Meet the Barrelman

Posted on April 10, 2023

Meet the 2023 Emerald Award Lifetime Achievement Winners Dirk and Nanja Struck!

Thousands of Calgarians own a rain barrel from Green Calgary. Many have been using the same barrels for a decade or more. But how many of our rain barrel users know the makers of their barrels? Meet Dirk and Nanja of The Barrelman! For over 25 years Dirk and Nanja have been converting food grade barrels into high quality rain barrels designed specifically to handle the fluctuating prairie climate. The business started when Dirk Struck noticed food-grade plastic barrels from his work were going into the landfill. In the 90s, when Dirk was working in the bakery, it was uncommon and expensive to recycle these materials, so most companies did not bother. Dirk gave up his pension just 3 years before retirement and set out to make a change. He started Barrelman Inc., a small family business, with his wife Nanja, and together they changed the way rain water was captured and used in Calgary. The Barrelman’s unique design thinks of everything: mosquito breeding prevention, child safety, ease of connecting a series of barrels to capture the most water from a single drain spout, and weather resistant spigots.  

Over the years, Dirk and Nanja have partnered with and supplied a growing number of cities, towns, and non-profits with rain barrels for their programs and fundraising needs. They have expanded out of Alberta and deliver to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. Made locally with upcycled materials, each rain barrel has the potential to save an average of 3,200 litres of water annually. Since 2012, Green Calgary has sold over 10,000 of Dirk’s rain barrels. To put it in perspective, the rain barrels we have sold have the capacity to capture over 32,000,000 litres of water every year. Each year, Dirk builds and delivers more than 3,000 barrels in Alberta. With each barrel weighing 13kg, that equals to 780,000 kg of plastics diverted away from landfills. By starting the Barrelman, Dirk and Nanja have effectively extended the lifecycle of these barrels from single-use to 20+ years, creating high quality, food-grade rain barrels, made of 100% upcycled virgin plastic. The Barrelman creates barrels that can withstand the unpredictable freeze, thaw, rain, sun, heat, and cold the prairies experience.

In the City of Calgary alone, 1 in 3 Calgarians are utilizing rain barrels to save water during summer months, when our water usage goes up by 40% due to lawncare and gardening. As more families move toward rainwater harvesting, it becomes a normalized practice that is passed on to future generations. The more people engage in rain barrel use, the healthier our waterways are for today and for future generations. Dirk and Nanja have been at the forefront of this growing practice, building their business with a strong community focus to support and advocate for accessible environment and climate literacy education. The impact of Dirk and Nanja’s business on the environment and long term local water conservation is incredible. As a pioneer of sustainable innovation and responsible business, the Barrelman is a living example that socially responsible businesses are the future of our economy. Designed to be local and environmentally friendly from procurement to delivery, the Barrelman is devoted to building a sustainable and responsible future for generations to come. 

Rain Barrel Sales started on April 1st. Get yours today!