When Celeste Axworthy watches the chef place a side of green beans on her plate, or tastes the bell peppers and tomatoes from the cafeteria salad bar, she feels proud.
That’s because Celeste helped grow those vegetables in the Burridge Campus Greenhouse, and she knows whatever she doesn’t eat will be reused as compost.
“It’s a 360 degree cycle. We’ll use that compost to grow next year’s crop,” says the recent Continuing Care graduate.
Celeste is part of a group of staff and students who have helped make NSCC’s Yarmouth campus a leader in sustainability, explains Christian Surette, Burridge’s Facilities Support Lead.
“A few years ago everything was going in the garbage and there was no recycling happening. Then we had a wake-up call,” explains Christian. “We started by recycling and composting, using the compost for the shrubs and garden bins, but then I said, ‘let’s make it full circle’, so we talked to the cafeteria about creating a greenhouse to grow vegetables using the organics from the campus.”
The cafeteria has finished its second year serving up the backyard produce and has ordered $50 worth of seeds —from peas to squash— for the fall crop. Not only will Christian and his team plant the seeds, they’ll also try a new method: repurposing old tires from the campus mechanical shop will become mounds to contain the plants.
This success is attracting attention and has led to a greenhouse at Shelburne Campus. The campuses are working together to share their learning – from planting techniques to how to make the facility more sustainable.
“We’re always looking at what we can do to better our campuses and what we can do to learn and teach, ” says Christian, who’s also working with the daycare to get the children involved in the composting and planting. “The environment means a whole lot and we need to do what we can now to take care of the future.”
Although the project started out as a way to reduce waste, both Celeste and Christian say the benefits extend beyond the positive environmental impact. “It’s therapeutic,” says Celeste. Christian agrees.
“It’s a total stress release.”