It is estimated that half of all food produced worldwide, is wasted. When food waste is thrown in the garbage, it goes on to decompose in landfills, producing over 20 per cent of Canada’s methane gas emissions. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas partly responsible for climate change. Organic waste collection services have been put in place throughout many cities in the Lower Mainland. However, Metro Vancouver, which is responsible for all of the Lower Mainland’s garbage, reports many people are still throwing their leftover food in the garbage, unwilling to try the new system. Moreover, many restaurants and grocery stores, which throw hundreds of pounds of food waste in landfills weekly, have yet to obtain affordable private pick-up for their food scraps to contribute to landfill diversion. However, by 2015, all businesses and residents will be banned from throwing organic waste, including food scraps, in the garbage.
The City of Vancouver says that “if every resident living in a house and duplex in Vancouver recycled food scraps for a whole year, we’d remove 2,800 trucks worth of food scraps from the landfill.” Preliminary testing of the organic waste pick-up system concluded that organic waste collection services can reduce household garbage output by as much as 90 to 95 per cent. This reduction enabled cities to change their garbage collection schedule to two-week intervals, instead of one. Reducing the pick-up by half also reduces the environmental impact of service trucks, by half. In fact, organic waste collection has become so effective that Progressive Waste Solutions’ collection trucks, which service the City of Surrey, are run exclusively on compressed natural gas, a by-product of organic waste.
Metro Vancouver says that about “40% of all food waste comes from businesses and institutions. This amounts to over 100,000 tones every year.” Obtaining private pick-up, or an on-site composting machine, is quite reasonably priced for private institutions. The industrial sized compost machines cost 10 to 25 thousand dollars, and produce high quality soil that can be resold or used for onsite gardens.
Organic waste, once it is collected from the participating cities and businesses, is transported to the Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre Facility, located in Richmond, B.C. The organic waste, including the paper bags that contain it, are placed in a composting pile. It is then transformed into high-quality soil and mulch, which is then distributed throughout B.C.
Immense progress is happening throughout Metro Vancouver, changing the impact of our garbage. The City of Surrey is in the process of developing its own organics biofuel facility. The facility will convert organic waste into a renewable biomethane. Biomethane is a renewable, pipeline quality, natural gas, which can be used as a substitute for conventional automobile gasoline. The gas created at the facility will be used to fuel the existing waste collection fleet. Any excess gas will be piped directly into the FortisBC gas utility.
Again, by 2015, all businesses and residents will be banned from throwing organic waste, including food scraps, in the garbage. This ban includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, health care facilities, offices, and shopping malls. Some options available to business owners include on-site composting (advanced, mess-free systems are available), food donation, or private organic waste pick-up services. One benefit of complying before the mandatory deadline, could be avoiding inflated costs for businesses.
The next time you are at home cleaning up after a meal, try taking the extra step to open your kitchen sized compost bin, instead of your waste bin, and watch your garbage output decrease greatly. To find out more, visit Metro Vancouver’s website http://www.metrovancouver.org, or contact your local municipality. If you aren’t on board already, it’s time to hop on.
Looking for ways to eat healthier? Urban farming is on the rise in Vancouver.
With the rise of urban farming in metropolitan cities around the world, the phrase “concrete jungle” is taking on a whole new meaning. Though the concept of “urban farming” is relatively new, Vancouver is one of the first Canadian cities to accept it as a viable form of sustainable food practices due heavily to the growing concerns for safe food handling procedures and a rising population. The number of community garden plots has nearly doubled since 2009 with over 104 locations, bringing a hue of bright green to the washed-out shades of grey our city is inundated with. In an attempt to educate consumers about the realities of food production, City Council adopted a strategy at the beginning of the year to increase the number of urban farms, farmers markets and food-bearing trees within the city’s limits.
Parking Lot with a Purpose
Last November, the first vertical urban farm was introduced to North America in the most unlikely of places — on the rooftop of an EasyPark in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Operating year round by Alterrus System Inc., Vancouver’s Local Garden uses a new hydroponic technology called VertiCrop. Fashioned after a factory converter belt, it is equipped with over 3,000 trays that rotate between 18 to 24 days for maximum exposure to sunlight without the need for pesticides. The result? A yield four times more than a typical field crop at ten times the productivity. The space is a mere 5,700 square feet, but given that the produce is grown in trays stacked 12 high, one might think they’re stepping into a lush forest of green as opposed to a once bustling parking lot. The site produces approximately 150,000 pounds of fresh produce annually while using only 10% of the water typically used for traditional agriculture. Growing over 80 varieties of vegetables including spinach, arugula and kale, Local Garden significantly reduces Vancouver’s carbon footprint by cutting back on transportation distance, energy use and harmful chemicals.
Gas Station Gardens
Imagine that instead of filling your car with expensive gas, you’re stocking the trunk with the season’s freshest herbs and produce. It may be a farfetched idea but, for the residents surrounding Main Street and Terminal Avenue, it is very much a reality. In the summer of 2013, SoleFood Street Farms, a Canadian non-profit organization, converted an old Petro Canada gas station into the largest urban orchard in North America. With the land having been unused for the past decade, it is being leased to the company by the city of Vancouver for an unheard of total of $1 a year.
Fun Facts About SoleFood Street Farms
- 500 new fruit trees.
- Produces up to 60 tonnes of produce annually between its four working sites.
- Fully functioning share program, wherein SoleFood delivers a variety of produce, using the highest organic standards, weekly to customer’s doors between May and November.
- SoleFood also supplies produce to 30 local restaurants and gives back 10 percent of its harvest to Downtown Eastside agencies via donation.
- SoleFood has countered the issue with a system of moveable planters that can be stacked one on top of the other and moved with a forklift.
- Provides meaningful employment to members of the Downtown Eastside who may have struggled with drug addiction or mental illness.
2 Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint
Band Together as a Neighbourhood
By interacting with nature and their own neighbours, residents have shown an overall improvement to their social and emotional well-being as well as an increased community social life. Urban farming is seen as a calming experience and usually offers a place of refuge to people in heavily populated cities.
It is unknown to many that they are actually a vital source that can absorb sound waves. As a result of implementing urban farms throughout the city, farmers are additionally contributing to a vast reduction in noise pollution.
- A farmer’s journey from California to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (blogs.vancouversun.com)
- Hundreds of Vacant Detroit Lots to Become World’s Largest Urban Farm (inhabitat.com)
- Hydroponic Farms Sustain Urban Gazans (greenprophet.com)