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Lethbridge teens awarded grant funding for cigarette butt litter initiative

Click to play video: '11 downtown projects receive grant funding in Lethbridge' 11 downtown projects receive grant funding in Lethbridge
On Thursday, Lethbridge’s Heart of Our City Committee announced the recipients of the new Re-Imagine Downtown Activation Grants. As Eloise Therien explains, nine of the initiatives have already been established and funded in the past, while two are brand new — including one that sees two teens on a mission to rid the city of cigarette butts.

The Heart of Our City Committee (HOCC) is helping fund a project dreamt up by two 15-year-old Lethbridge residents in an effort to reduce litter in the downtown core.

Steven Yang and Morteza Faraji said they are elated to find out their application was successful.

The idea for the project was born out of concern.

Yang said they learned from the Helen Schuler Nature Centre that cigarette butt litter is a major problem in Lethbridge.

“We’ve always cared about the environment, and to hear that the city wasn’t really doing anything to help it, we decided to do it ourselves,” he explained.

Read more: Litter in Lethbridge: College project dives into impact of garbage in community

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Steven Yang and Morteza Faraji, both 15, have been awarded $3.000 in grant funding to install cigarette butt receptacles in downtown Lethbridge. Courtesy: Steven Yang

The pair began working on the idea in February, and were able to manufacture seven smoker poles and cigarette drums for the waste.

“Our initiative consists of large smoker barrels, (smoker) receptacles that you just place your cigarette butts in and they’ll be placed around large public areas around the city,” Faraji explained.

“We also have smaller smoker poles that are much smaller that will be placed near businesses… like patios.”

Cigarettes collected from these bins will be sent to TerraCycle, a private recycling business, where one dollar for every pound will be donated to the Interfaith Food Bank.

“Our long-term goal is to get more out there,” Yang continued, adding they plan to install the devices in the next month.

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Yang and Faraji’s initiative is one of 11 chosen to receive financial support from the new Re-Imagine Downtown Activation Grant. They are being awarded $3,000 out of a total $99,225.

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Food packaging litter nearly doubles during COVID-19 report finds – Jun 17, 2021

“Despite the short turn-around for applications, we saw a great deal of interest in Intake 1,” says Andrew Malcom, Urban Revitalization Manager for the City of Lethbridge.

“We received 19 applications, with funding requests totaling in excess of $300,000 – thus there were not adequate funds to meet the demand.

“This is a great sign of things to come for downtown Lethbridge.”

Out of the 11 approvals, nine are returning initiatives that have been previously funded. Those include Shakespeare in the Park, Downtown Lethbridge Farmers’ Market, Lethbridge Electronic Music Fest, and Theatre Outré. A full list of initiatives can be found here.

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Lorien Johansen, chairperson for the HOCC,  said it was great to see some new ideas come to the table.

“The things that we know and love and want to go to every year — music on the square, electronic music fest — we love to see those come back,” said Johansen.

Read more: Despite COVID-19, some small businesses are keeping community alive

Along with the cigarette butt initiative, the other new project is a panel-style competition called Building Business Downtown, which is a recruitment project to fill empty storefronts.

Entrepreneurs looking to move into a downtown space will pitch their business plans to judges, who will choose a winner to receive lease support and other guidance.

“We just thought it would be a super fun way to fill vacant space and make downtown vibrant again,” said Emily Chong with the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone.

“We hope that this will encourage entrepreneurs who are ready to move into a space to kind of take that leap.”

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