Peggy McKay Award Recipients

Each year the Provincial PIRG network administers awards for environmental projects undertaken by volunteer working groups at the Ontario PIRGS. For information about the Peggy McKay Award follow this link. Details about this year’s winners follow

Name: Elke Dring

OPIRG Ottawa – University of Ottawa

Project name: Muggy Mondays

Year: 2006/07


The Muggy Mondays program is a waste diversion program that is meant to encourage students to participate in the “Lug – A – Mug” program. Essentially, free coffee is served every Monday morning in the University Center to any student, faculty, or staff member that brings their own reusable coffee mug.

What makes this program even more extraordinary is that the program offers only fair-trade, organic coffee. The condiments that are offered include coarse organic sugar, and soy milk. As a means of accommodating more individuals, organic tea and fair-trade organic hot chocolate are also offered.


The goal of the project is to:

  1. Reduce the number of disposable cups generated on campus

  2. Encourage individuals to carry their reusable mugs at all times

  3. Raise awareness about waste management issues on campus and abroad

  4. Introduce the campus community to fair-trade products


The beauty of the project is its simplicity. The majority of the visible work is simply the distribution of the coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. However, there is a great deal of behind the scenes work that truly drives the project to reach its goals.

  1. Reduce disposable cups
    – Free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate is distributed on Mondays
    – Mugs are sold to those who do not have a mug
    – Found mugs are cleaned and distributed to campus community members

  2. Encourage reusable mugs
    – Information about coffee discounts on campus is distributed
    – Social marketing tactics are used to prompt mug use

  3. Raise awareness
    – Statistics related to disposable coffee cups are collected and distributed
    – Discarded disposable mugs are collected to make public art with
    – The project volunteers to work at major events related to community or environment

  4. Introduce fair-trade
    – Local fair-trade dealers are asked to provide coffee, tea, and hot chocolate
    – Fair-trade condiments are provided
    – Information about fair-trade products is displayed


It is difficult to measure success with a campaign like this. Statistics about the number of cups of coffee are noted but this is not a guaranty that new users are bringing mugs. Nevertheless, the project distributes between 40 – 70 cups every Monday, has been offered free advertising in university newspapers, has been asked to participate at several campus events, and has at least two people every week say “Thank you, you’ve made my day!”

In the future, we would like to conduct more audits and create a survey related to visibility for waste management and fair-trade.

Peggy McKay Award Recipient

Name: Submitted by Joelle Levesque OPIRG Peterborough

Project Name: The Free Market Collective Year: 2006/07

The Free Market is located in Sadleir House, which was an original Trent University building (Peter Robinson College) that was sold by the administration in 2003. The building was subsequently purchased from its new owners by a group of students called the P.R. Community and Student Association, who raised fees through student levies. The house is the hub of Trent student activism. In addition to The Free Market, Sadleir House is home to OPIRG-Peterborough’s office and Emergency Food Cupboard, the Trent Women’s Centre office, the Trent Queer Collective, Trent’s independent student newspaper Arthur, and the Sadleir House Alternative Library, which is co-managed by OPIRG and the Trent Women’s Centre.

The Free Market is an initiative begun by a small group of Trent students in 2005. It serves the environmental purpose of reducing waste materials through reuse, and the social justice purpose of providing free goods to those who need them. Its name plays off the neo-liberal concept of free-market. Using the simple promotional materials of word-of-mouth, announcements on Trent Radio, and posters and small paper notices (see supporting documentation), The Free Market was given many donations of clothing, household items, knick-knacks, etc. to get started (and these donations have kept coming!). The Free Market is not based on a system of exchange. People can come in and take as much as they want for free, without donating anything. The Free Market, which is open 4 days a week and run by student and community volunteers, is always stocked, with donations coming in daily. In addition to keeping the space open, The Free Market has organized numerous additional events this year.

In September, The Free Market hosted a massive give-away event with music and local organic vegan food catered (for free) by Peterborough’s local Food Not Bombs. Twice so far in this academic year, The Free Market hosted “The Free Market Goes To Wenjack” in which the collection was transported up to the University’s main campus and set up outside the main lecture hall. This fall, The Free Market organized an event called “Make A Treasure, Take A Treasure” in celebration of Buy Nothing Day. The event was extremely well attended thanks to great prior publicity in the local newspaper. During this event, which was free and open to the public, participants were invited out to make “treasures” out of disguarded items and arts supplies provided by The Free Market. In addition, participants were invited to participate in the gift swap by bringing a used item (gently used clothing, a CD, a knick-knack) and swapping it with someone else’s item. Trent University’s “Early Earth Day” was held on March 22nd, exactly one month before real Earth Day, so that events won’t be right in the middle of students’ exam period. The Free Market organized a menstrual pad and bag making workshop that alerted participants of the dangers of commercial menstrual products and taught them how to make their own reusable products out of scraps of old flannel. At the end of the school year, a day-long “Massive Open Air Give Away” will take place on the Sadleir House Lawn. The aim of this event is to divert waste from landfills, provide goods free of charge, and to encourage students to donate rather than throw away items and to reuse rather than consume new products.

The Free Market rents its space for $80 per year, yet receives only $100 per year from OPIRG-Peterborough as a working group. Even faced with this economic barrier, The Free Market remains committed to providing items free of charge. The Free Market is a wildly successful initiative that encourages reuse and aims to reduce stigma around using other people’s used items. Students and community members have shown great interest in The Free Market, exemplified by their abundant donations and their enthusiastic reuse of the goods available. OPIRG is currently looking into the feasibility of a relocation of The Free Market to a larger space (although this will require a significant increase in financing). The biggest problem that The Free Market faces is that its collection is consistently too big for the space.