Suzanne Roig
The Bulletin

How to help Locavore

The nonprofit will hold a special membership drive that starts at $2.50 a month or $25 a year. Donations can be made through https://centraloregonlocavore.org or at the Locavore indoor farmers’ market, 1841 NE Third Street.

From sorting trash to packaging veggies, businesses in Bend are making moves to be as green as can be. Central Oregon Locavore, the indoor farmers market on NE Third Street, wants to eliminate the use of plastic bags in its produce case by purchasing a misting produce refrigerator. That will require $12,000 and a fundraising campaign, said Nicolle Timm-Branch, founder and president of Locavore, a nonprofit that promotes local, sustainable food producers.

Volcano Veggies, a hydroponic company that grows microgreens and lettuce, just switched to using compostable clamshells because it meets the company’s environmental mission.

And The Broomsmen, a Bend-based event trash and recycling company, takes compostable clamshells and cups made of polylactic acid to Deschutes Recycling. Beer cups made of polystyrene from Portland-based events are taken to Agilyx in Tigard to be melted down for reuse.

In Central Oregon, companies are finding that it makes good business sense to be green even though it’s becoming more difficult to recycle plastics or mixed paper after China announced it would no longer take post-consumer products from the United States. Americans recycled or composted 1½ pounds of waste per day in 2013, the most current year data is available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In order to keep vegetables crisp at Locavore, produce has to be packaged in plastic bags, Timm-Branch said.

Locavore tried compostable plastic bags, but they didn’t keep the vegetables from wilting, and their opaque color kept people from seeing what’s inside.

“We’re using plastic bags now, but it’s killing us because Locavore is committed to environmental stewardship, and it goes against what we stand for,” she said. “A cooler with misting capabilities will help that, but they’re really expensive. We’re hoping that people who are passionate about decreasing the use of plastic can help us.”

Locavore intends to use a component of the annual spring membership drive to raise funds for the new misting refrigerator.

About 100 farmers and producers bring their products to the marketplace, Timm-Branch said.

“Part of our mission is to support farmers,” she said. “We do a lot of the packaging for the farmers, so they can put their efforts into farming. The plastic goes against our mission.”

Compostable containers and bags have the ability to be biodegradable within a short amount of time if conditions in the composting operation are met.

Most home-use compost systems don’t meet the heat standards to break down a compostable container. Owen Mitz, owner of Lava Edge LLC, a 12-year-old Bend company that sells green packaging, said compostable packaging is a bit more expensive then petroleum-based packaging, but as the price of oil goes up, it makes the price of compostable plastic more reasonable.

“Most businesses want to be green,” Mitz said. “Some (business owners) say the Bendites insist that they have green products and demand them.”

After three years in business, Phil Torchio, owner of The Broomsmen, said he considers himself the master of public space recycling. One of the features of his business is to make sure that people recycle appropriately. His company places specific recycling bins at events, and he has employees stationed at each of these to help people sort their waste.

Torchio said the waste from Bend functions is sent to Bend Garbage and Recycling for composting. Event owners pay a fee for this service.

“We get thanked, and we even get tips,” Torchio said. “People are coming around to the idea that plastic is a problem because there’s no recycling infrastructure in place, and it costs too much money to sort it out.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

20501625