Recovering substance-users find transitional work through Enactus SFU’s Coast Cards

May 12, 2017

By Allen Tung

Recovering substance-users can face significant barriers to employment, but an innovative program, led by SFU students, is providing transitional jobs to help five substance-users re-enter the workforce.

They have been hired on part-time with Enactus SFU’s social enterprise, Coast Cards, to upcycle used drink coasters into handmade greeting cards. The coasters are collected from local partner restaurants and blended with a combination of recycled paper and organic material to make the card.

Since the program’s inception, these individuals have helped produce and sell more than 775 cards while also working on their employability skills. The program has also diverted more than 34 pounds of waste from the landfills. 

Coast Cards’ success was recognized earlier this year at the Enactus Canada Regional Exposition for Western Canada, taking home the Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge for its efforts to build a greener Canada. 

The program is the brainchild of Simran Arora, a third-year student in SFU’s Beedie School of Business, and Coast Card’s program manager. 

Last summer, while working at a local restaurant chain, she discovered drink coasters were used and discarded at an alarming rate. Arora estimates more than 300 coasters were used at her restaurant on a typical night.

That spurred her into action. As an active member of Enactus SFU, a student-led social entrepreneurship group, Arora knew she had an outlet to initiate change, and began researching ways to upcycle the coasters.  

“If I were to start an enterprise, the social aspect was very important to me,” she says. “That’s why it was essential Coast Cards had the employment component that helped recovering substance-users re-integrate back into society and gain communication skills.”

This week at Enactus Canada's 2017 National Exposition, Arora was named Project Leader of the Year for her outstanding contributions to Coast Cards. Enactus SFU was a semi-finalist for the national championship and its president Rajin Shokar was recognized with the Founder's Bursary for his superior leadership and team development. 

Enactus SFU program managers serve a one-year term so Arora will be handing off the fledging program at the end of May. Already there are plans to employ more individuals and add an education component to bring the program into schools to show students how they too can make difference.

Asked if she achieved her goals with the program, Arora says, “Yeah—and so much more. I just wanted to sell $800 worth of cards by the end of May and right now we have sold more than $3,000.”