Nova Scotia·Waves of Change

Ocean devotion: A Lunenburg café owner's fight against single-use plastics

There are no single-use plastics in Kate Cocks's café. The Lunenburg businesswoman sources every plastic alternative she can find to protect the ocean. She's challenging all Canadians to do the same.

Why a Lunenburg businesswoman sources every plastic alternative she can find to protect the ocean

Kate Cocks in her café in Lunenburg, N.S. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.

More than a decade ago Kate Cocks baked a dozen muffins for a local business to sell in Lunenburg, N.S.

Today, she owns one of the most successful eateries in town — Kate's Sweet Indulgence Café and Catering. 

Cocks believes big changes can happen with small, focused efforts. Now, she's applying that same determination to tackle single-use plastics.

"The greatest asset that the province of Nova Scotia has is the fact that it's surrounded by water," said Cocks.

"At the rate at which plastics are increasing in the ocean, it's not going to be Canada's ocean playground for a whole lot longer."

She stopped selling water in plastic bottles years ago. She put signs on the walls telling customers she was making the change to protect the ocean.

"You know the fish didn't create this," said Cocks. "The whales didn't create this. We created this."

She's switched to wooden utensils for takeout orders instead of plastic. Her boxes for takeout are biodegradable, too.

She thought she was using good takeout containers only to discover they had plastic liners.

"We found a very good alternative product, they're made out of bamboo and sugar cane, and they actually cost 18 cents less than the ones I was previously using," Cocks said.

Cocks stopped selling bottled water years ago to keep more plastic from getting into the ocean. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Her cookie bags are biodegradable and there are no synthetic ribbons to dress them up. Cocks uses natural hemp string.

For her efforts, Cocks's café was named Nova Scotia's best green restaurant last year.

She's encouraged to see many other business owners in Lunenburg decreasing their use of single-use plastics. She's leading by example for locals and takes every opportunity to pass on tips to the thousands of tourists who eat in her café.

"I think if you have an opportunity to plant a seed inside someone's mind, and think more about what it is that they're doing and how they conduct their lives and the products that they use, then I think you've been successful," said Cocks. 

The Lunenburg businesswoman is featured in a CBC Land & Sea documentary called Ocean Devotion, which airs across Canada.

Other businesses in Lunenburg are being encouraged to follow Cocks's lead. (Jane Adey/CBC)

In the story, Cocks offers a challenge to Canadians:

"You know there's 35-million people in Canada, approximately. If every single Canadian made one change … anything at all … stop carrying plastic bags, put your coffee in a reusable mug, whatever it is, that's 35-million changes, that's a lot of change."

About the Author

Jane Adey

CBC News

Jane Adey hosts CBC Radio's The Broadcast, and has worked for many other CBC programs, including Here & Now, Land & Sea and On The Go.

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