The right thing to do

The right thing to do

< Back to Articles | Topics: Positive business environment

One man’s trash is another man’s reusable, reducible or recyclable material. Just ask Chris Willison, Co-owner and Director of Junk Works Halifax, which he started with the idea of one day passing it onto his son and daughter. He says he knew from the moment he thought of the idea that there’d be no point in starting it unless it operated under what he’s dubbed “the proper and right way” to run a business: focusing on being environmentally responsible so that the business can sustain itself and the environment.

“There was no way I was going to start a business [otherwise]. I wanted to start a business that my children [Andrew and Emma] could one day run — it wouldn’t have been right if it wasn’t environmentally responsible,” says Willison. “There’s a lot of waste going on in the world. But the more we can divert and keep out of landfills, the more we do our bit, the more normal it becomes. This is a fundamental pillar of our business.”

A circular approach

Willison runs Junk Works, a full and self-service junk hauling and removal for both residential and commercial customers alongside his fellow Co-owner, Director and wife, Sherry. Willison says that despite many of his industry competitors claiming to recycle much of the materials they collect, the evidence he’s seen doesn’t back that up. The Junk Works business utilizes a warehouse space outside its facility, where the items its trucks have collected are brought and then separated into materials that can be reused, repurposed or recycled. Willison says the percentage of materials he is able to repurpose in some way can reach as high as 90 per cent as its staff sort materials into categories like metal, paper, textiles, furniture and appliances.

The Junk Works website states raw materials from these collections can later be used to manufacture items including car bumpers, paper towels, newspapers, steel cans, laundry detergent bottles, plastic, aluminum and glass containers.

Willison also aims to donate all items — common items include books, pots and pans and clothing — that are fit for reuse.

“You can begin to see … that by the time you’ve diverted the things into different avenues, there’s very little that goes into the landfill,” he says.

This approach of reusing or repurposing items is one that Ecology Action Centre Community Energy Co-ordinator Meghan McMorris says forms part of the basis of the circular economy concept, within which reused, repurposed and recycled materials remain circling within an economy instead of new materials being processed into new items.

“It’s cutting down on the carbon footprint that comes along with processing new materials,” she says.

While such an economy has not yet caught on locally, McMorris says the Halifax Regional Municipality has been honing its focus on environment and climate action in another way — the development of a climate plan for the whole of HRM called HalifACT 2050: Acting on Climate Together. The municipality’s website states this plan will aim to reduce emissions through energy conservation and converting to clean energy sources and will include a series of public consultations where people can offer their thoughts on how to make the HRM a low-carbon municipality.

McMorris says all businesses and community members should feel encouraged to engage in such consultation processes, as it is their opportunity to have their voices heard. She also commends the province for its work on passing the Sustainable Development Goals Act, or Bill 213, which aims for Nova Scotia to reduce its emissions and become net-zero by 2050.

“This sets Nova Scotia businesses up to … participate in a sustainable, circular economy, or what I call the climate business,” she says.

Challenging, but rewarding

McMorris says seeing government develop plans and specific targets to prioritize the environment is something that is coming at a time when an unprecedented acceleration of climate change is being seen. The time to act is now and she is hopeful such targets help lead the way for more businesses and organizations to follow.

“We need such a framework in
place. Through HalifACT 2050 [and its consultation process], businesses can come to the table, show how they and their bottom dollar are impacted and specify what they need going forward to ensure their business and the economy
as a whole is sustainable and continues
to thrive,” she says.

McMorris says such systemic changes are not typically easy for businesses to implement, as their respective approaches must sometimes be completely reworked to create a strategy that fits with the province’s goals and municipality’s soon-to-be finalized environmental plan targets. But with these governmental bodies leading the way and providing a framework within which they can plan their approach, there is hope that many will further hone their focus and see the benefit of buying into climate action and decreasing their carbon footprints.

“It’s important to acknowledge that business as usual is very different from how we need to be doing business going forward,” says McMorris. “Historically, society has always talked about business and environment in a way that it’s business versus the environment, but economists worldwide, particularly last year, acknowledged that an economy that degrades the environment is an unsustainable economy. We must look at this and look at changing our ways.”

While the theory behind environmental responsibility is a great one, Willison says it is not always simple for businesses to prioritize it above all else. He also says this reason is why much of his industry competition doesn’t.

“It’s easier to get what we collect and take it straight to a dump and it’s definitely more work to do what we do. Separating, recycling and donating materials takes work, investment and time.
It’s a constant balancing act between the cost of labour, the time required to separate materials and the money we get from diverting materials,” he says.

But Willison says Junk Works will continue persisting, as he and his team members are passionate about doing their part for the environment and see prioritizing it as the right and proper thing to do.

“We can go on consuming items, but eventually we’ll run out of everything we want. So it just makes sense that rather than continuously taking everything for granted, that we stop and think,” he says.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Positive business environment

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