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Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University
The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.
Who’s involved in this project?
Sarah Brigel (founder, Microbe Hub) and Jessica Machado (coordinator, Makerspace Compost Kits Programming).
What are your goals for this project?
Jessica Machado: Microbe Hub is a social enterprise that uses worm composting to drive environmental and science literacy. Currently, Microbe Hub is launching Makerspace Compost Kits: a composting program for elementary classrooms that complements curriculum with lesson plans on understanding food waste, climate change and sustainability.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
JM: Before piloting our composting program in a classroom, we’re keen to understand each teacher’s needs and experiences. It’s important to us that we design lesson plans and activities with teachers and measure the impact of our programming. Although we’re having a challenging time directly reaching or being able to contact elementary school teachers.
Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)?
JM: At the SVZ we can request a mentor with specific expertise for guidance. There’s a variety of mentors in the space who have given us feedback and advice on our business model, governance structure and accounting practices. Along with mentors, the SVZ has connected us to free workshops and legal clinics.
The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?
JM: Our mission is to minimize a community’s carbon footprint through waste diversion and education. We focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by diverting organic waste from the landfill and creating programming that engages children and adults in behaviour change. Our impact is through providing an accessible resource to worm composting, and supporting teachers through boosting environmental and science literacy.
Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?
JM: The feedback we’ve received so far is that the Makerspace Compost Kits are resourceful to educators. With activities ranging from junior kindergarten to eighth grade, educators are able to take from these lesson plans which saves them time researching or creating their own activities. The activities are already aligned with provincial curriculum and can be easily integrated into field trips too. If needed, we can support educators through facilitating activities with them in the classroom.
What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?
JM: We’re hoping to work closely with elementary schools in the GTA and we recognize the effort needed to secure a partnership with school boards. We’re also hoping to work with charities or businesses who have a shared vision in supporting environmental education. These partnerships would ideally help us reach more classrooms or support us to start facilitating sessions for residents and families in shared spaces.
Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?
JM: At its full potential, we envision every classroom in Toronto and the GTA would have effective waste diversion methods. As students progress through school, they would have a thorough understanding of food waste and its impacts on climate change. The activities they’d participate in could be embedded as a habit, and by the time they finish school they would become passionate stewards of our environment.
Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?
JM: There are increasingly more communities experiencing and recognizing the impact of climate change. The Environment and Energy Division at the City of Toronto made it clear in their 2016 annual report that their goal is to make Toronto one of the most sustainable cities in the world. To do this, environmental literacy is absolutely necessary in empowering residents as informed, active citizens.
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