Community composting: diverting organic material from landfills to growing


A key element for the City of Vancouver to become a sustainable, ecological city is how we handle our organic waste. Community composting is an emerging idea, but one that could be key in reducing Vancouver’s footprint and actually create energy and productive soil for a local food network.

A brief history of composting

Currently, in the most-dense areas of the city there is no systematic means for the collection and diversion of organic waste from the landfill. In residential neighbourhoods the city collects garbage yard trimmings and backyard composting is facilitated by providing homeowners composting containers at discounted prices.

On the City of Vancouver’s “composting Factsheet” states:

“Backyard compost bins have already been distributed to some 42,000 Vancouver households that have yard space – about 56 per cent of such households now use backyard composters, which diverts an estimated 6, 000 tonnes of organic materials from the landfill every year. The City provides apartment dwellers with more-compact worm composters, including a one-hour instructional workshop at the Compost Garden at nomical cost. “

While these efforts are a good start there is still some distance to go to divert all organic material from the landfill. Voluntary measures are always a reasonable start in public policy but if the City is going to reach its goal of “Zero Waste” some mandatory benchmark of waste reduction will be needed in the future.

The idea of Zero Waste is an ambitious policy initiative to dramatically divert garbage from the landfill and is one of the goals of the Greenest City Action Plan.CoV on composting

But note the following statement on the City’s Website

“Please note: At this time, the City will not be able to provide this collection service to multi-unit residences such as apartments and condominiums, unless your building already has a City yard trimmings cart and only if the cart is filled mostly with yard trimmings and a small percentage of food scraps. The City is not able to provide food scraps collection service to businesses. We have compiled a list of a private companies that can provide food waste collection services to your building. “CoV

Key gaps in organic waste diversion is the lack of systematic citywide curbside collection and the diversion organic waste from restaurants.

Community Composting

Another avenue that the City could explore, facilitate and promote is the idea of “community composting”. Although an emerging concept, community composting has been explored in other jurisdictions with some success. Check out this project in South Liverpool in the UKComposting Network

What community composting would it look like in Vancouver is still an unexplored area of public policy. Imagine if every nieghbourhood had a composting hub where organic wasted could be turned into good growing soil. Organic waste would be diverted from landfills and friendships through gardening could grow from the stuff we currently toss in the garbage.
random sample of composters in Vancouver

COPE General Meeting, Sunday, June 26 at Japanese Hall, 2 pm


COPE.bc.ca

Table tennis as an instrument to exchange cultural understanding in public space

table tennis in a park in Amsterdam

A brief history of table tennis

Table tennis or Ping Pong (Ping Pong is a register trademark name in the US) may be commonly thought of as some sort of goofy game that was played in fake wood paneled basement rec. rooms of our youth, but in fact is a game with the history of being the sport of kings. The early beginnings of the sport were thought to have derived from a game called “inside tennis” that was played by British royalty.

The sport became popular with upper class Brits and also in the British army. Early equipment of the sport was said to be rounded wine corks and cigar box lids, which gives some insight into the early tone of the game. But a serious element of table tennis’ history is its location as a sport embedded into the culture of British military colonialism, which literally allowed the sport to go around the world and was exposed to many cultures.

I was surprised that the origins of the table tennis was British, given the strong impression of the sport’s Asian dominance in my mind. Even the name Ping Pong seems an Asian term. I am thinking of a book that I read with my kids call “The Story of Ping” about a duck lost on the Yangtze River in China. Anyways it could some sort of racist assumption on my part.

Ping Pong Diplomacy

Another memory of table tennis was from that historic visit of President Nixon to China in the early 1970’s. The visit was the start of normalized diplomatic relations between the two countries and was even tagged with the term “ping pong diplomacy” as part of the meeting were games of table tennis between the two nations players.
Wikipedia on ping pong diplomacy

I remember as child watching TV in the morning before school and our cartoons being pre-empted by a broadcast of the Nixon’s trip and being upset about it, but at the same time being fascinated by the images.

Last memory of table tennis: When I was growing up we would go to a “rec. centre” called the Dalewood pool – just saying the name makes me smell the chlorine. We would pay a dime to swim in the pool and then play a weird game of ping pong round table where we circled the table waiting for a turn at the paddle and who ever lost the point had to get back in the circle around the table. It was fun and afterwards we would get springrolls from the only Chinese restaurant in our ‘hood and walk home. Good memories.

The point

Vancouver has embarked on a brave experiment as City. We are becoming one of the most diverse cities in Canada where in parts English is not the majority language. This is a state to be celebrated and understood. One of the city’s big challenges is how do have more intercultural understanding? One could think of the conceptualize of intercultural understanding as a question that one asks themselves: “How do I understand myself and my position in my culture in relation to other people’s culture?” and the expression of the questioning of one’s own position in their culture is how we are creating together a new cultural together.

To be successful in the experiment or this cultural mission we need to have a place where we can meet in public to exchange ideas. I think that our parks and communities centres are the places where in Vancouver we are currently doing this. But we need to start doing it with some “intentionality”. This to say with the goal of promoting and facilitating intercultural understanding, which is also saying we need to talk with fellow residents.
I know it’s a “guy thing” as a way of getting know other people by “doing stuff together” other than just sitting and talking and communicating, but there is a beauty in the unscripted moments in public space where we talk with our neighbours.

There are places where moments of informal communications happen, when you are supervising your kids on play equipment and one has the opportunity to talk with other parents and caregivers. Dog parks, community gardens and park benches could be thought of as devices to facilitate and promote culture.

Ok what about table tennis? This is the big idea for Vancouver. What if table tennis were in parks and this became a central metaphor of our city (forget about hockey, that’s not to say that I am not a “huge fan” of hockey)? Table tennis is the second largest sport in the world after football. The very structure of the game is about exchange, the back and forth of the ball is the very image of communication, promotion of equality and social justice. Think of the beauty of a game that was the product of the British colonialism project adopted by Asian culture and people and then migrates back to Vancouver where it becomes a device for intercultural understanding and exchange.

VPB 2011 Pool Assessment Study

VPB Pool Study

The New Capital Plan Process for the City of Vancouver


online survey on your priorities for the capital plan
Malcolm Bromley, the General Manger of Vancouver Park Board, outlined the new Capital Plan process for the City of Vancouver and the Park Board at the May 30th Vancouver Park Board meeting.

While in the past the capital plan process has been more project-centred like one-off capital projects such as renovation of Community Centres, the new approach to capital planning will be based on a “functional service base model”. This will mean that capital planning will determined by the identified needs of citizens or “service demand”.

Between 2012-2014 the City of Vancouver will plan capital projects around $600 million budget. This spending will have to fit into a10-year strategic direction from the current three-year cycle.

The planning process will identify long-term priorities and challenges that will be identified by Senior mangers from the city such as the GM of the Park Board, Head of Engineering, the Head of Social Planning and the City Manager. Planning at this stage will attempt to develop convergence of objectives from the different departments in order to meet common strategic goals. The Community Centre at #1 Kingsway is be an example of the convergence of objectives where a new community centre was built with a library and also market rental units.

The new capital plan process will attempt to unify, longer-term planning among City departments and agencies and will be based on a performance-based management, which
integrates more strategic decision-making throughout the organization. Hopefully, this will result in more effective cooperation across departments and boards.

This capital planning process has three objectives fulfill: 1. Maintain existing assets in good condition (recapitalization); 2. Meet the needs of new residents (growth-related investment) and; 3. Respond to new priorities. By planning in this way the city is attempting to connect the real need for public amenities to re-zonings and development-related commitments.

Timelines of the New Capital Planning Process

• 2012-2014 co-ordinate capital plan submission with other departments, GM of Park Board, Head of Engineering, Head of Social Planning (May)
• Submission of capital plan forums to citizens (May)
• City analysis and review of all submission (June)
• Draft capital plan to council and boards (July)
• Co-ordained city public process (July)
• Final approval by council September
• Plebiscite goes to the public in election (November)

The whole effect of the new process will be to break down silos between the city departments and boards in order to leverage as much from capital spending as possible. It seems to be a typical pattern of government to be either expanding or contracting, moving to specialization of department or to moving to holistic strategic planning, in the name of attempting to use tax money more effectively. When Susan Mundick was GM of Park Board she divided the parks into 3 districts and just before she “retired” she was reorganizing to eliminate the 3 districts. The proof of whether the new capital planning process is “working” will not be known for a number of years and in the end will be evaluated by the projects and partnerships it produces.

One the most apparent advantages of a 10-year capital planning process is it will allow the City to dream big and when opportunities for capital dollars are forthcoming from senior levels of governments – the municipal projects will be ready or as the GM of the Vancouver Park Board quibbled, “ready for opportunities when they knock”.

Here is a link to the power point presentation:GM’s power point slides

West End Car Free Day Needs Volunteers


We Need Day Of Volunteers
Car Free Vancouver still needs day of volunteers! Our volunteer orientation sessions will be happening:

West End
Thursday, June 9 at 7-9pm
Bidwell Room at the West End Community Centre

Saturday, June 11 at 2-4pm
Barclay Room at the West End Community Centre
WE Car Free Site

West End Clean up Community Yard Sale, Saturday July 9, 10 am-3 pm


west end clean up

Saturday, the 9th of July from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. (or maybe 4:00 p.m. we’ve not yet decided); sellers can begin setting up at 9:00 a.m.

Fenced-off picnic area on the grounds of Lord Roberts Elementary School (at Comox and Cardero). This is an outdoor event, so it will go ahead weather-permitting.

The rate for participating is $12 per spot (refundable if cancelled by us due to weather or by seller with sufficient notice). Tables are not provided; vendors are welcome to bring their own or setup a blanket.

BBQ, pop and popcorn will be for sale on-site.

If you have any questions, you can E-mail info@westendcleanup.com, or call John on 604-603-2397.

Greens welcome to stay part of the progressive left

Responding to a couple of stories in the Georgia Straight I wrote a letter a to the editor trying to make the case why the Greens should join COPE and Vision in the progressive left of Vancouver. The letter did not make the cut for the hard copy of the letter.

Re: Greens are welcomed to stay part of the progressive left

Editor of The Georgia Straight

Dear Sir:

The municipal Green Party has been a welcomed partner in progressive electoral cooperation in Vancouver since 2002.

All partnerships have their challenges, but by working together we have been an effective force for social justice, equality and our commitment to mitigate climate change has been greatly strengthened.

From opposition to the Gateway proposal and oil tankers in Vancouver waters, democratic reform, solving homelessness, developing more affordable housing, building sustainable local food networks, and developing ecologically sustainable transportation infrastructure, to advocating for health and happiness over greed, the Greens in cooperation with other progressive forces in this city have made important contributions we can all be proud of.

As a candidate for a COPE nomination I would be disappointed if this history of cooperation and accomplishment came to an end. I urge the Greens to work together with COPE and Vision in the upcoming municipal election.

Can Asian Food choices Become Part of the Local Food System ? Notes from Tuesday May 24 meeting at Richmond Cultural Centre


I am going to leave the big question to the end.

The event

The talk was held at the Richmond Cultural Centre and this was my first time in the building. Unfortunately, I did not have time to explore much more than the meeting room, but the plaza was very animated with a group of Boy Scouts conducting some sort of operation that involved shouting and lining up. The perimeter of the plaza was also inhabited with chess players considering their moves on over sized pieces and boards.

The first speaker was Bard Suen, a Senior Graduate Student at UBC, who spoke about his placement at Kits House during the summer 2010 through the Immigrant Vancouver Ethnographic Field School. Bard described his experience of witnessing the disjunction between a “non-visible minority” youth worker and a diverse group of Asian youth between the ages of 15 and 20 years old around environmental awareness and engagement.

Bard described a situation where the Asian youth were not engaging with the narrative of the youth worker on environmental issues due to a lack cultural understanding between the youth worker’s dominant cultural narrative and the Asian youth. Such themes in the dominant environmental narrative as “natural” and “getting back to roots”, reflected a romanticization of an agrarian past that did not resonate with the Asian youth and also reflected a bias for one culture to see its themes as “universal”.

As a result of his fieldwork at Kits Bard produced a series of posters that make problematic the juxtaposing of stereotypes of Asian figures in mainstream environmental slogans.

You can check out the posters here:posters

Bard’s main take-aways from his fieldwork at Kits House were that there needs to be a greater critical awareness of cultural bias in environmental themes. For environmental themes to be effective in promoting more awareness and behaviour change in diverse groups, there needs to be more intercultural exchange of approaches that promote inclusiveness.

The next speaker was Claudia Li, the founder of Shark Truth, which is a project to stop the consumption a tradition Chinese soup that use the shark’s dorsal fin but discards the remainder of the fish.

Here is link to the website of the group: Shark Truth

Claudia began by telling a story of how when she was younger her favorite food was chicken feet and she used to enjoy eating them with her Grandmother. One of the narratives of Claudia’s relationship with her Grandmother was around food. Claudia recounted how her Grandmother explained why they eat chicken feet ‘because we eat the whole frigging thing. We don’t waste anything’. This inherently conservational attitude is embedded with values that have cultural relevance of “balance to nature and harmony”.

Similarly there are cultural narratives that are embedded in the Shark Fin soup that symbolize wealth and health. The soup is part of a traditional banquet dinner. The main point of Claudia’s project is to effectively ask people to stop eating Shark Fin soup and in order to be successful, it is importance to understand how this tradition is situated in the culture that produced it.

Claudia’s bigger points were around the work that needs to be done in how environmental awareness and changing behavior in diverse population needs to understand culturally embedded symbols and narratives. Claudia asked the question:
“How do we as an cultural empower people to create the change they want? ” Claudia suggested that “story-telling is a powerful tool” for the promotion of change. Why do people not act is because they don’t feel connected to the narrative. The task of social movements is to develop “a place of understanding” where listening is valued.

OK, on to the provocative question of the night. Is rice part of a sustainable local food network? The last speaker for the night was RangiChangi Roots, Many Cultures, one Climate, Kevin Washbrook.

The title of his power point presentation was: “A sleeping rice market: the calm before the storm?

Rice is an important source of nutrients to the world, but it is very sensitive to changes in temperature. Rice is at risk with climate change because of long-term trends of wetter and hotter climates. In addition with raising temperatures and glaciers melting causing water to rise endanger many coastal areas that grow rice. Other threats that will affect rice production are more extreme weather events with worse storms occurring.

Another problematic factor about rice is that the very production of it has an effect on climate change. The production of rice creates methane. Methane is 21% more potent than C02 in its effect on climate change. Climate change will constrain rice supply and increase cost and rice productions is a signficiant contribution to climate change.

These were the main points of Kevin’s presentation. While not answering the main question of can rice be part of local sustainable food system, he did make the points that there are methods to grow rice in ways that produce less methane and perhaps he left with the provocative suggestion of the possibility like “organic fair trade coffee” maybe the could pricing around “Climate friendly rice- produced in a way that produces less methane.”

One last point from Kevin’s presentation on of his slides was that in comparison to “other human activates” like the production of meat and emission of C02 from cars, rice is lower down of the list of factors that are producing climate change.

Arzeena Hamir, the organizer of the event who is with Richmond Food Security Society, made the point at the end of the evening that the intent of these talks was not advocate for folks to stop eating rice, but to raise awareness that climate change is going to have an adverse effect on rice production and that prices will rise and production will drop.

Here is an article she wrote for the Richmond Review on rice:Rice

Arzeen ended the evening with the suggestion by way of promotion of sustainable Asian cuisine of a “hundred mile chop stick contest “ for restaurants in Richmond.

Can Asian Food Choices Become Part of a Local Food System?


Tonight at the Richmond Cultural Centre, 7700 Minoru Gate, at 7 pm I am going to attend a panel discussion on local food networks with the provocative title of: “Can Asian Food Choices Become Part of a Local Food System?” I not sure what the answer to the question will be, but given that the production of food is a significant factor in the amount of green house gases that we as a culture produce, the panel discussion should proved to be interesting.

The Facebook event describes the panel discussion in the following manner:

“With recent emphasis on local diets and strengthening regional food systems, what role does the Asian diet play in the 21st Century?

Should we continue to eat rice in North America in the coming years as we see shortages around the world?

Join local artists Bard Suen, Shark Truth founder Claudia Li, and RangiChangi Director Kevin Washbrook for a panel discussion that is sure to raise some controversial issues. Hosted by the Richmond Food Security Society, RangiChangi Roots, and the City of Richmond.

For more information email Arzeena Hamir at arzeenahamir@shaw.ca or call 604-727-9728.”

Facebook event

I will report back latter today about the content of the talk. I hope the eating of brown rice is not going to be problematic.