Lucky Foodtown boosts ProGreen's environment drive

Samoa’s youth-led environmental activists have enjoyed a near $1,800 budget boost from Lucky Foodtown after the supermarket donated a share of its plastic bag sales last year.

The supermarket located at Saleufi began charging customers 50 sene for plastic bags last September in a bid to wean them off single-use plastics before the Government of Samoa implemented a nationwide ban on shopping bags on the 30th of January this year. 

In four months, they sold 17,962 large plastic bags. 

Manager, Auree Westerlund, reserved .10 sene per bag for ProGreen donations and recently handed over a cheque of $1,796.2 to the group in honour of their first birthday.

ProGreen's Treasurer, Leanne Moananu, said the group never expected to receive any funds and they consider Lucky Foodtown to be pioneers in the “choose to reuse movement.”

ProGreen officially has its first birthday on the 18th of August and the young organisation has learned the challenges of managing growth the hard way. 

Ms. Moananu said the group launched successfully with a lot of enthusiasm and commitment from 20 members. 

“Everybody wanted to get on board the environment train,” she said. “We started off with about 20 members and we had an activity a month alternating between clean-ups in town and tree planting.”

But halfway through the first year attendance at events began to dwindle. Too many commitments like work, school, and a challenging access to transport on a Saturday were the biggest barriers, Ms. Moananu said. 

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And though the 20 or so members are not always at activities, they are active on social media and in the ProGreen group chat. 

And that, she says, has been invaluable at beating their other biggest challenge: the naysayers.

“Way before the plastic bag ban was implemented, when we took up the challenge in our group we had a lot of people saying: 'What does banning the bag have to do with ending climate change?' and some people saying: 'What we are doing is unnecessary' and ‘giving up your straw is not going to save the world,’” Ms. Moananu recalls.

“It was hard to get buy-in from our families and friends but because we have this group chat we kept encouraging each other and that was a good outcome; a good way to address that challenge.”

The group committed to cutting out plastic bags, straws and single-use drink bottles when they started the group, to “walk the talk” and be role models for their families.

And ProGreen has influenced people to act for the better, its Treasurer said.

Their monthly activities continue, with cleaning days removing several bags' worth of plastic and other waste from villages around Upolu and tree planting in the National Reserves.

“The clean ups were our way of helping solve the problem of plastic pollution in Samoa and raising awareness that this problem exists and the tree planting was our way of contributing to Samoa’s two million trees campaign,” Ms. Moananu said.

The donation by Lucky Foodtown will likely go in part towards a first birthday celebration, but will mostly be kept for future endeavours, she added.

Their work has so far been funded by minimal membership subscriptions and held their first fundraiser last August where they held a sponsored rubbish clean up. 

They have had corporate sponsorship of donated banners and stickers from John Williams Sala and Theresa’s Sewing Shop made them tote bags from leftover fabric. 

And a New Zealand based member, Myra Tiatia, donated metal straws and other gifts to give away on Facebook in their social media campaigns.

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