Gabriola organizations’ circular economy initiatives receive funding

·4 min read

Two Gabriola non-profits are among the recipients of zero waste funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo.

GIRO and Island Futures Society are two of five organizations who have been approved for the 2022 round of funding aimed at innovative programs that develop a circular economy.

GIRO will receives $92,000 toward phase 2 of C2C Threads, its textile recovery social enterprise initiative. Funds will primarily be used to purchase a textile shredder, which can then be used in making stuffed products. The multi-pronged project focused on keeping the 52,000 pounds of textiles it collects annually out of landfills also received RDN funding last year, which in part was used to purchase a washer and dryer to support clothing resale and as well as textile repurposing.

Thus far C2C Threads has partnered with locals to produce pet beds, floor pillows and a few products that replace single-use items: ‘unpaper’ towels, ‘everything’ cloths and bowl covers, all a part of the shop the organizers have coined Relove Local.

“We’ve had some wonderful feedback from locals – they’re really enjoying the different products and using them for a variety of things that we hadn’t even thought of,” Michelle Kresnyak, GIRO’s general manager, said. GIRO expects to diversify the product line in future to adapt to the variability of textiles donated.

RDN funding will also contribute to continued research and development on acoustic panels made from GIRO-collected textiles, spearheaded by BCIT researcher Maureen Connelly.

The support from the RDN this round is $26,000 less than requested. Kresnyak is hopeful GIRO will make that shortfall up through other means, including a federal grant they are awaiting to hear about.

“We are organically making adjustments as it’s happening in real time and I think we’re managing to take the steps to make sure the next stage of the project can happen in the way that we planned it,” Kresnyak said.

An unexpected experience thus far has been the wait time for the permitting process with the RDN, Fay Weller, GIRO board member, said. Part of the initiative involves building a textile-repurposing building, or makers space, on the GIRO property, which will include stations for product makers as well as repairs.

GIRO expected to start the build in November but has been told they will have to wait 16-20 weeks from the time of submitting the permit application. “We’re all ready to build, it’s just a matter of waiting for their process,” Weller said.

Expanding the initiative to Nanaimo is also in the making. Much of that is contingent on the outcome of the federal grant application, Weller said, but they are already in talks with the Makerspace in Nanaimo and have a commitment from the RDN to support partnership building. Expansion would include transporting textiles over to Gabriola for shredding.

Donations from the Gabriola community have been vital to the development of C2C, Kresnyak and Weller said. Gabriolans can also help out by donating their pre-loved towels that will be remade into the already popular unpaper towels. Full details on supporting the initiative along with a link to the Relove Local shop are at www.cradletocradle.ca.

Island Futures Society has been awarded $2,500 to carry out research and market analysis for repurposing vegetable oil on Gabriola. The society aims to divert all waste vegetable oil use on Gabriola, 7,000 litres from restaurants annually, to reduce fossil fuel use.

Previously that oil was made into biodiesel and used to power GERTIE, Weller, who’s also on the Island Futures’ board, said, but the new GERTIE bus is unable to use the fuel. On top of that, the methanol used to make it sky-rocketed in price.

“Before we were able to provide biodiesel for Gertie at quite a bit lower price,” Weller said. The society is interested in exploring uses that don’t require the use of methanol.

“I think there’s definitely a wide opening for biofuels,” Weller said, but stressed the research phase to determine viability is key.

In the first phase of the project, Island Futures will engage a researcher to analyze possible products such as biodiesel for heavy duty vehicles and generators, space heating for accessory buildings, hot water heating and animal feed and compost.

“The idea is that this waste vegetable oil is on Gabriola and let’s treat it as a resource and use it in some way on Gabriola that might be useful,” Weller said.

Island Futures hopes to hire a researcher in January.

The other organizations in the region who received a portion of the $300,000 of available funding are Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island, Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank and Nanaimo Recycling Exchange.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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