Friday, December 19, 2014

What Goes Where: Dealing with Holiday Waste

The City of Edmonton is asking residents to put their holiday waste where it belongs: food waste in the garbage, paper and boxes in the blue bag, and electronics to the Eco Station.

“Edmontonians are avid recyclers and generally put the right items in their blue bags,” said Laura Henderson, a social marketing coordinator with Waste Management Services, “but with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we see an increase in non-recyclables ending up in blue bags.”

Paper, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and jars, aluminum cans and trays, and glass bottles and jars should go in blue bags or apartment blue bins. Old electronics, strings of broken Christmas lights, food and Styrofoam are some things that should never go in a blue bag.

“Anything with a battery or cord should be taken to an Eco Station,” said Henderson. “Electronic waste and batteries contain toxic elements and should always be brought to an Eco Station for proper disposal.”

Keeping toxic elements out of the regular waste stream is better for the environment and ensures a high-quality compost product. The organic portion of Edmonton's garbage is turned into compost.

For more information about dealing with holiday waste, including which items should be taken to an Eco Station, please visit or call 311.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bare Minimum Part 2 by MCR Leah A.

Leah made the decision to minimize her life by getting rid of 465 items in the span of a month. She galvanized herself for the task ahead, and laid out the rules of the game in Bare Minimum Part 1.

Part 2: Let’s Get Minimal

Once I made the decision to pursue this, I saw my belongings with foreign eyes. My thoughts about stuff had changed from a myriad of vague voices into one brilliantly clear question: Does this thing make my life better?

I quickly realized that if I had asked that question while shopping, I wouldn't be doing this challenge. There were a lot of nice things in my home that I had never actually used. Some of those items went to new and loving homes as housewarming gifts. I threw out old makeup that I don’t wear, and recycled a lot of catalogues and bus schedules that I could easily look at online.

The Wee Book Inn was willing to take some of my books, DVDs and CDs. Did you know that you can get store credit with a 50% bump on the purchase price of your old books? Well you do now. You are welcome! I also picked up some Catfish Coffee to power me through tough times in the rest of the challenge.

It's easier to let go of things when you know someone else
will love them
The real lifesaver in this project was the Reuse Centre. I dropped off 75 items in week one alone! Largest was an artificial Christmas tree, a gift that I had only set up once. On to better things, tree! I also had so many pens and half-filled notebooks. I took out the used pages and thought of the kids who would get sweet pens for school, and felt great. I donated 78 pens but it felt like cheating to count them individually, so I counted one item for all the pens and one item for all the notebooks. Never say I go easy on myself!

Seven days in, I was 135 items down, which gave me a nice buffer to head into the month. 30% complete! I felt amazing, found it easier to relax, and had more pride in my home. I no longer had piles of stuff in front of bookcases and shelves because there was no space. I had created room for the things that really mattered to me, just by getting rid of the things that didn't. The things I kept meant even more to me than they had before, like I had separated the wheat from the chaff or the gem from the rock.

Image from Apartment Therapy
Set up a box or space at home for
things you might want to get rid of
Week two was a little less drastic. I began a second box for the Reuse Centre and kept a copy of their recently expanded accepted items list handy. (Items trickled in over the rest of the month for the final drop off at the end of the month.)

My brother also came over to go through some keepsakes that my mother had set aside. We kept a few of the best things, recycled a fair bit of our embarrassing childhood art, and put unused diaries, notebooks, and four bags of packing peanuts into the Reuse Centre box. I was thrilled to send the peanuts to the Reuse Centre because they are so damaging to the machinery at the recycling facility, and so harmful in a landfill.

14 days in, I was 231 items down. Just two shy of the 50% mark, but as per the rules, I couldn't count items as gone until they were actually out of my house. I was closer to 60% with what I had mentally let go of.

As week two ended, I was keenly aware that all the low hanging fruit had been picked. The next phase would take a bit more effort.

Lessons Learned:
  • I found that letting go of beloved items was much easier when I thought of them going to loving hands and homes.
  • Regifting is wonderful when you explain that you are passing it along because you think the new owner will love it too.
  • The importance of an outbox. I had a guest closet that was essentially a place for things I just needed to get out of my house. I felt great seeing the floor of it again.

Leah joined the MCR ranks in May of 2014. She believes that urban environments offer a real opportunity to make the world increasingly sustainable. Favored topics include composting, urban design, and (now) minimalism.

Check back in the new year to read the conclusion to Leah's minimalism adventure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bare Minimum Part 1 by MCR Leah A.

I have felt the stirrings of minimalist philosophy many times, but it wasn’t until this year that I had anything to report on the subject. This is a three-part story of my first foray into minimalism. (Full disclosure: This was written after the fact, but I drew on notes made during the process so when I say I felt something, I really did!)

Part 1: My path towards minimalism

As part of my Master Composter Recycler (MCR) training there was certainly a real change in my thinking. I started rethinking my possessions: Why did I buy this? Did I need it? Was it making my life better, easier, or simpler? This TED Talk reinforced those thoughts, as did a fellow MCR’s YouTube video (and catchy song). I loved the basic ideas of minimalism: having less, doing more, becoming a connoisseur of life.

The book that started it all
Despite those positive attributes, it just seemed too daunting to me. Where would I start? What would my friends and family think? Would it actually make me happier, healthier, and wealthier in life? I was stuck limbo, interested in minimalism but not pursuing it. Then I read “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play when no one has the Time” in August 2014.

"Overwhelmed" was an interesting read; it takes a gendered look at leisure time. The author examines the reasons North American women feel like they have no ‘free’ time. In brief:
  1. Women have inherited a cultural imperative to maintain thoroughly clean spaces. Leisure, for happiness and mental health, comes AFTER work.
  2. We own a lot of things that all require some amount of care.
Point one really hit home. My grandmother used to say “a man may work to dusk from dawn, but a women’s work is never done” every time my sister and I played a game instead of helping cook or clean. Even as a grown woman, I felt like I was transgressing when I did something fun or unproductive instead of cleaning my house, reading a school assignment, working, or volunteering. At those coffees with friends, we all seemed to be so busy that we were stressed.

If taking down time seems daunting, here is a lifehack for men or women: have fewer things to clean!

Every knickknack needs to be dusted, every blanket folded, every pillow fluffed. Each item you have in your home is not just a thing that you have, but a thing that you have to do. There is always a task to be done, and if we wait to play until we have nothing to do, we may very well die waiting. It was a logical, well laid-out case. I wanted to be free of the trap that my possessions had become.

Galvanized, I revisited this post by The Minimalists, the speakers from this TED Talk. I knew that their game would be a good way for me to start lightening up my life and making space for things that I truly wanted in it.

The Minimalists

How the game works:

This challenge spans one full month. Find a friend who will get rid of some of their excess stuff. Each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. Two things on the second day. Three things on the third. And so forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day. Whoever keeps it going longest wins.

None of my friends were in for September and I didn't want to wait, so I played the game a bit differently. Instead of using daily rules, I set the goal that, by the end of the month, I would possess 465 fewer items. That's the same total as the daily game, but if I missed a day due to school, work, or life, I had not failed.

I took it one step further and set the goal that only 5% of what I got rid of could go in the garbage. This meant I couldn't "cheat" and throw anything usable away just to be rid of it. After all, this wasn't just about getting stuff out of my life, but also about minimizing my environmental footprint.

With my motivation high and my game rules in place, I set up a spreadsheet to track what I sent where, keep an ongoing tally, and count down to my goal of winning this game.

Leah joined the MCR ranks in May of 2014. She believes that urban environments offer a real opportunity to make the world increasingly sustainable. Favoured topics include composting, urban design, and (now) minimalism.

Check back next week to read the next installment of Leah's foray into minimalism!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The clothes off your back...

Clothing and fabric are no longer accepted at City of Edmonton Recycling Depots. 

These textiles were collected to make recycled paper. The manufacturer, Greys Paper, has found other suppliers and so they no longer need this source of textiles.

Partnerships with hotels and other suppliers provide a source of linens that do not need to be sorted. Now that these relationships are well established, they provide a more cost-effective and efficient source of cotton for Greys Paper.

How do you reuse your old clothing? Post your story in the comments.

Waste Management Services encourages residents to donate their reusable clothing to one of the charitable organizations in our city. Organizations that accept clothing can be found at

Some organizations also accept rag material or have agreements with cloth and textile recyclers, so check with your charity of choice before tossing that threadbare t-shirt! Contact your local shop for donation guidelines.

Of course, not all clothing needs to be tossed. A local tailor can help you with alterations, or take your minor repairs to an Edmonton Repairathon event for a free fix. Clothing too-damaged-to-wear can be cut into rags for cleaning, or put to good use for any number of crafts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Way We Green Speakers Series

The City of Edmonton co-sponsors talks on various sustainability topics, and most of them are free to attend!

Tzemporah Berman,
Canadian activist and author
Next up is Tzeporah Berman, Canadian activist and author, with This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.

There are two opportunities to catch this talk:

  • Tuesday November 18th from 7-9 p.m. at the University of Alberta
  • Wednesday November 19th from 12-1 p.m. at City Hall
Visit The Way We Green Speakers Series for more information and to view other presentations.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Re-Love Market - Closing the loop at MacEwan University

We all know that Edmonton is a world leader in waste management but what we don’t talk about enough is how it has taken the support of residents, community groups, and businesses to achieve this. For example, MacEwan University currently has a diversion rate of 63% and their goal is 90% diversion - right on track with the City of Edmonton.

One of their waste reduction initiatives is the Re-Love Market which reduces items going to landfill and lowers material costs to new students - a perfect win-win situation!

What Inspired the Re-Love Market?

Twice a year, during December and May, MacEwan University saw outgoing students throwing out useful items destined for landfill. Then, each January and December incoming students purchased new items to prepare for their life at MacEwan. What did the University and it’s students do about it? They decided it was time to close the loop with the ReLove Market. The event is designed to connect materials from students leaving campus to new students arriving.

How Does It Work?

The Re-Love Market is open to more than students. Community members can also donate items to the Re-Love Market, in exchange they will be given credits to purchase new items.

Future Waste Reduction Plans

The Re-Love Market was a great success and MacEwan plans on holding it each September and January to keep useful items associated with student moves out of the landfill.

Head of Sustainability, Chantal Beaudouin sees positive shifts towards waste reduction at MacEwan. Staff and students consider carefully alternatives to landfill for items they are throwing out. The next challenge will be a culture shift away from replacing those items with new purchases. An example of how MacEwan may help facilitate this shift is a program to make office supply reuse easy.

The City of Edmonton is collecting stories of how individuals, businesses, and community members reduce waste in Edmonton. Have a story to share?  


Laura H. is an employee of the City of Edmonton Waste Management Services and MCR Graduate from the 2011 class.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food Waste: From Table to Trash by Laura H.

I recently watched a movie as part of the Edmonton International Film Festival “Just Eat It”. The film was all about food waste and it’s reinvigorated my passion on the topic. What I took from the film was that individual actions in your home can make a big difference in the amount of food we throw out.  

A study released by Value Chain Management Centre in 2010 confirms that our actions at home count. It found that 51% of the food wasted in Canada comes from our homes. That is more than food wasted in restaurants, processing facilities and grocery stores combined.

I believe if we make a conscious effort to cut back on how many fruits, vegetables and other leftovers we let rot in our kitchen we can reduce our household garbage by up to 20%. That’s about the same amount that is diverted from the landfill by household recycling!

In the past year I’ve been making a real effort to cut back on food I buy and throw out. I’d like to share three things I’ve found actually work to reduce my wasted food (and money).

I’m proud that 90 per cent of households in Edmonton are recycling. That means that for many
residents, it’s time to go beyond recycling and using Eco Stations to reduce our waste.

We can all reach our goal of 90% waste from landfill and I believe reducing food waste in our homes will help us get there! 

October 20 to 26 is Waste Reduction Week in Canada. To celebrate, The City of Edmonton is collecting stories of how individuals, businesses, and community member reduce waste in Edmonton. Have a story to share? Email

Laura H. is not only an employee at the City of Edmonton Waste Management Services, but she also graduated from the MCR program in 2011. Laura is full of energy and makes a huge impact in her community.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Every Homeowner Should Have a Composter! By MCR Trish H.

I bought a house last year moving from an apartment. What a lifestyle change! I was looking forward to having a garden, making the yard aesthetic, and growing food to eat. I was excited to learn composting as part of the experience. If I was getting a house, I wanted the whole package! I also wanted to get to know some of my neighbours. I was extremely fortunate to get into the Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program ... like a dream come true.

During the winter, I found that the garbage in the house would get smelly because of the food waste thrown into it. In the apartment, I had just a small kitchen catcher that I would throw  into the outdoor bin. In a house, I had to have a larger garbage container and keep it in black bags for pickup once a week. As soon as I entered the house, I could smell the garbage. Once spring came, I obtained a free
black plastic composter and collected food wastes separately. Guess what? No more smell!

In the fall, I had the huge deck cut back to make more room for a garden. Being the thrifty person I
am, I thought about how I could reuse the wood. I had a garbage bin built from it, but there was still lots of wood left. I also used it to make a new matching back fence so had leftover wood from the newish but ugly previous back fence. I got new side fences built as they were a shambles. I had a few new fence boards leftover as well. All in all, I had a big pile of lumber taking up valuable space in my garage.

With a yard to care for, I quickly realized that a small compost bin just wasn’t going to be enough. I wanted a place to put my leaves in the fall and a place to throw garden waste, like greens and dying plants, and wanted to
keep the yard tidy throughout the year. As for the household food scraps, the black bin is sufficing for
the summer, but what about the winter household food scraps, what would I do with them? I am just starting a home business in natural therapies. What kind of impression would people have if they entered the house to smell garbage? That would be darn embarrassing and I didn’t want to go back to that! I tried worm composting but it didn’t suit me. What would I do? I was also enjoying having less garbage to dispose of as well. Another problem was that the quality of the garden soil wasn’t that great so the plants need something better.

Well, all of the problems have been solved! I used up the most of the leftover wood to build a bigger composter. In the fall, I will throw the leaves in it. I also plan to invite both of my immediate neighbours to put their leaves in the bin as well. There will be less mess with wind blowing leaves in my yard. I will have enough leaves to save some for use next summer to put in the black compost bin. I will stockpile the food scraps over the winter by letting them freeze outdoors, in the composter, or in the garage. I won’t have to bag any garden waste in the fall, and my plants will enjoy the rich soil from the composter. I also have the pride of knowing that I built it all by myself and proudly display it to others. I saved the scrap wood (previously living trees) from going to the dump and put it to good use! ... and my yard is tidy!

"Trish H. is a recent 2014 graduate from our MCR program and has hit the ground running. She's participated in our grasscycling championship, trade shows and loves to chat with friends and neighbours about waste."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Concerned about summer weight? Your collector is!

Collector Safety
Growing season is at its peak and as a result the City’s waste collectors are dealing with high volumes of yard waste in addition to the usual household garbage.

On a typical summer day, a collector picks up an average of 3000 bags of garbage from more than 700 homes. That’s about 22,000 kgs of garbage – the equivalent of lifting about 27 smart cars a day!

Grass clippings are the biggest contributor to waste volumes this time of year. Residents are encouraged to Go Bagless and leave the grass clippings on the lawn while mowing. It helps reduce waste, promotes healthy lawns, and reduces the number of heavy bags lifted by collectors.

For the safety of collectors, the City is reminding residents to please keep each garbage can or bag under 20 kilograms (44 pounds). Brush and tree trimmings should also be below this weight limit, bundled, securely tied, and no longer than 1.2 m (four feet).

For more information about waste collection please visit

Friday, May 23, 2014

Take a peek into Edmonton's world-class waste management centre

In celebration of Environment Week, the City of Edmonton invites residents to come for a free tour of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC) and see why Edmonton is a world leader in turning waste into resources.

Dates: Tuesday, June 3 – Friday, June 6, 2014
Tour Times: 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Location: Edmonton Waste Management Centre, 13111 Meridian Street
Admission: Free

Reservations are required. Please call: 780-496-5698.

During a two-hour tour of the facilities you can learn how:
  • Your recyclables are sorted and prepared for market
  • Your garbage is used to create valuable compost at one of North America’s largest composting facilities
  • Decomposing garbage inside a landfill is used to create electricity
  • E-waste such as computers and TVs are recycled
  • A new waste-to-biofuels facility will turn non-recyclable and non-compostable waste into ethanol
  • Close-loop paper recycling takes place, producing chemical-free paper 

Please note that tours are not appropriate for children younger than nine years of age.

For more information:

Visit Environment Week Tours or call 780-496-5698

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Be a Better Jet Setter, by MCRs Sam P. and Leigh-Anna P.

How to Reduce Waste While Travelling

Before we started the MCR course, we had planned a road trip down the Pacific Coast. We love to travel, and get very excited at the prospect of relaxing and enjoying new places. Within the first few classes of our course, we started to become more aware of how wasteful travel can be and came up with an idea. We would use our road trip as an opportunity to change our own behaviours and educate others about how to reduce waste while away from home!

While planning our environmentally-conscious trip, we quickly learned that the key to reducing our waste while on the road was planning ahead. Here are some of the most beneficial ideas we came up with:

1. Make a packing list. Forgetting to pack personal items is an easy way to increase waste by buying and consuming more products. Being prepared will not only reduce your stress prior to and during the trip but it will also decrease the amount of packaging waste created on your trip.

2. Bring toiletries in reusable containers. Travel size toiletries are convenient and take up less space in your bag, but they produce a lot more waste than buying regular-sized or bulk bottles. Plus, those little bottles rarely get recycled. They're usually too small to make it through the machine sorting process, even in places that have comprehensive plastics recycling. If you're buying them, plan on saving them to refill for your next trip.

Pro tip: Avoid the urge to use the toiletries in the hotel washrooms. If the hotel staff notice that even the smallest amount of product is used, they will throw out the whole bottle, wasting a lot of product and packaging.

3. Bring a reusable water bottle and travel mug. Disposable coffee cups add up, especially on a road trip! As an added bonus, the reusable mugs keep your coffee hot for longer as an added bonus. You can even bring a reusable beverage container on a plane as long as it is empty when you go through security.

Pick up some local produce to snack on

4. Plan meals ahead of time. Takeout food creates a lot of waste from plastic or Styrofoam containers. Prepare meals and snacks at home, or bring reuseable containers and cutlery for takeout. Cloth napkins will save the amount of paper you use up, and they work wonders for spills and kids! Try grocery shopping instead of always eating at restaurants, and if it's in the budget, choose sit-down places to avoid being served on disposable dishes.

5. Research the waste process of the destination you’re visiting.
You don't have to go crazy, but it helps to know what items you are going to be able to recycle and whether the city you are in has a municipal compost system. In places that don’t have recycling or have limited recycling, save your recyclables to dispose of them when you get home! If you're extra keen, you can save organic material in a leak proof container to compost when you return.

Many cities offer bike rentals
6. Use alternative transportation. Explore your destination in a unique and exciting way! Public transportation, like the bus or subway, is an easy, Earth-friendly travel method. Renting bicycles and walking are pleasant ways to explore the city or town at your own pace. In larger cities, bicycle taxis are great ways to explore downtown without creating excess pollution.

Keep it gorgeous!
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing your waste while travelling. Get creative and look for opportunities to reduce waste all along your trip. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of travelling and let your waste habits take a backseat to convenience, but it’s important that we make conscious choices with our garbage. The place you're visiting is beautiful; help keep it that way! We all want to continue to have an amazing, waste-free world to travel for years to come.

Samantha P. and Leigh-Anna P. took the MCR course together in 2014 and jumped straight into volunteering. Between the two of them, they've hosted booths, joined pop-up compost sessions, and done a whole lot of chit-chatting about waste.

Do you have any fantastic less-waste tips for travelers? Share them in the comments below!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Go Bagless: The No. 1 Way to Reduce Your Waste

The City of Edmonton is asking residents to Go Bagless this summer and leave the grass clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them for collection. Grass clippings account for almost half the waste collected during the summer months.

“Edmonton is making progress on its goal of keeping 90% of household waste out of landfills,” says Mayor Don Iveson. “This goal will be achieved if we all make an effort to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be picked up.”

An average household that bags their clippings sets out 40 to 50 bags each year. About 40,000 tonnes of grass are collected annually in Edmonton. This is equivalent to the weight of 3,077 City buses.

“I grasscycle at home because it is good for the environment and for my lawn, and it reduces the amount of waste we set out for collection,” said Mayor Iveson.

Grass clippings quickly decompose and naturally fertilize the lawn, meaning less chemical fertilizer is needed. It also reduces the need for watering and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

To learn about other ways to reduce household waste and help Edmonton reach its goal visit Residents are also invited to submit short videos of how they reduce their waste for a chance to win one of three mini iPads.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes...

...and in their shirt, their belt, and their sweater.

By MCRs Robyn C, Heather S, and Andrea W.

In today’s fast fashion world, artificially inexpensive clothing is widely available thanks to a globalized apparel industry. However, consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the social and environmental effects of dubious labour practices and environmentally unsound synthetic materials. What we wear has been a hot topic in the news over the last couple of years.

Low prices mean that individual clothing items no longer represent significant investments as they did in the past, so consumers are unlikely to put time and money toward mending these items when necessary. It seems easier to go out and purchase a brand new sweater than to replace one that lost a button and began unraveling at the seams. Low prices also enable consumers to purchase additional new items to supplement their existing wardrobes, which can result in a closet full of barely or rarely worn clothing.

On the evening of 25 June 2013, MCRs Robyn C, Heather S, and Andrea W hosted a clothing swap as part of a fashion industry event in Edmonton NextGen's DIYalogue series.

The MCRs had various reasons for organizing the event.

"There is so much waste in the clothing industry, and we just wanted to spread awareness of the social impacts as well as the environmental ones," said Robyn.

To Heather, hosting a clothing swap "seemed like an interesting and productive way to get our age group interested in reusing and recycling--to make people think about their everyday actions, what they spend their money on, and where their waste goes."

Though all three had previously participated in clothing swaps among friends, they wanted to do something bigger. At first, they had difficulty defining the scope of the event.

"We wanted this swap to be bigger, and more public," said Robyn, "but we couldn't predict how many people would show up, and we didn't know where to host it, how much to charge for admission, or whether we should charge any admission at all."

Fortunately, their participation in the MCR program had provided them with not only a wealth of knowledge on topics related to composting, recycling, and waste management, but also a network of supportive City of Edmonton staff and volunteers all enthusiastic about promoting "the three Rs".

Edmonton's NextGen approached the MCR clothing swap team through Laura, former MCR Program Assistant. Laura is an active volunteer with NextGen, an organization dedicated to bettering Edmonton for the enjoyment of future generations. NextGen was already in the process of organizing an event in their DIYalogue series on the topic of fashion. The fashion industry networking event was a great fit for the clothing swap.

"We tapped into a bigger network by joining forces [with NextGen]," said Robyn. "It was nice to know we were reaching out to more people, not just people we already knew."

Andrea added, "I think joining their event gave people more reasons to check out both elements of the evening's programme."

While partnering with NextGen relieved the MCRs of tasks related to booking a venue and organizing ticket sales, Robyn, Heather, and Andrea were still left with the biggest task: soliciting clothing donations. Though they put out numerous calls for donations to the MCR community prior to the event, they received no pre-swap donations beyond what they personally collected from friends and relatives. By the night of the event, they had managed to compile just enough stock to start them off for the evening.

"We were a little worried," admits Robyn, "but people really came through on the night of the swap."

Donations rolled in steadily for the duration of the swap. "The quality of the donations was really high, and the volume was great," said Heather. "The display looked really good the whole night.The Arts Barns were a perfect venue, because the fashion industry networking/mentoring stuff was happening in the main space, and we were just off to the side with mirrors, racks, and tables all provided by the venue. The bathrooms have big full-length mirrors so people could try things on."

The swap facilitated many outreach opportunities. "People seemed really enthusiastic about donating and browsing, and we had some really unique opportunities to talk about wasting less," said Andrea. "It felt so different than chatting with people over a table at a fair, because people lingered longer."

The MCRs found another partner in Goodwill Industries, who added their perspective to discussions about the social impacts of waste and reuse. They also collected all unclaimed items from the clothing swap at the end of the event.

"It was so powerful to have the fashion creators together in the same room with people on the reuse and recycle end, and all of us being consumers," said Robyn.

The MCRs reached over 100 people at the event. Their donations to Goodwill extended that impact in a different way.

"It was a success on so many levels," said Heather, "And it was a lot of fun, too!"

Top Tips for a Clothing Swap - from Robyn, Heather, and Andrea
1. Don't be afraid to organize something small and intimate among friends--it could be just as effective.
2. Work your own networks. Reach out and target groups of people you know using your interests.
3. Find a way to make it fun. A clothing swap is a great idea for party at this time of year, when everyone is "spring cleaning"!

Robyn C, Heather S, and Andrea W all graduated from the MCR program together in 2013. They've been involved in various projects together and separately, such as helping out at the Reuse Centre, doing presentations for school kids, and holding zero-waste dinner parties.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Urban Recycler Dishes the Dirt on Your Waste

Edmonton residents will start receiving important waste-handling information in their mail this week.

The Urban Recycler newsletter contains a useful one-page guide to help residents sort household waste into recycling, garbage, and Eco Station streams. Also included are tips about how to reduce your waste by grasscycling, donating items that can be reused, and recycling electronic waste by taking it to Eco Stations.

Have you been wondering what to do with your dead batteries? How about empty windshield washer bottles? Interested in booking a free tour of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre? The newsletter answers these and many more waste-related questions.

The Urban Recycler will be distributed during the week of April 28th. If you have not received it by May 12, call 311 to have a copy sent to you or download it from

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Compost Awareness Week

Compost Awareness Week is right around the corner! From May 3rd to 10th, we will celebrate composting and encourage Edmontonians to think differently about decomposition.

Since you're such a compost champion, we know you're wondering what you can do!
Here are five simple ideas to get you started:
  1. Forward the "Keep Composting" newsletter to someone you know. Especially someone who might take the plunge into home composting.
  2. Host a Compost Garden Party! Invite a friends and family over to show off your composting skills. Take time to answer questions, troubleshoot, and make composting fun and easy.
  3. Tell a friend about Compost Awareness Week. Mention the 6 workshops where they can learn the basics.
  4. Share some fun facts about composting on Twitter or facebook, along with a link to
    Post a picture of waking up your compost to Instagram.
    Use #yegcompost.
  5. Organize a Lunch n' Learn at your workplace - let us know how we can support you!
How do you plan on participating in Compost Awareness Week?
Leave a comment below to share your ideas.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The 2014 MCR Course begins...

The 2014 Course of Master Composter Recyclers has officially begun! 37 students are joining us this year, all eager to learn and spread the word about less-waste.

Veteran MCRs should remember this board!
Our first class began with the typical introductions. We learned about what it means to be an MCR and a little bit about how to deal with waste in Edmonton. Neil Burkard, educational program specialist at the EWMC, joined us to explain waste streams and provide an overview of the different processing systems used in our city.
Rodney talks volunteering
We jumped into the nitty-gritty on our second day, when Myles Curry came in to talk about Garbology. He gave us the run down on residential waste, including what's in it and why we focus on specific types of waste. Myles also talked about which kinds of waste reduction make the biggest differences. 
Who knew garbage could be so interesting?
Neil joined us again, this time to give us more detail on recycling. He talked about what goes in the blue bag, and how our systems and sorting processes at the MRF influence what we are able to recycle.
Day three saw some more familiar faces. Mark Stumpf-Allen gave us our introduction to the ick-factor of composting, with a primer on decomposition! MCR Christine W. came to give a presentation about worm composting, and led us through making our own worm bins!

Bins constructed. It's time to add the worms!
MCR Yoshie N. brought in her own bin and shared a little of her experience with worm composting at home and as a caretaker of the City Hall compost.
New "pets" for excited MCRs!
Three classes down, and so much more still to come!

Everyone in the class brings a wonderful spirit to the group. We are looking forward to seeing them out and actively promoting waste reduction in the community.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Earth Hour 2014

Earth Hour will be taking place this year on March 29th. Millions of people around the globe will turn off all their lights, from 8:30-9:30pm, to celebrate their commitment to the environment.

Will you be participating?

Earth Hour is more than just turning off the lights; it's a great opportunity to encourage waste reduction in other ways, too. It's a well known event, and it's a relatively small act that leaves most people more open to the idea of making other enviro-friendly changes. There's no reason for a less-waste attitude to end at the end of an hour, especially with a fantastic team of Master Composter Recycler volunteers ready and willing to help their friends and neighbours get into the spirit!

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Host a zero-waste dinner party. Click here for tips and tricks.
  • Pick a common disposable item you use often, and eliminate it from your life. For example, cut up some raggedy t-shirts to use for rags, and ditch the paper towel. Challenge your friends to do the same.
  • Invite people over for a sustainability-themed movie night. Here's a list of popular "green themed" movies and documentaries. Make sure the movie ends in time for Earth Hour, and use that lights-off time to discuss the message.
  • Give a presentation in your workplace, or set up a display in your lunch room. 
Got any great ideas for Earth Hour? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Edmonton is the Earth Hour Capital of Canada

Nation's sustainability leader chosen from three Canadian finalists.

The City of Edmonton has been crowned the Earth Hour Capital of Canada through the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour City Challenge, beating out two other Canadian finalists.

Edmonton was one of 33 finalist cities chosen by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for impressive actions on climate change. The international jury will now proceed with deliberations to also select a Global Earth Hour Capital.

“It is an incredible honour to have Edmonton selected as the Earth Hour Capital of Canada,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Our sustainability efforts have been plentiful and it is reassuring to be recognized by the World Wildlife Fund for our environmental plans and initiatives.”

Edmonton’s The Way We Green action plan received high scores for its strategies to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions and save money, while ramping up plans for renewable energy. The jury also recognized Edmonton for its ambitious vision of achieving a carbon neutral future.

“WWF congratulates Edmonton as this year’s Canadian Earth Hour City Challenge winner. The City’s innovative municipal action demonstrates the leadership our country can, and should aspire to on a national scale,” said David Miller, CEO and President, WWF-Canada.

Citizens can also help Edmonton become a winner by participating in the People’s Choice We Love Citiescampaign. People can vote for the City of Edmonton in a few ways up until March 20, 2014:
Post a picture on Twitter of your favourite thing about Edmonton with hashtag #weloveedmonton. There is no limit to the amount of Twitter votes per day.
Post a picture or video on Instagram of your favourite thing about Edmonton with hashtag #weloveedmonton. There is no limit to the amount of Instagram votes per day.
Vote by visiting One vote per day.

The awards for the national and global sustainability winners, as well as the We Love Cities campaign, will be presented at the Earth Hour City Challenge Conference and Awards Ceremony in Vancouver on March 27, 2014, which WWF organizes in conjunction with the international conference GLOBE 2014.

For more information visit:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Composting, Ninja Level by MCR Jane T

We all know the benefits of composting. Forty percent of the waste that makes its way to the EWMC is compostable and a significant amount of that is grass clippings and leaves. Keeping these at home and composting them along with your kitchen waste not only reduces waste, it provides a source of highly nutritious humus for the garden.

Composting takes time and patience. Depending on the environment it can take months or even years to produce a good batch of this hearty mulch.

That's why sheet mulching is a fabulous option. Creating a garden by sheet mulching, sometimes referred to as lasagne gardening, is a simple way to manage yard waste while creating a fabulous new bed for flowers and vegetables.

My front yard, before sheet mulching
Start by defining the area you wish to turn into a garden and cut a trench to separate it from the rest of the lawn. Place 2-3 layers of cardboard over the region where the new bed will be and water it well. I like to wrap the edges with newspaper so the grass is completely enclosed and won't sneak out the perimeter and grow into the border you've created. You can fill the trench with whatever you like; I use a combination of broken bricks and wood chips.

Now the layering begins. Start with an inch of nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings, manure, coffee grounds and kitchen waste. Throw some bone meal on top of this, then add a 2-3 inch layer of carbon-rich waste such as leaves or straw. The more diverse your materials, the better. I use whatever I can get my hands on, which has me cruising the back alleys in my neighborhood looking for bags of yard waste. I've even posted ads for straw bales and horse manure. Shredded documents from the office? Why not?

Finished bed, later that day
A few more layers, alternating between greens and browns, and the garden bed begins to take shape. A final layer of compost finishes the project. After that it's simply a matter of keeping it well watered and waiting for the medley to become a rich bed of organic soil. Do this in the summer or fall and you'll be planting in it the following spring.

Check out this update from 9 months after creating my bed.

As opposed to dirt, soil created this way has vitality. It's full of nutrients and micro organisms, it's well balanced and rich. Your flowers and veggies will grow tall and happy in their new home.

One year later

Jane T completed the MCR course in 2013 and has been active ever since. She's participated in trade shows, helped out with the grasscycling campaign, and blogs at