Donning my biology lab coat and goggles, I push through the bustling crowd of eager campers who are anxiously waiting to sing for their lunchtime mail delivery, and I raise my hand in the air. “Ready?” I ask. “One, two, three!” And the crowd of 80 bursts into an enthusiastic, barely organized uproar.
“Teka’s Bokashi bin!” they cheer, vaguely to the tune of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” We cover our mouths rapper style and chant “Te-ka’s Bo-kashi-bin” in false deep voices before yelling “Waste free, waste free” with emphatic fist pumps on every syllable. It’s ridiculous.
What began with an offhand comment from Chris Pot at the summer staff Christmas reunion ended with another version of myself smelling like compost and cheering along with the campers about decaying food waste. Bizarre doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But the campers loved it, compost happened and food waste stayed out of the dumpster. That’s what mattered.
Since 1962, Hidden Acres, near New Hamburg, Ont., has been a place to find God in nature, and our effort to be advocates for the environment is founded in our faith. Yet, as our green roof flourished, more than a thousand kilos of food waste ended up in the dumpster every summer. As stewards of creation, it didn’t feel right.
I was hired as the environmental services coordinator to design a functional composting system for the camp, and while my nights were packed with scientific research, planning and troubleshooting, my days were filled with teaching children to care for creation by making food waste fun. Miraculously, they loved it. At the end of designated waste-free lunches, only a few paper napkins would rest in the bottom of our Bokashi compost bin. It was a sweet victory.
As I type this, successfully composted food waste rests peacefully in the Hidden Acres gardens, smelling like celery and ready for spring planting. I feel a twinge of nostalgia for the crazy campers who—voluntarily—licked their plates clean to reduce waste. And more than anything, I’m relieved that the macaroni has finally been reduced to crumbly, rich soil.
As our system stands, we have four barrels of food waste layered with Bokashi microbes to break down meat, eggs and dairy. Beside it rest two large spinning composters for vegetable scraps. By the time you read this, we’ll have another fresh batch of compost ready for the garden. It’s beautiful. And it’s one more step towards living out our faith at Hidden Acres.