What is a Community Compost System Steward?


What is "Community Composter Stewardship"? 

For each Community Compost System in the City of Guelph (there are currently 3) there needs to be 2 Compost Stewards. Ideally, the Community Compost System is very near to where you live or study or work or play (that pretty much guarantees that, without additional effort, you’ll be able to regularly visit the site). Ideally you have a genuine interest in being a part of a good composting system (that pretty much guarantees that the composting will happen in a continuous way, and thus be amazing). Ideally your values roughly align with the values of the founders & allies of The Compost Queens of the Royal City: D.I.Y. (the fewer the “experts” the more peoples get involved), use selvage and recycled materials to build (that models affordability in areas of the City, and with people, who are not affluent); collective, holistic and ecological (the “catchment area” for a Community Composter System will have in it, everyone and anything needed to go into a great project: it is up to the Steward to take the lead in sourcing those “inputs” and building up a great network of “contributions” that go beyond any individuals’ input. This is how things get rolling. And keep rolling. (credit due to The Treemobile for having this position among the asks on their grant applications. Applause!) 

 What your basic responsibilities will be:

 -Go look at it about once a week. (More is fine. Less if fine. Once a week is best. I go once a day because I walk my dog, Shepody, every day. Why not combine these efforts? Easy-peasy.)

-Make sure there is good, accessible, clear signage about what goes where. If there isn't any: make it. Or ask for it. Put it up. When it gets ripped down or defaced, put up new signage (rinse, repeat). 

-Remove “inputs” that don’t go into a Community Compost System (large sticks, dog poo bags, take-out containers with half an old burrito in it, plastic, etc). Put those in the waste-garbage which should be right there, beside the Composting System. When THAT gets full, put it into the Cityh Grey Bin nearby. 

-If you can, make more signage that encourages whoever put the wrong stuff in there, to stop doing so.

-Check if it is dry or wet. If it’s dry, add water or set it up so that water gets into it regularly. Sometimes all it takes is to ask a gardener to please put a few watering cans of water onto the Compost System when they are watering their plot...

-Talk to the gardeners & the neighbours (businesses and residential, including apartment buildings), anyone who is around there (daycare centres, schools, construction sites, curious cyclists and pedestrians)… to make sure they know what that “thing” is, and how they can be a part of it. Ask then to find out what ‘waste’ they currently put into the green bin or (worse) into a dumpster… and encourage-support them to divert that green gold into the Community Compost System. That might take some workshops, a demonstration or two, some conversations, & some supportive materials to connect the action-dots (compost bins they can purchase from The Queens. I've even done a walk-through from source to system).


The Fundamental Work: Moving A to where A belongs; Removing B from where B does not belong.

When systems work as systems, whether it's a cramped basement apartment or a composter or a forest, mostly it's because there are the right components AND the parts are roughly in the right place (relation) relative to the others. In my endless at-times-ridiculous work as a human being (including this stint as "Compost Queen") I have learned that THRIVING AND FUNCTIONING most it comes down to moving A to where A belongs, and removing B from where B doesn't belong. If every individual was putting A-organic waste into the right spot, and moving B out of the wrong spot, we'd be doing SOOO much better. Take a look at this apple core politely tucked inside a Starbucks plastic cup, and then thrown away. B (the apple core) is, um, in the wrong spot. You open it up. You move the apple core into the compost pile. Tah-dah. A Community Compost Steward mostly moves stuff around, with compost-know-how guiding these actions. Warning! Your hands will get dirty. So might your car trunk. Keep a plastic bag handy at all times!

All the same, it's absolutely the right gesture for Maman Earth: A banana peel thrown onto the sidewalk? Pick it up and, when you visit the composter, toss it in. (it will eventually, eventually rot in the gutter, but, but but, in the compost system, it will really make a contribution!) A into A's spot. You see a half a bale of new hay that has fallen off a wagon up the #6... you do a (safe) U-turn, huck it into the back of your lil truck (or ask someone you know who has a truck to pick it up)... and, when you are heading home, take a little detour to the Community Compost System that you are stewarding, and drop it off. Invaluable! 

This picture of me with the green bin is my favourite to demonstrate that it is necessary ("we" are not doing it yet) and easy. No PhD required, etc. What is the context for this picture? Believe it or not: The 2020 University of Guelph "Organic Conference." The entire U.C. was filled with some of the most Compost Positive people on the planet. Talking up compost. Compostable coffee cups upstairs at the amazing Planet Bean booth. Brochures on compost. Excellent seeds for sale to put into compost. Workshops on compost. And yet.... not a single fucking University green bin anywhere on the premises for us to put our, you know, apple cores and paper napkins and corn cobs and that compostable coffee cup into. I kid you not. This, my friends, is the missing piece. It is THE thing that is wanted and known-to-be-good, BEST PRACTICES, bla bla bla but it is NOT HAPPENING because the dots are just not connected. Yet. What a Compost Obsessed individual like me (and you?) do is: a) Notice that there is a missing link; b) notice that something is not going into the right place or stream; c) fix it. In this case, I walked over to the Bullring and grabbed 2 of their green bins (not being used at the time; empty) and hauled them over to the UC and put one up by the Coffee station and another one by the Exit. And, because everything is flow and process rather than once-off incidents, I also had to haul those motherf*cker now-full bins BACK to The Bullring that night. Seriously. That is just what it is. It feels like that is just what needs to be done. It's what the Community Compost Systems need, to, to thrive in perpetuity. 


There are key inputs that any compost system will +++ benefit from, and (surprising to many) are actually readily available in an urban centre… you just have to do the legwork to find these inputs: chicken poop, sawdust, paper towels, vegetable and fruit scraps, horse cow and sheep manure (my neighbour works at Woodbine and brings me bags of dry horse poop), wood ash, blood meal, bone meal, sand, brown leaves, shredded paper (newspaper and office paper), coffee grinds + chaff, cardboard (ripped into small bits, no tape, no staples), hair, wool, fabric that is 100% organic plant matter, ripped into little strips: linen, hemp, cotton, red wiggler worms!


-Explain that anyone who contributes will benefit (in the form of less fees for tippage, and ++ ecological conscience because they really WANT to compost but live or work somewhere that can’t or doesn’t support) and ++ access to amazing LOCALLY MANUFACTURED compost that they can use for, say, flowers and trees on their property. It’s not really about how much. At the level of human interaction….It’s about contributions and and then gifts of the soil, available to all who contributed.  

-But really, the main point isn’t that WE benefit. It’s that we are involved in a good ecological local practice that improves the local soil biota and condition, draws down carbon, creates healthy habitat and reduces the amount of plastics used in “gardening” etc.

-Post (boast) about it to others, in conversations or social media. Call the media from time to time if there is a special event.


As we move into this new 2023 CYCLE of Spring, Summer and Soil-making… we need to have 2 Stewards for each Community Compost System!

I'll stay on as the Steward for the CCS at Two Rivers (Huron Street) Community Garden. Who will be the #2 there?

We need 2 for the system at 400 York Road (Royal City Brewery and folks)

We will need 2 for the system being built behind the old Brock Road School (ESL Board Office) on Gordon Street. Likely Paul Phillips will be the #1 there...

We will need 2 for the system at Brant Avenue School 

Please get in touch with us if you are interested in this volunteer position (starting roughly May 01). Remember: The Compost Queens are there for you. We have some great advice and resources for Compost Care if you ever have any questions; we can point you to online courses that are available. Please send us an email with your Contact information. Indicate your level of Composting experience. C'mon. You know you want to wear this funny crown. 


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Minor Reckoning Interkingdom Ethics

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