*30th Anniversary Guest Blog Post*

I joined the Green Action Centre board two and a half years ago to help develop an ‘eco-social enterprise.’ Initially, the list of ideas was long and daunting – ranging from mattress recycling, to green burials, event planning, sustainability optimization for small business, and compost collection. Quite the list! Through a consultation process involving the board and staff, we eventually narrowed down the field enough to test the choice we felt was the most promising: compost collection.

Social enterprise has become something of a catch-all term these days, but it generally describes an organization that aims to improve human and environmental well-being rather than profits for external shareholders. It’s a potentially promising new way of addressing gaps that aren’t being filled by either purely private or purely public initiative.

My interest in social enterprise has been inspired – in part – by the Transition Towns mantra: if we wait for government action on waste reduction and climate change, it will be too little, too late. If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little. But if we act as communities and organizations with common purpose, it might be just enough, just in time. Beyond taking action on waste reduction and climate change, the social enterprise model can be used to address other injustices in the marketplace, including scaling up the local economy, and ensuring economic democracy and diversity in our business practices.

Through the hard work of our social enterprise committee – and especially the efforts of our pilot project manager Kelly Kuryk – we recently concluded a successful pilot project involving the collection of compost from small businesses.

COMPOSTING 014 (2)Manitobans presently fall far below the national average for composting organic waste. In our study, we found that “disposing an average of 770 kg per capita with a waste diversion rate of 15%, Manitoba has a higher than average rate of land-filling waste in Canada (the Canadian average is 729 kg per capita with a 25% diversion rate).” [1] In Canada, organic waste is estimated to be about 40% of residential waste, and the greenhouse gas released by all that organic waste in landfills contributes to climate change.

In Manitoba, our rates of land-filling waste may even have increased since 2002 – a trend that we at the Green Action Centre would like to reverse. The Government of Manitoba is presently hoping to increase organic waste diversion threefold by 2020, and eliminating organic waste by 2025. For our part, introducing commercial compost collection is one small way of helping to reverse Manitoba’s negative trend.

Do you have a downtown office or business that wants to reduce GHG emissions? Get in touch with us and let’s get the ball rolling together!


James Magnus-Johnston is a board member of Green Action Centre. He teaches social enterprise and ecological economics at Canadian Mennonite University, and is a co-owner of Fools & Horses, a soon-to-open social enterprise at the corner of Broadway and Edmonton.

[1] Green Action Centre. Compost Service Feasibility Study. Winnipeg, November 2014.