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Zero waste enthuses Ithacans

The front doors of Hound & Mare display the BYO sticker (photo by Maddy Vogel/Ithaca Week).

Hound & Mare joined Zero Waste Ithaca’s BYO Ithaca/Finger Lakes Reduces program more than a month ago, though they are just one of the many local businesses that have started displaying the BYO sticker.

BYO flourishes

Zero Waste Ithaca is a volunteer-run organization that aims to foster a zero-waste community in Ithaca, and they have been succeeding. One of their most successful programs, the BYO program, invites local businesses to put a small green sticker on their doors, telling customers they can bring their own container and reduce single-use plastic waste.

Although the program launched more than a year ago, in March 2022, every month new businesses are displaying the familiar green sticker to their customers. As of March 15, 2023, over 100 local businesses, organizations and festivals participate in the program. 

Zero Waste Ithaca’s BYO sticker displayed on a window (photo by Maddy Vogel/Ithaca Week)

Howie Klein, one of the owners of Hound & Mare, said that when Yayoi Koizumi, founder of Zero Waste Ithaca, asked him if they would like to join the BYO program and display the sticker, he gladly agreed.

Klein said before Koizumi proposed joining the BYO program, Hound & Mare had just begun their own initiative that promoted zero waste, offering a discount service to customers who brought their own mug.

“Because we opened during the pandemic, everything was automatically to go,” Klien said. “While I think most of our business continues to be in to-go form, we wanted a way to offset that.”

Adriana Sulca, volunteer of Zero Waste Ithaca said that the program is important when trying to get out of a “single-use plastic mindset.”

“Plastic is so bad for the environment, and it’s supposed to be recycled, but it rarely actually is,” Sulca said. “Having places where we can go and just refill one of our cups instead of using new cups every time we go out seems like a very small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Zero waste at the Ithaca Farmers Market

Judy Ward has been the zero-waste coordinator at the Ithaca Farmers Market for about a year. She has helped the farmers market reduce single-use plastic by implementing recycling and reusable dishware initiatives. She also works with Zero Waste Ithaca to connect the BYO program with some of the vendors at the farmers market.

“It’s so great that [zero waste] is becoming something that’s visible and identifiable,” Ward said. “I see that the group Zero Waste Ithaca has really contributed to beginning to shift culture.”

On the Street Pita, a vendor at the Ithaca Farmers Market, displays the BYO sticker (photo courtesy of Zero Waste Ithaca).

Although the reusable dishware initiative was challenging to implement at the Ithaca Farmers Market due to the market not having an industrial kitchen, Ward said she partnered with local organizations to make reusable dishware a reality.

“Last year, part of the zero-waste project was to partner with The Dish Truck as well as the Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Composters program,” Ward said. “Those were the 2 project partners on the grant [from the Park Foundation], and starting in August in coordination with The Dish Truck we introduced reusable dishware at the market.”

A zero waste community

An educational poster, promoting reuse and recycling in Ithaca (photo by Maddy Vogel/Ithaca Week)

Many people, including Klein, believe that Ithaca is the perfect place for zero waste initiatives because of the tight-knit Ithaca community’s passion for environmentalism. “It seems like if any city is going to do anything like zero waste, Ithaca would be the place to do it,” Klien said. “I think that because of that and because of our clientele, having that option is nice. I know it’s important to people in the community, and we’re happy to do what we can to help that along.”

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