Use your Empties and Help Animals

Empties for Paws will hold its first annual Bottle Drive Blitz from Feb. 20 to 21, however, the campaign to raise money to help animals in need is ongoing. The money collected from empty beer, wine, liquor bottles and cans, along with Canadian Tire money, will be donated to local animal rescues across Ontario and Quebec.

Empties for Paws was started in Jan. 2015 by a self-described animal lover that was “born that way,” Gisele Villeneuve. Villeneuve started the organization knowing that several animal rescues collected empties, and a lot of money could be raised this way. Villeneuve had been following this practice on an individual level for years before starting the organization.

Villeneuve not only encourages other individuals to take part and start similar drives in their community, she advocates to animal rescues to take up the practice. Empties for Paws now features close to 50 rescues across the Ontario and Quebec that now take part in the initiative, before only half were, says Villeneuve.

“They’re jumping on board and seeing how it all adds up,” said Villeneuve.

In Ontario, empty beer cans go for 10 cents while empty liquor and wine bottles go for 20 cents. Villeneuve takes the collected empties to local LCBO stores or in smaller communities to LCBO partners.

“It all adds up. An empty case of beer, 24 beer bottles, is $2.40 because they’re 10 cents each and there’s 24 bottles. Well that $2.40 can buy two cans of cat food or one can of dog food,” explained Villeneuve.

In the last year alone, the animal lover raised $2,390 for the Renfrew Animal Rescue from collecting empties. The Ottawa Humane Centre raised $8,300, and $3,600 was donated by restaurants. She estimates that since its inception, Empties for Paws has raised over $10,000.

“It’s crazy. There’s so much money to be raised and the best part about it is that once people start donating, they’ll be donating all the time on a regular basis,” noted Villeneuve.

Villeneuve has taken the cause as a personal crusade and hopes that the practice will spread across Canada. In one form or another, Villeneuve says that every province has a program to refund beer and liquor bottles. She points out that there is an added bonus of helping the environment.

“I tell people that if their favourite rescue doesn’t collect empties they can just cash them in themselves and send in the money. It’s kind of a cost-free way for people to help animals. When you buy your beer and liquor, you already pay the deposit, so when you donate the empties, you aren’t taking your wallet out. Same thing goes for Canadian Tire money,” explained Villeneuve.

Villeneuve points out there are organizations across the country that are need of the funds to continue helping animals.

“We want to help our local animal rescues. We want to flood them with empties that we get and show them we love them and appreciate what they do because they work hard enough caring just for the animals that they have. Fundraising for them takes a lot of work and effort. So bottles drive like this, once you get going, and people find out, it’s kind of a steady monthly income for them,” said Villeneuve.

Though the drive is a once a year annual effort, the Empties for Paws founder says she hopes people will continue to donate all year.

“I’m hoping this will spread like wildfire across Canada. I’m challenging people everywhere in other cities, communities and provinces to start their own Empties for Paws,” said Villeneuve.

For more information visit the Empties for Paws website.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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