Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Can't Recycle It !

 A student ponders if something can be recycled

 I can’t recycle it. It’s missing a part. I don’t want this anymore. None of my friends want it. I don’t have time to sell it. I’m moving away soon and I can’t take this with me. These are all (mostly valid) excuses I’ve heard for tossing potentially useful things in a dumpster. But I think everyone should have the choice to not throw out their excess stuff when they no longer have any use for them, especially when some people go without these things. Fortunately, at uOttawa, you do have that choice at the Free Store

The Free Store is a hub for all the things that you no longer need so they can find a home where they'll be used again. Donations are usually received in a large box on the porch of the Free Store (647 King Edward) throughout the year, but especially during residence move out (Dump and Run). The donations are then cleaned, organized and presented on the shelves of the Free Store by volunteers to be taken by students, staff or community members.

The Free Store, which started as a monthly tabling event in the University Centre, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. We now have a year round location at 647 King Edward, in the little red house, that is open three days a week during the school year.

In my time as Free Store coordinator, I have had many visitors to the Free Store who have thanked me profusely and even refused to take items altogether without giving me something back or offering me a favour in return. This has always left me very puzzled since my job is to give away these items so that they don`t end up being thrown out.

I spend large amounts of my time convincing my roommates, family and friends that they need more forks or just one more toaster for their bedroom. No really! Trust me on this one! It`ll save you so much travel time in the morning! The Free Store benefits everyone involved as well as our environment. Students, charities, staff and community members are getting things they need. Waste is being diverted from landfill. The university is saving money on waste disposal. Win. Win. Win.

International students and students in residence find the Free Store particularly valuable since they arrive in Ottawa with a very limited amount of necessities. If they know about the Free Store, they will at least have the choice to choose the more sustainable/cheaper option. Every September, we host two days at the Free Store just for international students to pick up stuff. We regularly have lineups snaking out the front door!

Despite our efforts on the back end of things, it’s important that people reduce their consumption at the front end by making an effort not to always buy new. And when they do buy new things, to make sure they buy things that are durable.
Check the Free Store before buying new. Check out our residence green move in guide. Buy your textbooks used whenever possible. What most folks don’t realize is that you end up saving lots of money on all of these things too!

One thing that’s been on my mind lately is the fact that our yearly haul of donations has increased every year since its inception. This makes me wonder if our collecting practices are becoming more efficient? Or if students are becoming increasingly wasteful? Maybe items are being made less durable? A combination of these three factors? I have no answers, but for anyone who does I’d be happy to pass along my contact information.

 ~ geoff - free store coordinator

Monday, July 14, 2014

A bug’s life ... live from the community garden

A workshop about the bugs living at the community garden

A very interesting workshop organized by members of the Learning Garden took place on campus last Monday night : Wanted alive!  Appreciating and recognizing insects in the garden. First, I must confess: in everyday life, I simply abhor insects and bugs of all kinds. It's not very original, but spiders are really my worst nightmare. But hey, I still spent my evening in a workshop on insects and, what's even more amazing is that I really enjoyed it!

The animator, Keith MacCallum, volunteer at the Learning Garden and 4th year student in biology at the University of Ottawa, first introduced us to various insects’ categories. We then went hunting in the gardens of the University! Here’s a little rundown of what I learned Monday:
  • Nnative North American bees don’t produce honey at all and don’t even live in huge colonies. There's even one in the community gardens that made a hive for herself only! 
  • The mystery of the wasp waist was also resolved last week: it allows the wasps to warm up their upper body part faster in the morning, and so to get to fly faster! 
  • Finally, who would have thought, but cockroaches do have wings and know how to use them! 
Insects are perhaps not very pleasant to look at, but, as Keith MacCallum said it, we really should take more interest in them (and not just in butterflies). After all, these little critters have a huge impact on the functioning of ecosystems, and the proper functioning of your garden!

The members of the Learning Garden meet weekly to learn about the basics of gardening, pollinators and more. We’ll keep you informed on their upcoming workshops!

A group of uOttawa students participating in a workshop on insects found in community gardens

A close up of a North American native bee

The learning garden is conceived to attract pollinators insects

~ audrey - volunteer and outreach coordinator

Une vie de bestioles… en direct des jardins communautaires

insectes, uOttawa, jardinage

Lundi soir avait lieu sur le campus l’atelier Recherchés vivants! Atelier sur l’identification et l’appréciation des insectes du jardin, organisé par les membres du Jardin d’apprentissage. J’ai d’abord une confession à vous faire.. Dans la vie de tous les jours, j’ai en horreur les insectes et bibittes en tout genre. Ce n’est pas très original, mais les araignées sont vraiment mon pire cauchemar. Mais bon, j’ai quand même passée ma soirée dans un atelier sur les insectes et, plus étonnant encore, j’ai vraiment aimé ça !!

L’animateur, Keith MacCallum, bénévole du jardin d'apprentissage et étudiant de 4e année en biologie à l’Université d’Ottawa,  nous a d’abord présenté les différentes catégories d’insectes, puis nous sommes partis à la chasse dans les jardins de l’Université. Je vous fais un petit topo de ce que j’ai appris lundi :

  • Les abeilles natives d’Amérique du Nord ne produisent pas de miel et ne vivent pas dans d’immenses colonies. Il y en a même une dans les jardins communautaires qui s’est fait une ruche pour elle toute seule !
  • Le mystère de la taille de guêpe s’est aussi résolue lundi soir : elle permet aux guêpes de réchauffer plus rapidement la partie avant de leur corps, et ainsi de s’envoler plus vite le matin!
  • Enfin, qui l’eut cru, les cafards ont effectivement des ailes et peuvent voler sans problème !

Les insectes ne sont peut-être pas très agréables à regarder, mais, comme l’a mentionné Keith MacCallum, on devrait vraiment leur porter davantage d’attention (et pas juste aux papillons). En effet, ces petites bestioles ont un impact immense sur le fonctionnement des écosystèmes, et sur la bonne tenue de votre jardin !

Les membres du Jardin d’apprentissage se réunissent chaque semaine pour en apprendre davantage sur les bases du jardinage, les pollinisateurs et plus encore. On vous tient au courant de leurs prochains ateliers !

Un groupe d’étudiants participe à un atelier sur les insectes que l’on trouve dans les jardins communautaires

Une abeille native d’Amérique du Nord, vue de près.

Le jardin d’apprentissage sont conçus pour attirer les insectes pollinisateurs

~ audrey - Coordonnatrice du bénévolat et de l'engagement

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Candy wrappers are being transformed into recycled material cutting boards

When you take a look at a park bench, I bet the last thing you think is that it looks like a waste by-product. Well you might be surprised to know that many benches are hiding something from you; in fact, they are often hiding millions of pieces of what we used to consider traditional trash. The company that is behind this transformation from garbage to park benches, picnic tables, and even coolers is a Canadian company called Terracycle.

The founder of this company is Tom Szaky, who was inspired by the mighty earth worm. When Tom discovered worms digest dirt into compost, at the formative age of 19, he was flabbergasted. He created a business case at Princeton University to transform table scraps into fertilizer. You can now buy "Worm Poop" in major department stores. You can even get specialized Worm Poop for certain plants.

Today, Terracycle handles a lot more than just compost. The company is an aggregator of major companies, each one investing in their own particular stream or recycling. Garnier, for example, pays for the recycling of their traditionally non-recyclable beauty product packaging. These containers are then transformed into other durable products, like park benches. Other companies are recycling coffee bags, pens, water filters, and candy wrappers into things like bags, containers, and cutting boards. Items that were once destined for the dumps and now finding a second life.

And the projects don't stop there... cigarette butts are transformed into plastic shipping pallets. More precisely, the plastic in the cigarette filter is transformed into hard plastic (I mean come on, the paper and tobacco can't become plastic, it is composted instead).  I could go on but there are more than 200 programs and I don't want you reading this post all day.

Terracycle's programs are a great example of how to care about the environment but they don't necessarily get individuals to reduce their overall consumption, because the best solution reduce what you consume before you have to recycle it. Our society is based on consumption and recycling doesn't go right to the heart of the problem. Many Terracycle programs don't get you to change your habits to help create a zero waste society; to the contrary, they might even eliminate some of the guilt that might be associated with generating garbage. The company does a great job of quantifying and acknowledging waste even if they are not focused on reducing consumption.

Nevertheless, Terracycle is doing great work bringing together companies and getting them to manage the waste generated by their products. But to sustain their great work they need you and me, the generators of waste, to keep supporting them. More than 24 Million people are currently sending their waste to Terracycle in 15 countries. Who would have thought that a first year student from Canada studying at Princeton could have accomplished so much from the excrement of worms.

~ sophie - free store coordinator

*The University of Ottawa participates in several Terracycle programs.


L'emballage qui deviens une planche à découper fabriqué des matériaux recyclés

Lorsque nous regardons un banc de parc, notre dernier reflexe est de voir celui-ci comme un déchet. Nous serions surpris de savoir que certains bancs ont une apparence trompeuse. Ils peuvent cacher en eux des millions d’emballages traditionnellement non recyclables. Le responsable de cette transformation de déchets à des bancs de parc, des poubelles, des tables de pique-nique ou même des glacières est la compagnie Canadienne Terracycle.

Le fondateur de la compagnie, Tom Szaky, fut inspiré par de simple vers de terre. Lorsque Tom découvre ces vers de terre créateurs d’engrais, à l’âge de 19, il fut époustouflé du résultat de leur digestion. Avec cette idée il entreprit un projet d’engrais au concours de plan d’affaire de Princeton. Les vers qui digèrent les restes de table présentaient un très bon engrais abordable.  Maintenant, vous pouvez acheter l’engrais  de vers de terre (worm poop) dans de grosses succursales. Vous pourriez même obtenir de l’engrais spécialisé à certaines plantes.

Maintenant, Terracycle englobe bien plus que du simple engrais. Terracycle rassemble plusieurs méga entreprises, chacune investie dans le même type de recyclage. Une compagnie comme Garnier, par exemple, payera le recyclage de produits de beautés qui seraient normalement non-recyclables. Ces contenants peuvent donc être recyclés en plastique dur comme une poubelle ou un banc. D’autres compagnies suivent le même système avec des sachets de café, des stylos, des filtres Brita, et mêmes des emballages de tout genre. La quantité de plastique qui avant était destiné au dépotoir peut maintenant avoir une deuxième vie bien moins nocive pour l’environnement.

Les projets ne s’arrêtent pas là, les mégots de cigarette se voient eux aussi recyclés en palette de plastique. Plus précisément,  le mégot de base en plastique sera transformé en plastique dur, tandis que le tabac et le papier sera par la suite composté. Nous pourrions continuer bien longtemps à énumérer les produits qui naissent du programme Terracycle, il en existe près de 200.

Tout comme le recyclage Terracycle fait sa preuve dans l’environnement et la protection de cellle-ci. Par contre, le projet n’incite pas la réduction de consommation. La première solution pour réduire tous nos déchets serait de réduire nos achats de produits non recyclables. Dans notre société de consommation et de culture de masse, Terracycle ne réussit qu’à mettre un pansement sur le vrai problème. Il ne demande pas au gens de changer leur mode de vie et de débuter un style de vie zéro déchets, au contraire il  élimine cette culpabilité de consommer. Bien que l’organisation essaie de valoriser un peu le zéro déchet, elle atteint ses nombreux objectifs puisqu’elle ne demande pas à la société de changer ses habitudes de bases.

Terracycle réuni bien des compagnies qui sont prêtes à investir dans de tels projets, mais elle ne pourrait pas continuer son bon fonctionnement sans vous et moi, les donateurs de déchets. Plus de 24 millions de personnes envoient leurs déchets à Terracycle. Ceci rassemble 15 pays - tout un progrès pour une compagnie qui débuta au Canada. Fondé par un étudiant de première année à l’Université de Princeton le projet a bien grandi depuis 2001. Croire que le tout a commencé avec de l’engrais d’excréments de ver de terre.

~ sophie - coordonatrice de la Gratuiterie