Saturday, April 30, 2011

The joys of being a Master Composter/Recycler

This morning, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the new City of Edmonton Master Composter/Recycler graduates of 2011. They're a wonderful bunch, brimming with enthusiasm for their new role as volunteers who will educate more citizens of their communities about Edmonton's world class recycling facilities, and ways to reduce waste. I was able to sit in on presentations about their plans for sharing their new knowledge with the public, and was quite impressed by the breadth of ideas and activities they want to take on as new ambassadors for reducing, reusing, recycling, recovering and a plethora of other R words which our world needs to give more attention now that there are seven billion of us on it.

I was invited to give a little presentation about my own experiences as a Master Composter/Recycler in the last four years, and just the exercise of writing that little talk reminded me what a wonderful thing it is to be counted among the ranks of Edmonton's MCRs. I've met so many wonderful, environmentally-conscious people, and had many opportunities to encourage friends, neighbours and members of my community to become more conscious of ways to be kinder to the planet.

Since my MCR graduation day in May of 2007, lots of good things have happened for me. Not only is my yard composter a happier place, but I have become the proud owner of a four story red wiggler condo. This picture was taken last spring, before a fifth floor was added. I've learned that if you put a tablespoon of worm castings into a litre of water, stir it up, and water with that, houseplants absolutely love it.

I’ve also discovered that being an MCR is a lot of fun through lots of different activities, like talking up Edmonton's world class Recycling Program with any interested person, esp. new neighbours and the Simplicity Study Circles I facilitate. Somehow, that leads to conversations about grass cycling, and rain barrel water conservation and lasagna gardening, and the benefits of the Reuse Centre, and EcoStations and a lot of other good stuff.

Helping friends and family with their composters has been fun, as has encouraging people I know to compost, and being a “leaf thief” from neighbours who don’t compost. My garden is admired by those neighbours, and they are sometimes a little puzzled when I thank them for their contributions.

Facilitating Recycling displays for the city is easier than you’d expect. I took one to a Green Fair in Millwoods (invited by someone from the Green Party), and I’ve helped with displays at the home reno and home and garden shows at the Agricom. Being an introvert, it didn't come naturally at first, but I’ve learned how much fun it can be to stop people in their tracks by offering them a free blue bag or composting brochure.

Doing backyard composting workshops has been a great way to build community. Who knew wine, neighbours, and red wigglers would be the recipe for a fun evening? I’m hoping to host another one this spring through my community league. Last year I also helped my daughter’s Grade Four class set up a vermicomposter that did quite well on the Grade Fours' apple cores and other organic lunch leftovers (that's where our red wiggler condo got its fifth level of occupants).

Helping at the reuse tree display at City Hall has been a great way to get into the spirit of the season. I spent my time there showing off crafty tree ornaments made of recycled items and promoting the city's ReUse Centre across the street, and the bonus was that I got to hear some school choirs sing carols the entire time I was there.

One of my sidelines is facilitating what’s called a Simplicity Study Circle. It’s all about ways to live more simply, with less of an impact on the earth, and bits and pieces of my MCR training is always creeping into workshops. For one event, I actually got a group together to tour the Waste Management Branch. All I can say is that it's an amazing place. Edmonton's recycling success rate is 90%, and visiting the Materials Recycling Facility and seeing the conveyor belts moving recyclables from our blue bags past workers who sort them at incredible speeds is an unforgettable experience.

Two weeks from today, I will be speaking at a Social Justice Symposium that will be dealing with the wastefulness of our economy. When you really think about it, wastefulness is a justice issue, and recycling and composting and doing whatever we can to make it easier for our planet's species to cope with human existence is critically important. My MCR training will come into play at the Symposium as I remind people of the importance of all those R words and share with them the wonders of our city’s recycling programs and facilities as part of their way to take responsibility for each other and the Earth.

In one month’s time, my workplace will be moving to a new facility that will require someone to set up a new recycling program for it. That would be me.


But the bulk of my volunteer time these past four years has been spent out at the Food Bank Plant-a-Row, Grow-a-Row garden at the Edmonton Waste Management Branch during the summers. My girls and I had a lot of fun, mainly hacking out weeds, doing away with potato bugs, and watering. I’m hearing rumours about a new PARGAR in the neighbourhood of the Muttart Conservatory, which is just down the hill from where I live, so we're looking forward to helping out there if we can.




Over the past two years, I’ve become an avid MCR blog reader, just to catch Mark’s wacky humour and spelling mistakes. No, of course I'm just teasing Mark. It's more than that -- I love the information posted on the blog because it brings me up to date on recycling and composting information that may have changed since my course. It has also made me aware of some very interesting events. Thanks to the blog and Mark's invitation, in September, I attended a luncheon at the Westin and heard Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a northern activist, speak about how Climate change is affecting our brothers and sisters in Canada’s northern communities. I suspect that in the future I may be re-moodling a few things from the MCR blog for my moodling friends.

Like many things in life, what you get out of being a Master Composter/Recycler depends upon what you put into it. When I graduated, I thought I’d put in my 35 hours of service to pay back the program and call it good. But volunteering has turned me into a bit of an activist, and it’s been so much fun, they can’t get rid of me that easily. Being at the graduation events today has gotten me re-enthused about my status as an MCR volunteer, and put a few new ideas into my head. I met a new grad named Rahul, and in our five minute conversation, was inspired toward opportunities to connect my workplace with Reuse fairs and the ReUse Centre downtown. Why didn't I think of it before? I guess I just needed to be inspired by the MCR class of 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I admit I am a bit jealous...we do not have an MCR program here. I may have to defect and move to Canada...But I am gonna get me some worms for my uncertified/amateur compost pile!

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