Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Composting Toilet Harvest 2015

What's your favourite way to spend a Sunday morning?
If you answered "muck around with a composting toilet," you might just be an MCR!

What does a toilet compost?
Yes. Exactly what you think.

Our compost gurus, Mark and Sheridan, led the charge of harvesting finished compost from the Composting Toilet at the Compost 'S cool. This gem is tucked away in the river valley, at the

The toilet was last harvested in summer 2013, and Mark has been patiently tending the new "crop" these past two years. Waste that gets flushed is combined with wood chips and is turned regularly, just like a regular compost bin.

Mark and Sheridan were joined by 4 enthusiastic MCRs, who were eager to see the finished product, and learn about how to use this compost, sometimes called 'humanure'.

Theoretically, the temperature in this system can get high enough to kill pathogens like E.coli, but for safety reasons, you should never use untested humanure to grow food crops. You should also avoid putting it where children play.

If you want to try it at home, we can help with the how-to's and the health & safety information.

Compost from the Composting Toilet makes an excellent soil amendment for ornamental garden beds! It's full of valuable nutrients that our bodies can't process.
Our perennials have been going strong since the last harvest.

Our intrepid MCRs suited up with sturdy gloves and dug the compost in around the prickly rosebushes and juniper plants. This compost always gets dug in doubly deep. It's safer that way, plus it's right where the roots can take in all of those nutrients.

Special thanks to our MCR helpers: Alena M., Harvey G., Erika D., and Rosemary F.! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A "Clean Bin Project" Movie Night by MCR Maria K.

It was too hot and smoky to do much on the weekend, so my family (including my husband, daughters, parents and sisters) held a ‘Clean Bin Project’ movie night. To be honest, they weren’t too thrilled with my film choice because I’m always going on about waste reduction and living more lightly when it comes to using our planet’s resources, and they all wanted to see Big Hero 6 instead.

I had a feeling, though, that if I could manage to get the Clean Bin DVD started first, they’d be hooked. And that’s kind of what happened. Once the film’s main characters, Jenny and Grant, explained their competition to see which of them could produce the least waste in a year, interest picked up, I think because we were curious how they'd do, and were wondering how we'd fare in their shoes.

Grant and Jen's self-deprecating humour, as well as their ability to point out the idiocy of the waste that occurs in daily life made us chuckle – and groan. “How are we supposed to get around all that plastic food packaging?” was one question that was voiced as the show moved on. As my family members are all avid recyclers and most of us compost, the idea of reducing waste isn’t new, but the fact that a co-housing place with 20 families only produced as much waste as a single family dwelling kind of blew us away. We can certainly do better. For example, we don’t have to buy the long English cucumbers that are wrapped in plastic! Better to opt for unwrapped field cukes, or grow our own!

Grant and Jen made a great little documentary (I suspect it’s Grant’s original music that plays throughout) that incorporates snippets of historical TV shows and movies, and helps us to see that awareness of waste is a necessary step to reducing waste. Their story certainly underlines how wasteful our society can be. Grant’s throw-away neck brace made me cringe, as my husband recently spent a few days at the mercy of a healthcare system that hands out single-use items like there’s no tomorrow, often for good reason.

Being a follower of the MCR facebook page and blog, I had already seen the art of Chris Jordan (especially his baby albatross pictures) and heard Captain Charles Moore’s Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch stories, but my family hadn’t. I realized that I haven’t been the best at transferring my knowledge of the issues around over-consumption.  It also underlined for me the value of my MCR connections – I have learned a lot from facebook/blog sharing. Now I just need to be sure that what I know rubs off on others.

One way to do that is to have a Clean Bin movie night. It encouraged my family to think more about how they can reduce the waste they create by reducing their consumption – without me having to say a word, which was really great!  As we went our separate ways after screening the movie (and Big Hero 6 afterward to appease everyone), one family member asked another, “So what is one extra thing you are going to do to reduce your waste from now on?”

That’s the question we can all ask ourselves, whether we’ve seen The Clean Bin Project or not.

The Clean Bin Project is available at your nearest branch of the Edmonton Public Library, and it’s worth sharing!
Maria K. enjoys composting, recycling, and convincing others to do the same. Her regular writings are found at

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In Memory of Constable Daniel Woodall

On Monday, June 8th, Constable Daniel Woodall was killed in the line of duty. In the days and weeks since, Edmontonians have expressed their support for his family, and for members of the Edmonton Police Service.

Police Chief Rod Knecht expressed thanks and appreciation to Edmontonians in an open letter, on June 20th. In his letter, Chief Knecht thanked residents for the "countless condolences and messages of support."

"This very public display of support by Edmontonians has been nothing less than overwhelming. You have honoured the sacrifice of Dan and your police service with kindness and compassion."

There are two side-notes about reducing waste with this story:

From Condolence to Compost
EPS found a creative way to deal with hundreds of flowers after the Regimental Funeral. EPS contacted staff at the JJNC Compost 'S cool and delivered three very-full bags of flowers, where Mark and Sheridan had a compost bin ready for them.

Mixed with browns and other rich greens, the flowers filled one Earth Machine compost bin to the top. By July, compost pile was already hot and had fallen to half the volume.

Staff will give the finished compost back to EPS for a private planting ceremony.

Give Blues to Reuse
Edmontonians showed their support for EPS by displaying blue ribbons across the city. Ribbons were wrapped on trees, on posts, on signs, and even on City Hall.

Please politely ask friends and neighbours to remove those ribbons - especially from trees. If left indefinitely, they may come loose and end up as litter.
Ask folks to donate clean, good quality ribbons to the Reuse Centre.

Monday, July 6, 2015

It's in the (Reused) Bag by MCR Melissa G.

Cereal bags are not recyclable.
Photo Credit: John Koetsler
We aren’t crafty folks. Our “reusing” doesn’t include turning would-be garbage into cool art work or fashion pieces. However, we are serious about finding ways to reuse the items in our house that can’t be recycled or composted.

While we aspire to being a zero-waste household, the reality is that some of our food still comes in packaging. A loaf of bread or my favorite black bean burgers, as examples.

Clean bread bags and many other kinds of plastic bags are recyclable in Edmonton's system, but some food packaging is difficult to recycle. Chip bags and cereal or cracker box liners, for example, go in the garbage. It’s a fate that is unavoidable, but we try to postpone it for a while.

Cats care about the environment too!
That's where all the birds live...
Our chosen course of action is to put all of our used food bags in a kitty drawer. From then on they are designated for use in disposing of our kitty’s “business”.

It's not a big thing, but it gives the bags a second use and more importantly, it prevents us from having to use additional new, clean bags to dispose of our Kitty’s unmentionables.

I have had people complain to me that a plastic bag ban wouldn’t be good because they need them to dispose of their pets' business. I would be interested to hear other peoples’ ideas for disposing of their pet waste in an environmentally-friendly manner (that conforms with City bylaws!), without using so many bags!

Melissa is a graduate of the 2014 Master Composter Recycler course. She is an environmental lawyer with a national not-for-profit organization. She is particularly passionate about educating people about waste reduction. In her spare time she enjoys weight training, hiking and cooking.