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Nonprofit and local businesses push forward climate justice


When customers are scouring shelves of Ithaca Reuse for used household appliances or furniture, they exit to find the sweet aroma of tacos al pastor being cooked in a nearby makeshift shelter in the parking lot.
Taco CDMX and Ithaca Reuse tout their sustainable efforts — but they are a part of something much bigger. The two businesses are among the 70-plus that are partners of Zero Waste Ithaca’s BYO Reduces Program.
BYO Reduces’ goal is to eliminate local use of single-use waste. Businesses display a green “Ithaca Reduces” sticker on their storefronts letting customers know they can bring their own containers.

The little grant that could
Koizumi and her team applied for funding to get the program started and received a $600 Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Finger Lakes (SFLX).
“Without that grant, we wouldn’t be here. We probably wouldn’t have gotten the approval from the health department,” said Koizumi. “It just totally legitimized what we are trying to do.”

Sasha Paris, office assistant and mini-grant program coordinator at SFLX said the funding was mainly to aid in the production of the BYO stickers and other marketing material, but helping the organization’s legitimacy is an important part of what SFLX does.
Paris added, “It’s a small step in our mission of bringing the so-called green lifestyle into the mainstream as something everyone can take part in, rather than a luxury lifestyle for the rich.”
Koizumi and her group faced obstacles getting BYO Reduces off the ground. The program began towards the tail-end of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to receive approval from the Tompkins County Health Department before recruiting business partners.
Koizumi said many people during the COVID-19 pandemic rejected BYO Reduces calling it ‘dangerous’ and ‘not acceptable.’
The Tompkins County Health Department did not approve the program until March 2022, despite the World Health Organization’s announcement in September 2021 that the virus is non-transmissible via food and food packaging.

Zero Waste Ithaca held a webinar and letter-writing campaign aimed to lobby local government to speak with health department officials and finally received approval in March 2022.
“We were told that Zero Waste was anti-equity,” said Koizumi. “I know you probably wanted to hear a positive answer of ‘Tompkins County is awesome,’ but no, we have to really fight.”
When asked about Zero Waste Ithaca and their conversation on the BYO Program, the City of Ithaca declined to comment.
Koizumi added, “I wish I could say something really positive. This sticker situation is really positive and it’s going really well but we really needed to push for it and it hasn’t been easy. We really had to hang in and persist.”
Local businesses save

Now local businesses have embraced the BYO Reduces Program with open arms. One of those businesses is Taco CDMX, owned by Edurdo Acevedo. Acevedo said the mix of traditional Mexican-style cooking and the minimalist nature of his culture are driving motivators to his business model.
“We Mexicans, by tradition, we recycle,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo said his bare-bones taco shack saves money when customers bring their own containers.
“All of the small businesses, the really small businesses, appreciate it because they spend so much money on disposable plastics,” said Koizumi.
The BYO Reduces Program is still gaining local business partners by the day, with the goal of keeping even one single-use plastic product out of an incinerator.
“The real solution to the climate problem is where everybody in the community is mobilized and working together,” said Koizumi. “Solid waste is also an issue of justice.”
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