uOttawa dump and run volunteers 2017


So listen closely, because I am only going to say this once. We have some rules to go before you get started and my job is to make sure that you are all safe and that we collect as much stuff as possible.

First things first, thank you all for coming out and agreeing to help us for the 207 Dump and Run. You volunteers represent the last line of defense between us and the landfill. If we don't collect this stuff today, it will certainly be garbage tomorrow.

We are systematically going to go around to each and every residence and collect all the donations, old food, and unwanted things. The majority of the stuff you collect will be left on the donation tables in the main lobby of every building. But we won't stop there. We will move into every common room, every shared kitchen, every washroom, and collect all the stuff left behind.

If you run into other cleaning staff or Housing staff, do what they say. We have partnered with them to get this stuff out of here and we are here only by their invitation. They have final say on what we can take and what we can't.

Dump and Run volunteers outside of the residences of uOttawa

All of you will be equipped with bags and boxes to carry the stuff. We have gloves if you want and we have masks. You likely won't need them but we have them if you want them.

Now in your hast to collect things, you have to remember that safety still comes first.
  • At all times you will be paired up with a partner. Never abandon your partner.
  • Don't reach quickly into a pile of things. There could be sharp edges, knives, needles... tonnes of things that could hurt you.
  • Don't lift heavy things. We have dollies and carts for the heavy stuff.
  • Check the bottom of any box before you lift it, some boxes haven't been taped shut.
  • A lot of the elevators will be filled with people trying to move out. If you have to use the stairs, never ever carry a box down the stairs. Use the bags donated to us by Ikea. Only one bag per hand and never more weigh than you are comfortable with.
  • Keep hydrated and don't over-exert yourselves. This isn't a competition, it is a community project and so we work together and we take care of ourselves. Remember, you can take a break at any time.
  • You have the cell phone number for the team leaders. They are here to help you. If you have any problems... if someone is yelling at you, if you cut yourself, if you see something super weird... just call us.
Now remember, all the stuff we are collecting belongs to someone else. It is completely possible that someone accidentally left something behind. You will find laptops, you will find cell phones, you will find designer clothes and nice jewelry. We will collect all those items and leave them aside in case the owner comes looking for them.

A volunteer dresses up with donations to the Dump and Run

So I know what question you are about to ask me... "Can I keep some of the stuff I find?" The answer is yes. You will have the opportunity to keep stuff at the end of the day, but don't let it interfere with the job at hand. Don't drag stuff around and slow every one down. We have a full day's work ahead of us so let's not forget that.
If something you find is a little too good to be true, it probably is. We will put your name on it and if no one claims it in a couple of weeks you can keep it.

A full van donations for the uOttawa dump and run 2017

Now, if all that has sunk in... I will tell you what is going to happen after today, because you are only obligated to help out today - but we would love to have your help over the next few weeks.
  • After today we will sort all these donations. 
  • We will weigh every item so that we know how much stuff was donated (that is why you have to weigh any donation you want to take).
  • We will donate all the food we can to local charities, and everything we can't we will compost.
  • We will clean all the items that need cleaning. 
  • We will take the extra liquor bottles and we will return them for money (that's why we will collect bottles).
  • We will take that money and use it to pay for the hundreds of loads of laundry we will be doing. (That is why you will be collecting all the laundry detergent you can).
  • We will do dishes until our hands are prunes, then we will switch off with someone else and they will do dishes until their hands are prunes (that is why you will collect all the dish soap you can).
  • We have a partnership with Food Services to run dishes through their industrial dish washer (and at the same time they can collect any items that they can use in the Dining Hall).
  • We will fill boxes with stuff until they tower over us. (That is why you have to collect boxes too).
  • We will contact every charity in Ottawa and match donations to their needs.
  • Finally, we will move all the remaining boxes to the Free Store so that we have things to give away during the summer.

So once again, thank you! Without you, all this stuff would have ended up in the landfill. All this wasted potential would have contributed to a more polluted and miserable world. But because of you, a child will have toys to play with, a hungry family will have food to eat, a homeless person will have a sweater to keep warm, an immigrant family will be able to turn their house into a home; and you will have brought smiles to hundreds of student's faces.

Now... let's get to it

Results from the 2017 Dump & Run

Dump and Run infographic 2017
~jON - campus sustainability manager
A box of delicious fruits and vegetables at uOttawa as part of their community supported Agriculture project.

For those who have their own small garden plots, me included, the growing season is just getting started. But I want my fruits and veggies now, because I am spoiled and various other reasons that we don't have to get into. So lucky for me, I am signed up for a CSA (community supported Agriculture) at the University of Ottawa.

I've already covered the uOttawa Farm Basket Program in another post but here is a brief summary just in case you missed it. A CSA is at its core a special contract with a farmer. Instead of paying for fruits and vegetables at the market, you pay for them before they are planted and they are delivered to you as they are ready. You share the risk with the farmer, but you also share the savings.

This is the third year that the program will operate at uOttawa with the cooperation of Health Promotions and Food Services. The reason we got involved and brought the program on campus was pure convenience. We figured that if we make healthy food easier for you buy then you might buy more of it. And since we all come to the campus anyways, you can just pick up your basket while you are here.

Weekly Farm Box emails are sent to participants of the program

The farm we work with at uOttawa, Ferme aux pleines saveurs, is really awesome. I am super keen on these guys. Every week they send me a list of all the things I am going to get in my basket. They send me a reminder the day before (so I can remember to bring my reusable bags), and another when my basket has arrived (technically it is the awesome people over at Health Promotions who do this part but it all feels very seamless).

Each week I also get special recipes specifically for the vegetables I am getting, and they tend to focus on the non-conventional vegetables that they offer from time to time (like Kohlrabi or parsnips). And every one and a while they toss in a couple of prepared items (like salsa, zucchini bread, and jams). I have even gotten bags of purposefully grouped items that are basically ready to mix and serve (like make your own pesto or make your own soups).

Aside from the very selfish reasons that I am involved with the uOttawa CSA, there are a couple of reasons why you should get involved and why it is a sustainable choice.
  • It is cheap!
    Of course this is a relative statement but you find find organic vegetables for this price at the stores... in some cases you wouldn't find normal vegetables at the grocery store for this price. Each week, your basket of vegetables comes with a list of the prices of each item.
  • It is organic!
    Farm basket programs aren't hard to find, but this farm is certified organic. They work with Equiterre to ensure that there products meet all the standards of the "Quebec vrai" program.
  • They are local!
    The farm is located exactly 1 hour away from the uOttawa, 90.3 kilometers to be exact. So all the good stuff that comes along with supporting your local economy applies here.
  • The food is fresh!
    It don't just mean fresh, I mean fresh! The vegetables are picked that morning and are in your hands by noon. I don't know if you have had the pleasure of eating something straight from the field but you have to give it a try.
  • It helps combat food deserts!
    You might not be familiar with this term but the concept is simple. Food deserts are urban areas where it's difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. Reducing the barriers to food security make the entire community better.
So if you are interested in joining the program, you can sign up for a basket on the website. You don't have to commit fully to the program, you can grab a couple of baskets and see if they fit your life. Check our their harvest calendar to get an idea of a time that might interest you.
Otherwise, drop by the Health Promotions Office on campus and talk to the staff about the program. 

~jON - campus sustainability manager
uOttawa is piloting a program to use bikes on campus instead of fleet vehicles.

The Office of Campus Sustainability is working to change the story when it comes to campus emissions, especially when it comes to fleet vehicles. So don't be surprised this summer if you notice the staff of uOttawa Facilities zipping around campus on bikes.

I once heard a talk that emphasized the idea that if you want sustainability to stick, you need to make sure that it is making your life better. It may not seem like it a first blush, but that is exactly what this initiative is all about.

So why put people on bikes? Well, there are a couple of reasons.


First, the employees wanted it. Although the uOttawa campus isn't huge, it is still a bit of a trek to go from one end to the other, even more so to get to the Lees campus. And there are always a few meetings at the hospital or City Hall. Having some bikes to move around more quickly makes everyone's job easier.

uOttawa Facilities logo on the side of their new fleet bikesThe bikes are fixed gear for easy maintenance. They have a wooden box fixed to the back of them to carry some tools. They are simple and sleek with a minimal profile. They look cool and so their riders will look cool too (or at least I think so). And of course, cycling is a much healthier alternative to driving around.


Second, the campus is moving towards having a car-free core. In the latest master plan, the University outlined the desire to remove cars from the centre of the campus, making the space more pedestrian and bike friendly. Add the that, safer, less congested, quieter, calmer, etc...

a coupy of the uOttawa Campus Master Plan on getting cars off campus

If the core of the campus is supposed to become car-free, it would be really inappropriate to have all the Facilities staff moving around on campus in vans and trucks. Therefore service bicycles seemed like the most appropriate way to move around. It would not only save time (instead of trying to navigate through hoards of people walking about), it would also set an example for others by demonstrating that active transportation is a real thing.

Clean Air Community

a line of cars along King Edward creating air pollution and GHG emissions
Cars along King Edward at the University of Ottawa
In 2015, the uOttawa was recognized by the Ontario Minister of the Environment for its Clean Air Community program, an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Part of this plan was the idea of reducing the number of internal combustion vehicles on campus. This would have the immediate impact of healthier more breathable air and of course long term impacts of better health and fewer GHG emissions (but I will get into that later).

Cost Savings

It's not hard to wrap your head around the idea that it is cheaper to own a bike than a car. Maintaining a fleet of trucks and vans doesn't come cheap and so for every van we take off the road, we could replace it with ten bikes (just based on the annual cost to lease a vehicle). Pile on top of that the operating costs and you've got yourself one hell of a return on investment.

A uOttawa Facilities Fleet Truck

There are also the external costs related to operating a fleet of truck and vans. Requiring more space for parking isn't cheap on a campus that already doesn't have enough space. Or how about insurance costs for running those vehicles? And now we can also add the cost of carbon to that list.

The Planet

I am not going to bore you with a deep dive into all the environmental benefits of a program like this. I will take a moment to mention GHG emissions (Facilites' fleet is responsible for about 79 tonnes of CO2 every year). Also, the leaking of gasoline and particles of rubber from car tires make up the biggest source of contamination in rivers, so there's that. And let's not forget the embodied energy in the materials needed to make a car are ridiculous, especially when compared to a bike.

A uOttawa Facilities Fleet bike

Ultimately, one of the biggest outcomes of a program like this would be a more in-depth understanding of how cyclists see the campus. Since Facilities are responsible for all the cycling infrastructure on campus, it makes sense that if they are using it more often they would have better ideas about how to improve the system.

The 'not so good', the 'bad' and the 'ugly'

I wasn't about to end this post without talking about the downsides and limitations of a program like this. I mean that would be a little disingenuous.

First, we have to consider the fact that this program is primarily meant for the summer time and likely won't fly in the winter time. Similarly, rainy weather and super hot days will likely push users to other forms of transportation.

And of course, these bikes can't be used in every situation. Some times the bikes aren't going to be the right fit for the kind of work that needs to be done. Or, if an employee is injured or tired, they might not want to use the bikes.

Hey, just putting this out there, the possibility exists that the bikes might get stolen or damaged as well. Maybe an employee might fall off too.

All that being said though, the bikes aren't meant to completely replace the fleet vehicles, just offer a viable alternative. You know, take a few more emissions out of the air and be an example to others out there.

In the past 5 years, there has been a remarkable shift in how uOttawa deals with its emissions. The signing of the Montreal Carbon Pledge, the commitment to reduce investment related emissions, and the continued success of the EcoProsperity program are all examples of some pretty bold moves to diminish the campus' carbon footprint. But not every change needs to be colossal in order to have impact. Little actions can also help change the story.

~jON - campus sustainability manager

Dans la Salle à manger 24/7, on entend souvent parler de gaspillage. Comme nous ne produisons aucun déchet, le tout est destiné au compostage, ce qui est quelque peu réconfortant. Dans la foulée de l’événement « J’aime la bouffe, pas le gaspillage » qui a eu lieu le mois dernier, je me suis posé une question bien simple : si nous gaspillons tant à la consommation, à quoi peut ressembler le gaspillage en cuisine?

La Salle à manger se targue d’être un espace sans déchets, mais il me semble que cet exploit s’applique avant tout à l’aire de restauration. On n’y trouve aucune paille, aucun emballage, aucun contenant qui puisse se transformer en déchet. Alors, que se passe-t-il en coulisse, là où l’on prépare la nourriture? Cet espace serait-il lui aussi sans déchet? Pour m’aider à élucider ce mystère, j’ai demandé à Maryann Moffitt, des Services alimentaires, de m’aider à passer de l’autre côté du miroir.

Dès mon arrivée en arrière-scène, je suis immédiatement frappée par le nombre d’ascenseurs et d’escaliers qu’on y trouve. Si ce n’était de l’aide précieuse de Maryann, je me serais assurément perdue! Ma guide et moi entrons tout de suite dans le vif du sujet : or, plutôt que de me faire parcourir moult statistiques dans un tableur, elle m’amène constater de visu le gaspillage généré.

Nous nous rendons d’abord au point de transition, où tout est entreposé avant d’être acheminé sous le Centre universitaire.

Maryann m’indique où sont empilés les composteurs au fur et à mesure qu’ils se remplissent. Chaque jour, on en compte environ une douzaine.

Elle me montre ensuite les boîtes servant au transport des fruits et légumes. Par souci d’espace, ces boîtes sont défaites, puis entreposées dans un conteneur en bois.

Enfin, nous atteignons la destination finale des rebuts générés : là où se rendent les camions pour tout ramasser. Et en toute franchise, je m’avoue franchement surprise par la proportion de compostage, de recyclage et de déchets!

Les bacs rouges sont réservés au recyclage du carton, et c’est ce que l’on retrouve en plus importante quantité. Logique : après tout, la cuisine reçoit chaque jour de la nourriture en abondance, et il faut bien transporter le tout d’une quelconque façon. Il n’y a pas que les fruits et les légumes qui y sont acheminés, mais aussi les conserves de sauce, les bouteilles d’huile et j’en passe – à peu près tout arrive dans des boîtes. Mieux vaut des boîtes de carton recyclable que du plastique jetable, non?

Évidemment, on trouve au sous-sol une tonne de composteurs.

La totalité des déchets générés au cours de la journée ne tient qu’au seul et unique bac bleu que vous voyez. Non, vraiment! Un seul bac de déchets, contre tous ces bacs de recyclage et de compost. Les déchets sont comprimés avant d’être insérés dans le bac. Impressionnant!

Je le confesse : je m’attendais à trouver une cachette secrète où trôneraient pile après pile de détritus. Je me disais que quiconque prépare quelque 6 000 repas par jour ne peut faire autrement que générer une montagne de déchets.

Je m’étais préparée à accompagner la révélation d’un « ah HA! », à demander des comptes. Or, s’il est vrai qu’ils pourraient produire moins de déchets, le ratio recyclage/compost/déchets est absolument renversant. L’étonnement aurait été à son comble s’ils n’avaient produit absolument aucun déchet… mais il faut bien avoir un objectif à long terme, n’est-ce pas?

~clarissa -  stagiaire en communications
Pots and pans in the back of a dining hall

 So in our lovely 24/7 Dining Hall we hear about the waste we produce all the time. I mean it’s not really waste it's all compost for us, not as bad as garbage, right. With the Love Food Not Waste event taking place last week, I asked myself the simple question: if we produce this much waste just eating, how much does the kitchen produce making the food we eat?

Two volunteers for the uOttawa Love Food Not Waste program in the dining hall

You see the Dining Hall is zero waste but that is in the part where you and I eat. There are no straws, no wrappers, no containers, nothing that can become garbage. What about in the "back of house" where all the food is made? Is that also zero waste? Now figuring this out was a little harder than I thought so I got in contact with Maryann Moffitt from Food Services and asked her to show me around.

First there were a lot of elevators and stairs in there, WOW! I would have definitely gotten lost. Luckily I had Maryann to guide me. We went right to the core of the question which meant the she actually took me to see the waste, not just some stats from on a spreadsheet in her office.

First we went to the "halfway point". This is where all waste goes temporarily before being brought down under the UCU to be dealt with.

Compost bins piled one on top of the other at uOttawa
Maryann showed me where the pile of compost bins go as they get filled up. They fill up like a dozen of these every day.

Then she showed me all the boxes that carry the fruits and vegetables. They go into a wooden bin and are "broken down" just so that there is enough room to put them all.

A wooden cardboard recycling bin at the university of Ottawa

Then we headed to the area where the final stage happens, the place where the trucks pick it all up. I was genuinely surprised at the ratio of compost to recycling to actual garbage.

A large red outdoor recycling bin at the University of Ottawa

The red bins are cardboard recycling. There are more of them than anything else. Now this makes sense since the kitchen receives a lot of food everyday and it has to come in somehow. Not just fruits and vegetables, but cans of sauce, bottles of oil... basically everything arrives in a box.
Better that it's in recyclable cardboard than disposable plastic right?

And of course there are also a ton of green compost bins as you can clearly see.

A garbage dumpster at uOttawa

This bin, this blue one here, is the only garbage bin they have. I am serious. One garbage bin, in comparison to the amount of recycling and compost. All the garbage in this bin is compacted first and then put into this one bin. I am truly impressed.

A series of outdoor recycling bins at the University of Ottawa

I will be honest with you. I was kind of expecting to find a secret stash with mountains of garbage. I thought there was no way they couldn’t produce anything but mountains of garbage given the fact that they serve something like 6,000 meals every day.

I was ready for a big exposure moment, like "Gotcha! How do you explain mount Trashmore?"... but the truth is, yes they could produce some garbage, but my word their ratio is amazing! To recycle and compost that much is amazing. Seriously. The only way I could have been more amazed would have been if I found out they had no waste at all, but you know that's why people have long term goals right?

~ clarissa - communications intern