In June, our Toronto office tried something new as a team building event as part of our Pay-it-Forward program. Our team members are incredibly resourceful and thrive at problem solving so we thought we’d experiment and use transferable skills to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
We decided to build a compost barrel for Building Roots, a local non-profit who builds social cohesion in local underserved communities like Moss Park. Over the past few years, Building Roots have been the stewards of the historic land at Ashbridge Estate for urban farming and enable local volunteers and organizations to grow vegetables for their communities and turn the land back to what it once was. The produce is provided down the street to the Moss Park community in the only market in the area and customers can grab a bag of fresh veggies and pay what they can. Building Roots supports programs like Karma Kitchen and the Burrito Project that also use the fresh produce monthly.
Instead of a one-day activity, we split it up into different phases that spanned the month.
We started by inviting Kate Hamilton from Building Roots into the office to share her expertise on composting, the difference between hot and cold composting, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and what counts as brown or green. This was a helpful introduction which set the stage for all of us to figure out what composter to build.
Then our team looked at 100+ DIY composters and came together to discuss and design what we should build. We had a design session and decided on a hot compost design that would make it easier for volunteers to turn the compost without having to use a shovel. The exciting part after our session was to find more resources online that was closer to our design. What I noticed was that some team members either thrived and loved this brainstorm and design phase and others loved the next stage of planning and shopping.
The shopping list of materials and equipment we needed were easily created and the plastic barrel ordered. It turned out all three of us who went shopping the morning of the compost build live in condos and have never been to the lumber section of Home Depot. Conveniently there was a location only 10 min from Ashbridge Estate where the team met to do the build.
As luck would have it, we kicked off the build with a team lunch picnic on the first sunny day in Toronto at Ashbridge Estate. We split into two teams, one to work on the barrel and the other to work on the table to support the barrel. Within 2.5 hours and a few more Home Depot runs we were able to put it together.
Before the end of the day, we were treated to a visit from an archeologist from the Ontario Heritage Trust who spoke to us about the history of the Ashbridge family, one of the founding families in Toronto. She brought along artefacts found on the land dating back thousands of years.
5. Next Steps
There is a sense of surprise, delight and joy that we made something that will be used on a daily basis in urban farming.
We were all beginners so it was pretty incredible that the only repair we needed was to modify a (slightly) wobbly structure to support the weight of a full compost barrel, more similar to this one. Building Roots volunteers are starting to feed the composter and we’ll have a new batch of “black gold” in weeks not months!
At our Toronto office, we will be collecting organics here to feed the composter weekly as well. One of the things we learned while being on the land is that there used to be an area for composting and now in the same place, we’ve re-introduced composting at the urban farm, returning to its roots.
This is only the beginning of our pay-it-forward initiative to pass on our success and growth so that it benefits the communities around us. It is really exciting to see the creativity and ingenuity extend outside of the office.
I wanted to send a big thank you to everyone that participated from the Toronto office. It is incredible that we gave it a shot and took part in any of the phases of this project in the spirit of paying it forward. We’re looking forward to more events in the future.