Thursday 29 September 2011

Green Graphic Design: El Designo, Edmonton

by Penny McKinlay

El Designo is a graphic design company in Edmonton. Their fun website states: “We use our wrestling skills to protect the environment, battling papers that lead to deforestation, inks that lead to pollution and printing techniques that create waste.

I met with Marc Nipp, one of El Designo’s partners in October 2010, and he told me about the origins of his business and some of his methods.

Protecting your Children’s Health and Safety
“I didn’t use to be so aware of environmental concerns,” says Marc Nipp, “but it became very personal when my wife and I started having children.” The couple started with food, examining what their children were putting in their mouths: “We were shocked at what was in some of the products.” As a result, they expanded their research to include everything their children came in contact with.

Some products were really hard to find so Allison MacLean, Marc’s wife, opened Carbon at 10184 104 Street NW to stock and sell the type of products that she wanted to buy for her family. [There is a similar store  in Saskatoon, The Better Good.]

El Designo
Marc is a graphic designer, so he prepared all the marketing and design materials for Carbon. He immediately ran into problems as so many of the standard techniques were toxic or bad for the environment.

Marc was already thinking about starting his own design studio. His goal was now to start a green business.

“I didn’t want to wag my finger and shame businesses,” says Marc. “I wanted to do my research and make green solutions economically viable.”

Green design options go far beyond your choice of paper or ink. Instead, the focus is on planning ahead and on developing coordinated marketing strategies. Marc outlined the strategies that his company uses to help customers who are interested in employing green design strategies.

Use as much of the press sheet as possible
Printing presses use large sheets of paper, and there can be a lot of waste if your pamphlet or flyer is not designed to maximize use of the sheet. Marc recommends to his customers that they bundle design projects together as much as possible. By printing postcards, business cards and posters all at the same time, you can make sure that you are using as much of the press sheet as possible.

Marc has also developed a close relationship with the printing company so he knows exactly how the materials will fit on the sheet and can suggest minor adjustments to the publication sizes to make the best use possible of the paper.

Plan ahead so you know how many copies you will need and how frequently they will need to be updated
Stock rooms are often full of surplus materials that end up being thrown out. A little planning can help you avoid this situation. Covers can be designed so that they don’t become outdated. If you know that a document will need updating frequently, it pays to do smaller runs on a digital printer, printing copies as and when needed.

Do your own binding
Marc’s company uses a grommet machine to do their own binding. This way, they can make up what they need, when they need it.

Capture the trial run paper
Printers always do a trial run to make sure that the print job is set up correctly. If you have established a good relationship with your printer, you can capture that paper and use it internally. For example, El Designo uses the trial run as examples in their portfolio.

Be creative about reusing surplus copies of publications
Marc asks customers what they have an excess of to see if maybe it can be transformed into something useful.

El Designo generates a lot of paper waste. They turn outdated paper swatches into mini sketchbooks and give them away as a promotional device. Marc says that European companies are being really creative about reusing surplus materials. One company created 3D snowmen from outdated annual reports and gave them away as promotional items.

Design multi-purpose marketing items
Creative thinking can help you use marketing items for more than one purpose. Carbon placed bus boards on Edmonton’s hybrid buses. At the end of the advertising period, they collected the majority of the banners. Two are now up in the store as banners, while others are held in reserve to be pulled out for trade shows.

Make non-toxic choices
It isn’t just personal perfumes or recycled air that are degrading workplace air quality. Lots of printer inks, plastics and vinyls contain volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are released into the air we breathe. Stockrooms can be very unhealthy places.

El Designo lets their customers know that there are alternatives (bamboo veneer, wheat board, Mythic Paint). However, many of these products aren’t available locally. The customers themselves weigh up the different options and make their own individual choices.

Will that be paper or electronic?
“I really like paper,” says Marc. “It’s such an important part of our lives, from wedding certificates to drivers’ licenses, and it works really well as a communication tool.” Marc also points out that electronic documents have their own environmental costs – from electricity needs to rapid turnover of electronic equipment.

Marc uses paper that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. He also emphasizes that products that have been well designed will be kept. It’s bad design if your product is immediately thrown out.

Green Design Options
Marc emphasizes that El Designo is, first and foremost, a design studio. “We’re here to start a dialogue with business and see how we can produce greener promotional products. We offer our customers eco solutions, but not all of them are interested.”

On the Lookout for Green Graphic Design Companies
Verda Design & Communications is an eco-friendly, bilingual Winnipeg graphic design, branding, web design and development firm and one of EcoFriendly’s Twitter followers (thanks!). I've also heard of Kimbo, a Vancouver firm that advocates for sustainable design.

I’m not aware of any green graphic design companies in Saskatoon or Regina, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Do let us know if there is one, and we’ll share that information with EcoFriendly’s readers.

What can we do?
Ecological Guide to Paper (Celery Design)
Green Graphic Design
Re-Nourish Tools and Resources
Responsible Graphic Design Tips

Note: This article was originally published on Wanderlust and Words in October 2010

Tuesday 27 September 2011

EcoSask News, September 27, 2011

Saskatoon Nature Society Outings

Saw-whet Owl Banding - Saturday, October 1
Northern Saw-whet Owls migrate south at this time of the year. Marten will attempt to capture the owls in a mist net and then record physical measurements. Bring a flashlight.
Time: 7:00 pm - ?
Place: Meet at the Tourist Information Centre at the north end of Avenue C
Leader: Marten Stoffel (934-3769)

Outlook Goose and Crane Trip - Sunday, October 2
Bring warm clothes and a picnic supper. The brave may want to walk the pedestrian bridge in Outlook if the weather permits.
Time: 1:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Place: Meet at the Co-op Service Station south of Stonebridge Mall on Clarence Ave.
Leaders: Dave Cook (955-4764) and Bob Girvan (493-2686)

Young Naturalists' Sandhill Crane Field Trip - Saturday, October 1
A field trip to Chief Whitecap Park south of Saskatoon to look for migrating Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife. We'll have binoculars and a spotting scope along to demonstrate how these tools can improve your wildlife watching experience. Parent Advisory: we will be walking along the shoreline of the South Saskatchewan River on this field trip. Registration is required.
Time: 10:00 am - 12 noon
Place: Meet at Buena Vista School parking lot on 6th Street
Cost: Free
Call 975-3042 for more information or to register, or e-mail

Chappell Marsh Conservation Area
Ducks Unlimited opened the Chappell Marsh Conservation Area on the southwest boundary of Saskatoon on September 14. There are five groomed nature trails with interpretive stations, benches, and a shelter for educational programming.

Solar Power in Sunny Saskatchewan
The Canadian Solar Industries Association - a trade association representing 650 solar companies - believes that Saskatchewan has the potential to be a solar energy leader. Saskatchewan has the most bright sunshine of any province in Canada, a useful resource when facing a rising electrical demand, the need to replace aging generation infrastructure, and an existing power supply that is more greenhouse gas intensive than most other provinces.

Suncatcher Ink, a new blog by Angelika Ortlepp, promises to serve up news, tips, information about solar and wind energy, green lifestyles, solar home design, business writing and speaking, unusual and eco travel opportunities, science and nature, art and design. Recent blog posts provide plans and photos of solar homes in and around Saskatoon.

New Coal-Fired Plant Regulations: Public Comment Period
On Friday August 19, the federal government released its long-awaited new regulations for coal-fired power plants that will go into effect starting in 2015. However, environmental groups have slammed the regulations, explaining that existing coal plants will essentially be given a free pass to pollute for decades to come, and that the new Maxim coal plant won't be required to play by the rules.

The public consultation period for the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations is now open until October 26, 2011. Details are available in the Canada Gazette.

Saskatchewan EnerGuide for Houses
April 1st, 2011 - October 31st, 2013
Thinking of ways to make your home more energy efficient? The Saskatchewan EnerGuide for Houses (SEGH) program offers provincial grants for home improvements that lower energy costs, improve comfort and reduce your home’s impact on the environment.

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

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 22 September 2011

Confederation Inn, Saskatoon: Going Green and Saving Money

Brian Sawatzky has been trying to reduce his carbon footprint for the past 20 years. Six years ago he purchased the Confederation Inn (3330 Fairlight Drive, Saskatoon) and saw it as an opportunity to put his ideas into practice.

The Confederation Inn is an independent hotel, and this was a huge advantage as Brian was able to experiment and try out different approaches.

Brian was interested in saving money as well as reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint. The solar panels on the roof of the hotel are the most obvious sign that this is an environmentally-sustainable hotel, but Brian says that the payback on other items has been much bigger, and he proceeds to list all the different methods he has used to create a more environmentally-friendly hotel.

Heating and cooling
Temperature controls: It’s a warm summer day and the air conditioning is running, but it’s nowhere near as icy-cold as it is in many other public buildings. The hotel maintains its indoor temperature during the summer at around 24 degrees, and around 20 degrees during the winter. Brian says people accept that range, and he saves a lot of money.

The thermostats in all the rooms are now programmable. This cost approximately $20-40 per unit but has paid for itself in much less than a year.

The thermostat in the pub is turned down to 15 degrees overnight in the winter, and it only takes half an hour in the morning to get the temperature back up again. If the banquet room won’t be used for a few days, the temperature is turned down to 13-14 degrees. “We turn it down as low as possible without freezing anything or getting frost build-up,” Brian explains.

Fans: Brian installed ceiling fans in the banquet room and the restaurant. In the winter, the fans move the heat down to where the people are, and in the summer they help to cool the air so less air conditioning is required.

In the kitchen, a mammoth fan is pointed at the cook to keep her cool while she works.

Windows: As the windows break, they are replaced with triple-pane glass. Plastic over the windows in the pool area has got rid of the drafts and raised the temperature.

The hotel has installed awnings on the two suites on the south side of the building. Brian says that this has reduced the summer air conditioning bill for those rooms by half by keeping the heat out. Brian plans to install awnings on the west side of the building but is still looking for a cost-effective system. He wants to be able to remove the awnings in the winter to take advantage of the solar heat.

Insulation: Uninsulated exterior doors have now been insulated. This has done away with the ice build-up and significantly reduced heat loss in the winter. Air conditioning units are covered in the winter to reduce drafts.

Brian plans to add additional insulation to the inside of the north wall of the banquet room. He'll upgrade the insulation on the roof when it's replaced.

Solar hot water: Brian obtained two grants that paid for approximately half the cost of installing 40 solar hot water panels. He figures he saves approximately $7-8,000 a year on natural gas. He maintains the old system as a back-up for cloudy winter days.

If you have a backyard swimming pool, Brian recommends installing solar hot water. Solar heat is readily available in the summer, and you’ll generate as much heat as you’ll need. He also recommends a pool cover.

The hotel covers the hot tub at night. This is a big savings in the summer; less heat escapes, so less air conditioning is required.

One of Brian’s first acts when he took over the Confederation Inn was to get rid of the incandescent light bulbs in the rooms and the hallways. It cost $700 to replace 350 bulbs (going from 60 watts to 13 watts), and the payback was under one year. “Incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat that has to be counteracted by air conditioning,” Brian explains. “Hot countries have been quicker to ban incandescent bulbs.”

The ballasts and bulbs in the tubular fluorescents were replaced by more efficient ballast and bulbs (going from 82 watts to 32 watts), and they installed mirrored reflectors. “The reflectors are a one-time-only cost,” Brian says. “They last forever and they put the light where you want it – down – not up or sideways.”

Brian is starting to use LED lights, but it has taken time as the first lights weren’t very good. “They’re better now,” he says. “They’re cheaper, have a better colour range and put out more light.” All the lights are LED, except for four fluorescents, in the small meeting room. In the past, it would have required 1000 watts to light the room; it now requires 100.

LED lighting is particularly helpful in hard-to-reach areas (e.g. street lighting) or when the lights are on 24 hours a day (e.g. exit signs) as incandescent bulbs need to be replaced every 1,000 hours, whereas LED lights last for 15-20,000 hours.

All the public washrooms now have motion sensors so the lights only come on when someone enters the room.

Kitchen and restaurant
One of the biggest energy guzzlers in the old restaurant was a conveyor-belt toaster. It was running constantly and generated a lot of excess heat. It’s been replaced by enough pop-up toasters to satisfy peak traffic. They have almost as much capacity as they did in the past, but they’re only using one tenth the electricity.

Tipping fees were a major expense in the past as cardboard boxes went straight into the bin without being flattened. Now that the cardboard is recycled, they have gone from 4 garbage pick-ups a week to one, and are saving $9,000 a year.

Brian burns the filtered vegetable oil in his Volkswagen Jetta. All the table linens and towels are brown, so they don’t require bleach and don’t have to be thrown out as soon as they become stained. The hotel uses recycled paper products (e.g. napkins) from Cascade.

The large beer cooler in the off-license used to be cooled with water at over $4,000 a month. They switched to a new system with a coolant that can be recycled. The new system cost $40,000, but it has paid for itself in 1½ years and is now saving them $2,000 a month.

Bathroom fixtures
The hotel is switching to low-flow toilets (6 litres in the past, 3-4 litre, single-flush toilets in future) as the fixtures are replaced.

All the shower heads have been replaced. Most stores offer 2.5 gallons/minute low-flow shower heads, but Brian found 1.5 gallons/minute shower heads that were quite good and hasn’t had any complaints. Aerators on the faucets have reduced the flow from 2 gallons/minute to .5 gallons/minute for a 75% saving.

Parking lot
Brian replaced the majority of the electric outlets in the parking lot with intelligent parking lot controls. If it’s warm, the electricity doesn’t flow, and it shuts itself off, coming back on more frequently in colder weather. The controls cost $180 each but are now eligible for a rebate from SaskPower.

Taxi drivers are not allowed to idle their vehicles while waiting for passengers, and Brian plans to extend this policy to all drivers. He will install LED lights in the parking lot once the price goes down.

Management incentives
Brian knew that his green initiatives would only be effective if he had buy-in from his staff. The managers now receive a percentage of the hotel’s gross revenue minus half of the utility bill as part of their pay package, so they are personally motivated to avoid wasting power.

Community involvement
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s annual fundraising banquet, the Sustainable Gourmet, is held at Confederation Inn. It’s certainly appropriate.

Confederation Inn is one of Road Map Saskatoon’s Sustainability Champions.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

EcoSask News, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 25 - World Rivers Day

Join with millions of river enthusiasts around the world by celebrating World Rivers Day on Sunday, September 25. There is an abundance of different activities as outlined below:

Songbird Walk, 9 am
The Saskatoon Nature Society will walk some of the riverside trails in Cosmopolitan Park to look for migrating songbirds and waterbirds.
Time: 9 - 10 am
Place: Meet at the corner of 16th Street E and Saskatchewan Crescent
Leader: Stan Shadick (652-5975)

Keeping our River Tidy, 9 am
Join Trash Dashers in collecting garbage or debris along the river’s edge. The run starts at the Peace Flame, Rotary Park (south side / west of Victoria Bridge).

Native Plant River Walk, 1 pm
Join Chet Neufeld, Executive Director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, for a free interpretive walk near the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. The event is for all ages and expertise and will cover the plants, animals, and landscapes of Saskatoon’s watershed.

Meet at the small parking lot just north of the Regional Psychiatric Centre on Central Avenue. Bring sturdy footwear, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent. For further information, contact Chet at (306) 668-3940 or

Walk for Wildlife, 1 pm
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is holding a 5k walk to raise funds for the Society at Chief Whitecap Park. Contact volunteer coordinator Jamille McLeod (652-2922, for more information.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is a registered non-profit organization that is committed to educating the public about wildlife issues, providing rehabilitation, and ensuring the return to the wild of rescued, injured and truly orphaned wildlife (take a look at these wonderful photographs of animals the society has helped).

Meewasin Valley Authority, 1 pm
Join the Meewasin Valley Authority in celebrating World Rivers Day from 1 - 4 pm at Friendship Park (next to the Meewasin Valley Centre, 402 Third Avenue S). Call 665-6888 for further information.

  • Who/What’s in our River: Come dip in the river and get the scoop from Greg Fenty of the Saskatoon Zoo Society as well as meet some Zoo critters;
  • River Talk: Professor Jeff Sereda and some of the research team from the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan are keen to share exciting findings about an ever-changing river ecosystem;
  • A Stream of Fun & Facts: MVA staff and local community association members will educate and entertain little people with fun, facts and face painting; and
  • Learn to Kayak on the River: Come, see, learn from Coldspring Paddling‘s Brian Sarauer - tips on water safety and proper operation of the kayak on the river.

Fall Picnic at Blackstrap, 1:30 pm
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society at Blackstrap to look for birds on the lake, followed by a picnic dinner around 5 pm.
Time: 1:30 - 7 pm
Place: Meet at the NW corner of the parking lot for the Centre at Circle and 8th
Leader: Michael Williams (242-5383)

Blue Drinks, Winston's Pub, 6 pm
Similar to Green Drinks, this pub-based discussion group is an informal, relaxed opportunity to talk about local water issues with members of We Are Many.

Other Upcoming Events

Slump, Slither & Slide, September 21
As part of the Prairie Conservation Action Plan’s Technical Native Prairie Speaker Series, Laura Gardiner, MSc. candidate at the University of Regina, will be speaking about the major slump event that happened at the Grasslands National Park snake pit this summer on Wednesday, September 21 from 12:10 - 12:50 pm at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium, Regina. Anyone can attend. Parking and the speaker series are free.

If you can't make it in person, you can watch the presentation live on the web at

Zoo Crew, September 23
Children aged 5 to 12 are invited to spend a day at the zoo (8:30 am - 4:30 pm) with interpreters from the Saskatoon Zoo Society. The cost is $45 and more information is available online.

Land, Water and Human Rights, September 23
Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director Robert Fox and National Farmers’ Union President Terry Boehm will speak on the global and local effects of land grabs on Friday, September 23 from 7:30 - 9 pm at Praxis International (Saskatoon Farmers’ Market). For more information, contact 242-4097.

Word on the Street, September 25
Don’t miss Word on the Street - a street fair celebrating Canadian literature - on Sunday, September 25. Allan Casey, Trevor Herriot, and Candace Savage, three of Saskatchewan’s top natural history writers, will be speaking and reading from their books.

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

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 15 September 2011

CHEP Good Food Inc.

Working with community gardeners to increase access to fresh, affordable, healthy food

Scattered around Saskatoon are over 18 very different community gardens. The University residences have a huge garden with lots of ethnic diversity. City Park Community Garden is one of the oldest in the city with small plots cared for by individual families or residents. The Caswell Hill Garden is new and is a shared, communal responsibility.

St. Matthew’s Anglican and St. Martin’s United Church both provide space for community gardens. The garden at Aden Bowman Collegiate provides hands-on experience for the students in the EarthKeepers Program, and the food is used in-house. A few plots are set aside for community members.

Operating a community garden is a big responsibility, requiring administrative and people-management skills as well as gardening experience. Local residents share land and resources and build a sense of belonging to a community. Fortunately, help is available from CHEP Good Food Inc.’s Community Gardening Coordinator, Ruth Anne Rudack.

CHEP Good Food Inc.
CHEP was originally formed to respond to child hunger. Community members saw hungry children and wanted to help fill their bellies. As CHEP evolved, its mission expanded and they now run a multitude of programs for children, families and communities in order to improve access to fresh, affordable, healthy food and to promote food security.

“We can’t solve food security on a global scale,” Ruth Anne explains, “but, by helping community gardeners, we can take one more step towards producing more local food and greater sustainability.”

Ruth Anne says that there has been increased interest in community gardening over the past three years. Accessibility to land was a problem at first, but City officials and community decision-makers have grown in their understanding and appreciation for community gardening. Saskatoon Public Schools provided funding and support for four pilot projects in 2011, and the number of churches providing land is growing.

The City of Saskatoon is not only supporting community gardens on public parkland but has made all vacant city-owned parcels available for food production by non-profit organizations, such as the Saskatoon Food Bank garden on 2nd Avenue.

As well as providing start-up information, CHEP co-signs the leases for community gardens on City-owned land, provides the gardens with liability insurance and shares responsibility for restoring the land should the garden fail.

Fall brings an end to active gardening, but educational activities still continue. Canning workshops help community gardeners to use traditional methods of preserving their crops, while container planting workshops in the spring encourage more people to try their hand at gardening.

In February 2011, 100 participants attended a community gardening conference organized by CHEP. Focused on Garden Coordinators and other organizers within a garden, the conference discussed increased food security through local production and community engagement. Another conference is planned for this coming February, and Ruth Anne anticipates that the discussion will expand to include problem-solving, cultural sensitivity, and advocating for the cause.

Practical gardening sessions are scheduled for Seedy Saturday in March. CHEP has hosted Seedy Saturday for 13 years, and it has grown from a simple seed exchange to encompass educational workshops and advocacy. Over 600 people attended Seedy Saturday in 2011, and there were 40 people in every workshop. Participants recognize that seed exchange not only preserves heritage seeds but also encourages sustainable living and future food security.

Supporting community gardeners
Some of the gardens, particularly those in the inner city, need some initial assistance (e.g. tools, seeds, transplants) because they haven’t yet built up their capacity, so CHEP steps in to provide support. “We nurture the community gardens,” Ruth Anne says, “but we really try to let the community do it themselves and learn as they grow.”

In July, CHEP took a bus load of people out to the Strawberry Ranch to pick fruit. A group also visited Jim Ternier’s seed saving garden at St. Peter’s Abbey and Dellwood Creek Gardens, a peaceful garden mixing vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Food security
Community gardening is evolving from a recreational activity on small plots of land to intensive gardening on larger plots as people seek to produce their own food in order to ensure greater food safety, a smaller carbon footprint, and financial savings.

Collective gardening
Caswell Hill Community Garden, located in Ashworth Holmes Park, is trying out a new style of community garden. Rather than individual allotments, they are working together as a community to plant and harvest the garden. School children helped with planting in the spring, and a grade one class planted a children’s garden.

All the community gardens on City property have community plots where people passing by can pick, but the majority of plots are maintained and harvested by individuals and families for their own use. Various gardens around the city offer children’s gardens, a compost program, native plants, or wheelchair-accessible raised beds.

If you are interested in starting or becoming involved in a community garden, contact Ruth Anne Hudack,  Community Gardening Coordinator, CHEP Good Food Inc. at 655-5322.

Photos: City Park Community Garden, Penny McKinlay

Tuesday 13 September 2011

EcoSask News, September 13, 2011

Bicycles for Humanity, September 17
Local representatives of Bicycles for Humanity will be collecting used mountain bicycles to send to Uganda on Saturday, September 17 from 9 am to 3 pm in the lot at the corner of 20th Street and Avenue B (former Barry Hotel). A bicycle pickup service is available, and they welcome cash donations to cover shipping costs.

Since 2006, Bicycles for Humanity chapters across Canada have sent over 40 containers full of bicycles to Africa. For Africans, a bicycle increases access to water, jobs, school, or medical help.

Songbird Migration, September 17
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society for a stroll about the Forestry Farm on Saturday, September 17 from 9-11 am to look for migrant songbirds. The group will meet near the south end of the main parking lot. Contact Robert Johanson (653-2610) for additional information.

Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet, October 7-8
Nature Saskatchewan will hold its fall meet on October 7 and 8 in Cypress Hills Provincial Park. Activities will include a moonlit walk on the highland interpretive trail, an early-morning walk to find bugling elk, and a variety of mild to strenuous walks. Registration information is available on Nature Saskatchewan’s website.

Tour de Jour, Beaver Creek
Explore nature with specialists from the Beaver Creek Conservation Area every Sunday in September from 2-3 pm.

Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin Annual Conference, November 16-18
Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin will hold their annual conference from November 16 to 18 at the Saskatoon Inn. The theme is Planning for Extremes. The purpose of the conference is to bring researchers, natural resource managers, policy makers and local stakeholders together to heighten awareness and share information on planning for either too much or too little water in the Saskatchewan River Basin and is designed to stimulate communication and idea exchange.

The cut-off date for registrations is 4:30 pm on Thursday, November 10, 2011. Early bird registration fees (prior to September 30) are $200 for members of Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin and $225 for non-members.

Education Consultant, Prairie Conservation Action Plan
SK PCAP plans to develop and pilot a new two-year (2011-2013) interactive, action-orientated, environmental education program targeted towards Grades 6-8 students and their teachers called Taking Action For Prairie. PCAP plans to hire an Education Consultant to develop student action-oriented programming, a teacher workshop, curriculum-based resources for teachers, and a program evaluation for Year One (2011-2012) of TAFP. Details are available on their website. Deadline is Wednesday, September 14, 2011.

Dakota Skipper and Snapping Turtle Photos Wanted
Nature Saskatchewan is looking for photographs of the Dakota Skipper, a threatened butterfly, and the Snapping Turtle, a species of special concern, for their 2012 Stewards of Saskatchewan Species at Risk calendar. If you or anyone you know has photos of these species, please contact Sarah Vinge at Nature Saskatchewan.

World Rivers Day, September 25
September 25 is World Rivers Day and people across Saskatoon and Saskatchewan will be celebrating. To get an advance peek at what is planned, take a look at the EcoFriendly Sask’s EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page.

Next week’s edition of EcoSask News will provide more details of all the activities.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email 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 or email (top right corner).

Thursday 8 September 2011

Lichen Nature: Salvaging and Reclaiming our Biodiversity

When Elizabeth Bekolay was just a newborn baby straight out of the hospital, her mother took her to Little Red River Park, a 1200-acre boreal forest near Prince Albert, for the afternoon. It was an opportunity for her, while still very young, to imprint on trees and forest sounds rather than an indoor setting.

As Elizabeth grew up, nature continued to be her refuge. By the time she was 13, she was riding her bicycle to the nearby forest almost every day to go for long walks in the trees. “I found it really grounding,” Elizabeth explains. “The forest became my classroom, and I learned so much.”

Outdoor education for children
As Elizabeth grew older, her interest in the natural environment continued to grow. She  went on several hikes with Kahlee Keane, a Saskatchewan eco-herbalist and educator with a deep interest in the protection of wild plants and read some of her books (e.g. The Standing People: Field guide to medicinal plants of the prairie provinces).

After completing a Certificate in Ecological Education at the University of Saskatchewan, Elizabeth completed an internship with the Prince Albert Outdoor School and volunteered with the program the following year. She enjoyed it so much that she returned to the University of Saskatchewan planning to obtain her Bachelor of Education in order to teach in Prince Albert. But halfway through the program, Elizabeth realized that she didn’t know enough science so she switched programs and obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology.

She worked at the Beaver Creek Interpretive Centre in the summers, spending time with children, going for daily hikes, and watching plants progress from bloom to seed. She also worked with the University of Saskatchewan Ecology Camp and the Saskatoon Public School’s Brightwater Science and Environmental Program (where she still works).

Salvaging native plants
For many years, Elizabeth had salvaged native plants from development areas and relocated them in her garden. Forest plants went in shady areas, and the plants thrived. Her garden became a nature retreat within the city.

In 2010, Elizabeth and volunteer Jordan Schultz expanded the salvage operation with the creation of a company called Lichen Nature. Friends and family pitched in too. Gabriel, Elizabeth’s oldest son, designed the Lichen Nature logo and Alastair, the youngest, initiated the frog rescue effort from the wetlands that were scheduled to be buried.

The summers of 2010 and 2011 were largely dedicated to salvaging plants from the Nisbet Provincial Forest, trying to stay one step ahead of the road construction equipment which was expanding the highway to Prince Albert. It was an impossible task, and they were able to rescue less than 1% of the native prairie and boreal transition species before they were destroyed.

Elizabeth and Jordan would go out with shovels and dig as big an area as they could each carry and as deep as the shovel would go. Each plug would contain several plant species and, by taking all the soil, the plug would include the micro flora the plants needed to grow and thrive.

Lichen Nature would then identify a resident who wanted a native garden, prepare the site by cleaning out the roots of other plants, and lay out the plugs, leaving as little space as possible between them. They have continued with this work in 2011, replanting a dozen gardens in the past two years.

Permaculture: creating a forest of food
There is a growing interest in permaculture, particularly now that the Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan is training more and more people. Permaculture experts try to design holistic, sustainable gardens that provide food and wildlife habitat as well as replenishing the soil. Rather than huge expanses of a single crop, they create a forest of food with a canopy of fruit trees, a layer of shrubs (Saskatoon berries, raspberries), and ground cover.

Unfortunately, permaculture has not tended to use native plants. Elizabeth and her business partner, Shaun Abbs, have spent the past summer developing methods for combining permaculture and native plants, and they believe that native plants would be used more intensively if they were economical and more widely available.

Looking ahead
Lichen Nature has found it difficult to combine a push to salvage as many plants as possible during the short summer months with replanting residential gardens. “If I was more than one person, I’d be rescuing plants and then propagating them,” Elizabeth says. She is talking with other individuals and organizations and hopes that they will be able to develop some joint projects.

For example, Will Stacey, a member of Friends of Prince Albert National Park, has established a Community Native Nursery and distributes native seedlings free of charge (courtesy of SaskPower) for planting within the Park. He hopes that only native plants will be planted in the Waskesiu townsite in the future.

In the spring of 2011, Will launched his own business, Borealis Earthscapes, offering native landscaping, design and consulting services for clients in the Lakeland region. For more information, contact Will Stacey at

Elizabeth believes that biodiversity is essential for the health of our ecosystem. So much development is currently happening in Saskatchewan, and there is no legislation requiring the salvage of the native flora.

“Every environmental impact study should contain a provision for salvaging a certain percentage of healthy biodiversity from the site, either for future site reclamation or for reclamation of similar sites nearby,” she says, pointing to Sudbury, Ontario, which has successfully undertaken a large-scale ecological salvage project as part of its greening of an industrial city. Similarly, The Green Project is a community-wide effort to accelerate the restoration of the forests in Flin Flon and Creighton.

You can learn more about Lichen Nature’s work on their website and subscribe for email information, such as profiles of native plants. You can also like Lichen Nature’s Facebook page.

Be sure to contact Lichen Nature at if you know of any development sites (housing subdivisions, agricultural expansions, mining) that need an ecological salvage effort.

Photographs were provided by Lichen Nature.

What we can do:
Celebrate the UN International Year of Forests
Take your children for a nature walk
Visit the Beaver Creek Interpretive Centre
Visit the Ness Creek Forest Garden
Read articles from Gatherings, journal of the international community for ecopsychology
Read Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Richard Louv

Tuesday 6 September 2011

EcoSask News, September 6, 2011

Fall Bird Count, September 10
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they survey the birds in the Saskatoon District for their Fall Bird Count on Saturday, September 10. Novice birders will be assigned to an experienced leader. Contact Michael Williams (242-5383) by September 8 for additional information.

Salt Cedar Surveys, September 8 & 15
Help the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council and the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan search for invasive salt cedar:

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

Saskatoon Nature Society, September 15
The Saskatoon Nature Society’s meeting on Thursday, September 15 at 7:30 pm features a presentation by Kathleen and Michael Pitt on their 950 km. canoe journey down the Thelon River from Great Slave Lake to Hudson Bay.

All the Society’s meetings are open to the public and are held in Room 106 of the Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

Rio+20 Workshop
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is hosting one of ten Rio+20 Summit Civil Society Workshops on Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 1-4 pm in Room 45, Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan.

The workshops will influence the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

If you would like to attend, send an email to

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

Western Mining Action Network Conference, September 23-25
The Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) supports a network to protect communities, land, water, air, and wildlife by reforming mining practices and holding government and corporations accountable. Their eighth biennial gathering, Working Together as One: Sustainable Water, Culture and Healthy Communities, will be held in Prince Albert from September 23-25.

Topics will include uranium mining, protecting water resources, and indigenous/cultural issues associated with mineral resource extraction. There will be a special activities track for young people and other newcomers to mining issues. WMAN prioritizes applicants who are directly affected by mining, who live in communities dealing with mining-related issues, or who work on issues related to mining.

Net Metering Program Extended
The provincial Net Metering Program provides rebates of up to $35,000 to people who wish to install small wind, solar or other green power generation equipment and connect to the province’s electricity system (excess electricity is fed back into the grid, and the customer receives a credit on their power bill).

The province’s Go Green Fund has committed an additional $2 million to extend the program for another year to March 30, 2012. Additional information and a list of vendors is available from Saskatchewan’s Green Directory.

Contact the Saskatchewan Research Council to apply.

Saskatoon Neighbourhood Carshare
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Saskatoon Neighbourhood Carshare, go to their Facebook event page and indicate that you plan to attend. The project is a joint initiative of the University of Saskatoon and We Are Many and is currently in the feasibility stage.

The Saskatoon car sharing co-op would operate as an extension of the Regina Car Share (RCS), which has successfully provided the service over the past four years. Joining with the RCS would allow Saskatoon residents to begin carsharing as soon as possible and would provide Saskatoon members with access to the vehicles in Regina.

For more information, contact Rebecca Anderson at

Wascana Creek One of the Most Polluted in Canada
Regina’s Wascana Creek is almost entirely fed by treated sewage, and recent studies show that it is one of the most polluted creeks in the country. Personal care products have been found as far as 60 kilometres away from the city. The studies indicate that residents can help by following proper disposal methods for pharmaceuticals and personal care products, but the city needs to fully upgrade its waste water plant to remove nitrogen completely from the waste stream.

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

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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Thursday 1 September 2011

Meewasin Valley Authority

Lazily curving its way through Saskatoon, the South Saskatchewan River is a central feature of our city. The riverbanks have sustained local residents throughout the centuries – from First Nations people gathering to pick Saskatoon berries to current-day cyclists, kayakers, and jazz musicians.

Early settlers recognized the importance of green spaces and limited private development along the river. This tradition has been maintained. In 1979 when a local developer wanted to build on riverfront property in River Heights, local residents united to defeat the proposal, and the provincial government created the Meewasin Valley Authority.

A far-reaching mandate
The Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) is responsible for protecting and developing the South Saskatchewan River Valley and for educating the public about the valley’s natural, cultural, and heritage resources. Their jurisdiction stretches from Pike Lake and Beaver Creek in the south to Clark’s Crossing in the north, encompassing conservation areas, parks, museums, interpretive centres, the university lands, canoe launches, community links, and over 60 kilometres of Meewasin Trail.

The Meewasin Valley Authority is responsible for designing and developing infrastructure and facilities (trails, benches, playgrounds), conserving and promoting the natural and heritage resources of the area (conservation activities, interpretive signage, educational programs), and for reviewing development proposals within their jurisdiction (River Landing, Preston Crossing).

In 1978, the City and the Province sponsored a 100 Year Concept Plan for the river valley, prepared by Raymond Moriyama of Moriyama and Teshima Planners of Toronto, Ontario. The plan continues to direct the work of the Meewasin Valley Authority on both a practical and a visionary basis.

Pragmatics and poetics
“Meewasin Valley Authority has the opportunity to take a holistic approach to development of the river valley,” explains Mike Velonas, Resource Planning Manager. “Moriyama’s 100-Year Plan is very poetic. It’s a blueprint for development and is much less rigid than a zoning bylaw.”

As the MVA reviews proposals for development within the conservation area, they consider not only the built and natural environment but also how people will use the space, the economics, and the social climate. A large number of authorities reviewed the plans for the South Bridge and its potential impact on the land, the fish and the water to ensure that it complied with all the relevant regulations. In addition, the MVA looked at the river valley and its inhabitants. They took into consideration how the bridge would hook up with the trail system and the pedestrian experience (parks, access to the bridge).

The design of River Landing demonstrates the blend of poetics and pragmatics. The structure is solidly in place, but there are also mosaic fish designed by local school children, a bridge curving around a fish spawning area, and a water park providing an interpretive map of the Saskatchewan River basin. Even the tree grates (many designed by local students) serve as public art with designs that include local produce at the Farmers’ Market, pelicans and ducks along the lower paths at River Landing, and Aboriginal designs on the upper trails.

River Landing
A significant portion of the MVA’s resources over the past few years have been dedicated to developing River Landing. Working closely with the City, the MVA occupied the lead role during the first phase of the project, which included design work and hiring contractors. They are now serving as project manager during the second phase.

Moriyama’s plan foresaw River Landing as the point at which the downtown core connects with the river. Serving as a transition from the busy city streets, it is more hard-edged and less natural than other parts of the valley.

Although still under construction, River Landing is already a popular place for families with children, cyclists, and pedestrians and is home to a number of events, from river festivals to craft fairs.

RoadMap Saskatoon
Meewasin Valley Authority nurtures and provides indirect support for several non-profit associations, including Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin, Saskatoon Heritage Society, and RoadMap Saskatoon.

RoadMap Saskatoon’s goal is to increase awareness and to educate individuals, businesses and institutions on the importance of sustainability. A key facet of their work is to facilitate networking between different groups, such as their Sustainability Champions, community leaders who share their experiences of making their organizations more environmentally friendly.

RoadMap Saskatoon approaches sustainability from a very broad perspective that encompasses community, environment, and economy. The organization has been restrained by limited funding but believes it can play a significant role by serving as a neutral arbiter, viewing individual issues from a more holistic standpoint.

Pamela Larson is RoadMap’s Planning Officer and has a degree in Urban Planning. She is looking forward to expanding the Sustainability Champions program as well as undertaking other new projects.

The organization’s most successful project to date is the Bicycle Valet, which provides a secure area where people can leave their bicycles while attending local festivals. They stored over 1500 bicycles during the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and just under 1200 bicycles during Taste of Saskatchewan (over 300 in a single day).

A smorgasbord of activities
Meewasin Valley Authority carries out a tremendous variety of activities on relatively limited funding. And they don’t waste money tooting their own horn. Do check out their calendar of events, which includes activities for children and heritage programming at the Marr Residence. Visit their interpretive centres at Beaver Creek Conservation Area and their downtown location. Go for a canoe ride in the summer or skating in the winter. Sign up for Explorer, Meewasin’s bi-monthly newsletter by sending an email to

But, above all else, get outside and enjoy the trails and the riverbank. The river valley is Saskatoon’s most valuable treasure, and the Meewasin Valley Authority is fulfilling an important function by safeguarding it for future generations.

Coming soon: The Northeast Bioswale: ancient river valley, urban nature reserve