Tuesday 28 January 2014

EcoSask News, January 28, 2014


Winter Cycling Workshop, Jan. 28 
It may be cold outside, but that shouldn't stop you cycling. Find out more at the USSU's Winter Cycling Workshop on Tuesday, January 28, from 4:30-5:30 pm at Louis' Loft, U of S. Chance to win a free set of winter tires!

Escape Winter – Food Gardening, Feb. 8 
Join the Prairie Master Gardeners for a day devoted to food gardening. Workshops include Small Space Gardening, Culinary Herbs, Harvesting & Storing Produce for Winter, and Starting a Horticultural Enterprise.

Global Citizen Awards, Feb. 8 
Mark Bigland-Pritchard will receive a Global Citizen Award from the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation at 7 pm on February 8 at Louis’ Loft, University of Saskatchewan.

Wildlife Rehab, Feb. 9 
Jan Shadick, who started Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, will be speaking at the Wild Birds Unlimited store on February 9 at 1:30 pm.

Passive House Presentation, Feb. 11 
ASHRAE Saskatoon invites you to attend a presentation on Passive House and Low Energy Buildings by Certified Passive House Designer, Stuart Fix, president of ReNu Building Science. RSVP by February 7.

Native Plant Conference, Feb. 14-15 
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan is hosting their 19th annual meeting and conference in Regina, February 14 and 15. The theme is landscape ecology. The keynote speaker is Jessamyn Manson, University of Alberta, who will speak on the relationship between plants and their animal pollinators.

Take Action 
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. Here are a couple of ideas:
Create a butterfly habitat corridor

Use YardMap (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) to attract more birds to your backyard and share your results with others

Thought Provoking
Wind Power Hits Roadblocks 
Many people are predicting that community-based energy generation is the way of the future. But it’s difficult to initiate. As a result, Saskatoon Community Wind must tackle high start-up costs and lots of difficulties. Should the City of Saskatoon lend their support to this project?

Fashion – too trendy, too cheap, too much
“Traditional sustainable clothing has focused on the process itself, but the slow fashion movement focuses on the entire cycle from start to finish.”

Thumbs Up
Tourism Saskatoon’s newly-launched Green Stem program encourages member businesses to adopt sustainability practices and strengthen their environmental commitment

U of S students are campaigning to ban sale of bottled water

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Thursday 23 January 2014

Shannon Dyck: Action & Inquiry - At School, At Work, and At Home

At School: From Art to Environmental Education
Shannon Dyck’s first five years at the University of Saskatchewan were devoted to art and art history.

In her fifth year at university, Shannon was elected Vice-President, Student Affairs, with the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union. Campus sustainability was part of her portfolio, and it played a decisive role in helping Shannon view sustainability as an implementation strategy - action rather than simply an idea.

She also came to realize that a lot of people know the environment is important, but they don’t know what to do about it or where to get started. “It was inspiring to find a lot of people out there who supported environmental goals. They just needed a helping hand to do it,” Shannon says.

Shannon felt that education could lead people to action, and she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in the School of Environment and Sustainability. The school’s interdisciplinary approach gave her the opportunity to segue from art to environmental studies, and Shannon believed that there were several faculty members who would support her ideas.

Shannon’s goal was to set up a research project that would provide empirical evidence of the value of environmental education. Building on her experience with the informal public education work done by student and community organizations, Shannon wanted to bring people together, help them identify areas where they felt they could change, and support them as they implemented those changes. She viewed her role as facilitator rather than teacher.

Shannon deliberately chose families that had expressed an interest in living more sustainably to participate in her research project. “Social networks are so important,” she says. “It’s hard to make change when you feel isolated. You need to be able to share information and ideas.” In addition, there was a teacher in each family as Shannon felt the project would have greater impact if they could pass their experiences along to their students. Teaching would also provide a common interest for the five families.

Shannon met with each of the families individually and asked them to conduct a photo audit by taking photographs of what they thought they were doing well and not well around their home. They were also asked to keep a journal, writing down their ideas and responding to guided questions as they went through the five-month education process.

The five households also held three joint meetings over three months and were encouraged to commit publicly to their proposed actions. “Social expectations are very strong,” Shannon says. “Once you commit publicly to something, you are much more likely to follow through.”

The thesis project had three key outcomes:

First of all, if you want to take action, you need to find a supportive network of people who will support, encourage, and work with you. “You’re always facing so much external pressure,” Shannon says. “You can’t do it alone.” In addition, “You don’t want people who think you’re crazy. You can’t do your best if you’re fighting naysayers.” 

Secondly, the model can be replicated as it’s easy to form teams on your own.

Thirdly, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. One family dramatically reduced their water consumption by placing an egg timer in the bathroom and limiting family members to seven-minute showers. They also reduced the amount of laundry.

At Work: Community Partners
Once Shannon had completed her Master’s program, she was hired as an Environmental Coordinator for the City of Saskatoon’s Environmental and Corporate Initiatives division.

She is responsible for both internal and external projects and works closely with community partners, such as the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, to support what’s already happening in the community.

For the past year she has been working with other City employees, community groups, and the two school boards on an action-oriented education program. The program is being piloted with 12 classroom teachers, each of whom are developing action projects in the areas of water, waste, transportation, energy, or food. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is helping each class to perform pre- and post- audits (e.g. a waste audit to determine what could have been reused, recycled, or composted). The City of Saskatoon is providing additional resources. One class decided to focus on energy conservation, so the City has provided them with energy monitors to use at school and in some homes. The teachers are given planning time so that they can do research and share ideas and information.

Shannon expects to be working on an employee environmental education project in the near future. It will build on the green team concept, supporting employees to work together to make changes in the workplace. Both projects involve action-oriented learning as well as social sharing and support, building on the knowledge Shannon gained through her university research.

At Home: A Sharing Economy
Shannon’s interest in action-oriented environmental education doesn’t end when she goes home at the end of the day. Shannon and her partner, Mike Nemeth, had discussed building a green home, but Wolf Willow introduced them to the concept of co-housing. This idea provided the social piece that is such a core element of Shannon’s environmental beliefs and actions. 

Shannon and Mike initiated Radiance Cohousing, a multi-generational, green housing project. Since March 2012, they have been working closely with other interested homeowners and have hired an architect and developed detailed architectural designs for seven townhouses and two garage suites. They group has also partnered with a developer for land acquisition and construction at Avenue L and 18th Street.

“Radiance Cohousing provides the environmental, social, and economic piece of what Mike and I had been discussing,” Shannon says. “Living at close quarters will give us the opportunity to create a sharing economy. We won’t all need our own lawn mowers, tools, canning equipment.” They also hope to reach out to the community at large by inviting community groups to use their multi-functional common space. Shannon would also like to start a community garden in Optimist Park, which will be across the street from their development. Mike Nemeth is a mechanical engineer with passive house certification, so he will be overseeing the design of the energy-efficient units.

Although Radiance is close to being full, they would still like to meet with interested people. “It’s good to have a waiting list,” Shannon says, “Co-housing is very dynamic.”

Circling Back: Art and the Environment
Over the years, Shannon has found ways to merge her interests in art and the environment. She is a nature photographer, incorporating reused and/or environmentally preferred materials into her art projects.

“I see my garden as my greatest canvas and permaculture design as a great way to combine my love for design with my love for being outdoors and growing food,” Shannon says. “Art and environment play off one another in very compatible ways.”

Shannon’s photographs can be found on Flickr.

Photo credits: Shannon Dyck, Radiance Cohousing

Tuesday 21 January 2014

EcoSask News, January 21, 2014


We Are Many AGM, Jan. 30
We Are Many is looking for volunteers and project leaders. To find out more, attend their Annual General Meeting on January 30 from 7-8 pm at the Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op.

Northern Birds, Feb. 8
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they head north to look for Northern Hawk Owls, Great Gray Owls, and wintering songbirds on February 8.

Introduction to Permaculture Design, Mar. 23
The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan is sponsoring a full-day Introduction to Permaculture Design workshop on March 23 at the Saskatoon Food Bank. Registration is limited so reserve early.

Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. Here’s an idea:

Care for urban trees – there’s an app for that!

Thumbs Up 
Congratulations to Kim Archibald who won the SOEEA’s outdoor educator award for 2013

Energy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down 
Community-owned power generation facilities could be financially viable by 2020

Community-funded solar power plants give Viennese residents a renewable energy option

Threatened by the increasingly diverse electricity generation market, utilities are pushing back on renewable energy incentives

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Wednesday 15 January 2014

NatureCity Festival 2014

EcoFriendly Sask is proud to support the second annual NatureCity Festival, to be held in Saskatoon from May 25-31, 2014.

The NatureCity Festival is a week-long extravaganza of field trips, talks, art shows, music and celebrations, all intended to remind us that, no matter how urban and modern we become, we are still part of the wonder and mystery of the natural world. Saskatoon shines with wild life, and our lives are richer as a result.

Saskatoon's first NatureCity Festival was held last spring and garnered Nature Saskatchewan's Conservation Award for 2013. More than 70 organizations and businesses participated in the inaugural event, offering a wide range of activities from nature walks to art exhibits to a community supper.

The Festival is produced by an informal group called Wild about Saskatoon: Connecting Nature and Culture in the City. As the organizing team for the Festival, Wild about Saskatoon concentrates on fundraising, program development, and publicity.

2014 Keynote Speakers 
Three keynote speakers have already been lined up for the 2014 Festival and all of them have waived their honoraria in order to support Wild About Saskatoon’s efforts.

Cam Collyer, Evergreen Foundation 
Evergreen is a national not-for-profit that inspires action for green cities in four key program areas:

Greenspace – restoration of neighbourhood greenspaces (from shoreline cleanups to green roofs)
Children – greening school grounds, outdoor education, play areas, water resources, leadership skills
Food – farmers’ market, community garden, urban orchard
CityWorks – sustainable development and green urban infrastructure policies and programs

Cam Collyer develops and oversees Evergreen’s programs that connect children and nature. He “has overseen the establishment of a national network of school ground design professionals, the creation of a large suite of print and web-based publications, the establishment of pioneering partnerships with schools boards across Canada and the distribution of over $2 million in grants to schools. Cam is also chair of the board of directors of Green Teacher magazine and is a co-founder of the International School Ground Alliance.”

Michelle Molnar, David Suzuki Foundation 
Michelle Molnar is an environmental economist with the David Suzuki Foundation. She is an authority on the value of wetlands, so her input is of particular interest as the City of Saskatoon is currently developing a wetlands policy.

Michelle contributed to a report on the economic value of the Lower Mainland’s natural capital – forests, fields, wetlands, and other ecosystems. “The study found the ecosystems with the highest values to be wetlands ($4,000 to $6,000 per hectare) and forests ($5,900 to $7,400 per hectare). The greatest economic benefits were climate regulation ($1.7 billion per year), water supply ($1.6 billion) and flood protection and water regulation ($1.2 billion).”

Michelle also worked on the Making Policy Live video documentary series illustrating local initiatives in BC’s Lower Mainland that are protecting and restoring nature in their communities.

Grant Pearsell, Office of Biodiversity, City of Edmonton 
The City of Edmonton has been a partner in the international Local Action for Biodiversity Project supporting the protection of urban biodiversity since 2007. In the first phase of the project from 2006 to 2009, the City completed a Biodiversity Report and Action Plan. The second phase of the project, running from 2010 to 2012, focuses on communication, education, and public involvement.

Grant Pearsell is Director of Edmonton’s Office of Biodiversity, overseeing a wide variety of programs. One interesting project is the Master Naturalist Program. Volunteers who are interested in learning more about ecology and naturalization and want to be involved in the stewardship of local natural areas attend 35 hours of training and field trips and then volunteer for 35 hours in activities that support natural areas management, protection, and education.

Festival Events 
A great many other activities are already in the works for the NatureCity Festival 2014: a warm-up event at the Farmers’ Market to launch the week, expanded programming for school classes and families, a series of coffee shop conversations on urban biodiversity, an artist-in-residence, and lots of beautiful little prairie shrubs and flowers to plant, a living reminder that we live on the northern edge of one of the world’s great grasslands.

Individuals and organizations are actively encouraged to participate and are invited to contribute whatever they do best: tours, field trips, lectures, children’s activities, family fun nights, music, art shows, performances – whatever you can dream up to engage the residents of Saskatoon with their home city as part of the living world.

To attract as wide a public as possible, Wild about Saskatoon is inviting participants to consider the needs and interests of specific “target audiences,” including children of different ages, families with working parents, seniors, First Nations and M├ętis people, new Canadians, and disabled people.

For further information, contact Wild about Saskatoon.

With thanks to Candace Savage for her assistance and contributions to this article
Logo: Dave Geary
Photos: Shauna Soloway, Candace Savage

EcoFriendly Sask is supporting NatureCity Festival 2014 with an initial grant of $5,000

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Energy-Efficient LED Lighting

There was a time when lighting your home was cheap and simple. Not any more! Incandescent light bulbs are cheap and produce a good quality of light, but they use a great deal of energy, up to 90% of which is wasted as heat. There have been efforts to develop a more efficient incandescent, but the improvements have been minimal. (Effective January 1, 2014, manufacturers can no longer supply the Canadian market with incandescent bulbs.)

For many years, CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) were promoted as the solution. They were more energy efficient, and they could last a very long time. But it is not quite that simple. A CFL that is used continuously may last up to twice the rated lifetime, but a CFL that is only used for 15 minutes at a time, may last just 40% of its rated lifetime. In addition, like all fluorescent lights, each bulb contains a small amount of mercury, so it can be dangerous if broken and disposal is difficult.

Enter a new player on the scene – LED lighting. LED lighting has been around for a while (e.g. indicator lights on televisions, digital clocks, traffic lights), but until recently household use has been restricted due to cost and the difficulty of obtaining a good quality of light. That is changing as LED bulbs become cheaper and better.

How It Works 
The basic LED (Light Emitting Diode) is a semi conductor; electricity passes through the material in a single direction and it emits light. LED lighting is extremely energy efficient. Incandescent bulbs have 5% efficiency, CFLs have 20%, but LED bulbs can achieve 60% efficiency and the industry is aiming for 90%. In addition, LED bulbs can last for up to 20 years (depending on usage).

LEDs don’t run off the same current that is provided to buildings, so they require a power converter. And LEDs work best when they are cool, so the bulbs include a heat sink to disperse the small amounts of heat produced by the LED. Producing a bright light (greater than the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb) has been difficult, but the technology is improving rapidly.

The light from incandescent bulbs appears natural and attractive to the human eye. However, LEDs produce blue light, which can appear cold and less attractive. It can be transformed into white light by passing through phosphors. In some cases, if the phosphors are on the outside of the bulb, the bulb will appear yellow, but it will produce white light.

Purchasing LED Bulbs 
When purchasing a LED bulb, don’t be driven by price alone. You should also consider the bulb’s longevity and the quality of the light it will produce. Margery Conner, Designing with LEDs, says:

“Some de facto standards have emerged for LED bulbs: The light output should be equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb – both in amount of light produced (at least 800 lumens) and in area covered (it should emit light in all directions, not just cast a spotlight on one area); the light quality should be a warm white (2700K-3000K); it should be able to work in an enclosure such as a track light or fan light fixture without shortening its life; it should be dimmable (meaning no flickering, even at the lowest settings); it should preferably be silent (less common than you might think); it should have at least a 5-year guarantee (but the longer the better); and it should cost less than $15. (That last one is a groundbreaking new thing–last year’s best bulb that met that criteria cost over $25.)” 

Conner is currently recommending the Cree Warm White, which is available in Canada (Home Depot is selling them for $16).

Non-Bulb Lighting 
LED bulbs are important because we can use them in our current fixtures. But LED can be used in other forms and fixtures. The LEAF lamp, designed by Yves Behar, is sculpture as well as light source. Virtual sky panels can mimic natural lighting in offices, while LED light strips can be cut to the length required. Even more unexpected uses for LED lighting can be found here and here.

Businesses and municipalities can expect to see substantial savings by switching over to LED lighting fixtures in street lights, car parks, warehouses, and other large facilities. Over the coming year, 149 car parks in the UK will be retrofitted with LED lights.

LED in Saskatchewan 
Municipalities are beginning to install LED street lights. The light is directed downward, so it also reduces light pollution. Dark sky (LED) lighting can be found along Innovation Boulevard in Saskatoon and in most parts of Regina’s Innovation Place.

Brian Sawatzky has been trying out LED lights at Confederation Inn in Saskatoon for a number of years and says that they’re particularly helpful in hard-to-reach areas and in places where the lights are left on 24 hours a day.

SaskPower provides a Commercial Lighting Incentive to non-residential customers who install premium energy-efficient lighting equipment, such as LED fixtures.

Further Information 
LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future by Sal Cangeloso provides an excellent explanation of how LED lighting works, what to consider when buying LED lights, and advice on when to throw out your CFLs.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

EcoSask News, January 7, 2014


Permaculture Potluck, Jan. 16 
Everyone is welcome at the Permaculture Research Institute’s potluck supper and presentation on January 16. Brit MacDonald, Urban Agriculture Coordinator at the Saskatoon Food Bank, will discuss nine urban agriculture projects she explored in the United States.

Flight of the Butterflies, Jan. 16 
Experience the monarch butterfly migration with the Flight of the Butterflies at the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s IMAX theatre, starting January 16 in Regina.

Wildlife & Agriculture, Jan. 16
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society at 7:30 pm, January 16, in Room 106, Biology Building, U of S, for a discussion with Nettie Wiebe on balancing the needs of humans and the natural world.

Future-Proof Your Home, Jan. 21 
Shane Wolffe, author of How to Future Proof Your Home: A Guide to Building with Energy Intelligence in Cold Climates, will talk about building a more comfortable, environmentally-friendly home in Saskatoon at 7 pm, January 21, at the Frances Morrison Library as part of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s Library Speaker Series.

SK Grasslands, Jan. 24 
Branimir Gjetvaj is giving an illustrated talk on Saskatchewan’s grasslands on Friday, January 24 from 2-3 pm at the Frances Morrison Library.

Living Sky Fundraiser, Jan. 25 
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is holding a Steak Night Fundraiser (chicken/vegetarian options also available) at 6 pm, January 25, at Crackers on Pinehouse Drive. Call 306.652.5975 for tickets.

Ice Cycle, Feb. 1
Don’t miss Ice Cycle at 4:30 pm on February 1, the “coolest bicycle ride on the planet.”

Wildlife Rehab Course, Feb. 1-2 
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is offering a Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation Course in Saskatoon, February 1 and 2.


Take Action 
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. Here are a few ideas:

Facebook ‘friend’ a bear or shark

Crowdsource a green corridor through your city – they’re doing it in Toronto

Reduce your water consumption

Thumbs Up 
New energy storage options have the potential to decarbonize our electricity system

The Endangered Species Act turns 40, demonstrating the power of a single visionary law

Thumbs Down 
U of S biologist says Prairie wetlands are threatened by neonicotinoid pesticides being used on nearly half the Prairie cropland 

Concerns raised about the health risks from a proposed metal processing plant in Langham 

Hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to fracking in Colorado River

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Thursday 2 January 2014

Sustainability in Saskatoon: 2013 in Review and Future Trends


Highlights of 2013
Saskatoon and Saskatchewan celebrated some major achievements in 2013.

Diversity and Collaboration
NatureCity Festival debuted in May 2013 and was a huge success. Over 70 groups hosted more than 75 events. Activities ranged from birding and flash planting mobs to a Slow Food dinner, a medicine walk, and a presentation on grey wolves.

The Festival was a very public celebration of local nature, involving people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition, it was heartening to witness diverse organizations banding together in a common cause.

A second NatureCity Festival, scheduled to run from May 25-31, 2014, is currently in the planning stages. 

A Voice for Nature 
The Northeast Swale Watchers is a group of concerned citizens intent on preserving a healthy swale for future generations. They brought their expertise (birds, wildlife, native plants, wetlands, etc.) to the planning table, assisting the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority in preparing development guidelines for the Swale.

The growing awareness and understanding of the value of natural areas has added a new dimension to urban planning in Saskatoon.

The Northeast Swale Watchers continue to speak out on related issues, such as neighbourhood development plans and wetland policies, demonstrating the importance of knowledgeable, independent advocates for nature. 

Prairie Pastures 
In Spring 2012, the federal government transferred ownership of the PFRA pastures to provincial control. The Province of Saskatchewan is putting the lands up for sale or lease to patron groups.

Ranchers and environmentalists spoke out strongly against the provincial government’s plans and worked hard to explain to politicians, government officials, and the public at large the importance of safeguarding the well-being and legacy of the province’s publicly-owned grasslands. Pasture advocates held public meetings and educational events and initiated significant media coverage of the issues.

As a result, more people than ever before are aware of the intrinsic value of prairie grasslands and virtually all of the land will remain publicly owned for the time being.

Urban Agriculture 
Support for local food and urban agriculture continues to grow. New community gardens open every year; more and more schools are planting vegetable gardens; and a number of farmers are successfully employing SPIN Farming principles.

In 2013, EcoFriendly Sask provided financial support for CHEP’s Backyard Garden Sharing program as well as several school garden projects.

The urban agriculture trend is expected to continue to grow in 2014. We hope that greater attention will also be given to protecting the agricultural land surrounding the city.


Looking Ahead to 2014 
Saskatoon Community Wind 
Saskatchewan relies on coal as its primary energy source, despite the associated heavy impact on the environment. Saskatoon Community Wind offers a green, locally-owned alternative and has tremendous potential.

After developing significant public support in 2013, we hope that Saskatoon Community Wind’s plans will begin to bear fruit in 2014.

Green Builds 
There is increasing support for sustainable building and renovation practices.

Innovation Place has led the way with two of the first three LEED-certified buildings in Saskatchewan. Their choice of building materials, use of alternate energy sources, water conservation measures, and more demonstrate their support for sustainable building practices.

An increasing number of individuals and developers are incorporating solar panels and superior insulation in their homes and projects. The City of Saskatoon plans to start monitoring energy usage in all their buildings as a first step towards more rigorous energy usage policies.

Information about green building practices and alternate energy sources is available but is not always easily accessible. There is a need for a more unified information source and opportunities for interested individuals to ask questions and share information. A green building tour would be a valuable initiative. 

Urban Transit 
The cycling community has led the way in promoting alternate forms of transportation. This issue will continue to attract attention in 2014 and should lead to increased awareness of the need for better facilities for pedestrians and bus passengers as well. 

Truck sales in Saskatchewan are triple the national averageIt’s time to question the need for such large, inefficient vehicles in an urban environment.