Guest post by Julie Lopez
A few years ago, Melanie Ang, the founder of Backcountry Wok, was finishing up her Masters of Science in Marine Biology at the University of British Columbia, doing field work on the remote Broken Islands, a group of small islands off the BC coast—so remote that there are no reviews on google. She recalls how it was in this seemingly unreachable place where she saw, and understood, just how far-reaching human impact has become. It instilled a sense of urgency in her to act—and, after she finished her studies and relocated to Ottawa to pursue a career in environmental sciences, Ang founded Backcountry Wok, a company that makes dehydrated vegan meals in 100% compostable packaging for all your outdoor adventures.
Low waste, locally sourced, culturally diverse and delicious
Melanie and her team make dehydrated meals for hiking, camping and all outdoor adventures you can imagine. They’re easy to carry, easy to use, and easy on the planet.
Backcountry Wok’s locally sourced, chef and dietician approved meals are sold in bags that create zero post-consumer waste because they are home/backyard and industrially compostable. The bags have paper liners on the outside, and a corn-based material on the inside—with a thicker corn-based zipper to seal the packaging.
To test it out her product herself, Melanie did an at-home experiment—she dug a hole in her backyard, buried the bag, and let the earth do the rest. A year and a half later, the only part remaining is the thick zipper seal—the bags themselves are gone, and have become compost. So will the zipper.
Backcountry Wok is only in their second year of business and have already diverted 2,000 conventional dehydrated meal bags from landfills. Since plastics take approximately 400 years to break down, Backcountry Wok’s approach to packaging is not only diverting bags from landfills today, they are also ensuring that their bags won’t just break down and continue existing as micro-plastics for hundreds of years.
Food: Close to the Heart, and Close to Home
Evidently, protecting nature is close to the hearts of Melanie and the Backcountry Wok team. For them, protecting nature involves reducing packaging… but goes beyond to tackle the carbon footprint of food. They protect what’s close to their heart by sourcing fresh produce close to their home–Ottawa.
Melanie spoke about how the Ottawa farmers markets and events through the city have given them the opportunity to build relationships with farmers and retailers, to truly get to know who has grown their ingredients, and now, how to collaborate and reduce food waste by using unsold vegetables in their recipes and to make Backcountry Wok’s vegetable broth—putting what can’t be sold or eaten to use, and avoiding food becoming waste in the process.
No mushrooms please
Through events and markets in the city, the Backcountry Wok team has been able to meet and chat directly with their customers to hear exactly what they like about the meals, what they don’t and what they want to taste next. Currently, Backcountry Wok is developing new meals which, based on feedback from customers, will incorporate different combination of ingredients, and will aim to use a non-rice base—which has been a staple thus far.
Backcountry Wok can be found at Nu Grocery in Hintonburg and Trailhead Paddleshack in Carlingwood. If those aren’t nearby—don’t worry! Their sister company, Wok Fresh, which is geared to the everyday person on the go, can be found in many Ottawa neighbourhoods including Westboro at Rainbow Foods, Sandy Hill Pet and Human Food Co-Op and the Natural Food Pantry, in The Glebe at Wild Oat Café + Bakery, in Barrhaven at the Natural Food Pantry, in Almonte at the Dandelion Foods and in Manotick at the Manotick Natural Food Market.
If you’re someone that loves that planet, make sure to support Backcountry Wok as they continue to develop their business and grow—their crowdfunding campaign is wrapping up, and every contribution will help keep plastic bags out of hiking trails, camp grounds and pristine places.