Tuesday, 30 August 2011

EcoSask News, August 30, 2011

Salt Cedar Surveys, September 8 & 15
Help the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council and the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan search for invasive salt cedar at two different sites on two different dates.

Findlater, SK - Thursday, September 8, 10 am to 4 pm (meet at the junction of Highway #2 and #11 just northwest of Findlater)

Cadillac, SK - Thursday, September 15, 10 am to 4 pm (meet at the junction of Highway #4 and #43 just north of Cadillac)

To register for either of these events, please contact Chet Neufeld at (306) 668-3940 or e-mail info@npss.sk.ca

Saskatoon Green Energy Park, 7 pm, September 14
Kevin Hudson, Alternative Energy Engineer, will speak at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 14 at the Saskatchewan Environmental Society meeting (Cliff Wright Library). Hudson will discuss the City of Saskatoon’s plans to develop a world-class energy park at the landfill with the potential to power over 5,000 homes using only local renewable energy supplies and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the City by over 115,000 tonnes CO2.

The green energy projects feature renewable power generation technologies using landfill gas, a turbo-expander pressure reduction application with SaskEnergy, a tall wind turbine on top of the landfill, with possible future consideration of utility-scale solar and heat recovery applications. A five-minute video on the Green Energy Park is available on YouTube.

SK Waste Reduction Council Forum, September 15 & 16
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council Forum to be held on September 15 and 16 in Swift Current will look at recycling and waste reduction from various different angles: art and culture, lifestyle changes and curbside recycling, phasing out incandescent lights, markets and end uses for recycled materials, wind power, and lessons from local communities.

Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson
Eco-Pirate, the story of a man on a mission to save the planet and its oceans is being shown at the Roxy Theatre on 20th Street from August 26 to September 1.

Outter Limits Fun Run
Participate in the Outter Limits Fun Run (10 km run or 5 km walk/run) at Elk Ridge Resort on Saturday, October 1, 2011. The money raised at this year’s event will be given to the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and Scholarships for Students in Need. The entry deadline is September 1, 2011.

Local Food at Local Events
The municipality of Saanich on Vancouver Island plans to serve local food at all its events, eventually moving toward having local food in all its food services. What a great way to support local farmers.

This follows the example of the University of Victoria whose Green Purchasing Policy estimates that 46% of their produce comes from Vancouver Island farms and 36% of the meat and poultry comes from BC producers. All the baked goods and pizza come from bakeries in southern Vancouver Island.

Choices Cafeteria in St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, serves local organic meats, vegetables, breads and free trade coffee.

Pocket Mulch
Tune in at 6:30 pm every Wednesday to 90.5 FM CFCR Community Radio for news on environmental happenings around the world and in Saskatoon.

David Suzuki Foundation Book Club
Did you know that the David Suzuki Foundation website includes a book club? The book club site includes a reading guide, video and comments from the author, related news story, and online discussion.

The book club site includes a reading guide, video and comments from the author, related news stories, and online discussion. The book club is currently discussing Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Richard Louv and includes an excerpt from Louv’s latest book, The Nature Principle.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email ecofriendlysask@gmail.com if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page provides a complete listing of all upcoming events.

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

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Jacqueline Neusch – Sew Chic Eco Decor

Is your home eco-chic?

Jacqueline Neusch enjoys designing attractive, relaxing interior spaces – from university friends’ basement apartments to her own home.

Simplicity and low cost were key factors for her friends at university.

When Jacqueline and her husband moved into Second Avenue Lofts in downtown Saskatoon, her focus expanded to focus on decorating their home in an environmentally-friendly fashion by working with refurbished, repurposed, and sustainable furnishings.

Jacqueline has turned her talent for interior design into a business (Sew Chic Eco Decor) and is now offering classes and personal consultations to help other people create a home that is calm and beautiful. She is an excellent source of information if you want to make your home more eco-chic.

Making environmental choices
It can be challenging to try and follow environmentally-friendly principles when designing and furnishing your home as there as so many different issues to keep in mind.

Some people have health problems, so their focus is on minimizing air pollution created by off-gassing and chemicals in paint and furnishings. They’re looking for natural fabrics – wood, sisal and wool.

Other people want to live a simpler life with less conspicuous consumption and prefer to furnish their home with handmade or secondhand goods. A minimalist lifestyle calls for getting rid of the clutter, while conscientious shoppers may want to buy from locally-owned or fair trade businesses.

Followers of feng shui strive to create balanced environments that promote personal energy.

Eco decor
“We were overwhelmed with all the information and with trying to satisfy all the criteria at all the different price points,” says Jacqueline when asked about decorating their loft. “So we decided to make decisions that are one step better.”

Jacqueline and her husband achieved their goal in a variety of different ways. First of all, they chose to live in Second Avenue Lofts as it was a creative reuse of an existing building. “Every acre of reconstructed brown space saves four acres of green space,” Jacqueline explains.

The chairs in the living room are from Lazy Boy’s environmental line. The cushions are made from soy-based foam, a renewable resource that doesn’t off-gas and is biodegradable in the landfill. The fabric is made from recycled pop bottles, and the frame is lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

There are paintings by local artists who used donated or secondhand material, as well as antiques that were inherited or obtained online from etsy.com. The living room rug is a remnant. The kitchen cabinets were purchased from Ikea; there is no formaldehyde in the glue and no volatile organic compounds (VOC), so they don’t increase indoor air pollution.

The dining room table is a work of art. It was created from recycled exotic hardwoods from abandoned barns in Brazil. It was expensive, but Jacqueline says her husband loves it and it will have a long life as a central feature in their home.

HomeSchool courses
Jacqueline has been providing home consultations, but she began to realize that clients want to play an active role in decorating their home.

“People want help and ideas, not a designer,” Jacqueline says. “They want to do their own shopping and to make sure that the home reflects their own taste.”

As a result, she has started offering short, relatively inexpensive courses to provide people with basic design principles and the tools they need to do their own interior design work.

The classes include Redesign Room Rescue, Show & Sell Staging, Realtor Ready (an informational networking session for realtors), Definitive Decluttering, Fun with Feng Shui, and Economical Eco Upgrades. Classes are for up to 12 people and last from 3 to 9 hours spread out over 1 to 3 weeks.

Economical Eco Upgrades provides tips to help save money on energy, light and water and discusses a variety of environmental products that are currently on the market to help you choose the ones that are right for you.

Ecofriendly tips
Jacqueline has spent a lot of time to studying different environmental products. She offered some tips to help us as we decorate or design our living spaces.

Paint: Paint can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), which can be harmful to human health and the environment. You can purchase paint with lower levels of VOC, but you need to be aware that the largest numbers of VOC are in the tint, so check to make sure that the tint as well as the base is low in VOC.

Paint can also contain a wide range of other harmful chemicals, so find out all the details. Jacqueline uses Benjamin Moore’s Natura line of paints as they have 0 grams of VOC in both the base and the tint and don’t include as many harmful chemicals.

Countertops: Jacqueline says that concrete is one of the most sustainable countertop options. Granite is a natural material, and granite mining practices are less environmentally damaging than marble. A newer option is IceStone, a mix of concrete and glass, which is now available in Saskatoon and priced in line with granite and marble.

Bathroom fixtures: Jacqueline recommends checking the national ratings to compare how well low-flow toilets flush. And be sure to replace both the bowl and the tank as the bowl has been specially designed for low flow. A great deal of water is wasted by leaking toilets, so the flapper should be replaced every 5 years to avoid leaks. It’s important to purchase the right flapper. Generic flappers will not work properly with low-flush toilets.

Lighting: The Vereco Home (which Jacqueline helped furnish) has samples of various kinds of LED lighting to suit different situations. Overall, Jacqueline recommends avoiding purchasing the cheapest lighting, low-flow showerheads, or toilets from big box stores as Jacqueline and her husband have often found them to be unsatisfactory.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

EcoSask News, August 23, 2011

Leave No Trace Training for Master Educators
The Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association is holding a Leave No Trace Training for Master Educators from September 2 to 6 on the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

Contact c1p2b3w4@gmail.com for more information or soeea.sk@gmail.com to register. Additional information is available on the Leave No Trace Canada website.

Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson
Eco-Pirate, the story of a man on a mission to save the planet and its oceans, is being shown at the Roxy Theatre on 20th Street from August 26 to September 1. Show times are available on Roxy Theatre’s website. The week-long engagement has been partially sponsored by the Saskatchewan Eco Network, The Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and Turning the Tide bookstore.

SES Fun Run
Participate in the Outter Limits Fun Run (10 km run or 5 km walk/run) at Elk Ridge Resort on Saturday, October 1, 2011. The money raised at this year’s event will be given to the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and Scholarships for Students in Need. The entry deadline is September 1, 2011.

Next Up - leadership for social change activists
Next Up is a leadership development and training program for young people (ages 18-32) committed to social and environmental justice. The program includes evening and weekend sessions, meetings with community leaders, and hands-on involvement in an issue you’re passionate about. Applications are now being accepted for the second cohort; the application deadline is 11:59 pm, September 16.

A fundraiser is being held at 7 pm on Thursday, September 1 at Lydia’s Loft on Broadway Avenue to raise funds to support the program. Admission is free, but there will be a financial appeal. For more information, call Tracey at (306) 244-4955 or email sask@nextup.ca.

Radiant Rivers photography contest
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is celebrating World Rivers Day, September 25, with a photography contest to highlight the beauty of Saskatchewan’s rivers.

The photos must fit one of three categories (action, tranquil, sustainable), and participants must describe why water is valuable to them and what they do to protect it.

Winning entries will be displayed as a travelling photo exhibit at locations around the province and will be entered to win prizes, including three outdoor adventure packages.

Email your entries to water@environomentalsociety.ca on or before September 26 at midnight. Winners will be announced the following week. Call 665-1915 for further information.

Great Canadian Shoreline – National Cleanup Week
Join a national movement to clean up the litter along our shorelines during National Cleanup Week. Their website lists a number of sites along the South Saskatchewan where you can join in or coordinate a cleanup during the week of September 17-25.

Saskatchewan Environmental Society
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society has a new website.

Nature Canada
Take a look at Nature Canada’s online annual report for 2010-2011.

America needs complete streets
The 8-80 Cities’ August newsletter provides a link to a comprehensive article on why America Needs Complete Streets.

A complete streets policy considers the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, public transit passengers, and drivers. It encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated network for all modes of transportation.

The article provides background information, case studies and a review of perceived obstacles and risks.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email ecofriendlysask@gmail.com if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Canoe the Bagwa Loop

The Bagwa Canoe Route is one of the most accessible and user-friendly canoe routes in Prince Albert National Park.

The route (illustration below is from the Park website) begins on Kingsmere Lake, northwest of Waskesiu. It takes approximately 7-10 hours to paddle but is more enjoyable if you stretch it over two days.

The Bagwa Channel is home to yellow pond lilies and red-necked grebes in nesting season, while Clare Lake, at the end of the route, is home to many water birds. There are campgrounds at Bagwa Lake and Lily Lake.

Andrew McKinlay posted an account of a Bagwa trip on his blog, Sustainable Adventure. Click on the slideshow below to see photographs of his trip.

click to view photos

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

Every region of every country has a distinctive landscape with native plants and wildlife that thrive in a particular climate and geography. Long before pioneer farmers ploughed the soil and planted wheat and other grains, there were grasses and flowers, shrubs and trees on the plains and in the forests of Saskatchewan.

It’s very difficult nowadays to experience the natural landscape of Saskatchewan as cultivation, resource extraction, residential development, and road building have reshaped the land. The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan is a non-profit, member-driven organization that promotes understanding and conservation of Saskatchewan’s native plants and their ecosystems.

Public education
Chet Neufeld, Executive Director, explains that the Society focuses on education and public awareness. The association has published an impressive list of publications. Here are just a few.

Acreage Living: A conservation guide for owners and developers of natural habitats was written to assist people who have moved to an acreage to develop and manage their property in harmony with the local environment. It covers everything from weed management and woodland care to livestock grazing and conservation of wetlands.

If you like hiking or exploring wilderness places, you’ll want a copy of Saskatchewan’s Prairie Places, which lists the locations of many of the native prairie places that are open to the public in every part of the province. The book provides directions and background information as well as listing things to see and do. Some of the sites are within or close to urban centres while others are more remote.

The Society also develops educational resources to complement the school curriculum. The poster and educational activity sheet for the Native Plant Communities of Saskatchewan are an attractive and handy guide to the wildflowers you can expect to see in the Taiga Shield, the Boreal Shield, the Boreal Plain, and the Prairie. Another poster covers Native Plants, Water and Us. All the posters and activity sheets are free upon request. The Society has distributed over 10,000 copies of the Native Plant Communities poster.

The Society also maintains a large photographic library of native plants and habitats, which they have lent to dozens of organizations. The photographs assist in plant identification but also provide a snapshot in time, capturing a particular location on a specific date.

Combatting invasive species
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan partners with other organizations on a wide variety of conservation projects.

Foreign plants, insects, and diseases (dutch elm disease, zebra mussels, flowering rush) can pose a huge danger to the native habitat. In 2007-2008, the Society was able to secure half a million dollars in provincial funding to distribute to private landowners and community groups to assist them in controlling or making people aware of the dangers of invasive species.

The funding was extremely effective as thousands of people gained a new understanding of invasive species and community groups throughout the province were able to address their specific problems.

As a result of this project, the Society established a provincial Invasive Species Council so that all the interested parties could work together to address the problems, fill gaps in individual mandates, and collaborate with neighbouring provinces and states.

Chet Neufeld, who has a Bachelor of Science and is an articling agrologist, recently participated in a regional economic development conference in Portland, Oregon, that devoted an entire day to discussing invasive species.

Under Chet’s direction, a group of volunteers has led an extremely successful effort to eradicate an outbreak of flowering rush. The outbreak was confined to one wetland area, so they are optimistic that they will be able to control it before it spreads further.

Membership benefits
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan has a broad membership base – from scientists and academics to backyard nature enthusiasts – and they try very hard to provide useful information and events for the full spectrum.

The Society holds field tours at various places and at various times so that as many people as possible can participate. This year they visited Prince Albert National Park, Last Mountain Lake, Grasslands National Park, and the Northeast Swale near Saskatoon.

The annual conference in February welcomes members and non-members alike to participate in a variety of lectures and workshops. This past year, the Society was the first Canadian group to screen the winning films from the International Forest Film Festival.

The Society put considerable effort into ensuring that the conference was carbon neutral, purchasing carbon offsets for everything from transit to venue.

The Society also distributes a quarterly newsletter to all its members.

Responding to demand
Chet Neufeld and the board of directors run a small but highly effective operation on primarily project funding. Membership fees are kept low so that as many people as possible can participate.

Chet says that they choose future projects based on the phone calls they receive. If people are requesting a specific kind of information, they’ll try and address the need.

The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan has an informative website (with a store for ordering publications) as well as a Facebook page.

Free plants
Would you like to grow a native tree or shrub? The Native Plant Society, in conjunction with Shand Greenhouse, is giving away 1,000 native trees this year of the 2011 International Year of Forests. Call the Society at (306) 668-3940 to obtain a free tree or to ask a question.

What we can do

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

EcoSask News, August 16, 2011

Rio+20 Workshop
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is hosting one of ten Rio+20 summit Civil Society Workshops being held across Canada to influence the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development.

The Conference will focus on two themes: (1) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and (2) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The Saskatoon workshop will take place on Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 1-4 pm in Room 45, Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan. If you want to attend, send an email to pesticidefree@environmentalsociety.ca by August 23.

Background reading:
A Green Economy for Canada: Consulting with Canadians
Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication - a synthesis for policy makers
Sustainable Development: Governance towards Rio+20: Framing the debate

Volunteers needed: Native Plant Society of SK
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan is looking for volunteers to help pull invasive flowering rush out of a wetland near Watrous, as well as to search for salt cedar, another invasive plant, near Findlater and Swift Current. Dates have not yet been selected. Contact Chet Neufeld at info@npss.sk.ca if you are interested.

Saskatoon Young Naturalists’ Field Trips
Saskatoon Young Naturalists is a joint program of the Saskatoon Nature Society and the Saskatoon Zoo Society. Activities are open to all ages and offer nature-based activities designed for families. Content is geared towards the 5-11 year old range. Parent supervision is required. Call 975-3042 to register or send an email to saskatoonnaturekids@gmail.com

Upcoming trips include the following:

Saskatoon Grasslands Botany Field Trip, August 25, 6 pm – Take a walk through the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands looking for fall flowers, berries, and other interesting plants.

Sandhill Crane Field Trip, October 1, 10 am to noon – Look for migrating Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife at Chief Whitecap Park south of Saskatoon. There will be a demonstration on how to use binoculars and spotting scope.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on a wide variety of field trips:

Saturday, August 20, 8 am – noon – General Nature Walk to Asquith Nature Conservancy properties

Sunday, August 21, 2-4 pm – Bird Walk through Donna Birkmaier Park, Saskatoon

Saturday, August 27, 8-10 am – Fall Songbirds at Gabriel Dumont Park, Saskatoon

Monday, September 5, 8-10 am – Warbler Migration Hike at Ashworth Holmes Park

Saturday, September 10 – Fall Bird Count (contact Michael Williams at 242-5383 for information)

For information about other upcoming events, check out the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar.

Swale watching
Vote for the Meewasin Valley Authority in its efforts to conserve the native prairie, wildflowers, wetlands, and wildlife in the NorthEast Swale.

Plant wildflower seeds
The Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company located in Aberdeen, SK, offers a wide range of native Canadian wild flower seeds. They are currently offering a 30% discount on all items in their online store.

More farmers’ markets means more jobs
The United States Department of Agriculture released its latest Farmers Market Survey last week. There are 17% more farmers’ markets in the United States than there were last year, “a sign that the local and regional food system is robust and thriving. More farmers markets mean more opportunities for small and mid-size farmers – especially beginning farmers – to diversify their farms, sell their products, and grow their businesses.”

The report goes on to state that “modest public funding for 100 to 500 otherwise-unsuccessful farmers markets a year could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period.” (via Grist)

Be sure to visit your local farmers’ market. The Saskatoon Farmers’ Market has an abundance of local fruits and vegetables at the moment - from melons to tomatoes, leeks, and cauliflower.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email ecofriendlysask@gmail.com if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Candace Savage: The Living Community of the Earth

Candace Savage is a Saskatoon-based author who has written more than two dozen books on nature and cultural history. Her books clearly demonstrate a love and respect for the natural world – from bees to crows to the northern lights and the native prairie.

Becoming a writer
Candace grew up in small town Alberta. Most of the people she knew were farmers, bankers, teachers, or housewives. “I was quite old before I realized that people wrote the books I read,” she says. As a result, she was very nervous and apprehensive about becoming a writer.

Fortunately, there was a local trade publisher, The Western Producer, in Saskatoon where she was now living, and she knew one of the publishers. She was hired as a freelance editor and has never stopped writing.

In addition, Candace has stayed with the same publisher from the beginning, and it has been a supportive relationship based on friendship and mutual regard.

Building a connection between the reader and the subject
Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders is an entrancing mix of science, history, mythology, and literature. Candace deliberately chose this approach because she knew she needed to create a warmth of connection between the reader and the subject because bees sting, and they don’t have a familiar face to create a sense of kinship.

Candace used the story of two entomologists in wartime Germany to serve as intermediaries between the public and the insects. Photographs, poetry, myths, and legends also help to bridge the gap. “There’s lots of sweetness to surround the sting in the tail,” she says.

The sharp decline in honeybee populations can be traced to industrial agricultural practices and out-of-control problems with diseases and pests. Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders paints a shocking picture of bee hives being transported by truck from Florida to California to pollinate a rotating series of crops – itinerant labourers with no home to call their own.

A Geography of Blood
Candace has just finished writing her latest book (to be published in 2012), tentatively titled A Geography of Blood. She says it’s the first time she has written in the first person.

Candace and her partner purchased a house in Eastend, SK, when she was writing Prairie: A natural history, and her latest book is based on the stories she has collected about this place. It focuses on the late 1870s and 1880s when the buffalo prairie was being destroyed and the native people were being displaced to make room for newcomers.

Development has had a significant impact on Eastend during the 10 years that Candace has lived in Eastend. “It must have been agony for the native people when they saw the place they had lived in for hundreds or thousands of years being destroyed,” she says. “Nature here ended in 1879.”

Mainlining on words
Candace believes that this is a wonderful time for writing as people have a voracious appetite for the written word. But it’s a tricky time to make a living as a writer. The emphasis on electronic media has left the book and magazine publishing industry very fragile financially.

“Thank goodness for the willingness of governments and people to support the arts and writers,” exclaims Candace. Without bursaries and grants, authors could not afford to research and write their books.

If you are interested in becoming a writer, Candace will be teaching a one-semester course in creative non-fiction at St. Peter’s College, Muenster. The course is part of a two-year Writing Diploma offered by the College.

Making a difference
Writing has been Candace’s way of getting an education and has raised her awareness of environmental issues. “The more you understand, the more you want to do something – to make a difference,” she says.
Candace hopes that she has been able to shape culture, just a little bit, through her books. “We need to change our way of thinking [about the natural world], so maybe it does pay to use words to change hearts and minds,” she says.

Candace supports a number of environmental organizations and is on the board of directors for The Nature Conservancy, Saskatchewan Region. She feels especially connected to the Old Man on his Back Prairie Heritage and Conservation Centre through her friendship with Sharon and Peter Butala, the previous owners. She is committed to helping The Nature Conservancy conserve the land and acknowledge the central importance of ranching in grassland conservation.

Get outside
Candace urges families to spend time out of doors. “How can we care about this place if we don’t even see it – if we haven’t seen a meadowlark or bees buzzing in the crocuses?”

Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders expresses it well: “Much as a honeybee belongs to her colony, so we humans belong to the living community of the Earth. The wild lies all around us, and we draw it in like breath. Our lives are indivisible from the lives of insects.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

EcoSask News, August 9, 2011

Forestry Farm, Heritage Walking Tour
Take a self-guided walking tour of the grounds, heritage plantings, and buildings of The Sutherland Forest Nursery Station (Saskatoon Forestry Farm). The station was established in 1913 to produce shrubs and trees for farm shelterbelts.

The Friends of the Forestry Farm House are offering a guided walking tour with refreshments for a nominal cost on Sunday, August 28 at 2 pm. Call Peggy at 652-9801 for information.

Sask Environmental Society Sustainable Gourmet Dinner
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will be holding its 6th annual Sustainable Gourmet Dinner on September 24. Call 665-1915 to purchase tickets.

Canadian Wildlife Federation Photo Contest
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the Reflections of Nature 2011 photo contest. They’re accepting high-resolution photographs of flora, fauna, landscape, and urban wildlife. Deadline for submissions is October 31.

Musical Celebrations of Canada’s Natural Environment
Playlist for the Planet, produced in support of the David Suzuki Foundation, features some of Canada’s finest songwriters and performers, including Randy Bachman, Joel Plaskett, Bruce Cockburn, K-OS and Sebastian Granger, Gordon Lightfoot, Todd Butler, Hayley Sales, Alpha Yaya Diallo, DOA, Tom Jackson, Johnny Reid, Raffi, LIGHTS, Jessie Farrell, Rush, the Trews, Tara Grand, Great Big Sea, and Tanya Tagaq.

CDs are available at McNally Robinson Booksellers or the Playlist can be downloaded on iTunes (12 bonus songs).

The National Parks Project is a compilation of music and film inspired by Canada’s national parks. The project involved 13 filmmakers, 39 musicians, and 13 national parks. You can stream or download films and music or purchase hard copies.

Nature Conservancy of Canada purchases Fairy Hill
The Schuurmans family has sold 1,342 acres of their land at Fairy Hill to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The land, about 40 kilometres north of Regina, includes grasslands, woodlands, river and floodplains. It’s a staging area for migratory birds as well as a freshwater reserve, protecting water quality and mitigating the effects of flood and drought.

The NCC has conserved about 118,000 acres of land in SK in an effort to protect the province’s water, air, soil, and wildlife to benefit the health and well-being of present and future generations of Canadians. (via SK PCAP newsletter and Regina Leader Post)

Royal Sask Museum Exhibit Praised by UNESCO
The Human Factor exhibit in the Life Sciences Gallery of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina, has won praise from UNESCO for effectively educating people about sustainable development.

The exhibit looks at how people’s cultural attitudes and beliefs can negatively affect the environment through problems such as global warming and pollution.

 There is a children’s section as well as a section offering advice on how people can change attitudes and choices in order to prevent and reverse environmental damage. (via SK PCAP Newsletter and the Regina Leader Post)

Manitoba Leads the Way – Recycled Water for Rinks
The Government of Manitoba is considering using recycled shower water to create ice in provincial skating rinks. Once the feasibility study is completed, they plan to run a trial project at Winnipeg’s Dakota Community Centre.

“Jacques Levesque, general manager of Winnipeg’s Dakota Community Centre where the pilot project is taking place, said the centre’s showers use about 450 litres of water every hour. With two indoor ice rinks and three outdoor winter rinks, Levesque said the centre spends up to $35,000 on water every year.

‘It’s sad to see so much water just being poured out to waste,” he said. ‘The water that is being thrown out is unbelievable ... It would be great to be able to recycle that water. Hopefully it will set a precedent for a lot of other hockey rinks.’” (Greening Canada’s game, Sierra Club Canada)

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email ecofriendlysask@gmail.com if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Earth-Friendly Flower Arrangements

Flowers are a wonderful gift – for someone you love or for yourself. But they are often accompanied by a high cost to the environment. Fortunately, there are some local, earth-friendly alternatives.

Carbon footprint
An article in The Toronto Star reports that approximately 75% of all cut flowers that are sold in Canada come from Colombia and Ecuador. Another 10% come from Holland, while the rest are from Kenya, California, Ontario, and BC. That’s a lot of air travel, one of the highest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Toxic pesticides
Commercial flowers from South America are among the most toxic and heavily sprayed agricultural crops on the planet. In addition, flowers are exempt from regulations limiting pesticide residues, and the South American greenhouses may be using pesticides that are banned in Canada.

Working conditions
It may sound like a pleasant job to work in a greenhouse full of flowers, but that is often not the case. Paul Hanley, in an August 12, 2008 article for The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, reports that “Colombia's flower farms use casual labourers who have no job security. Seventy per cent are women who earn just 60 cents an hour and work up to 60 hours a week, often without full overtime pay, before special occasions like Mother's Day and Valentine's Day.

By many accounts, these workers suffer from a myriad of health problems linked to exposure to pesticide cocktails that are applied frequently. They are sometimes forced to enter greenhouses only one or two hours after they are sprayed with toxic pesticides.”

Eco-friendly options – buy local
Nestled among the wheat fields and tree-filled gullies just east of Alvena, SK, is Mistik Acres, the flower farm of Joanne and Pat Halter.

The garden patches are a tangle of flowers and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colours. Cheerful sunflowers immediately attract attention, but there are so many other flowers as well – sweet peas, snapdragons, borage, sea holly, strawflowers, asters, dahlias – and the list goes on and on. A rocky patch has a snug coat of sedum; a row of leeks shelters beside a row of sunflowers; and there are tomatoes, squash and corn amidst the flowers.

The Halters use absolutely no chemicals to grow their flowers, and they share their harvest with the local deer, birds, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Joanne and Pat sell their flowers, plants and vegetables at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market as well as to a number of local florists. There are pussy willows in the spring, peonies for spring weddings, and ornamental squash in the fall.

The following Saskatoon florists stock flowers from Mistik Acres: Carriage House Florists, Blossoms, Bill’s House of Flowers, Little Shop of Flowers (as well as Nosegay and Flowers by Fred on occasion).

What we can do
Saskatchewan has a short growing season, and there are no local floral greenhouses. But you can make more environmentally-friendly choices, even in the winter. Here are a few ideas.

Phone the florist in advance and ask them to help you create an eco-friendly bouquet. They can then research your request and identify the flowers that are grown in Canada, for example gerbera daisies.

Most Saskatoon florists purchase their flowers through Florists Supply, and several staff at local florists told me that the majority of the flowers come from the Lower Mainland in British Columbia and that Florists Supply tries to source fair trade flowers.

Buy indoor winter-flowering bulbs, such as amaryllis and hyacinth. They are often available in bulk from places like Early’s Farm and Garden Centre so you won’t be purchasing unnecessary packaging materials.

Take a cutting from a friend’s violet or try your hand at growing an avocado pit.

Create a bouquet from interesting branches and twigs.

We’re sure that there are many other options. What do you suggest?

Additional reading material
Valentine’s Day with a conscience: fair trade flowers
Florists go green with local flowers
Eco Guide flowers
Organic, fair trade flower industry emerges
What’s more fair about ‘fair trade’ flowers?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

EcoSask News, August 2, 2011

New Provincial Parks
The Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport is proposing to establish two new provincial parks, one in the Emma and Anglin Lakes area and one in the Porcupine Hills area. Additional information is available on their website. The Ministry is asking for your feedback, on an online survey or in writing, by August 3, 2011.

Celebrate Restraint, August 14
The Sask MB Conference, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, and MCC Saskatchewan are presenting, Celebrate Restraint, a community event themed on Simple Living on Sunday, August 14 starting at 2 pm. Hugo and Doreen Neufeld will lead a discussion on living in a culture of affluence. This will be followed by skill-sharing workshops on topics ranging from beekeeping, to composting, to sewing. There will be a picnic supper at 6 pm. The event will be held at Mount Royal Church (610 Avenue O North).

Saskatoon’s Bicycle Valet
Road Map Saskatoon works with the public, businesses and institutions to promote a sustainable Saskatoon. Their signature project is the Bicycle Valet. The Bicycle Valet provides a secure area where cyclists can leave their bikes while attending local festivals.

The Bicycle Valet safely stored over 1500 bicycles during the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and just under 1200 bicycles during Taste of Saskatchewan (over 300 in a single day). The Valet supports an active means of transportation, reduces theft and congestion on the streets, and makes the festival grounds less crowded and more enjoyable for pedestrians.

Developing public policies to support renewable energy
The Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has just released the third and final part of its series on Transforming Saskatchewan’s Electrical Future. The Public Policy Needed to Build a Renewable Energy Society in Saskatchewan is written by Peter Prebble, former Saskatchewan cabinet minister.

The report begins by noting that Saskatchewan has a remarkable array of renewable energy resources (wind, solar, small-scale hydro, bio mass) for its population size. Fully utilizing these resources could be an important source of job creation and community economic development as well as reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

Experience in other countries has shown that public policy can play a key role in successfully developing renewable energy potential. The report recommends a number of different public policies, including the following:
  • Adopt legislation requiring that Saskatchewan meet at least 40% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020 (double the current contribution);
  • Partner with local communities to install wind turbines, small-scale hydro and biomass generation;
  • Incorporate energy-efficiency standards into the province’s building code;
  • Establish feed-in tariffs to encourage locally-owned renewable energy production;
  • Phase out coal-fired power plants as they are a major source of greenhouse gas pollution;
  • Negotiate the purchase of hydro power from Manitoba in exchange for wind power from Saskatchewan; and
  • Establish training programs in order to create a workforce with the skills and knowledge to lead the transition to a renewable energy economy.
Environmental Scientist of the Year
Monique Dubé has received the Canadian Geographic Environmental Scientist of the Year award. Dubé is a Canada Research Chair for Aquatic Ecosystem Health Diagnosis at the University of Saskatchewan. Dubé’s goal is to apply scientific knowledge to resolve real-life problems. “I want to do science on water that benefits as many people as possible,” she said. “If you look at the science I have done, it has all been to generate products or technology or information to serve a particular community. That gives me absolute satisfaction.”

Dubé’s talk at TEDx Saskatoon, Women, Water and Willpower, considers the importance of water and how it relates to the influence of women.

Canadian Wildlife Federation conservation award
Dennis Sherratt of Silton, Saskatchewan, was the co-recipient of the of the 2011 Roland Michener Conservation award from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Sherratt began his career as a research biologist with the Wildlife Research Branch of Saskatchewan’s provincial government. He spearheaded Saskatchewan’s internationally recognized Heritage Marsh Program and the adoption of the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act as well as paving the way for wetland development in Canada under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Sherratt is currently a research fellow with the Canadian Plains Research Center where he is researching the development and application of carbon offsets as part of an Ecological Goods and Services Program for southern Saskatchewan.

Photos: electric scooter charging station and bicycles for rent in Valencia and Barcelona, Spain (Penny McKinlay)

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email ecofriendlysask@gmail.com if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

You can also follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter