Tuesday 29 April 2014

EcoSask News, April 29, 2014


Bird Walks
The Saskatoon Nature Society is offering early morning bird walks on the Meewasin Trail every Sunday in May - a great opportunity for people who are new to birding. Their program also includes:
May 4 – Waterfowl at Brightwater Marsh & Blackstrap Lake (3-9 pm)
May 13 – Great horned owl banding evening (7-9 pm)

Beekeeping, May 4
Dr. Barry Brown will introduce beekeeping with a live hive demonstration at Wild Birds Unlimited at 1:30 pm, May 4.

Jane’s Walk Saskatoon, May 4
Check out the Jane’s Walk Saskatoon website to see the list of walks that are currently on offer. Don’t miss Nature Photography in Downtown Saskatoon with Branimir Gjetvaj (9 am), Safari Hunt for Birds, Beasts & Plants in Downtown Saskatoon (12 & 1:30 pm), Meewasin Trails Interpretive Walk (1 pm), Urban Agriculture (1 pm), and Campus Green Roofs (2 & 3 pm).

The Road Is How, May 9
Trevor Herriot will launch his latest book, The Road Is How, at 7 pm, May 9, at McNally Robinson Bookseller.

Wilderness Orienteering & Navigation, June 1
CanoeSki Discovery Company is offering a day-long map and compass course on June 1.

Conservation Volunteers
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is organizing a wide variety of volunteer events at their Saskatchewan properties. From bioblitzes to ranch repairs, it’s a chance to spend time in Saskatchewan’s wild places.

Backyard Garden Sharing
Want to garden or help someone else garden this summer? Check out the CHEP Backyard Gardening Program.

goose prints

EcoFriendly Action Grants - April 2014
Saskatchewan Solar Tour ($500) - bus tour of renewable energy sites in Regina and Moose Jaw

Buffalo Narrows Community Garden ($500) - establish a community garden

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A passive solar greenhouse in Invermere, BC, catches people’s attention

Canada has the skills needed to expand its geothermal industry

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Can pets be part of a sustainable future? Probably not. Food for two German Shepherd dogs requires more resources than the average Bangladeshi uses each year in total

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).

Tuesday 22 April 2014

EcoSask News, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day! 
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.” (Edward Abbey


Dark Sky Week, Apr. 20-26
International Dark Sky Week draws attention to the problems associated with light pollution and promotes simple solutions. Check out their website for seven different articles on environmental harm, energy waste, and stars.

Snowy Owls, Apr. 27
Marten Stoffel has been studying owls for decades and is part of the Saskatchewan-Norwegian Satellite Tracking program. He’ll be speaking at Wild Birds Unlimited from 1-2 pm, April 27, about his research, including a recent trip to Siberia.

North Sask River Basin, Apr. 28
The North Saskatchewan River Basin Council is holding its annual general meeting at 1:30 pm, April 28, at the Western Development Museum in North Battleford. There will be a presentation on the Canadian Heritage Rivers System and efforts to complete the Saskatchewan link.

Climate Change Report Launch, Apr. 29
The Saskatchewan Citizens’ Hearings on Climate Change Report Launch will take place from 7-9 pm, April 29, at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. The report compiles testimonies, recommendations, and public action.

Urban Nature Escape, May 25-31
Check out the calendar of events being planned during the NatureCity Festival. It’s pretty impressive – a parade, three keynote events, a special school program, and so much more.

Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. Be sure to participate in Saskatoon’s second annual Bike to Work Day on June 4. Why not volunteer to help out at one of the commuter stations?

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City of Saskatoon will save money and energy with combined heat and power technology at two civic centres

An SRC wind-battery pilot project shows one way to make wind power more reliable

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 16 April 2014

"We are Eco Mean but Global Green" Student Action for a Sustainable Future

The hall at the Western Development Museum was packed with students and displays on April 15, 2014. But this was no ordinary science fair as each display represented a concrete action project the students had researched and carried out to protect the environment.

Student Action for a Sustainable Future is a pilot program involving 12 classes from grades 4 to 8 from both the Public and Catholic school systems. Each class chose to work on a project related to water, waste, food, transportation, and/or energy.

The grade 8 students at Ecole Alvin Buckwold School focused on reducing greenhouse gases. They put timers in 13 classrooms to automatically switch off the computers when they weren’t in use and, with financial assistance from EcoFriendly Sask, are purchasing light sensors to turn off lights in hallways and other areas with heavy traffic when they aren’t needed.

The grade 6/7 students at Bishop Pocock School focused on waste reduction. They sent a letter home to parents asking them to replace plastic baggies with Tupperware containers when packing their children’s lunches. The students will be helping Plastic Smart Saskatoon remove litter from the riverbank this spring.

Bishop Pocock students also realized that hot lunches from Boston Pizza created a tremendous amount of waste as the single-serving pizzas and salads were all wrapped individually. They switched to large pizzas and big bowls of salad and asked students to bring their own cutlery. They also wrote a letter to Boston Pizza expressing their concerns.*

The grade 6 students at Ecole Cardinal Leger School reduced energy consumption by turning down the heat on Sweater Day and by turning out lights at recess. The whole school was involved, and there were several educational events to explain why they were taking these actions.

The grade 7/8 students at St. Volodymyr School tried to attract more wildlife to their schoolyard by installing bird feeders. They plan to plant berry bushes in the spring.

The students at St. Marguerite School conducted a waste audit before and after offering an education program. As a result of their efforts, the school will be starting an Enviro Club next year.

The Student Action for a Sustainable Future pilot project was coordinated by the City of Saskatoon in partnership with Saskatoon Public Schools, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Saskatchewan Environmental Society, Sustainability Education Research Institute (University of Saskatchewan), Saskatoon Light & Power, and various educational consultants.

Student Action for a Sustainable Future has been awarded the 2013 Saskatchewan Waste Minimization Award for the Youth/Schools category.

* Last year the Grade 8X class at Dr. J.G. Egnatoff School purchased a classroom set of plates and utensils along with pots and pans so that they could make healthy, waste-free lunches.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

EcoSask News, April 15, 2014


Permaculture Potluck, Apr. 24
There will be a presentation on Radiance Cohousing at the April 24 meeting of the Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan at the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre. Potluck is at 6:30 with AGM and presentation beginning at 7:30.

Environmental Film Festival, Apr. 24-27
Check out the great line-up of films for the 2014 Saskatoon Environmental Film Festival: transition towns, cycling, mining, e-waste, and solar energy.

Nature Society Field Trips
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on one of their upcoming walks:
April 19 – Crocus hike to Peturrson’s Ravine (2-4 pm)
April 26 - Sharp-tailed grouse dance (5:45-8 am)

Golden Eagles Field Trips
Golden Eagles invites retirees to join one of their leisurely outings to view birds and enjoy local sites:
April 17 – Crocus trip to Peturrson’s Ravine, Strawberry Hills, and points east (8 am)
May 1 – Northeast Swale (7:30 am)

Young Naturalists Bluebird Trail
The Saskatoon Young Naturalists have been monitoring bluebird populations around Saskatoon since 1968. Contact Greg Fenty if you would like to help.

Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. Here’s one idea:
Encourage Saskatoon City Council to follow the City of Toronto’s guidelines for greening surface parking lots (e.g. landscaping and trees, storm water management on site).

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A city-wide composting program may soon be introduced. In the meantime, be sure to sign up for the Green Cart program.

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Fracking may have caused earthquakes in Ohio – what can we expect in Saskatchewan?

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 10 April 2014

Green Roofs: Good for the Economy and the Environment

Law Addition, University of Saskatchewan

Stand on the balcony of a downtown Saskatoon high rise and look west. It’s a depressing sight – asphalt streets and asphalt roof tops stretch out to the horizon with nary a touch of green to relieve the view. It’s not only aesthetically displeasing, it’s also a drain on the economy and on the environment.

Let’s ignore the streets and just consider the roofs. Due to dramatic temperature swings, the average asphalt roof should be replaced every 15 years – a huge cost in terms of labour, material, and landfill. We’re all aware of Saskatoon’s cold winter temperatures, but you may not know that on a sunny day, the temperature on an asphalt roof will be as high as 158 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius. Air conditioning units are usually housed on the roof, so they’re using vast amounts of electricity to take in and cool over-heated air. Residents of large urban areas are also confronted by higher temperatures as the built-up environment generates a heat island with temperatures that can be 5 to 10 degrees higher than in surrounding areas.

An even bigger problem is storm water drainage. Rain hits impermeable asphalt and concrete surfaces (roofs, streets, parking lots) and can’t be absorbed, so it rushes down the drains and straight into the river, carrying with it particulates, chemicals, and other contaminants that have settled on those surfaces. One of the biggest offenders is big box stores, with large flat roofs surrounded by large surface parking lots.*

Green roofs are an effective method of capturing and controlling storm water runoff and urban heat island effects. Not only do they absorb rainwater, filter out contaminants, and slow down run-off, they can cool the temperature on a sunny day from 70 degrees Celsius on a conventional flat roof to 32 degrees Celsius on a green roof. A green roof provides additional protection and can last two to three times as long as a conventional roof. Photovoltaic panels, which operate less efficiently at higher temperatures, benefit from the cooler temperatures on a green roof.

Saskatchewan’s First Green Roof 
Green roofs consist of a carefully constructed sequence of roof membranes, drainage layer, substrate, and plants. They are not a new technology as they’ve been used for hundreds of years to help control building temperature. They were reintroduced in northern Europe in the 1960s as a way to control storm water drainage and provide additional green spaces.

Michael Molaro started his career with diplomas in Architectural Technology and Building Construction Engineering from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He worked at the University of Saskatchewan for 27 years before retiring in 2013. In 2004, he hired the University’s first Sustainability Coordinator and oversaw the eventual establishment of the University’s Office of Sustainability. He brought the first LEED training to Saskatchewan and helped develop the first Building Saskatchewan Green conferences, starting in 2004. In 2005, Michael was part of a team of enthusiasts who established test green roof plots on the roof of the Dentistry building. Courses offered by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities enhanced Michael’s skills and understanding; he was accredited as a Green Roof Professional in 2013.

The first complete green roof in the province was installed on the College of Law Addition and designed by landscape architect, Goya Ngan. The roof isn’t directly accessible to the public, but they do harvest prairie sage for use in First Nations’ ceremonies, and the tall grasses capture snow in winter, providing additional insulation.

Green Roof Construction
“Every green roof is unique,” Michael explains. “It depends on design objectives, location, circumstances, and climate.”

Michael says that the soil medium is “where the magic happens.” You can’t use ordinary garden soil. Instead, you must use an engineered substrate that is lightweight, drains easily and yet retains moisture and nutrients, is resistant to heat and rot, and won’t shrink or compact.

Green roofs that aren’t intended for public access have a shallow substrate and are often planted with sedums, which have shallow roots and are tough as nails.

The Target Centre in Minneapolis is planted with native plants, which are adapted to the region and better able to withstand climatic extremes, pests, and disease problems. They tried growing lupines to provide food for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, but the plants didn’t thrive. The roof can handle up to .9 inches of rainfall without runoff, capturing an estimated 20 million gallons of storm water a year. Green roofs commonly retain over 50% of the rain water that falls on them.

The Vancouver Convention Centre has a 6-acre living roof, the largest in Canada and the largest non-industrial living roof in North America. There are four beehives and 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses. Its drainage and recovery systems are designed to collect and use rainwater for irrigation during summer months.

The Brooklyn Grange in New York City operates the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, growing over 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce per year.

A number of health care facilities are taking advantage of green roofs and other natural features, which have been proven to provide a better patient experience and faster recovery times. (A surface-level green “roof” patio is planned above parts of the Health Sciences D Wing expansion on campus.)

North America has been slow to adopt residential green roofs. They are, however, beginning to appear.

B Wing, Health Sciences Building, U of S

Toronto Leads the Way 
Toronto has set the standard for green roof development in Canada. They began by introducing incentives and followed them up with regulations. Toronto is the first city in North America to have a bylaw requiring and governing the construction of green roofs on new development.

Toronto’s Guidelines for Biodiverse Green Roofs recognize the potential green roofs offer for providing plant, bird, and animal habitats. The guidelines cover everything from providing nesting opportunities for birds to lists of plants used by butterflies and caterpillars.

Moving Ahead in Saskatoon 
“Green roofs are not for the faint of heart, particularly in our cold, dry climate with a short growing season,” Michael says, “But it can certainly be done. A growing number of green roofs in our neighbouring provinces has proven that they can work in the prairie environment.”

Designing a civic facility (for instance a new downtown library) with an accessible green roof would demonstrate leadership and would provide patrons and staff with a green social space.

Aspen Ridge, a new neighbourhood being planned to the east of the city, drains directly into the Northeast Swale. The construction of impermeable surfaces has the potential to increase storm water runoff and contamination. “A comprehensive storm water management plan could really have a positive effect,” Michael says, “particularly if it’s combined with education programs for residents on topics such as plant species and avoiding pesticides.”

Like any designed landscape, green roofs require some ongoing maintenance. “I’d like to see a condominium or cohousing unit build a green roof as they could assume ownership and look after the roof,” Michael says.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities 
Michael Molaro has set up a consulting company called Higher Groundwork HortiCulture and plans to focus, in the short term, on education, awareness, and advocacy. Be sure to get in touch if you would like further information.

* Some Canadian municipalities have started charging a storm water tax. For example, Victoria’s storm water utility charges are based on the amount of hard, impermeable surface area (e.g. driveways, parking lots). The city is also developing a rainwater management credit program.

Photo credits: Michael Molaro

Tuesday 8 April 2014

EcoSask News, April 8, 2014


CarShare Co-operative, Apr. 15
The Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative is holding its first AGM at 7 pm, April 15 in Room 13 of the Albert Community Centre.

SES AGM, Apr. 16
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is holding its annual general meeting on April 16 at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Wine and cheese is at 7 pm. At 7:30 pm, Dr. Jill Johnstone will speak on Disturbance, Inertia, and Resilience of Boreal Forests under Climate Change.

Great Big Book of SK Birds, Apr. 17
Join Stuart Houston, Al Smith, and May Haga at 7:30 pm, April 17, in Room 106 of the Biology building, U of S campus, when they describe for the Saskatoon Nature Society the making of a two-volume illustrated guide to Saskatchewan birds.

Southern Prairie Railway
The Southern Prairie Railway, an old-fashioned steam train with a 1922 Pullman passenger car, runs from Ogema to Horizon. They offer evening train rides on August 28 and September 6 to view the stars. A member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will help participants find a number of near and deep-sky objects using binoculars.

Keeping up with the Keepers
Celebrate Mother’s Day (May 11), Father’s Day (June 15), or Grandparents’ Day (Sept. 7) with a feast with the beasts. Join the zoo keepers on their feeding rounds at the Forestry Farm, followed by a continental breakfast.


Thought Provoking
Prairie ranchers are very concerned about the impact of the Sage Grouse environmental protection order. Can ranching balance the needs of the environment and the economy?

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Echinacea, a plant more commonly known for fighting colds, can also clean contaminated industrial soils.

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City of Saskatoon officials have confirmed that contaminated water from the landfill could have reached the river.

The Meewasin Valley Authority has been forced to modify or eliminate a number of its programs because statutory funding from the province, city, and university has not kept pace with inflation, increased mandate, and population growth. This year the City of Saskatoon increased its funding by 4% and the University by 2%, but there was no increase from the Provincial Government. (Meewasin Board Meeting minutes for April 4, 2014)

The Government of Saskatchewan has simplified its oil and gas well licensing system and hopes that this will spur development in the southern Bakken region as well as the oil sands deposits in the north. They note a dramatic increase in the number of horizontal wells (which use significantly more water than vertical wells).

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).

Tuesday 1 April 2014

EcoSask News, April 1, 2014

American Robin with bug

WAM Potluck, Apr. 4
We Are Many is holding a potluck supper and meeting at 6 pm, April 4. Contact WAM if you are interested in attending.

Burt’s Buzz, Apr. 10
PAVED arts is presenting the documentary, Burt’s Buzz, at 7 pm, April 10, at Broadway Theatre. The film is about Burt Shavitz, the founder of Burt’s Bees.

SK Paddling Symposium, Apr. 25
The 2014 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium at TCU Place on April 25 will feature speakers, a trade show, and a show & shine.

Earth Day, Apr. 22
There will be an Earth Day celebration at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market from 3-9 pm, April 22, with activities for all ages and a concert from 7-9 pm.

Jane’s Walk, May 4
Check out the Jane’s Walk Saskatoon website to see the list of walks that are currently on offer. Don’t miss nature photography in downtown Saskatoon with Branimir Gjetvaj (9 am).

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

Adopt a park (preferably a naturalized park) - plant and weed, clean up litter, fundraise for new features


EcoFriendly Action Grants - March 2014
EcoFriendly Sask is pleased to support the following organizations with an EcoFriendly Action Grant:

Grade 8 class, Ecole Alvin Buckwold School - $500 to purchase automatic light sensors to reduce energy usage in their school

Prairie Habitat Garden, College of Education - $300 towards an Ecological Camp for Youth

CISV Shaunavon - $500 towards the May Mini Camp in the Cypress Hills

Wild about Saskatoon - $5000 towards the NatureCity Festival 2014

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If you’re interested in wetlands, check out the Wetland Network, a Canadian website with lots and lots of information.

Thought Provoking
Canada’s economy relies on its natural resources. The Importance of Natural Capital to Canada’s Economy policy brief says that, “We are not measuring how much natural capital we have, at what rate we are using it, or how it is being devalued by pollution, environmental degradation and unsustainable resource extraction. 

"Without valuing natural capital and including it in our national accounts, we are making decisions without full information -- and we risk making poor decisions. Unvalued natural capital and uncosted environmental degradation can lead us to economic activity that will degrade our economy’s natural capital and put at risk its ability to generate goods, services and income into the future.”

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).