A businessman from Toronto and a lawyer from Ottawa hope their new workplace composting system will be an environmentally friendly — even productivity-enhancing — solution to office-generated organic wastes.

“Almost no offices, even the most progressive ones, have picked up on office composting,” said Rodney Wilts, founding director of Ottawa-based Loop Initiatives, a management consulting firm that helps businesses with sustainability issues.

The average office worker produces half a kilogram of organic waste each day, Wilts said. That‘‘s about the same weight as a loaf of bread. But because of odour, fruit flies and the “hassle factor,” businesses often just send that waste to landfill. A recent Canadian study shows that as much as 33% of office garbage can be returned to nature.

With this in mind, Wilts teamed up with friend Chris Ferguson, partner at Toronto-based Cooler Solutions, which develops and designs sustainable products. Together, the pair created a workplace composting system that cuts out the smell and the bugs, while also growing an appealing array of greenery that looks good and cleans the air. The system — which resembles a work bench with several waste bins stored underneath — uses “a few innovations that we think are exciting,” Wilts said. For example, bokashi — a type of bran developed in Japan — rapidly reduces the waste to a gel-like compost. A process that usually takes a couple of months is reduced to a few days thanks to the bran, Wilts notes, thereby cutting down on odour and insects.

A pinch of the compost added to the system‘‘s garden “roof” and “wall” then produces lush greenery, mostly ferns, which is visually appealing, cleans the office air and, according to Wilts, makes employees feel good – for a variety of reasons.

“Humans have an innate love of nature and we‘‘ve done a poor job in an urban environment of maintaining that connection,” said Wilts, citing a Harvard professor‘‘s work on “biophilia” that shows people can experience psychological problems, or at least diminished productivity, when this connection is not present.

The system also makes employees feel they are contributing to the environment, adds Ferguson, who first met Wilts when the law student came to work at Ferguson‘‘s organic farm in Victoria. “It‘‘s not just that the plants are nice, but you‘‘re contributing to those plants by composting,” Ferguson said.

The system can be installed in the office kitchen — close to the coffee grinds, the largest contributor to workplace organic waste — or in a more visible area, adding a little green public relations value for the company, Wilts said. The system uses about a bag of bokashi a year and requires minimal watering. “We take what is ugly, smelly and unattractive and often hidden under the kitchen sink and make it into something appealing,” he adds.

Of course, Wilts and Ferguson have other types of “green” in mind for their system. “It has tremendously wide applications” in any typical office environment, Wilts said. The pair is currently seeking a corporate or municipal partner to help bring the concept to the pilot stage, and hope to have it on the market next year, he adds. They‘‘re starting in the Ontario marketplace, using Toronto as a launching pad, and are already in discussions with the City of Toronto, which has an ambitious 100-per-cent diversion plan by 2012.

They‘‘re also talking with various waste service providers, many of whom have shown “keen interest,” who would maintain the composting system at offices where they already pick up garbage and recycling, Wilts says. These providers could also sell the system‘‘s excess compost, which is “lik

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #32-2007-August 10, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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