clean water to drink in our streams and that our kids can play in lakes and not have garbage floating around them,” Gidwani said. “If we’re more environmentally conscious, we all take away so much.”