Monday, March 19, 2018

My Experience as an MCR by MCR Sarah F.

I first heard of the Master Composter Recycler Program in May 2011. I had only just become interested in being green and was doing what I knew I could: recycling items that were recyclable, bringing a reusable to-go cup with me when I bought coffee, and taking fabric bags to the grocery store.

I wanted to find out how I could do more, and everywhere I looked it seemed the two best ways to be environmentally conscious were to have a garden and to compost. When I searched for courses in Edmonton, I came across an ad for the Master Composter Recycler Program and it seemed like exactly what I was searching for. I marked when the next training would start (almost a full year away) and eagerly awaited my chance to be a part of the program.

I applied for the MCR program with a friend of mine from work. Other people we worked with immediately dubbed the program “Garbage Club” and for the remainder of the training remained convinced that we were playing with garbage whenever we had class (which I assure you, we did not). Despite the teasing, they always wanted to know exactly what we had learned - there would be a group eagerly awaiting us the morning after each class. People at work started recycling their bottles, taking to-go mugs for coffee runs in the day, and a couple even starting asking questions on how they could start their own compost bin. Clearly, our excitement was contagious! 

From the moment I walked into the first class, I knew I was going to love it. The training was made up of a very varied group- women and men from their 20’s-60’s. Despite the difference in age and occupation, we had a lot in common - our love for the environment, our desire to expand our knowledge, and the passion to teach others what we were learning. 

The classes themselves were packed full of information- teaching us what could or could not be recycled, how garbage was collected within Edmonton, different styles of composting that were available, as well as lessons on how to be a better public speaker and different ways we could volunteer around the city. Each class I would arrive, tired from my day at work and instantly feel a sense of rejuvenation as I walked into the class, other people’s excitement increasing my own. 

Recycling collected in a SINGLE day!
On each Saturday, we went on a different field trip. The first week we toured the Edmonton Waste Management Facility, and it was amazing- we watched employees sort the recycling by hand, after some items had been machine sorted. We also saw the full garbage sorting process from the first stage, where the garbage is dropped off,  to the last where several machines  to separate the organic compostable goods from non-organics. Those end up in the landfill. Finally, we actually got to see the large piles of compost that Edmonton has as a result of the sorting done. This is the waste of every Edmontonian, which without any effort on the residents part,  is separated and processed in a large building, where later the compost is sold to those who would like to purchase it. I've never seen or heard of another city that puts this effort into reducing the waste that goes into the landfill.

It sounds impossible, but the second week’s field trip topped the first. It was what I had been excited about since I had first learned I was accepted for the training - we learned how to compost! Before this training, I thought there was one type of compost. I thought you put your food scraps into a pile and a few months later, the food had magically become soil. This is not the case AT ALL! There are so many different types of composting- vermicomposting, bokashi composting, lasagna composting, hot composting, lazy composting- the list just kept going! It truly showed that no matter where you live, the space you have, or how much free time is available, there is always a way to compost!

Making worm bins of our own!
The final Saturday was the last MCR class, and it was met with both excitement and sadness. The end of our training signalled the the phase as a Master Composter Recycler; it was time to give back to the program and to the community. The entire Master Composter Recycler Program is provided to the attendees free of charge, and in response, each member volunteers 35 hours in the next year. Chances to volunteer are provided by the City, but we could also create our own opportunities - such as having a movie night with friends to watch an environmental movie, or even talking with people about how to compost. This is our way to thank the City for having such a wonderful program, and taking the initiative to be green. It is also our opportunity to get more people interested in being green and making the world a better place.

To quote Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The graduates of MCRP do care, and by giving back through volunteering, we’re hoping to continue to get more and more people to care too.

Looking back at that training, I am so thankful to have been a part of the program. It truly makes me proud to live in Edmonton and tell other people the how the City is working to ensure we leave as small of a footprint as possible. I look forward to continuing to volunteer in our city for years to come, helping to teach others how easy it is to reduce our waste!


Sarah completed her MCR training in 2012.


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