The first Yellowknife Farmers Market was almost a total success.

It was the first time in the history of the market that was a nice day! However, the market is running into issues that reflect one of the big challenges of our times: green washing during this time of climate change.

We can all be fooled by products labelled biodegradable and mistakenly think that biodegradable is the same as Biodegradable Products Institute-certified compostable – but they are very different, requiring entirely different processing to make them environmentally friendly. In fact, if biodegradable goods are tossed into compost bins by conscientious people, they can contaminate it by breaking down into small pieces of foreign material (e.g. plastic pieces), which negatively impacts the finished compost product, often rendering it unusable for food production. This means that volunteers have to sort through all the bins to remove the biodegradable products before sending the acceptable materials to the city’s compost facility.

Creating usable soil is exactly what the market is trying to do and this confusion over biodegradable and BPI-certified compostable products is not helping.

If this is important it is because we are in the thick of the battle against climate change. Most people are doing their best to do the right thing. The hot temperatures in the North mixed with real and potential flooding are all evidence of the volatile nature of our times. Both the Farmers Market and Folk on the Rocks insist that vendors use materials labelled BPI-certified compostable in an effort to do their part. BPI-certified compostable packaging is the only product the city can work with.

However, some products labelled biodegradable that are not allowed at the market are being sold nearby, mistakenly giving the impression that they are part of the market and consumers are being told the packaging is environmentally friendly. Not true. Their containers are ending up in compost bins, negating the efforts of organizers and volunteers.

It is easy for consumers and even some of the people who sell these products to be fooled by these terms. Products that are biodegradable can be returned to an organic state but it requires a process we’re not equipped to do. In other words, these goods end up in the landfill.

These biodegradable products, then, ruin good intentions, adding to our environmental problems.

Biodegradable goods can have various levels of plastics and take a specific set of factory and heat conditions to break down. Because we do not do this in the North, they end up in the landfill with other harmful products — like Tim Hortons and McDonalds cups.

Compostable materials collected in green carts and compost bins are taken to the city’s compost facility and turned into organic soil. It is a good example of Yellowknifers making a contribution in the battle against climate change.

For the most part, biodegradable is just “greenwashing” and we will see more of this as large corporations try to appear that they, too, are doing their part. Hogwash.

We can all be fooled.

For example, being a dog owner, I was buying biodegradable doggy bags, However, I learned that these bags contain plastic and are almost as bad as plastic ones.

I have since found bags that are compostable and, while neither belong in compost bins, they will break down quicker and not hurt mother Earth.

Ultimately, we all need to make that switch away from plastic and any product that will not break down fast and easy.

Every individual is responsible for what is happening on this planet … if we want to leave anything for those coming after us, we will get off fossil fuel products as best as we can.

One of the goals of the farmers market was to help move consumers into a new environmentally-friendly age. The original founders worked hard to find compostable products because of a heartfelt desire to care for our Earth and help others do the same. Let’s help them in their work.

Be planet police. Buy BPI-certified compostable packaging only.

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  1. This issue is more nuanced. Even BPI-certified compostable products will ONLY biodegrade in industrial compost facilities. These are large-scale, professionally managed sites where composting temperatures exceed 140℉. (Home compost bins do not.)

    If your community does NOT have industrial composting facilities, even BPI-Certified products are just expensive and will end up in a landfill.

    Definitely chicken-and-egg scenario.