Even before being a co-owner of the Cowichan Recyclists — a bike-based recycling pickup company in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia — Erin Ward (photo) was their fan. The Recyclists help Cowichan ride the road to zero waste. Erin and her partner Patrick Devlin lead the business, and devote their lives to something they truly believe in.
Recently, Erin and Patrick held hands with our partner Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace. CVCM connects local farmers and consumers in that region through a centralized food hub, Cow-op.ca. The collaboration between them proves that, although the pandemic has imposed many challenges on us, it has also shown how creative we can be to remain connected with — and supportive of — our community.
“We are so happy that the Cow-op has had such a huge increase in customers and volunteers during COVID-19,” says Erin. She’s referring to the impact of the pandemic on her community: with farmer’s markets and restaurants closing due to the pandemic, everyone started jumping on board the Cow-op. “It’s been so uplifting and so wonderful to see Cowichan in action, supporting local farmers like never before.”
The change, however, demanded an increased workload, lots of support and key improvements that were not immediately possible to CVCM. To meet the customers’ and consumers’ needs, Cow-op’s regular customer pickup locations were shut down, and a home delivery system was implemented — something that requires more hands and equipment and, consequently, funds. That’s when CVCM reached out to Community Evolution, and asked for additional support.
SUPPORTING LOCAL FARMERS
With one sole staff and volunteer board members, CVCM enlisted more volunteers and the Cowichan Recyclists to deliver orders. “We really appreciate the hard work of local farmers, and we want to support their amazing efforts by delivering their food and getting to be part of the growing local food hubs,” says Erin. She reminds us that at the same time that deliveries are convenient for customers, they help increase business for local farmers. “It’s such a dream come true to get to deliver our favourite foods by bike, and experience all the positive feelings and happy smiles of farmers and customers along the way.”
Erin describes the Cow-op team as positive and skilled. “It’s been amazing to witness them shift so fast to meet the needs of the valley,” she says. The Recyclists’ co-owner has also been a customer of the Cow-op, and so looks forward to getting her delivery every week. She has a special reason to love ordering online: a four-year-old son who likes snuggling in her lap and saying “oooohhh, that looks good, get that!” at almost everything. Her words!
The Recyclists use environmentally-sound transportation such as bikes and e-bikes to all deliveries. It’s their way to reduce the impact on the environment. “We like that delivering food is also one step ahead of recycling, in that by reducing packaging and shipping materials, we have way less waste,” says Erin. “The increase in deliveries has given us valuable experience in using our fancy new electric cargo bike, and seeing what it can do on the hills.”
Electric bike deliveries have become popular in several areas of the world, says Erin, “with indicators such as Amazon and large courier companies investing in electric cargo bike last mile deliveries.” The “last mile” of delivery is the final step of the process — the point at which a delivery finally arrives at the buyer’s door. It’s also considered the most expensive and time-consuming part of any shipping process.
POLLUTION AND WASTE
Overall, Erin says that they’re interested in how their region could have electric bikes moving local foods and getting them into the hands of local residents. “We are both very enthusiastic about local healthy food and biking for a living. “It really makes you appreciate wholesome quality food, as it fuels our biking bodies,” she says. “We’re both really upset at how much pollution and waste there is from shipping food across the world, especially being on an island.”
The work that Cow-op is doing is more relevant than ever. That’s why our fundraising campaign to support the partnership we have with CVCM counts on you. They’ve been doing a phenomenal job in connecting local farmers and consumers in the Cowichan region. Let’s help those farmers put food and income on the table. Donate today!