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NDG’s Boom Service provides party planners an alternative to disposables |

NDG’s Boom Service provides party planners an alternative to disposables

A budding youth-led initiative is offering party and event planners an eco-friendly alternative to landfill-bound paper plates, plastic utensils and foam cups.

Boom Service, based in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, provides hosts with all the dinnerware they need to serve up to 150 guests. Dishes can be rented, and a team will deliver, set tables, clear and cart everything away in custom-made boxes to be cleaned off-site. Staffed by students in need of flexible, part-time work, the initiative is now in its third year and demand is growing.

“What we like about Boom Service is it allows for us to not create a ton of waste from our events,” said Rachel Chainey, co-founder of Coop le Milieu. “We produce virtually no waste”

The east-end co-op hired Boom Service for two days this month as about 100 people were served home-cooked First Nations and Tibetan foods. The students, Chainey recounted, worked “super hard and they were super efficient all with a big smile.”

Co-op board member Janet Lumb said organizers knew there wasn’t going to be a way to wash dishes on-site nor does the co-op even stock that much dinnerware. Disposables, she said, would have been the answer.

Sharon Sweeney is a community development worker at Sherbrooke Forest, an affordable housing complex on Sherbrooke St. W. The initiative started when a Sherbrooke Forest volunteer was planning her wedding.

The caterer wanted near double the price to provide dinnerware, Sweeney explained, “so she ended up buying everything and asking people she volunteered with to help.”

Sweeney said several young people stepped up to the plate, setting tables and cleaning up. Everything went better than expected but, afterward, the bride didn’t know what to do with all the dishes. From there, an idea grew.

“We started to let people know that we had all this stock,” she said, noting Boom Service initially outfitted non-profit organizations’ annual general meetings. “It became a pretty seamless operation.”

Sweeney said the students are earning more than just pocket money — they are experiencing a wide range of community events, workshops and meetings as they often stay on-site.

Eric Widdicombe rented dinnerware from Boom Service when he hosted his 50th birthday party in his N.D.G. home. With 40 guests, a caterer and homemade food, he said disposables would have been the only other option. He said he enjoyed that “a lot of the glassware is different so everybody was walking around with a different wine glass.”

While Widdicombe returned his rented dishes clean, there are times when as many as 150 place settings need cleaning. The group cleans dishes at Sherbrooke Forest or occasionally uses the dishwasher at the New Hope Senior Citizens’ Centre in N.D.G. Sweeney said the team is looking for another industrial-strength dishwasher that could be used on borrowed time at a restaurant or organization during off hours.

“I think it’s great,” said Cypriss Campbell, a 21-year-old, full-time Centennial College student. About five workers are involved; Campbell is a co-co-ordinator alongside Abraham McDowall. “It’s so much easier to do this than having set hours and struggling with my school work. I’m doing well in school and I also have this on the side, which is amazing.”

Rayana Speede is a 21-year-old Dawson College student, freelance artist and community activist. She appreciates the flexible hours and helping to decrease the amount of trash going to landfills. Plus, she said, it’s pretty fun as “some of the events are so cool, I actually don’t mind being there. There are a lot of community-focused events.”

Sweeney helps the group find gigs and she is the driver when necessary, though the workers load dishes in wheeled carts to walk to events when possible. The hope is to establish a partnership with a car-sharing service.

The N.D.G. Community Council, where Sweeney works, is the group’s parent organization. For now, it’s more of an initiative than a business, she noted, but, in time, the plan is to incorporate. Taking that next step is difficult with the youth juggling busy study schedules, but eventually Sweeney will step aside so Boom Service can run independently.

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