Effort to Expand Composting Fosters Further Community-building

Google groups connecting Avenues neighbours

Peterborough residents, from left, David McLeod, Laurie Westaway, Nicole Alfred, and Mark Woolley are helping build community and ramp up composting efforts in a neighbourhood in the Avenues.

While more people are composting in a Peterborough neighbourhood courtesy of a recent citizen-led initiative, community-building is at the heart of what’s stemming from the dirt.

Mark Woolley and a few of his neighbours extended a call earlier this year to others residing in the Avenues area of the city to consider composting or to ramp up their current efforts.

As a result, more people in his Pearl Avenue neighbourhood are actively composting their food waste. The buy-in can partially be attributed to the fact his neighbours aren’t strangers.

Mark established a Google group for his neighbourhood several years ago, connecting through e-mail those who are connected by geography. He initiated the composting call-to-action through that group.

“I feel happier, safer and more supported in this neighbourhood that we’ve created together. I know I can borrow a tool or hold a ladder, source a missing ingredient or get some first aid.”

“I grew up with parents who gardened so I composted,” Mark says about his motivation.

“It has just always been there. It simply goes back to my parents and the value of earth.”

His ancestors have an agricultural background and Mark enjoys growing his own food.

“I think composting is a good way to be in touch with your waste stream and food. These are issues that matter environmentally. Soil health and the ability to grow food is important in challenging times.”

After sending the e-mail, Mark and other enthusiastic citizens had a meeting and then went door-to-door approaching neighbours individually. Some people were already composting, others were willing to start, others needed more information, some needed physical assistance with composting tasks like turning over the compost.

In the end, community members purchased three new composters and held a workday to install or repair seven composters on the street. About 75 per cent of the 20 homes on Pearl Avenue are now composting. He foresees possible ongoing work related to recycling and garbage management.

In addition to the active composting, the community now has a book-lending library, hosts a summer barbecue, holds a progressive dinner party in the winter and more.

Earlier this year when a community member’s partner died suddenly, neighbours quickly organized a “gardening flash mob” one afternoon, completing spring clean-up and landscaping for the spouse’s property.

Essentially, people are becoming more interested, more invested and more neighbourly.

An informal neighbourhood association has emerged from the initial PearlAve Google group Mark created in 2011.

There are now eight neighbourhood Google groups with an overarching PtboAvenues group that has 280-plus e-mail addresses. Through these channels, people communicate about a variety of neighbourhood matters including lost pets, apartments needed, points of activism, heritage conservation, social events and more.

Mark has also helped establish Google groups for neighbourhoods outside of his immediate community.

He invites citizens interested in learning more about starting a Google group in their own neighbourhood to contact him at Aveplanners@gmail.com.

As for his own community, the future could encompass more environmental initiatives, a tool-lending library and maybe even a house purchase to serve as a common gathering space for residents.

“I feel happier, safer and more supported in this neighbourhood that we’ve created together. I know I can borrow a tool or hold a ladder, source a missing ingredient or get some first aid.

“That’s community.”

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