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Plastic pushback: Lunenburg groups, businesses among players in eco-movement


Ironworks Distillery owner Lynne MacKay shows off her ‘ugly cup,’ just one of the initiatives the business has taken to become plastic free.
Ironworks Distillery owner Lynne MacKay shows off her ‘ugly cup,’ just one of the initiatives the business has taken to become plastic free. - Josh Healey

After countless exhibitions, trade shows and markets, Ironworks Distillery owner Lynne MacKay remembers being fed up.

In the distilling business, it is common practice to offer samples in single-use plastic cups.

However, these days, you’ll not find any of these cups in MacKay’s business.

“It’s almost like I had a little bit of an epiphany,” she said.

She was done with plastic and now her business, along with several others in Lunenburg, are moving away from single-use plastics.

MacKay’s first step in combating plastic was replacing the sample cups with a compostable paper one.

She lovingly refers to them as her “ugly cups.”

“There’s nothing attractive about getting a sample in this kind and I’m kind of proud of that,” said MacKay.

She added that she doesn’t mind considering these new cups are environmentally responsible and cheaper than their plastic predecessors.

But MacKay and her co-owner and husband Pierre Guevremont didn’t stop there.

Working in conjunction with community groups like Plastic Free Lunenburg, MacKay has helped ensure that festivals like Spirited Away are plastic-free.

“That’s it, no plastics. We alerted everybody who came to the event,” explained MacKay, adding that the move was well received.

People listened and there was only a handful of garbage after the three-day spirits festival.

Teresa Quilty, a member of Plastic Free Lunenburg, added that the group is currently consulting with other festivals to become plastic-free.

MacKay said these initiatives are imperative given the town’s location.

“We’re on the bloody ocean,” she said. “It’s wake up time.”

Kate Cocks, owner of Kate’s Sweet Indulgence Cafe and Catering, has also taken steps to become plastic free.

Her epiphany happened a number of years ago and she’s been fighting ever since to reduce and re-use.

“It all started with single-use water bottles. I morally felt that they are wrong in so many ways,” she said.

The move from plastic water bottles to serving tap water got her thinking: what else could she change?

She’s since changed almost all of her service products, such as switching her utensils from plastic to wood, over the past several years.

And the switch, she said, was easy.

“Any business can do what I did,” Cocks explained. “I’ve been able to source all of this from either my existing suppliers or from other suppliers online that are here in Canada and ship directly to me. None of this has been hard.”

She added that most of the eco-friendly alternatives are cheaper.

Like MacKay, Cocks has noticed a trend in Lunenburg concerning single-use plastics and couldn’t be happier.

“I’m beyond ecstatic. The best way to solve this problem is one person, one change at a time,” she said. “Carry your own grocery bags. Bring a re-usable coffee cup. Carry your own water bottle.”

The Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation has been working with groups like Plastic Free Lunenburg and businesses in town to help initiate these changes.

Ariel Smith, the group’s marine projects coordinator, said the community’s movement towards prevention is the best method to stop pollution.

“Globally, it is recognized that prevention is the best method for reducing marine debris,” she said.

And given the work of Plastic Free Lunenburg, Ironworks and Kate’s, the movement is a sign of Lunenburg’s leadership.

“I think it’s an important aspect of the makeup of our town to be a leader,” said Smith.

“We can be a role model, a starting point, a pilot project to see how the reduction of single-use plastics plays out and hopefully see communities and municipalities across Nova Scotia do the same.”

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