If we look at natural ecosystems there is no such thing as waste - nutrients are cycled over and over and over again. Exam the image below - we can look at nutrient cycling in a simple ocean ecosystem and see how nutrients are moved from the tiniest to largest of organisms. We can use nature as a measure of our success in creating ways of living in harmony with nature.
To get an idea of the amount and kinds of waste Calgarian's produce visit the City of Calgary website - in a single family home almost 50% of waste produced can be composted and redirected from the landfill! The City provides free school programs and you can arrange a tour of our city's landfill, recycling facility, and compost initiative. Regarding Calgary's waste and recycling initiatives you asked:
Where can I recycle electronic waste? Find the answer here.
How about those compact fluorescent bulbs? Find out here.
And hazardous waste? Go here! Also keep an eye out for community organized clean up events.
One component of waste that we often don't think about is the amount of non-renewable energy that goes into transporting our waste, compost, and recyclables around the globe. Anytime we refuse items that involve a large amount of waste, reuse items locally, and compost within walking distance a large amount of indirect energy is saved - it's not just about reduce, reuse, recycle - it's also about rethinking our whole system! That's why we love the permaculture approach to system design at it addresses nutrient cycling by trying to always design meaningful interactions and energy flows between components in a design. For example, chickens not only provide fertilizer, they also produce heat - so connecting a chicken coop to a greenhouse in Calgary would provide additional heat at night, while their poo would provide nutrients for the plants!
Check out this slideshow here from the UK for a deeper look into recycling - remember this is this last R for a good reason! And for further thought provocation check out this article on paper recycling - some interesting points are raised. Luckily we have the Forest Stewardship Council in Canada looking to promote responsible management of forests worldwide - look for this logo on your next paper product!
We also love the importance of responsible management of grasslands (less than 20-30% of grassland is remaining in North America) - folks like Earthworks Farm and PolyFace Farm are using nature as a model and mimicking the natural pattern of herbivores moving across grasslands to provide incredibly sustainable (and healthy) cows, chickens, pigs, and more.
These farms ensure they cycle the nutrients (aka poo in this case!) carefully on their land while providing the plants an appropriate amount of growth before moving in their herbivores. They also leave forested areas intact - increasing the biodiversity on their land for wildlife! With proper management they actually act to capture carbon out of the air - and store it in the soil... that's right you can sequester carbon simply with careful management of animals on the land - we even have the Carbon Farmer in our province! Want to talk about reducing waste? Sequester carbon this way - instead of investing a huge amount of technology and land to force carbon into. Watch the video below for carbon capture sequestration and reuse 101.
This nutrient cycling depends on the soil food web - which you can take advantage in your own home or backyard through composting!
Composting is one easy step to both reducing your waste and creating a valuable end product! Compost rich in life is special - as these soil microorganisms play a key role in helping plants grow healthy and strong. The image below displays some of the biology of the soil food web:
Secondly by creating your own compost you remove the need to use synthetic fertilizers - reducing the need to mine, process, and ship these across the country to you! See what the Dirt Doctor has to say about synthetic versus organic fertilizers here.
Looking to start your own compost? Check out Green Calgary's compost guide
Looking for worms to start your own worm bin or worm compost? Check out Living Soil Solutions and Worms at Work
All the best on your journey to reduce your waste and tread more lightly on our earth!