“We are at a point in human history where we know about the impacts we cause on the planet. We can’t stand by while it gets worse and worse.”
Each year, Lethbridge College welcomes in new and returning students. It is home to many bright, young minds looking to make an impact on our world. One of the brightest is Ednna Stobschinski. Ednna is in her second year of her diploma program, working hard to gain her certification in Renewable Resource Management. She is the President of the Lethbridge College Students Association and a member of AgENT - the College’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Innovation students program. It was through these accomplishments and networks that Ednna kick-started her Zero-Waste Pitch Project to create an organic composting system right on campus.
An international student from Mexico, Ednna arrived for her first year of college with high expectations. And yet, when she arrived on campus the most simple systems were missing… Between the College’s culinary program and the student residences, she observed a large surplus of food going to waste as the leftovers were sent to the landfill. It was then that Ednna first got the idea for a campus composting system, but her plan of attack was not yet clear.
In her first year at Lethbridge College, Ednna signed up for AgENT - a group for student entrepreneurs and innovators to turn ideas into actions. Joining the program opened up the door to workshops, guest speakers, and inspiring mentors who were making a difference. AgENT would later become the community to support Ednna in bringing her project to life.
Last fall, Ednna began to discuss her vision with the then-coordinator, Alexi Kubeczek. It was through Alexi that Ednna learned about the aquaponics centre on campus - a space where researchers had access to six bioreactors used to break down fish matter. Bioreactors are a special technology that have aerobic bacteria inside of them. The aerobic bacteria break down organic matter (such as food waste) into its simplest forms - the nutrients. The nutrients are delivered in the form of a concentrated liquid fertilizer. Unlike sending food waste to the landfill where it is broken down anaerobically and creates greenhouse gases, these bioreactors offer a positive alternative method that benefits the earth rather than harms it.
Fast forward to October 2021, and Ednna’s Zero-Waste Pitch Project is part way through its pilot phase at the College. Ednna, as well as a small team of volunteers, collect organic food waste from a few different spots on campus. After collecting the waste, they deliver it to the aquaponics centre. Once there, the bioreactors are filled with a mixture of fish matter and food waste. Each time the reactors are filled, 2500 litres of concentrated liquid fertilizer is produced that can then be used for crop production or domestic household use.
The pilot phase is scheduled to end this December. In the meantime, the team is collecting data to identify what is required to sustain this project if it were to be implemented into the College’s framework. One of the challenges that might prevent Ednna’s project from being approved is the new Lethbridge organics facility. Ednna explained that the College is considering using the City’s composting program instead of having one on-site. While the City’s program is valuable for Lethbridgians, Ednna made a convincing argument for why the College should also have a composting system of their own.
If the Zero-Waste Pitch Project were to be implemented as a permanent system, it would create a multitude of valuable opportunities for both the school itself and the students who attend. For starters, it would create research opportunities and on-campus jobs for students. It would also provide a unique, hands-on learning experience for those interested in waste management. In addition, it could be a source of revenue for the College as the liquid fertilizer can be sold to local farmers and other community members. Not to mention, as the first educational institute in Canada to pursue such a project, Lethbridge College could become a national inspiration for others.
“There is no other institution in Canada currently doing what we’re doing. We could be the first, and others could follow the lead,” Ednna exclaimed, “The sky’s the limit.”
Written by Kaitlyn Philip.