Bringing composting to the workplace

For businesses looking to make a meaningful shift in their waste management practices, composting should be a priority. Working with Compost Winnipeg, initiating a commercial compost program is simple.

Launched in 2016, Compost Winnipeg offers collection and compost services to offices, multi-family residential buildings, on-site composters, small restaurants and cafés.

Waste reduction with Compost Winnipeg - Office compost
Vicki Pruden of Compost Winnipeg picks up residential compost in the West End neighbourhood.

Compost Winnipeg is a social enterprise of Green Action Centre, a Winnipeg-based non-profit that has been operating since 1985 and is the city’s primary provider of compost information and education. They promote practical green solutions for the entire community, with a mandate to pursue business activities that have social, environmental or community economic development goals.

Composting transforms organic waste (like food scraps, leaves and grass clippings) into a valuable soil amendment. Good quality compost functions more like fertilizer because it is so nutrient-rich. By diverting organic waste away from landfills, composting reduces the anaerobic generation of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Composting isn’t just for homeowners, as it can be easily added to any office or workplace. And unlike home composting, more types of organic waste can be accommodated with office programs.

Compost Winnipeg serves a wide array of corporate clients all over Winnipeg. Altogether, Compost Winnipeg has helped businesses and homeowners divert over three million kilograms of organic waste from landfills, preventing over two million kilograms of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) from entering the atmosphere and exacerbating climate change. 

An office program in action

Both Compost Winnipeg and Green Action Centre are ACU members. ACU initially supported Compost Winnipeg by providing them with grants and then participated in their 2014 pilot compost collection project along with several other downtown workplaces.

Dennis Cunningham at ACU — Waste reduction program and office compost
Dennis Cunningham, Manager, Environmental Sustainability at Assiniboine Credit Union, shows off composting instruction sheets at Assiniboine Credit Union’s 200 Main St. offices.

ACU has now had a regular composting program at its Main Street head offices since May 2016, with impressive results. As of the end of March 2022, ACU has diverted almost 15,000 kilograms of organic waste from the landfill. 

“Organic waste makes up about one-third of ACU’s waste, so diverting it is a valuable step,” said Dennis Cunningham, ACU’s Manager of Environmental Sustainability. 

Dennis, who became familiar with the benefit of composting while working as a Compost Educator and Program Manager with the Victoria Compost Education Centre, sees the growth of ACU’s compost collection program directly paralleling the growth of Compost Winnipeg. 

As Compost Winnipeg has expanded its collection service across the city, we’ve been able to add pick-up at several more of our branches. Ideally, we will be composting at all our locations one of these days,” he further explained.

Recycling is already a big part of the green initiatives, and makes composting a natural next step in the environmental mindset. 

“We recycle about 97% of all the paper we use,” Dennis said. “We’re probably about 40% more efficient than an average office. That’s driven by the fact we’re a financial institution and we protect member information.”

“The rule is that everything on paper with member information goes into the secure shredder and if you know it doesn’t have member information then it can go into mixed-paper recycling,” he explains of the credit union’s process. “We have to be really careful.”

Getting started with office composting

Dennis credits ACU’s Eco-Excellence Team and its comprehensive waste-management strategy for sparking the initiative to compost.

When I started at ACU, this was one of the first things I wanted to initiate,” he said. “We were conducting bi-annual waste audits, so we could see there were a lot of opportunities to divert organic waste away from the landfill. When we looked at our overall environmental performance and areas where we could improve, this was one.”

Compost Winnipeg- office compost program
Compost Winnipeg collection bins outside Assiniboine Credit Union’s 200 Main St. offices.

When you compost, you’re able to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions because you’re diverting organic material out of the landfill. It improves soil nutrition, helps with water retention, and increases biodiversity in soil at the microorganism level. 

Dennis Cunningham, Dennis Cunningham, Manager, Environmental Sustainability at ACU

“Composting, simple as it is, is an important part of a bigger puzzle we’re trying to solve around environmental actions,” says Dennis.

Learn how your company can develop its own commercial composting program with help from Compost Winnipeg.

up next

Create your own home program with these seven practical steps to get your backyard compost up and running.

About Dennis Cunningham

Dennis is Assiniboine Credit Union’s Manager of Environmental Sustainability. He helps employees and members to reduce ACU’s environmental footprint.

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