Northmart’s plastic usage challenged by Inuvik youth

Students sat down with the store’s manager to discuss alternatives to plastic

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Inuvik youth continue their push for a plastic-free community, most recently taking their message to the store manager of the local Northmart at a meeting hosted in town council chambers on April 3.

Kevin Giesbrecht, the store’s manager, sat down with staff and students from the East Three Schools, as well as some members of town council. They discussed the various ways the store can reduce its plastic usage.

“We are a group that is trying to focus on minimizing plastic pollution,” said Fletcher Dares, a Grade 9 student at East Three Secondary School, who began the meeting with a presentation.

Dares pointed out that 50 per cent of the plastic that we throw out is designed for single use only.

“What we would hope that you as Northmart would be to try and minimize or reduce the amount of plastic you use in general, and if it’s possible for you guys, eliminating plastic bags entirely, as other stores in the North have done,” he said.

Dares pointed out how the Northmart in Tuktoyaktuk has discontinued its use of plastic bags, which was news to Giesbrecht.

“The best information that I’ve got so far from this group is knowing that Tuk does not use plastic bags,” Giesbrecht said. “That’s great to hear, so that way I can start with something.”

The group then asked Giesbrecht if it was possible for the store in Inuvik to refrain from using plastic bags as well.

“I can communicate to Tuk and talk to the individuals there,” he said. “I can ask them and get that information ahead of time, build it together and send it up to my company.”

Rachel Blakeston, a grade four student at East Three Elementary School, was just one of many students to participate in a meeting with Kevin Giesbrecht, the manager of the local Northmart, at the town’s council chambers on April 3. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo
Rachel Blakeston, a Grade 4 student at East Three Elementary School, was just one of many students participating in a meeting with Northmart manager Kevin Giesbrecht in the town’s council chambers on April 3. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo

Another item on the group’s agenda was to find out why some of the store’s vegetables come wrapped in plastic.

“Because it’s being transported up to the North, it takes more time. Because it takes more time, the second it’s picked, it’s already degrading. We want to make it last,” he said. “I am concerned about that, but I am also more concerned about getting healthy products to some of our customers and to families.”

Despite the challenge of having the store go completely plastic-free, Giesbrecht didn’t say that it was impossible.

“To go zero plastic might take time. Is it possible? Yeah, I believe it’s possible,” he said. “But can we do better? Absolutely. Absolutely we can do better.”

Petra Jellema, a Grade 6 student at East Three Elementary School, said the meeting was important, and she described it as a success.

“It was a smell step but that’s how we get into bigger steps,” she said. “We got to hear a lot and I think that Kevin is going to try and change some things.”

In a couple of months from now, Giesbrecht said that he wants to sit down with the group again so that he can share any progress that the store has made.

“Obviously you guys have spent a lot of time in this group, so I think it would be a good idea if you guys did get to see a little difference out there,” he said.

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