Tuesday, 10 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 10, 2018

solitary male pronghorn

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Day, July 14 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 8 am-2:30 pm, July 14.

Go! Science, July 19 (Swift Current)
Kids in grades 1-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 1-4 pm, July 19, at the Swift Current Branch Library.

U of S Lunch & Learn Series, July 20 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, every third Friday of the month, for presentations and discussions on sustainability.

U of S The Fix, July 20 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability and university sustainability professionals over a pint at 5 pm, every third Friday of the month, to fix some of sustainability’s most complicated issues.

Healthy Planet, Healthy Life, July 23-27 (Regina)
Kids ages 5-12 are invited to discover the technology scientists use to measure changes to the environment at the July 23-27 Regina Public Library program presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre.

Looking Ahead
The Dammed Rivers, Oct. 1-3 (Saskatoon)
Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin in collaboration with the Canadian Water Resources Association will hold their annual conference Oct. 1-3 in Saskatoon. The conference will bring together experts from many fields related to the existence of dams. Early bird registration until Aug. 31.

Environmental Law Toolkit Workshop, Oct. 2 (Toronto)
The Sustainability Network is offering a 1-day workshop on Oct. 2 in Toronto on the legal tools available to protect our air, water, land, and human health.

pronghorn and fawn

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Golden Eagles
July 19, 8 am – Gabriel Dumont Park
Aug. 9, 8 am – Shorebirds and Early Migration
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
July 14, 10 am-1 pm – Botany Trip to Beaver Creek Conservation Area
July 22, 1:30-4:30 pm – Dragonfly Field Trip
July 28, 9 am-12 noon – Shorebird Driving Trip
Aug. 11, 8:15 am – Douglas Park Sand Dunes Hike
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased 335 acres of native grasslands and natural wetlands in the Upper Qu’Appelle Natural Area close to Craven. The Natural Area is home to a number of species at risk, included Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Baird’s Sparrow.

Lead poisoning from fishing tackle kills loons.

5 tips for having fun birding with kids.

Want to live a more sustainable life? Individual choice isn’t enough - you have to change the system.

What trash on Everest can teach us about tackling problem waste.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Every One of Us Can be an Eco-Warrior

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver 

Do you know an eco-warrior – someone who is putting energy and determination into protecting and preserving our natural environment? EcoFriendly Sask has the privilege of not only meeting some of Saskatchewan’s eco-warriors but of helping them out financially. They may not get their picture in the paper, but in so many different ways they are working to make this world a better place for all of us.

From January to June 2018, we distributed EcoFriendly Action Grants worth over $23,000 to 34 different groups. Here is just a sampling to demonstrate the groups' initiative, enthusiasm, and commitment.

Digging in the Dirt
The Grade 5/6 class at Englefeld School researched native trees and shrubs with fruits and berries for the birds to enjoy, voted for their favourites, and planted them in a future off-leash dog park. They planted mountain ash, wild rose, hazelnut, burning bush, gooseberry pixels, highbush cranberry, honeysuckle, elm, maple, scotch pine, spruce, birch, flat-needled spruce, and false sunflowers, attaching tags with the tree’s name and some fun facts.

20 children and 13 parents celebrated Earth Day at Redvers Public Library. They planted and learned how to take care of a flower pot and then listened to stories about bees and how to protect them.

Political Advocacy 
Stand Up for Meewasin organized a social media campaign prior to the last provincial budget to promote continued provincial funding for Meewasin Valley Authority.

Climate Justice Saskatoon is interviewing residents of coal-mining communities and preparing videos to share what they’ve learned about the social and political barriers to transitioning to renewable energy.

Less Waste – More Worms 
Kiskahikan School, Weyakwin, has purchased reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery to replace the disposable ones that were creating waste in the landfill.

The Grade 6 class at Minahik Waskahigan High School, Pinehouse Lake, spent several months learning how to compost and recycle. Worm composting was a huge success: “at some point all the students were engaged with them and we spent a lot of time examining them and how they were decomposing the food. We weren't able to get a lot of food from our classroom snacks so students would bring in food from home. I also heard from parents that students had started to talk about recycling and composting at home.” Recycling was trickier as Pinehouse Lake doesn’t have a community-wide recycling program. Every week the students filled multiple garbage bags with materials that would otherwise be sent to the dump, stored them in the classroom bathroom, and the teacher would fill up her car and take them with her when she visited Saskatoon.

Food Renew is working with local food businesses in Saskatoon to save and renew food that would otherwise be wasted and thrown away. The rescued food will be collected by volunteers and delivered to community groups and organizations who need it the most.

Organizational Support 
A crew of volunteers helped Nature Saskatchewan reshingle the monitoring station at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory – and EcoFriendly Sask helped purchase the shingles.

Every year NatureCity Festival invites the whole community to get outside and grow a little wild. Over 3,000 participants took part in over 60 events in 2018. EcoFriendly Sask is proud to have sponsored this event since its inception.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 3, 2018

Swainson's hawk

Blue Hill Wind Energy Project, July 10
Nature Regina is urging concerned citizens to contact the Ministry of Environment by July 10 to raise concerns about the siting of the Blue Hill Wind Energy Project. According to Nature Regina, the site chosen is in a major migration corridor close to Chaplin Lake and over 200 bird species have been sighted in this nesting and staging area.

Email, write, or call (deadline July 10, 2018): Aimann Sadik, Senior Environmental Assessment Administrator, Environmental Assessment and Stewardship Branch, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, 3211 Albert Street, Regina, SK S4S 5W6 Phone: (306) 787-7706 Fax: 306 787 0930 Email: environmental.assessment@gov.sk.ca

Upcoming Events 
Invasive Plants: The Urban/Rural Interface, July 5 (Saskatoon) 
Learn about invasive plants while visiting 5 Meewasin-managed properties from 6:30-9:30 pm, July 5.

Garden Patch Bioblitz, July 11 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Nature Society and the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre are hosting a bioblitz at the Garden Patch from 6-8 pm, July 11.

Nocturnal Birds, July 12 (Saskatoon) 
Lyndon Penner will talk about birds that live in the dark at 7 pm, July 12, at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Bat Chat & Bat House Build, July 14 (Redberry Lake) 
Join Melanie Elliot, Batrick, and Elizabat to chat about bats, make a bat house, and look for bats in the park on July 14 at Redberry Lake Regional Park.

Geeking Out, July 14 (Prince Albert)
Kids from grades K-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 9-12 am, July 14, at the John M. Cuelenaere Library.

Summer Plant Walk, July 14 (Regina)
Edible Landscapes Permaculture Design is hosting a walk on July 14 to learn about local wild edible and medicinal plants in the Regina area.

Swainson's hawk

Looking Ahead
Waste Reduction Workshops 
Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council will be holding the following workshops:
Weyburn – Oct. 30
Prince Albert – Nov. 6
Kindersley – Nov. 14
Humboldt – Nov. 21

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Economists question Saskatchewan’s government-funded anti-carbon tax study

In considering oilsands projects, First Nations face impossible choices: “They are saying in order for you to survive in the economic system we have imposed on you, you have to join us”

Biological poverty - Why we need cities where you can take your shoes off and reconnect with the ground [book review]

Red wiggler worms could make stinky outhouses a thing of the past

Resurgence Voices - podcasts from The Resurgence Trust on ethical living, ecoactivism, and the arts

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 26, 2018

Red fox
What a fabulous tail!

Upcoming Events 
Repair Café Prince Albert, July 7 (Prince Albert) 
Share and learn skills to fix personal and household items at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, July 7.

Hort Week, July 7-13 (Saskatoon) 
Take in talks and workshops on insects, weeds, alternatives to pesticides, composting, and more during Hort Week, July 7-13, at the University of Saskatchewan.

Go! Science, July 10 (North Battleford) 
Kids in grades 1-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 1-4 pm, July 10, at the North Battleford Library.

Looking Ahead 
Beyond the Big Dipper, July 14 (Grasslands National Park) 
View the stars and learn more about them from Royal Astronomical Society volunteers at Grasslands National Park on July 14 and Aug. 11.

Cypress Hills Photography Workshop, Sept. 21-23 (Cypress Hills) 
Join Branimir Gjetvaj for a photography workshop in the Cypress Hills, Sept. 21-23.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Tracking wildlife roadkills can confirm the need for wildlife crossings. The Northeast Swale Watchers are looking for citizen scientists to track roadkills in and around Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale. What other areas could benefit from a similar project?

The oil and gas industry’s methane pollution makes it as harmful to the climate as coal burning's carbon dioxide pollution.

An Ontario First Nation is launching an electric school bus.

Varennes, Quebec’s, new public library is net zero energy.

Over 50% of new cars in Norway are electric slowing demand for petroleum.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Red fox
Look at those legs!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Noise Pollution

Kelowna Japanese Garden

“Next time you go for a walk in the woods, pay attention to the sounds you hear – the flow of a river, wind through the trees, singing birds, bugling elk. These acoustic resources are just as magnificent as visual ones, and deserve our protection” (Rachel Buxton, Colorado State University)

Listen – what do you hear – a baby crying, a motorcycle roaring, a siren, footsteps, a refrigerator humming? Animals developed ears before vocal cords and “hearing is far more universal than vision.” Noise alerts us to danger, helps us to communicate with each other, and provides pleasure. It’s vitally important for all living beings and yet we’ve taken it too far. One in four adults in the United States show signs of noise-induced hearing loss and noise pollution is causing stress and damaging the health and well-being of humans and animals.

Our ears are exceptionally sensitive. Microscopic hairs detect vibrations and relay sound to the brain. But if the sounds are too loud, the hairs can bend or break and can never be repaired. Humans can tolerate noise up to 85 decibels (vacuum cleaner 81.1-94.5, weed whacker 94-96) without damage, but anything over 65 decibels (city street corner 70, office noise 70) affects blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones in the blood. It’s important to also take into account intensity (loudness), frequency (pitch), and duration.

in taxi in traffic

Let’s take traffic noise as just one example of the health problems caused by noise pollution. The risk of heart disease is 20% higher if you live on a noisy street, and 50,000 people in the European Union die prematurely from heart attacks caused by traffic noise. You may think you’re getting used to the noise, but that doesn’t change your risk of a heart attack. Often ignored but equally unhealthy is in-vehicle noise pollution experienced daily by commuters, often for extended lengths of time.

The sounds we aren’t even aware of may affect us the most. Our ears are processing background noises while we sleep. “Even if you don’t wake up, it appears that continual noise sets off the body’s acute stress response. . . . It is this response that can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health issues.”

It’s not just humans that are affected by noise pollution. From spiders and grasshoppers to birds, prairie dogs, and whales, all living beings are suffering from an excess of man-made noise. Animals use sound to avoid predators, find food or mates, and maintain social relationships. Loud noises can scare animals off their territory, but even low-level noise has a significant impact. European robins have learned to time their singing to correspond to quieter times of the day, while great tits have changed the frequency of their call so it can be heard over low-frequency urban noise. Frogs change their pitch. This helps the animals to make themselves heard, but it may make them less desirable to mates who are judging their virility based on their call’s pitch or complexity.


Background noise may stop baby birds from picking up on auditory cues to sit up and beg when their parents approach with food or crouch down and hide when predators appear. Prairie dogs spend less time looking for food and more time checking for danger when they’re in a noisy environment, and bats, who rely on sound to detect prey, may struggle to find food.

A study in New Mexico found that natural gas compressor sites had far fewer insects than sites without compressors. The number of wolf spiders, who rely on vibrations to detect prey, decreased by 44% for every 10-decibel increase in sound. Even animals that choose to remain in a noisy area may be suffering: “Many animals are living on the knife edge of an energy budget, particularly small animals who work to get enough food and not be eaten . . . . Seemingly small perturbations might just shift things in one direction and could put them on the wrong side of this knife edge."

We may think of oceans as a silent environment, but that’s not the case. Ship noise makes it hard for animals to communicate and to distinguish natural sounds from ship noises. This results in accidental collisions, a significant cause of death for right whales. The oil and gas industry uses very loud pulses of sound to detect oil or natural gas, and these can chase animals away from the area. Pulses of high frequency sound from military sonar are so powerful that “whole groups of whales and dolphins can beach themselves to escape the auditory assault. They can also disrupt communication and feeding behaviours and cause temporary hearing loss and permanent tissue damage.”

Parks and wildlife areas aren’t immune from noise pollution. A study of 492 protected areas in the US found that “human-caused noise pollution was twice as loud as natural sounds in 63 percent of the areas surveyed — in 21 percent of the areas, some of which were home to endangered species, it was ten times as loud.” The noise can have a major impact on the ecosystem as a whole. If it scares away large predators, the population of smaller prey will increase. If it results in less birds and pollinators, there will be fewer plants and without plant shelter the insect population will decline.

gardens & highrises

Addressing the Problem
There are many solutions to noise pollution. We tend to address the problem on a case-by-case basis – a neighbour’s leaf blower or nearby road construction, but that may not be the best approach. “Targeting the noise of individuals is ineffective, antisocial, and fails to eradicate the noise that really hurts people: environmental noise. Solutions to that problem must be systemic, requiring a large-scale, collective response across many different targets.” For example, Germany has banned lawn-mowing on Sundays, and the European Union has placed noise restrictions on household appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators. A return to low-tech tools, such as brooms, can significantly reduce noise levels. Bike lanes and rapid transit reduce traffic noise as do different types of road surfaces.

Limiting use of motorized boats and other recreational vehicles in wildlife areas and encouraging canoeing and hiking will protect wildlife. Shuttle services in popular parks will cut back on vehicle traffic, and noise can be confined to specific corridors by restricting aircraft to routes over roads. Quiet areas off the major coastal shipping routes could be set aside as wildlife refuges. Sound-reduction methods (sound barrier walls, mufflers, submersed oil pumps) on drill sites could reduce stress in birds.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 19, 2018

Red-spotted Admiral

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Day, June 22 (Regina) 
City of Regina is holding Household Hazardous Waste Days on June 22 (4-7 pm) and June 23 (9 am-3:45 pm).

YXE Solar Power Plant, June 26 (Saskatoon) 
Find out more about a proposed solar power plant in Saskatoon from 6:30-7:30 pm, June 26.

Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, June 28 (Saskatoon) 
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is hosting an Intro Bicycle Tune-up Workshop from 6:30-8 pm, June 28.

24 Hours of Science, June 29/30 (Regina) 
Buy your ticket for the Science Centre Sleepover, June 29-30, with new activities every hour.

Looking Ahead
Nature Conservancy Volunteer Opportunities, July
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada maintain their properties by volunteering at one of their summer events.
July 7Maymont Clean-up Crew – Clean up old fencing and garbage at Maymont
July 14Here Comes the Burdock Brigade – Help remove burdock at Fairy Hill

Wild Roots: A Summer Camp for Girls, July 30-Aug 3 (Saskatoon) 
SaskOutdoors and Wildernook Fresh Air Learning are offering a camp for 9-11 year-old girls who would like to spend more time outdoors from July 30 to Aug. 3.

Greater Short Horned Lizard Monitoring, August (Grasslands National Park) 
Volunteers are invited to look for Greater Short Horned Lizards and identify areas of invasive plants at Grasslands National Park in August.

Connecting Kids with Nature, Aug. 14-16 (North Battleford) 
Learn to adapt the school curriculum to outdoor learning at a 2-day camp with SaskOutdoors, Aug. 14-16.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-operative says the time is now for solar power in Saskatchewan.

It’s time to protect the wilderness in Canada’s national parks.

Sharing our cities with urban wildlife - lessons from the skyscraper-scaling raccoon.

The pipeline project we're not discussing - Line 3 crosses Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Transition to Renewable Energy in Saskatchewan

Columbia River wind farm

The University of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund Canada, hosted two renewable energy panel discussions on May 28, 2018. The following article summarizes some of the key points raised by presenters.

Meeting Saskatchewan’s Long-term Energy Needs
Douglas Opseth, Director of Generation Asset Management and Resource Planning at SaskPower, started off the morning’s discussion by outlining the challenges the company faces in meeting Saskatchewan’s long-term energy needs. There is a growing demand for electricity; however, Saskatchewan’s coal and natural gas plants and wind farms are aging and SaskPower is spending a lot on maintenance and building new facilities. The company plans to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 with 50% renewables (30% wind, 15% hydro, 5% solar and biomass), but the other half of the mix is more uncertain. SaskPower would like to continue using coal, which is available in province. It’s still unclear whether this will be allowed under federal regulations. Natural gas is a good fit with renewables as it’s flexible; however, there are concerns about a sufficient supply if everyone switches to natural gas and/or if there is increased concern about fracking.

Guy Lonechild, CEO, First Nations Power Authority, pointed out that many First Nations communities have no reliable source of power and continue to use diesel. Opseth explained that the northern transmission line is completely separate and is only connected to the south through Manitoba. It is a long line over rough terrain and experiences a great many lightning strikes. In addition, northern residents are more vulnerable to power outages as the majority heat their homes with electricity.

Solar Reserve

Lonechild would like to see the Small Producers program expanded to 1 megawatt as this could help relieve power fluctuations in many communities. He sees lots of opportunity for geothermal, which is expensive but could also supply heat and be used in conjunction with greenhouses. Lonechild views partnerships on renewable energy projects as a valuable opportunity for First Nations people to obtain education, training, and jobs. He pointed to SIGA’s success, identifying renewable energy as a new opportunity for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people to be involved in the provincial economy. Lonechild also raised the possibility of increased self-government that would include environmental assessments and monitoring, wildlife management, and community energy. In closing, Lonechild emphasized bold thinking as we look to 2050 and beyond. He stated that Saskatchewan was a pioneer in carbon capture: why not look at battery storage?

Lonechild’s interest in community energy planning was shared by Ray Orb, President, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. Orb stated that rural residents recognize the climate is changing but are strongly opposed to wind farms. People on acreages moved to the country to enjoy the wide-open prairie view and don’t want to live across from a wind farm. There is more support for solar farms on wasteland and SARM has identified an opportunity for rural municipalities, such as Corman Park, to provide power to nearby cities. Orb also suggested looking at new hydro projects with their spin-off benefits of irrigation, drinking water, recreation, and flood mitigation.

Opseth explained that renewables present new challenges. SaskPower currently has full control over power generation. They’ll lose that control as they introduce variable energy sources such as wind and solar. This is particularly challenging in Saskatchewan which has a very flat load demand as most electricity is sold to commercial customers that operate 24/7 (as opposed to a more residential region where there are peaks at different times of the day). SaskPower was set up to be the province’s sole energy provider. Individuals and groups are now introducing self-generation; however, they all want SaskPower as a backup.

A member of the audience emphasized the need for increased efficiency and energy conservation. Opseth noted that Saskatchewan has more transmission lines than anywhere else in North America. SaskPower is looking at ways to reduce losses that are inherent in moving energy over large distances to a dispersed population. One option is greater regional production. The company is also doing more work with industrial customers to enhance efficiency and energy conservation.

Sandhill cranes

Habitat-Friendly Renewable Energy
The goal of World Wildlife Fund Canada is to work with key partners in all sectors to advance science-based, solutions-oriented approaches to conservation problems. The organization recognizes that a large-scale transition to renewable energy will require new uses of landscapes and seascapes and have started developing a tool that maps both sustainable energy potential and areas with significant conservation value. The tool isn’t intended to bypass the regulatory process but is instead a broad brushstrokes approach to identifying potential sites, saving time and money by avoiding conflict with community and wildlife interests and enabling developers, governments, and communities to make better and faster decisions.

The tool was initially developed for New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy and is now being rolled out to Alberta and Saskatchewan. Using a high conservation value framework (previously used by the Forest Stewardship Council), the tool maps species diversity, ecosystems, threatened habitats, ecosystem services, community and cultural values. It combines regulated (Saskatchewan’s wind directive, Alberta’s solar directive, historic sites) and non-regulated elements (important bird areas, endangered species, intact forests, potential for agriculture) with additional factors such as wind speed, hours of sunlight, distance from transmission lines. The focus in Alberta and Saskatchewan is on identifying opportunities for large-scale wind and solar farms.

The World Wildlife Fund is looking for partners, such as the University of Saskatchewan, to help them enhance the tool. For example, the community and cultural values need to be strengthened and they see potential for enhancing the tool’s predictive value based on past projects and shifting land use.

Photos: Esmeralda, Nevada, Solar Reserve; Columbia River Wind Farm