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First Nations University of Canada shares ways to help the planet

Submitted by:
Fidji Gendron, biology professor (FNUniv) and

Michelle Biden, Alumna ’09 BHS

Science at the First Nations University of Canada and I (Fidji Gendron) have won the Saskatchewan Waste Minimization Award in the schools category.  These awards are intended to promote and encourage all sectors of the province to undertake waste reduction activities.  The award in the schools category recognizes “individuals and groups who have demonstrated exemplary commitment and leadership by involving peers, schools, neighbours, or communities in waste reduction and conservation efforts”.

Below is list Michelle Biden has compiled of some of the activities we initiated in Science:

A vermicompost is available for everyone to use and receives regular visits from staff and students during the year.  The bin is also used during summer youth programs in Science. During the Al Ritchie Health Action Centre summer camp, for example which runs twice a week during July and August – 20 children use the vermicompost for vegetable and fruit waste from their snacks. The children are encouraged to bury their own food wastes for the worms to eat and have the opportunity for continued exploration with the bin during the program.

Community Gardens and Native Prairie Area
The community garden boasts 24 raised garden beds. These plots are available to anyone, free of charge.  Local food production reduces waste by removing the need for packaging, transportation and growing with chemical inputs. Organic wastes at the community garden are recycled into the earth through the outdoor composting system located at the gardens.

The Native Prairie Area resides on the west side of the FNUniv building. It was planted from seed seven years ago and serves as an educational tool, plant collection site, and seed resource. Of significance to this application is that once native species are established they do not require watering. No pesticides, herbicides or chemicals of any kind are used in this area. Through many workshops, interested gardeners are educated, encouraged and supplied with native plant seeds and seedlings in order to reduce water consumption in their own yards.

The FNUniv partnered with the Al Ritchie Health Action Centre to offer afternoons at the University where youth from the core area can come, learn about native plants, and grow their own vegetables.  The youth also learned how to identify invasive species and had competitions for picking the most.  At the end of August, the youth also brought home the vegetables they grew during the summer.

Youth Health and Science Camp
Each year the FNUniv. Department of Science organizes the Health and Science camp for 30 youth. This camp aims to integrate Indigenous and Western concepts of health and science through a variety of hands on experiences. During the last three years, the youth have been part of a number of waste reduction initiatives. At the beginning of the camp the youth and counselors are given reusable water bottles that they use throughout the camp. This has greatly reduced plastic bottle waste; from approximately 420 bottles each year to 0. It has also encouraged an environment of reusing, as many parents have commented that their child continues to use the bottle and avoids purchasing additional bottled beverages.

The youth learn about the importance of energy reduction and create solar powered ovens from reused cardboard. After baking cookies in these ovens, and if no one wants to take the ovens home, the materials are recycled. The FNUniv has partnered with Saskatchewan Outdoor Environmental Education Association for this activity.

Reusable, rechargeable batteries are used during the robotics projects offered during the camp.

Recycling is also promoted during bag lunch meals. Where bag lunches are taken, youth are encouraged to separate their wastes into plastic, paper, and garbage. By practicing recycling it is the hope that this will continue beyond the camp.

Battery Recycling Program
Dr. Edward Doolittle and Jody Bellegarde have initiated a battery and small electronics recycling program.  Faculty, staff, students, and other workers in the building can bring their used batteries (small or large) or used small electronics to a bin outside the Science Labs on the second floor.  In two years, this program has diverted approximately 20 kilograms of toxic waste from landfills and has increased awareness about the wide range of materials which can be recycled, beyond paper and food and beverage containers.

Other activities offered at the FNUniv that are not initiated by the Department of Science
The FNUniv provides beverage container, paper, and cardboard recycling. There are also initiatives where used office supplies, such as old, but still good binders, are placed in accessible locations for student and staff to claim and reuse. Small paper re-using initiatives are in place where staff can leave used paper without private information in a tray that is taken to another staff’s local daycare for re-use by children for drawing and crafts. It is estimated that even a small initiative such as this reuses several thousand sheets each year before being recycled.

This post is part of a series that shows some of the many ways the University of Regina community contributes to sustainability each and every day through its teaching, research, and campus life. You can read more posts in the series here.

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One Response to “First Nations University of Canada shares ways to help the planet”

  1. Saskboy says:

    Where is the vermicomposting taking place? My experience with it at the UofR has been a negative one, with the administration of the University opposing it until they make an explicit policy regarding it, thus hampering students or staff that wish to take initiative and start grassroots composting programs.

    Do the batteries have to be rechargeable, or are disposable batteries also diverted from the landfill? It’s been my understanding that there’s no facility that recycles non-rechargeable batteries.

    I hope Fidji and Michelle contact me.

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