Thursday 26 June 2014

CISV Shaunavon: Flower Power Mini Camp

CISV Shaunavon (a branch of CISV Saskatoon)* held a mini camp in the Cypress Hills from May 30 to June 1. The theme for the Flower Power Mini Camp was Sustainable Development.

A $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant helped support the camp’s educational activities. These included:

  • A visit to the observatory in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park’s Dark Sky Preserve to learn about light pollution;
  • A discussion about water conservation and how much water we waste on everyday activities, such as bathing and brushing our teeth;
  • A nature scavenger hunt where participants took photographs of the natural objects that they found;
  • A Cree cultural experience to learn about connecting to nature and being thankful to Mother Earth for the things we need; and
  • A craft using recycled objects. 
Each participant received a Sand Cherry bush to plant when they went home.

Further Information: 
Free seedlings from Shand Greenhouse
Starry Skies: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
CISV Back to Basics Mini Camp 2013

EcoFriendly Action Grants: EcoFriendly Sask provides small grants of up to $500 to support local projects that will benefit the environment.

* CISV is an international non-profit that “educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world.” CISV Saskatoon is one of 11 chapters across Canada. They hold four different weekend camps every year for youth ages 8-25.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

EcoSask News, June 24, 2014


People’s Intervention on Energy East, July 2 
Cameron Fenton,, will be in Saskatoon at 7 pm, July 2 to discuss ways of responding to TransCanada’s Energy East project.

Western Canada Water 2014 Annual Conference, Sept. 23-26 
Western Canada Water will hold their annual conference in Regina from September 23-26. The theme, Stronger Together, reinforces how water, wastewater, and stormwater are all linked and encourages collaboration between water and wastewater associations.

Field Trips
Young Naturalists 
July 18, 1-2:30 pm – Butterfly Field Trip (space is limited; register in advance)

Other Nature Society Field Trips
July 1, 9 am – 2 pm – Wild Orchids Field Trip (Nisbet Forest)
July 5, 8:45 am - North American Butterfly Count (will be postponed to July 6 if it rains)

Local Project Support from RBC
RBC Blue Water is supporting a number of local projects in 2014:

Ducks Unlimited Canada - $100,000 for educational initiatives about wetland loss, stormwater management, flooding in Saskatoon

Meewasin Valley Authority - $49,000 to support Meewasin’s conservation efforts in the Northeast Swale

Regina Catholic School Division - $3,000 for a community oil recycling project

Two-tailed Swallowtail

Thought Provoking
Surprise! Seniors represent more than a third of the biking boom
People and cities are changing bird behaviour
Don’t wait for government to act: “the hope lies in people at a local level refusing to wait to be rescued.”

Thumbs Up 
The origin and importance of Hyde Park – 128 acres of wetland in Rosewood neighbourhood
Edmonton’s cutting-edge biofuel facility will process 100,000 tonnes of waste annually
Keys to advocacy group success: unrelenting pressure, focus on one key issue, treat the land as your own

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 19 June 2014

The High Cost of Lighting up the Night

“You can protect the Northeast Swale as much as you want, but if you can’t preserve the dark there will be a mass wildlife migration.” 

SaskMap (Cinzano)

We take light for granted – 24 hours a day. We chase away the dark with digital clocks beside our beds and security lights over our doors. And we are paying the price. We’re gobbling up electricity, endangering our wildlife, and losing the stars.

19% of electrical energy (1) produced in Saskatchewan is used to keep the lights on and yet so much of it is wasted by keeping offices, parking lots, and streets lit even when they are deserted. We spend $90 to $115 billion annually worldwide on wasted light, $45 to $100 million in Canada, and over $500,000 per year in Saskatoon (2).

We design more energy-efficient lights, but that just motivates us to use more of them. In the United Kingdom, from 1950 to 2000, lights became twice as efficient at producing light, but per capita electricity consumption for lighting increased fourfold. Saskatoon’s population is growing at approximately 3% per year, but our light pollution increases by 7% annually.

What is light pollution?
Rick Huziak is a member of the Saskatchewan Light Pollution Abatement Committee, a committee of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Saskatoon & Regina Centres. He says that astronomers in Arizona were the first to notice the rapid increase in night-time lighting. The most advanced observatory in the United States was over 100 miles from Tucson, but it was threatened with closure because Tucson – and its light dome – was growing so rapidly.

The International Dark Sky Association was established in Tucson in 1988. They promote one very simple idea: light what you need, when you need it. Their website states, “We know some light at night is necessary for safety and recreation. We work with manufacturers, planners, legislators, and citizens to provide energy efficient options that direct the light where you want it to go, not uselessly up into the sky.”

Rick says light pollution is light that shines where it is not needed or wanted as well as light that is too bright. “All light pollution is conservable waste,” he says.

Light pollution from Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon (R. Huziak)

Why does it matter? 
As citizens, we don’t like excess noise. The City of Saskatoon has a noise bylaw and builds noise abatement walls beside major roadways. We seem oblivious to light pollution and yet it affects us all.

First and foremost, it affects our pocket books and our future. The more light we use, the more energy we consume, increasing our greenhouse gas emissions, and shortening the future for human life on earth.

Human beings have an internal clock that regulates their physical, mental, and behavioural patterns, responding to light and dark in our environment. For example, we sleep far better in a dark room. A fact sheet from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences states that “Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.” 

The day/night cycle is even more important for wildlife. “There’s a reason why wolves howl at the moon,” Rick says. “They’re hungry.” Rodents and small animals, such as black-footed ferrets, an endangered species in Grasslands National Park, require completely dark skies to hunt. Even moonlight would make them easy prey for eagles, coyotes, and other large animals.

Night is when many animals are most active. “Most animals are nocturnal,” Rick says. “During the day, animals in Grasslands National Park are few and far between. At night, it’s hard to walk 10 feet without tripping over an animal. Night is also when many animals mate. A change of 1% in light intensity will stop amphibians from mating.”

Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale is one of the largest pieces of native grassland and wetlands. It is home to a diverse assortment of wildlife, from white-tailed deer to burrowing owls and northern leopard frogs. But as new neighbourhoods are developed around the Swale, wildlife will be threatened by the light spilling over into their previously dark area. The birds, animals, and reptiles will be forced to flee in a search for darkness so that they can hunt, eat, and mate.

“You can protect the park as much as you want,” says Rick, “but if you can’t preserve the dark, there’ll be a mass migration.”

Designating the Swale as an Urban Star Park would ensure that artificial lighting was strictly controlled and that active measures were taken to promote the reduction of light pollution.

How can we protect the night? 
A lot of light is wasted because it shines straight up into the sky or sideways, rather than lighting the ground. Businesses have wall-mounted flood lights above their loading bays, even though they never accept shipments after 5 pm or before 8 am.

We also use excessive light. Gas stations sometimes use six times as much light as recommended and the Dakota Dunes Casino used to boast that their lights could be seen for 100 miles in all directions. (The casinos later decided to turn their lights off, saving almost $1 million per year.)

Full brightness LED billboards waste energy and create dangerous glare and distraction for passing drivers. If the City were to allow billboards along South Circle Drive, they would have a profound impact on wildlife in the river valley and golf courses.

Responsible lighting is erected only when and where it’s required. The light is shielded or directed so that the light is only where it is needed (not in the sky or on your neighbour’s property). Responsible lighting uses an appropriate level of lighting (not thoughtlessly set to maximum). It’s integrated rather than competing with other lighting, and it’s turned off when it’s not needed.

New technology brings with it new potential for greater control and flexibility. Street lighting could be dimmed after midnight or could be triggered by approaching traffic.

Responsible lighting is shielded and directed where it's needed. (R. Huziak)

Don’t we need lights to prevent crime? 
It’s a myth that bright lights prevent crime. In fact, Rick says, they do just the opposite. “Chicago tripled its downtown light and crime soared,” Rick says. “A city in Pennsylvania put lights on a bridge to stop incidents of sexual abuse, and they increased 300%.” Criminals don’t wander in darkened areas. If you can’t see, you don’t go there. Plus criminals need light to identify things to steal.

“Bright lights create glare, making it difficult to see what’s going on,” Rick says. “Subtle lighting, which enables you to see the entire environment, is much more effective.”

What can municipalities do to prevent light pollution? 
The City of Saskatoon passed a Comprehensive and Integrated Dark Sky Policy in 2008. The policy has still not been implemented, but Saskatoon Light and Power immediately began using shielded fixtures that don’t create light pollution. As a result, Saskatoon’s parks have dark sky compliant lighting. Meewasin Valley Authority is also dark sky compliant.

There is much more that the City could do. They could reduce the wattage on all the lights while still remaining within the recommended guidelines. Or they could reduce wattage on the lights between intersections where bright lights aren’t as important.

“If the City of Saskatoon is serious about greenhouse gas reduction and climate change,” Rick says, “they need to extend the policy to include businesses and residences and pass bylaws that prevent waste.”

The City of Martensville has done just that with a simple addition to its zoning bylaw stating that all lights must shine only on your own property.

Responsible lighting at RCMP Building (R. Huziak)

What can businesses and residents do? 
If we are to protect the wildlife in the Swale, businesses and residents, as well as the municipality, will need to be dark-sky compliant.

A number of businesses have already recognized the tremendous cost savings they can achieve by using responsible lighting. Jubilee Ford turns its lights down to half brightness after midnight and uses shielded lights that are dark-sky compliant. Shell gas stations turn off their lights when closed.

The Saskatoon Inn has won a national award for its environmental plan, which includes responsible lighting, and is one of the few hotels in the province to hold a 4 Green Key rating from the Hotel Association of Canada for its environmental leadership.

Walmart has installed directional lighting in all its parking lots. Rick says that the Walmart on 22nd Street has shielded lighting that keeps lighting on their property off the street as well as out of the sky.

Responsible lighting at a Shell gas station (R. Huziak)

Businesses will enjoy huge cost savings if they become dark sky compliant, but there may be additional unexpected benefits. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2004, and volunteer dollars built an observatory that opened in 2012. An Astronomer in Residence offers interpretive programs and astronomy has become the #1 activity with 10 times as many participants as any other park activity.

Grasslands National Park is also a Dark Sky Preserve and the Dark Sky Preserves have become a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors to Southwest Saskatchewan.

It’s time we take concrete action. Responsible dark sky lighting isn’t a frill. It’s essential if we’re to conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gases, and protect wildlife.

1. This figure, from a 2006 SaskPower report, includes indoor lighting. Outdoor lighting is slightly less than 10%. 

2. Many of the statistics in this article were provided by Rick Huziak and were included in a Saskatchewan Light Pollution Abatement Committee presentation to the 2013 Saskatchewan Citizens' Hearings on Climate Change.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Buffalo Narrows Community Garden: Spring 2014

The community of Buffalo Narrows received a $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant to establish the Buffalo Narrows Community Garden.

A garden committee made up of elders, youth, health care providers, low income earners, etc. came to the conclusion that they needed to work on providing fresh, healthy, low-cost food that could substitute for otherwise expensive food purchases, encourage physical activity, teach new skills, and improve the local environment.

The municipality provided a piece of property, but they needed financial assistance to offset the cost of landscaping, rototilling, fencing, and purchasing garden tools.

Twenty-three community members helped prepare and plant this year’s community garden. Care was taken to provide raised garden beds for the elderly.

Buffalo Narrows has a population of approximately 1400. It borders Churchill Lake and Little Peter Pond Lake with easy access to Big Peter Pond Lake.

Additional Resources
Northern Saskatchewan Gardening Manual 
Garden-Wise: Tips from Community Gardeners (from leadership and vandalism to soil and weeds)
Medicine Wheel Booklet
Accessible Community Garden Guidelines
Save Your Pennies, And Your Seeds

EcoFriendly Action Grants 
EcoFriendly Sask provides small grants of up to $500 to support local projects that will benefit the environment.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

EcoSask News, June 10, 2014


Drought Preparedness Planning, June 18
Join Dave Sauchyn from 11 am to noon on June 18 when he discusses how reconstructions of past climatic variability can introduce a discussion on climate variability and change. The talk is sponsored by the U of S Global Institute for Water Security.

Beekeeping & Potluck, June 19
The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan will be meeting over a potluck supper on June 19. Melissa Stonebridge, the Saskatoon Bee Club’s vice-president will discuss the art and joy of urban beekeeping.

Applied Permaculture: Resiliency Planning for a Changing Climate, July 24/26
Solar Goldwynn and Tayler Krawczyck of Hatchet & Seed will speak on designing cities, farms, and backyards for energy-efficient food production and water use from 7-9 pm, July 24. A one-day workshop will follow on July 26.

Nature Society Field Trips
You're invited to join the Saskatoon Nature Society on one of their many field trips:
June 25, 7-8:30 pm – Saskatoon Natural Grassland Hike (plants and birds)
June 28, 8 am – 12:30 pm – Songbirds on Stuglin acreage and pine forest near Pike Lake
June 29, 1:30-4:30 pm – Butterflies IV

Take Action
Edmonton recycles about 60% of its waste. But it wants to up that figure to 90%. They’re proposing 90 ways that people can reduce their waste. And it can even be fun - like eating leftover pizza for lunch and recycling the box.

Thought Provoking
Dryden, New York, banned fracking to protect their land

TD Bank says that Toronto’s trees are worth $700 each

Thumbs Up
Children 4 years and older are invited to unearth the secrets of the green kingdom and investigate an interactive diorama of the world’s forests, deserts, tundra, and grasslands with Plants App, an iTunes app from Tinybop

Build your own wildlife-friendly permeable fencing

EcoFriendly Sask is taking a mini holiday. We won't be publishing EcoSask News next week but will be back again on June 24.

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 5 June 2014

Carrot River Valley Watershed Association School Presentations

The Carrot River Valley Watershed Association is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that incorporated in 2011. Their purpose is to preserve and protect the character and integrity of the watershed through education and awareness. The watershed covers approximately 15,750 square kilometres and includes the communities of Melfort, Arborfield, Carrot River, Kinistino, St. Brieux, Star City, Tisdale, and Wakaw, as well as 12 villages, 21 Rural Municipalities, and 7 First Nations.

The Association received a $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant to support their visits to the 17 schools within the watershed boundaries. Each school received a selection of books for various age groups focusing on water pollution, water conservation, recycling, and other environmentally friendly practices.

The Association met with 230 students in five schools and one Girl Guide unit and plans to deliver more presentations in spring/summer 2014. “The watershed presentations were well received and the students were interested to learn about our watershed, pollution, and pollution prevention methods,” reports Jessica Hutton, Watershed Manager.

Following the presentation, groups received a mini watershed model so that learning would be ongoing. The association also published an article promoting the school and youth group presentations in their winter newsletter and included an article on their website.

Book List 
Watersheds: A Practical Handbook for Healthy Water by Clive Dobson
The Water Cycle by Bobbie Kalman
Why Should I Recycle? By Susan Meredith
Let Them Be Eaten by Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking our Kids into the Great Outdoors by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
The Berenstain Bears Go Green by Jan Berenstain
The Water Cycle by Rebecca Olien
The Water Cycle: Evaporation, Condensation, and Erosion by Rebecca Harman

EcoFriendly Action Grants: EcoFriendly Sask provides small grants of up to $500 to support local projects that will benefit the environment.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

EcoSask News, June 3, 2014

ant on flower

Bike To Work Day, June 4
Wednesday, June 4, is Bike To Work Day. Shift from four wheels to two and be sure to stop for refreshments and a little fun at one of the many commuter stations around the city (e.g. Night Oven Bakery, Earth Bound Bakery).

Kindersley Waste & Recycling Workshop, June 11
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is hosting a one-day Regional Workshop in Kindersley on June 11. Topics include options for setting up a waste region and organic waste management options for smaller communities.

Zoo Visits
This is a great time to visit the Saskatoon Zoo and Forestry Farm Park as there are so many adorable baby animals. School classes can enhance their visit by renting a Biofact Bag or Pond Dipping Kit from the Saskatoon Zoo Society.

Individuals can print off a copy of the Society’s Scavenger Hunt questions, which will have you trying to identify the colour of a swan’s foot or the smallest bird of prey.

Urban Transportation and Design Forum Report
Recommendations from the Urban Transportation and Design Forum held in January of this year include:
  • Increase public awareness about transportation 
  • Provide mobility education 
  • Discourage the use of single-occupant vehicles and towards use of public transit 
  • Introduce full costing price mechanisms for infrastructure 
  • Utilize smart and inclusive community and urban designs 


EcoFriendly Action Grants – May 2014
The following organizations received an EcoFriendly Action Grant in May:

Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre West (Regina) - $500 for the construction of outdoor enclosures for injured wildlife

Craik Sustainable Living Project - $500 for permaculture landscaping using fruit trees in front of the Eco-Centre

Biology 20 class, Aberdeen Composite School - $500 for planting trees in Aberdeen

Thumbs Up
Dramatic improvements in solar energy technology point the way to a bright future

Buy nothing new: Could this sustainable lifestyle experiment transform cities?

Thumbs Down
Critics say that the National Conservation Plan ignores national parks and wilderness areas

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).