Chantalle Gervan is the Sustainable Urban Composting Project Coordinator with the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society and the Northwest Food Systems Initiative for summer 2021. She is currently completing her master’s of science in environmental science at Thompson Rivers University.
Organic wastes, such as food scraps and yard waste, are alive with nutrients — but organic waste often ends up in the landfill. This system costs money1, methane emissions are released into the environment2, and there is a loss of valuable nutrients3. In British Columbia, food waste makes up approximately 25% of residential garbage contributed to landfills2.
Where do organic wastes go in Prince Rupert? The landfill.
Rupert Lawn Garden, owned and operated by Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, offers yard services, such as lawn maintenance and thatching. After lawn maintenance, Rupert Lawn and Garden is left with a large quantity of nutrient-rich yard waste, which is currently going to the landfill for a fee. For summer 2021, I’m working on a project that aims to divert this (and other) organic waste from the landfill and use it to create compost.
I am partnered with Ecotrust Canada’s Northwest Food System Initiative and Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, a non-profit Indigenous organization, focused on providing programs and services to Nisga’a citizens in Prince Rupert. Through this partnership, I am investigating the feasibility of a composting facility in Prince Rupert.
The solution to waste is MORE waste
Compost is made through a decomposition process, commonly driven by microbes4. Nitrogen-rich materials (“greens”), such as food waste, and carbon-rich materials (“browns”), such as woodchips, are the main ingredients to create compost4. Once the greens and the browns have decomposed and have had time to mature, they are ready to be applied to your garden. Excess nitrogen-rich grass is a by-product of yard services offered by Rupert Lawn and Garden. As part of this project, I am connecting with local businesses to collect woody by-products as a source of “browns”.
Moisture, particle size, aeration, and temperature are also factors that drive the decomposition process4. I am researching the optimal method for composting in Prince Rupert’s climate. To maintain aeration, a compost pile should have a similar moisture content to a damp sponge. To combat Prince Rupert’s high precipitation levels, possible measures include an in-vessel composting system or a roofed bay structure.
Circular (food) sustainability: the benefits
COVID-19 has altered perspectives of food security and highlighted the need for local sustainable solutions. This project aims to generate awareness about food waste and showcase a small-scale local solution. I hope to make composting a more accessible practice to the public by also introducing alternative compost methods, such as vermicompost (worm compost), to allow individuals with limited space to be able to compost their food waste. Additionally, a backyard compost will be established at Kaien Island’s demonstration urban farm on Second Avenue. If you’re in the area, check it out for yourself.
Composting is a fundamental way to create circular sustainability between the food we eat and the food we grow. Compost improves soil health by aiding soil structure, replenishes nutrients, and increases water retention within the soil4. Do the rot thing, your garden will thank you for it.
 Statistic Canada. (2018). Spending on Waste Management. Accessed on 07/13/2021. Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-402-x/2011000/chap/gov-gouv/gov-gouv01-eng.htm
 Vancity. (2019). State of Waste. How BC Compares to the War on Trash. Accessed on 07/13/2021. Retrieved from: https://www.vancity.com/AboutVancity/News/MediaReleases/WasteAvoidanceReport_Feb2_2019/Vancity_Waste-Report.pdf.
 Spiker, M., Hiza, H., Siddiqi, S., Neff, R. (2017). Wasted Food, Wasted Nutrients: Nutrient Loss from Wasted Food in the United States and Comparisons to Gaps in Dietary Intake. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 117(7)1031:1040. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212267217303258
 Minnach, J., Hunt, M. (1979). The Rodale Guide to Composting. Rodale Press.