Activating School Communities to Reduce Waste Workshop

By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It is often said that children are the future. Let them lead the way, as educators teach them how to better take care of our planet. With this in mind, CBEEN is inviting all educators to attend their workshop ‘Activating School Communities to Reduce Waste’ at 5 p.m. MST on Thursday, May 26, which will be recorded and available on CBEEN’s website for those that cannot attend.

The workshop will showcase a unique partnership with EcoSchools Canada and Food Cycle Science that has brought forward sustainable solutions for schools such as the FoodCycler. The team will be sharing their own ideas and resources, as well as educating attendees on other innovative approaches to make schools more sustainable.

“This workshop is geared towards educators and administrators in schools, and organizations who want to use food waste as a learning tool,” says CBEEN Executive Director Duncan Whittick. “The FoodCycler is a great alternative for dealing with food waste in the Columbia Valley, as it isn’t an attractant like outdoor composters.”

The FoodCycler transforms food waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer perfect for any garden which has lovingly earned the nickname “foodilizer.” “It reduces emissions when compared to putting organic waste into a landfill and foodilizer is a great nutrient for any garden,” says Whittick. FoodCycler reduces food waste volume and weight by up to 90 per cent in just four to six hours, leaving a dry, odourless, and sterile by-product which teachers and their students may safely handle. This will provide a hands-on learning and authentic experience for students of all ages that can be adapted into their pre-existing science curriculum. One major benefit is the potential to use the foodilizer for indoor classroom plants and/or school gardens.

Less waste means less landfills which translates to a healthier life on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa People and on the land chosen which runs along the Columbia River. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our local ecosystems right now, and organic diversion is a big-ticket item to mitigating climate change,” says Whittick. “So, anything we can do to help mitigate this helps to preserve this beautiful place we get to call home.”

Windermere Elementary School obtained their own FoodCycler in March and have already put it to good use. Tara Whittick, who teaches Grades 2 and 3, has taken on the leadership role of managing food waste for the entire school using just one food cycler.

“The food cycler has been a great addition to our school! One of the struggles with running a school composting program is having a dedicated space for compost that is managed well and that does not become an animal attractant. Trying to compost indoors using vermicomposting (worm composting) often leads to having fruit flies, which are a nuisance and distraction in any learning environment,” adds Whittick. “As an alternative solution, we have organized collecting the compost on site and then have moved it offsite to a nearby farm.” 

Every classroom has small composting containers collected every day from leadership students after the students have their morning snack and lunch. The food waste from that alone makes for two loads worth. The food cycler then runs through its four-hour heating and grinding cycle.

“This turns the waste into a “treat for the trees’’ that have recently been planted in Windermere Elementary School’s “Forest Classroom -Winderland,” says Tara Whittick. “The dried and ground food waste can be added to the soil at the base of each tree, adding nutrients to the earth that the roots will feed upon. In the next few weeks each class will get the chance to give the trees some of the food cycling treats.” 

Windermere Elementary School has three guiding pillars for students to follow: Take care of yourself, take care of others, and take care of this place. This hands-on experience is sure to be a great and magical one for any student to grasp the connection between composting and taking care of the beautiful place where they live and go to school. CBEEN’s workshop provides the tools for educators to pass on.

“The benefits of this workshop are innumerable. You get the expertise of people who have been working on the science of sustainable solutions connected to food waste. The workshop is engaging, affirming and provides many ideas for curricular connections for students of all ages. The food cycler has been a game changer in our school,” adds Whittick.

For more information on this and other upcoming workshops visit