Whenever Calvin Sandborn needs motivation, he turns to a picture in his office drawn by his grandson.
“I think about Thomas in doing this work,” said Sandborn, University of Victoria law professor and legal director of the school’s Environmental Law Centre (ELC). “Being a grandparent makes these environmental issues so much more vivid for me because I think about the lives of my grandkids.”
Sandborn and his small team of students with the ELC tackle issues such as single-use plastic bags, fish farms and even coffee pods.
“I looked at the ads that Keurig was running for their coffee pods, which they claimed were green, and they were clearly misleading,” said Sandborn.
Sandborn and his team issued a report in May of 2019 to the Competition Beureau, alleging that Keurig had falsely advertised their pods as easily recyclable across Canada.
“Most places in Canada, they’re not recyclable,” said Sandborn.
According to the report, they can be recycled in B.C. and Quebec but even then, the team’s research found that the grinds and tinfoil can cause issues in the plastic recycling process.
Late last week, the Bureau released its decision, agreeing with Sandborn’s findings and issuing Keurig Canada a $3,000,000 fine. Also, the company must remove their false advertising and inform the public of the ruling via their website, social media posts and email to their subscribers.
Former student Kevin Kisser was Sandborn’s right-hand man during the investigation.
“Working with him day-to-day and the positivity he brings in these situations and the experience, it’s pretty tremendous,” said Kisser. “It was an amazing opportunity.”
Sandborn’s passion for environmental causes inspired other young lawyers like Edith Barabash to move to Victoria after attending Osgoode Hall law school at York University.
“It really shows me that through law, I can also make a difference and can also use my knowledge and my expertise for good,” said Barabash, a first-year articling student with the ELC.
The Competition Bureau ruling marks a big win for the ELC team but Sandborn’s battle is far from over.
“We are not going to solve the environmental crisis if consumers don’t have truthful information about what they could do,” said Sandborn.
Sandborn believes more cases regarding false environmental claims, or ‘greenwashing’, are on the horizon.
“I think this is a new field of environmental law.”