Gulf Islands Driftwood
Voice of the Southern Gulf Islands

Let's get you moving!

School parents make soil as the sun shines

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BY ROBIN JENKINSON

Special to the Driftwood

Six families spent this past Sunday afternoon in the sun, building wooden compost bins for Salt Spring Elementary’s school gardens. 

Hardware and lumber were generously donated by Anna Pugh’s law office and Windsor Plywood, snacks were provided by parents and Thrifty Foods, and the volunteer work party was led by Cara and Jonny Barr, newly arrived from the village of Ballygally in Northern Ireland. They and their three elementary-aged children recently moved to Salt Spring Island in order to connect with like-minded community and as a family adventure.

Cara is happiest with her hands in the earth.

Back in Ireland, she developed an organic gardening program at their school to help grow healthy, respectful relationships between children in conflict with each other. Here on Salt Spring, she quickly joined the school’s garden committee, keen to help reduce the school’s contributions to the landfill and simultaneously create “beautiful compost” for the gardens. She and Jonny, an ecologist and an engineer, run a wind-power business in Ireland and are eager to contribute towards a world where people and nature may live in harmony.

The main compostable trash created at Salt Spring Elementary is paper towels, followed by food scraps and garden waste. For example, students in Gail Bryn-Jones’ class found that they produce a large garbage bag of paper towels each week. This year, every class is directing some of its lunch scraps to worm bins with red wigglers, provided by the Victoria-based Compost Education Centre. But in order to compost the unbleached paper towels used to dry small hands plus the extra food scraps and garden waste, a bigger system was needed.

Cara reached out to chef Mark Kilner at Gulf Islands Secondary School to learn more about their composting system. He and students currently compost a fraction of the kitchen scraps and paper towels produced by the school, and are fundraising for an anaerobic digester that would convert all school waste into good soil after just six weeks in the machine.

The folks at the Compost Education Centre sent her a step-by-step design for a three-bin, rat-proof composter that volunteers built this past weekend. The school also plans to use a compost tumbler and a green cone composter to complement the wormeries and new bins.

“I’m sure it’ll take a bit of playing around to get the system working to our needs.  We can all learn together,” said Cara.  

With these systems in place, less garbage will be hauled to Vancouver Island, while rich garden soil will be produced for the school gardens.

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