Knowing full well that the well-being of current and future generations is shaped by what we do today, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) aims to be a world leader in sustainability, and students are an integral part of that mission.
With sustainability as one of TRU’s core values, the university’s commitment to environmental initiatives is evident through the various projects and events that are championed on campus.
Elder Doe Thomas and TRU Vice-President Administration and Finance Matt Milovick at the launch of the Campus Tree Program. Photo: Thompson Rivers University.
From campus tree planting to the ‘Fill It Forward’ reusable mugs initiative, there are various programs and committees at TRU that encourage students and alumni to engage with the natural world and become stewards of their local ecosystems.
Students like Claire McLoughlin have used their educational experience at TRU as a launchpad to effect positive change now on a local level for the benefit of our tomorrows.
A soon-to-graduate student of TRU’s Master of Science in Environmental Economics and Management (MScEEM) program, McLoughlin combined her entrepreneurial know-how and her passion for sustainable community development to co-create Friendly Composting with business partner Katie Forsyth, a local compost pick-up and local product delivery service that makes composting simple and accessible for residents and businesses while connecting them to local food sources.
Claire McLoughlin (left) and Katie Forsyth (right), co-founders of Friendly Composting. Photo by Natalie Sky Photography.
Co-founded in March 2020, Friendly Composting began as a response to the challenges both students were facing when it came to composting food scraps and waste in Kamloops.
“We learned quickly that in addition to there not being a compost collection service, there were also no drop off sites for food waste in Kamloops,” recounts McLoughlin. “We figured we were not the only people feeling this way so we took it upon ourselves to find a solution for our community."
Their initial solution to the issue was to pick up compost from local residents using recycled buckets they had sourced. Together, McLoughlin and Forsyth would then take the haul in a Volkswagen Tiguan to Holmwood Farm, owned by TRU’s Applied Sustainable Ranching Program Director Gillian Watt, for composting.
With the guidance of mentors like Watt and fellow ranching program instructor Rob Borsato, the two students gained valuable knowledge and skills of the composting process which they then applied towards their small business venture.
How Friendly Composting works is simple: customers fill a two-gallon bin with food scraps and place an order of local products, and on pick up day, they will receive a clean bin along with their order right at their doorstep.
Friendly Composting became an immediate hit and as orders came in, the co-founders quickly scaled and built a team of volunteers, part-time staff, and drivers. To date, the company services over 650 customers.
“The most encouraging thing I have learned so far is how many people are wanting to live sustainably,” says McLoughlin. “Climate change is real and it has been incredible to see so many people take the initiative to take a step towards living more sustainably.”
From weathering the snow in the winter to automating logistical processes online, McLoughlin and Forsyth have learned a lot in their first year and a half in business.
In May, McLoughlin represented Friendly Composting and TRU in the 2021 Enactus Canada Student Entrepreneur National Championship competition and placed third overall — a win that is a testament to the social, environmental, and economical promise of the entrepreneur’s budding social enterprise.
“Surrounding ourselves with mentors has been so rewarding on a personal and business level,” says McLoughlin on her entrepreneurship journey thus far. “Community is everything!”
In terms of what’s next for Friendly Composting, the co-founders are focused on the expansion of their business within Kamloops and the surrounding areas, along with providing support for communities that lack accessibility to composting solutions.
As for advice for other young entrepreneurs and students who are looking to turn their sustainability improvement ideas into action in their local communities, McLoughlin says to just get started.
“There are so many people looking for sustainability solutions! The amount of support you'll receive from the social enterprise business sector and the sustainability-focused community will be overwhelming in the best way possible. You won't have all the answers to start, but if you surround yourself with the right people and are willing to learn, you'll be on the right track."
TRU’s LEED Gold Certified Industrial Training and Technology Centre. Photo: Thompson Rivers University.
Just like McLoughlin, TRU is constantly working towards sustainability improvements throughout the university, with the goal of becoming a carbon neutral and net-zero energy campus. In fact, this year, TRU’s Industrial Training and Technology Centre (ITTC) was recognized with Gold certification by the Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Canada rating system.
TRU also earned the highest overall score ever achieved in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Report among universities and colleges from around the world.
In addition to providing access to enriched experiential learning opportunities and high-quality academic programming led by supportive faculty, the innovation-driven university prepares the leaders of tomorrow for meaningful and impactful careers, believing on behalf of each student that the world needs you to reach your full potential and enact lasting change.
For more info on Thompson Rivers University, visit findyourtru.ca.