Feature: How to make the perfect compost pile, a definitive guide

Two stakes and a net is all you need if you follow these easy steps

Here in Vancouver, 30 per cent of collected garbage is made of biodegradable materials. These materials can be easily composted, but are instead dumped into the trash. While the city has set its sights on a 70 per cent diversion rate by 2015 – meaning the goal is to have most of the waste avoid a landfill – it requires the willful participation of the population.

Constructing your own compost is actually an easy process, requiring very little expertise. Follow these simple instructions to put a dent in your waste contributions.

Read More

Advertisements

Growing sustainability through education: teaching children environmental responsibility

These brightly coloured fish were created by the kids of St. Augustine's Elementary. Photo by Yai&JR.

 

Childhood education is perhaps one of the most underrated ways to build towards a sustainable future. While adults are busy trying to change their habits, public education offers the opportunity to instill the values of sustainability in children from the very start.

As public schools often strive to be positive fixtures in their local communities, there are always plenty of opportunities for young green minds to apply these values in an impactful way.

“That’s a really important point,” trustee Mike Lombardi of the Vancouver School Board said. “One of our goals as an establishment is to become the greenest school district in North America.”

The VSB intends to meet this goal through the adoption of a strategic sustainability plan, which according to Lombardi will be released this April.

The plan will outline long-term strategies including several initiatives based on student participation. The aim is to not only be the greenest school district on the continent, but to also educate kids on the value of such a commitment.

Lombardi said the plan will contain several different components, including food-based initiatives like composting and gardening. Recycling and energy conservation will also play a prominent role in the plan.

What this means: at the school level

Mike McEwan is the Principal of Edith Cavell Elementary School on West 20th Avenue.

“There’s all kinds of programs that go through the curriculum that teach kids about their responsibilities,” McEwan said. “It has to be something you’re always talking about.”

McEwan said that educators strive to integrate social responsibility as part of their daily lessons. From English to math, students often receive reminders of the importance of sustainability and conservation.

But beyond the classroom, schools recognize their role as fixtures of the local communities they serve. As such, students, educators, and parents often find ways to take these lessons outside of the school.

“The PAC (Parent Advisory Council) is interested in getting some kind of a teaching garden here,” McEwan offered as one such example. “Our leadership students are going to be involved in either the planting or maintaining of a traffic circle.” These roundabout traffic circles with gardens in the middle have become a regular sight on Vancouver’s roads.

Vancouver roundabouts may be a nuisance to drivers, but they offer more green space in a heavily paved city. Photo by Spacing Magazine.

 

Another example is the work of school kids around salmon enhancement. Community initiatives take the form of painting fish on storm sewers to remind locals to be careful what they dump down the drain.

“That whole social responsibility thread goes through a lot of what we do at all of the levels,” McEwan added.

What this means: cooperation with the city

Vancouver’s own commitment to a green future can, and often is, integrated with the aims of other levels of governance.

As a means of educating children, the city sponsors a two-person theatrical troupe called Dream Rider Theatre. Their mission: to educate kids in environmental awareness.

You can check out videos of some of their work here.

Schools like Edith Cavell Elementary can book the performances free of charge, thanks to city sponsorship.

McEwan said that educating kids in sustainability requires constant input from educators, the community, and parents. This is why it is so vital to integrate the lessons into the normal daily routines of schools.

Looking forward, McEwan predicted more cooperation between those tasked with teaching our youth.

“I would only expect that as these initiatives come forward, as it becomes more and more important, that we all take responsibility.”

 

 

Sustainable Vancouver: building towards lean, green transport

This article is the second in a series on living sustainably in Vancouver. Stay tuned for more instalments.

Old Translink buses catch some Sun as they await their fate. Photo by Stephen Rees.


Building towards sustainable transport

Environmentalists in Vancouver were given a reason to smile last week when Translink released its first report on sustainability.

The 102-page report details an extensive amount of data related to environmental and economic sustainability, while also providing a window into the overall operations of the company.

In building towards a sustainable future in transport, the document is a step in the right direction. Transportation currently accounts for up to 33 per cent of green house gas (GHG) emissions in the province of British Columbia, and that is reason enough to begin documenting the specific indicators guiding these emissions.

Taking measure of a system’s performance allows for improvements to be made. To reach higher levels of sustainability in transportation, the data necessary to understand the system must be made available.

I spoke with Translink spokeswoman Trish Webb about the release. She said that the sustainability report is based on regional indicators, and these are only made available every five years.

Read More

Sustainable Vancouver: A Guide to Eating Local in the City

This article is the first in a series on living sustainably in Vancouver. Stay tuned for more instalments. Photo by Natalie Maynor.


Eating Local

For the first instalment of sustainable Vancouver I decided to take a look at local food. Here in Vancouver, we are blessed with a wide assortment of local food options which can help make a sustainable lifestyle a reality. From seafood to local produce, much of our diets can be supplemented with local options.

When opting for local choices, consumers will often find that many of the things they enjoy are simply not available. Tropical fruit, olive oils, coffee – many of the staples we enjoy regularly come from abroad and are subject to many unseen costs. When picking up ingredients at the local grocery store, very rarely does one consider the hidden costs affecting our sustainability.

For example, bananas can be had on the cheap quite regularly, but the cost of transporting those bananas is one that remains hidden. While eating local can some times weigh heavier on the budget, the impact on our global carbon footprint is much lower. In no small way, eating local is much less costly for the environment as a whole.

“For food purists, “local” is the new “organic,” the new ideal that promises healthier bodies and a healthier planet,” said Time reporter John Cloud in an article which is now almost four years old.

Produce which is sold locally generally circumvents the need for harsh chemicals like pesticides, as the products are not expected to stay unnaturally fresh while they’re shipped around the globe. When buying organic, local products are usually of higher quality as well, lending more credence to the superiority of local food.

Read More