Friday, December 14, 2012

Have yourself a merry little MCR Holiday by MCR Suzanne Dennis

Christmas is just around the corner! How did THAT happen? Seems like just yesterday the 2012 MCR class graduated! 

I LOVE christmas, but HATE garbage. According to Statistics Canada,  900,000 tons of garbage is produced annually between Thanksgiving and Christmas!


Instead of buying more stuff, spending tons of money, and wasting our precious resources try some of these ideas:

keep it local

Save resources and support your friends & neighbours by shopping at local stores; good for the environment & the community.

christmas cards

I don't send or use Christmas cards often, but when I do, I source them from Value Village. There are always bags of unused cards (with their envelopes), hanging on the wall. Never the same selection twice, so it’s kind of fun to see what you can get!  Who doesn’t "love the thrill" of the thrift store search? You can also get used cards from the Reuse Centre!


I rarely use paper to wrap gifts, but if I do need some I source it from the Reuse Centre. It is simply amazing to me what people give away, & remember all you can carry for $5.

reused wrappers

Think outside the box for this one! I haven’t thrown a bag or container away since MCR graduation. 

  • chip/cracker bags turned inside out make fantastic gift bags – shiny & festive
  • any bag that contained foodstuff can be used again to give away homemade goodies….it is sort of fun to give away baking in a large rice bag for example!
  •  jars of all shapes & sizes make great containers for my home-made goodies
  • cool mailing containers from liquor sleeves
  •  coffee cans scavenged from work make a great container once they are painted or papered

re-gifting & thrifting

I have NO PROBLEM re-gifting & thrifting presents for my family & friends.  I do realize this is a personal decision and I will state for the record that I would never re-gift/thrift with anyone and pretend it was new stuff; cuz that just sounds like a SEINFELD episode plot line!  Nothing tickles my fancy more than knowing my re-gift or thrift gift will make someone else happy J  ...and of course its saves me tons of $$$$!


Who needs more stuff anyway? Some of my best Christmas memories have been made while volunteering with family & friends to make someone else’s Christmas special. Collecting donations, serving a meal, and helping at food bank concerts are fun & festive volunteer opportunities.

 christmas light tour

The City of Edmonton has a FANTASTIC program where staff volunteers drive a bus around town to view Christmas light displays at candy cane lane, legislative grounds and the museum. Tickets are only a $3, fun & hi-jinx are free! Depending on the transit volunteers and your fellow passengers you could be involved in a Christmas carol sing-a-long, a stand-up comedy show, or a family style get-together complete with crazy aunts and snoring uncles.  Santa has even been known to make an appearance! Never the same tour twice, and great for all ages and mobilities. Bring your favourite beverage in a to-go cup, grab the gang and book a seat.


I have made a pledge this year to give nothing but consumables. I know how to cook, so I am making foodie foodster gifts. I do wish I could knit, sew, craft, build, write, or carve something, but I will have to leave that you!

share a tree

If you live in a multi-family dwelling do you all need your OWN tree?  Of course you don’t!  Share with your neighbours and friends.  One tree per floor, one tree for the whole building, or better yet NO TREE at all!

reuse a tree

You can also find trees and ornaments at the Reuse Centre. If you don't want to store a tree all year donate it after the holidays and pick up different Reuse Centre tree each year.

 recycle that tree!

If you do have a tree please make sure that it is recycled properly. Did you know: approximately 13,456 trees, weighing 167 tons, were collected for recycling in January 2012. The trees were chipped and composted at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – but unfortunately also the most wasteful.

"time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. you can make more money, but you can't make more time. when you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you'll never get back.  that is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”
quote from Rick Warren, (author of A Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth am I Here For)

I wish for you a very Happy Holiday, wonderful times with your friends, family & neighbours, and minimal contribution to our landfill. 



City of Edmonton Master Composter Recycler 2012, (#yegmcr) doing my best 2 reuse, recycle, reduce, & compost while I raise my #yeg redworm family!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Compost Crafts - One-Way Worm Elevator By Megan Miller, MCRP 2012

With winter well on its way, and our outdoor compost heap nearly frozen through already, we decided to give our worms a bit more attention. Winter composting outdoors is slow, and while we'll probably still toss quite a bit of kitchen scraps on the pile over the winter, I really want to shift into using indoor compost methods. And that means getting our worms working a bit harder.

Of course, we could hardly expect them to increase their workload under their current living conditions. Nope, these guys need a new home, and I need an easier way to harvest their precious poop. (Ahem. Excrement ) It also needed to be something I could complete in less than an hour.

The One-Way Worm Elevator is born!

The idea is that by stacking containers, one with food, one without, the worms will migrate to the bucket with food in it, and away from the finished compost.

To be fair, I got this idea from a friend, who used much bigger containers, and made three layers, which I'll explain later. Hers is a Luxury Condo for worms. Here's how we made our mid-range version:

1. First, gather all your tools and supplies:

Two nesting buckets, a drill, drill bit and a Lovely Assistant. (Hey, you didn't expect me to operate a drill AND take pictures, did you?)

2. Stack your buckets and start drilling holes in the bottom of the top bucket:

Our bucket looks like this:

3. Make some nice worm bedding for the bottom bucket.

Here, we're ripping up newsprint for “browns,” we also threw in a sprinkle of sand, a handful of garden dirt, and some vegetable peels:

4. Get out your hungry worms. 

I had stopped feeding them a week earlier, hoping to finish off the compost. As you can see there are still plenty of big chunks left, meaning plenty to eat. Regardless, we plowed on with the plan, hopeful.

5. Stack the buckets (the one with holes on TOP!) and dump in your worms:

6. Put on a lid and you're done!

We also drilled holes in the lid, of course, so the worms and compost can both breathe. Making sure enough air can circulate is very important, especially for keeping away smells.

Getting the Compost

In time, the worms will migrate to the bottom bucket, leaving the top one empty of critters. When this happens, the top bucket (finished compost) can be removed and used for compost teas, as fertilizer or mulch for houseplants, lawn conditioner, anywhere you want nutrients in the soil.

After emptying the top bucket, we will take the bottom layer and move it to the top. Holes on top and bottom provide great circulation and the empty bottom bucket can catch any excess moisture drips.

When it looks almost done, we stop feeding the top and bait the bottom bucket, starting over again. This should allow me to continuously add food waste to the worms, and still make harvesting easy-peasy.
A friend of ours has made a three tier tower, with a second bucket with holes. Same idea, rotating fresh and almost-done compost between the top two, but with improved air flow in the middle layer and a bottom bucket to catch excess moisture (which, by the way is an amazing liquid fertilizer).

We did not, however, put on a lid.

Now, remember, the whole point of this craft is to allow the worms to migrate, so that no one has to pick through the finished compost and harvesting becomes easy and guilt-free.

My Lovely Assistant, however, seems to believe our worms need a head start on migration. It started out innocently enough, picking out a few big ones...

But quickly turned into a more serious matter.

Happy winter composting!


Megan Miller is a 2012 grad of the MCR Course. Megan is very interested in re-skilling for sustainability and a large part of that is growing, harvesting and processing her own food. She has also been learning other living skills including leather crafting for clothing, soap making, and sustainable building. Megan and her family have been experimenting with composting for four years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eco Stations shifting into winter

All 3 Eco Stations have shifted into winter mode. On November 20th, they changed to winter hours.
Coronation, Strathcona, and Ambleside Eco Stations will be open

  • 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday to Saturday
  • closed on Sunday and Monday

Key Points: Eco Stations

  1. Keep "Household Hazardous Waste" (HHW) out of the garbage, so that it doesn't contaminate the compost process
  2. Eco Stations accept
    • HHW  (e.g. paint, cleaners, solvents)
    • electric & electronic waste  (e.g. batteries, toasters, computers)
    • bulky items  (e.g. sofas, mattresses, fencing)
  3. Most items accepted for free
  4. Residents can get used paint for free  (limit 4 cans per visit, quantity and quality not guaranteed)
  5. Eco Stations also have a Recycling Depot
  6. There is a Reuse Area at Ambleside Eco Station (only).
  7. Eco Stations are for Edmonton residents. (not for commercial, explosive, or radioactive waste)