Thursday 31 December 2015

Reimagining Saskatoon: Towards Sustainability 2015

“overcoming our carbon dependence should be seen as an opportunity to rethink for the better an institution largely shaped by and for fossil fuel: our cities 

Here are a few of the initiatives undertaken by Saskatoon residents and organizations in 2015 to help make Saskatoon a more sustainable city.


Tuesday 29 December 2015

EcoSask News, December 29, 2015

looking up

“The more often we see the things around us - even the beautiful and wonderful things - the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds - even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” Joseph B. Wirthlin

Upcoming Events
Winter Bike the Moveable Feast, Jan. 23
Saskatoon Cycles invites you to ride your bike from one restaurant to another on the second annual Winter Bike the Moveable Feast on Jan. 23.

SaskOutdoors AGM, Jan. 23
Sask Outdoors will be hosting their annual general meeting on Jan. 23 in Lumsden. There will be a lunchtime presentation by Rosemary McCallum, a participant of the Nimis Kahpimotate Sister Journey Women's Wilderness Canoe Trip.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Jan. 10, 2-4 pm – Sanatorium Park & Riverbank
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details (e.g. some trips require rubber boots; others will be cancelled if the weather is bad).

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

Can it be recycled? How can I dispose of it? The City of Saskatoon’s online Waste Wizard provides the answers.

San Mateo’s wastewater treatment plant will produce fuel for its City vehicles.

A woolly mammoth tusk has been found at a work site east of Saskatoon

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

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

Tuesday 22 December 2015

EcoSask News, December 22, 2015

Happy Solstice!

Upcoming Events
Green Drinks Regina, Jan. 7 
Join Green Drinks Regina at 5:45 pm, Jan. 7, as they discuss greening the Saskatchewan grid and environmentally sustainable products.

Permaculture Regina Board Meeting, Jan. 7
Permaculture Regina’s board meeting is scheduled for 6 pm, Jan. 7.

Piping Plover Census, June
Nature Saskatchewan is looking for volunteers who have time to check for Piping Plovers on gravelly beaches, lake shorelines, or alkali wetlands at one or more locations in Saskatchewan in the first two weeks of June 2016. For more information, email the Saskatchewan Coordinator at

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Environmental Society for urging the Government of Saskatchewan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Excellent media coverage!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 
This Japanese town is set to become zero waste by 2020. They separate recycling into 37 different commodities, have a store where people can drop off and take used items for free, and a factory that makes items from previously recycled pieces.

Wolves are Welcome
The state of Washington welcomes wolves back – across deep political divides.

Rethinking the City
“Reimagining our cities provides us an important opportunity to reconsider the various structures of urban life—transportation, food, and community—both environmentally and socially. The slow and necessary steps of eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels will certainly be difficult, yet we should see it as an occasion to remake our places that are humane, convivial, and sustainable.”

The Internet Shouldn’t Run on Dirty Energy
An internet powered by 100% renewable energy is within our reach.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

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

Sunday 20 December 2015

Thursday 17 December 2015

What Wine Should I Choose?

Wine – there are so many choices – the varietal, the country, the price. Here are some tips if you’d also like to choose a wine that is environmentally sustainable.

Is it local?
Were the grapes grown locally?
How far did the wine have to be shipped?
Is the winery a small company or a large multinational?
Are the producers and distributors locally based?

Does the winery use sustainable farming practices?
Do they water their vineyards and, if so, how?
Is the wine organic or biodynamic?
Do they use chemical fertilizers and pesticides?

What else?
Does the winery use lightweight bottles?
Do they use recycled materials?
What do they do with their waste products?

Two Possibilities
Here are two wines that have a relatively low carbon footprint.

Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc
Quail's Gate Chenin Blanc is a VQA wine. All the grapes are grown in British Columbia, our closest wine-producing province.
Quail’s Gate uses organic fertilizers and supplements. They target their chemical applications.
Drip irrigation helps to conserve water.
Remote vineyard monitoring stations allow them to operate fewer vehicles in the vineyard.
The winery uses lightweight bottles containing high levels of recycled materials.

Luzón Organic
Luzón Organic meets strict European Union organic certification standards.
Native plants grow between the rows of vines.
The fields aren’t irrigated, despite very hot summer weather.
This is a Spanish wine, but it’s imported by Saskatchewan’s only locally based wine marketing company.

These wines were served at the Rob Dumont Energy Management Awards Dinner in October. The article was also published in the December 2015 issue of flow magazine.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

EcoSask News, December 15, 2015

grass and snow

Upcoming Events
Restoration Training Workshop, Feb. 16
A one-day workshop on natural processes for the restoration of drastically disturbed sites will be held in Saskatoon on Feb. 16 in advance of the Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference.

Saskatchewan Living Green Expo, Feb. 26-28
The Saskatchewan Living Green Expo showcases local, environmentally friendly products and services as well as talks by green living experts. This year's expo will be held at Prairieland Park from Feb. 26-28.

Winter Biking
FatLanders FatTire Brigade is the only known FatBike specific cycling club in Canada. Their members organize weekly rides throughout the winter and will be hosting several special events in conjunction with the Wintershines Festival in January.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

ice on the river

Stuart Houston is the 2015 recipient of the Meewasin Conservation Award which is presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the natural heritage resources of the Meewasin Valley. Stuart is recognized as one of the leading authorities on birds in Canada.

Rethinking Garbage Routes
Using real-time data collected over the past few months, the City of Saskatoon is launching new garbage and recycling collection routes that have been optimised to make trips as short and direct as possible, reducing fuel consumption and reducing the City’s carbon footprint.

Wolseley Nature Trails
The Wolseley Nature Conservation Society’s nature trails are designed to bring people together to enjoy nature.

Ships, Trucks & Trains
With 47,000 ships and 3 million trucks transporting goods around the world, opportunities to reduce our impact abound.

A Civilization Reboot
Nine issues for climate change leaders to think about after COP21 – from the easy to the very, very hard.

Spain’s Most Walkable City 
54% of trips are made by foot in Vitorio-Gasteiz, Spain. And, instead of a ring road, they’re building a 1,000 hectare greenbelt.

Social Tech Guide
The Social Tech Guide highlights 1000 social ventures that are addressing complex social challenges through digital technology. Ventures range from the next generation of wind and solar technology to divers mapping and clearing ocean debris.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

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

Thursday 10 December 2015

Temperance Street Passive House: Saskatoon's First Passive House

“If all goes according to plan, this will be the first passive house in Saskatchewan,” Robin Adair says, “But we’re building on the work of Harold Orr and Rob Dumont and the Conservation House that was completed in 1977.”

Robin Adair, Green Builder Inc., has been building energy-efficient homes for a number of years, but the Temperance Street Passive House is the first one to seek passive house certification. “It’s really about climate change,” Robin says. “Building costs are 5-10% higher when you follow passive house criteria, but it will use 90% less energy than a home that follows the current building code. Solar energy will provide approximately 56% of the house’s electrical demand.”

Raising the Profile
The Temperance Street Passive House is much more than a job for all the people involved in the project. Mark Prebble, the real estate consultant overseeing the project, says, “Robin, Mike, and I are very much doing this with interests and considerations beyond the roles we are charged with as builder, designer, and realtor. It is about raising the profile of passive house design and increasing the level of consciousness within the industry. It didn't take long for those on site to appreciate the difference in the building techniques and just how special a project it is. It's an important home for our community to see demonstrated but also to recognize just how applicable the design principles are.”

One of the key elements of passive house design is the energy modelling that is carried out prior to undertaking construction. “All the building elements are entered into the model,” Robin explains. “It tells you very accurately what your energy consumption will be.” Mike Nemeth, Bright Buildings, who has assisted in the engineering and design of the building, says that it’s important to get more people trained in the use of the PHPP design software. The software contains everything necessary for designing a properly functioning passive house.

Although Saskatoon has bitterly cold winters, the City and the Province have not yet incorporated energy-efficiency standards into the building code. "The building industry needs to realize that we can achieve energy efficiency with very little additional effort on each of the planning, design, and construction stages," Mark says. "Builders will be surprised at what can be achieved for little additional cost. The City, for their part, should take a leadership role and not wait for provincial legislation of a more progressive building code. Much has changed since the early 1980s and an increase to these standards is long overdue, particularly when one considers the amount of energy required to heat our homes here in Saskatchewan and household contributions to carbon emissions each year."

The Temperance Street house’s foundation is completely insulated. It sits on and is surrounded by foam insulation. The Larsen truss walls and triple-glazed, Passive-House-certified windows also contribute to the house’s energy-efficient design.

The construction uses taped plywood to provide a vapour barrier rather than the more common polyethylene sheet. “This is probably the ideal approach,” Mike says. “You achieve extreme levels of airtightness and it’s part of the structural framing. Poly can be airtight, but it requires lots of fine work, and every time you add an electrical plug in, you break the vapour barrier. With this service cavity, you don’t come into contact with the plywood barrier.”

The house’s airtightness is put to the test twice before it receives passive house certification. The first blower test is conducted after the framing and the second after everything is in place. An R2000-certified house has 1.5 air exchanges per hour. There can’t be more than .6 air exchanges per hour to receive passive house certification and Robin Adair hopes that the Temperance Street duplex, which has gone beyond the minimum requirements, will achieve .2 or .3.

Passive house design is common in Germany and other parts of Europe but much less so in North America. One of the challenges is demonstrating that passive housing is affordable as well as energy efficient. Mike Nemeth hopes that at least one unit of Saskatoon’s Radiance Cohousing will be certified passive, and the principles of passive house design will be used throughout the complex to ensure high levels of energy efficiency.

Ottawa’s Salus Clementine, a 42-unit housing complex for residents living with mental illness in Ottawa, has been designed to achieve LEED for Homes Platinum status while adhering to the Passive House standard.

A great many local resources are available to people who are interested in building or renovating their home to make it energy-efficient.

Passive House Principles
Passive House SK 
Canadian Passive House Institute West
Passive House Institute (website and flipbook/brochure)
Passive House: Comfortable, Energy-Efficient Homes

Local Companies Specializing in Energy Efficiency
Green Builder Inc.
Integrated Building Envelope Service
Bright Buildings
Integrated Designs
Vereco Homes

Photo Credit: Robin Adair

Tuesday 8 December 2015

EcoSask News, December 8, 2015


Upcoming Events
Green Drinks Saskatoon, Dec. 11
Green Drinks Saskatoon will be meeting at 5:30 pm, Dec. 11, at the Capitol Music Club.

Regina Christmas Bird Counts 
Nature Regina will be hosting the following Christmas bird counts:
Dec. 19 – Craven (includes Lumsden)
Dec. 27 – Regina
Jan. 2 – Balgonie (includes White City and Pilot Butte)

Drop-In at the Zoo, Dec. 29-30
The Saskatoon Zoo Society is hosting a drop-in interpretation program for kids from 1-3 pm, Dec. 29 & 30.

Christmas Bird Count for Kids, Jan. 2/3
The Christmas Bird Count for Kids will be held on Jan. 2 in Saskatoon and Jan. 3 in Regina.

Saskatoon Young Naturalists
Jan. 3, 11 am – Snowshoeing
Jan. 23, 1-3 pm – Tracks and Scats
Feb. 6, 1-2:30 pm – Chickadee Pishing
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

Wascana Junior Naturalists (Regina) 
Children ages 9-13 are invited to register for the spring session of the Wascana Junior Naturalists. Only 20 spots are available for each session.

Invasive Species Conference, Jan. 30 (Regina)
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan is holding its annual general meeting and conference on Jan. 30, 2016. The theme of the conference is invasive species.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 


Wolf Cull 
The Government of Saskatchewan is opening up wolf hunting in selected areas on Dec. 15. Ostensibly, it’s to prevent livestock predation, but many ranchers and scientists believe it’s the wrong approach. Rancher Gord Vaadeland, CPAWS-SK, says,“Wolf culling is more likely to increase predation on livestock than it is to reduce it. The science is pretty clear on this. According to the largest study ever done on wolf culling and its impact on livestock predation rates, for every wolf that is culled through this type of program, predation of livestock rises on average by 5 to 6 percent."

Plastic-Free Campus Manual
The PLAN Plastic-Free Campus Manual is available online and includes tips on conducting a plastic audit, identifying alternatives to single-use plastics, and making plastic-free a positive experience.

Building a Successful Green Energy Plan
In a lengthy article, Chris Turner reviews the successes and failures of Ontario’s green energy plan, pointing to the need for community involvement and corporate support.

Care For and Enjoy 
Stewardship – ripping out weeds, building trails – takes time and investment and builds a closer link to nature than simply participating in outdoor activities 

Eating Our Future 
Every mouthful we eat shapes the world. We’re environmental activists three times a day [16-minute TEDx talk]

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

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

Thursday 3 December 2015

Energy Savings in the Saskatoon Health Region

With 71 buildings. the Saskatoon Health Region is always on the lookout for ways to reduce utility costs and save energy without using patient dollars. Brian Berzola, Director, Facilities Management, and Doug Archibald, Manager, Energy Services, shared some of their triumphs and challenges.

Energy Performance Contract 
The Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) has just completed Phase I of an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls worked with Health Region employees to identify energy saving projects at Royal University Hospital that were guaranteed to save money. This guarantee from Johnson Controls permitted SHR to borrow the money needed to complete the projects and they’ll use the savings to pay back the loan.

The contract covers projects that will have a payback (total investment divided by annual savings) in 15 years or less.

Occupancy Controls 
Royal University Hospital is an older hospital. Large fans maintained a 24-hour air flow exchange, even in areas that were only used 8 hours a day, and consumed large amounts of energy. SHR has now installed electronic occupancy controls to ensure that the fans are shut off if the area isn’t in use on evenings and weekends.

Lighting throughout the hospital was reviewed and replaced with more energy-efficient lighting, either LED or T8 fluorescent light fixtures with electronic ballasts. LED lighting was chosen for exterior sites as well as hallways and public areas, while T8s were used in patient rooms that require a softer light.

When putting together an energy performance contract, the goal is to put together a package that not only pays off your investment but also leaves you with a surplus that can be put towards projects that you couldn’t otherwise afford.

The Health Region applied some of the surplus dollars to install full spectrum LED lights in the Mall. “We wanted to remove the doom and gloom and give more of a daylight experience,” Brian Berzola explains.

Royal University Hospital is heated by steam purchased from the University of Saskatchewan. It comes across in huge pipes that can lose a lot of heat in transit. Jackets have now been installed to insulate the pipes and prevent heat loss.

Weatherstripping was also used to insulate doors and windows throughout RUH.

Steam Traps
Steam travels from the University to RUH and the condensate then makes the return journey to be reheated and reused. Steam traps capture the latent heat before the water is sent back. If they’re not tight, heat is lost. 100 steam traps were replaced and the Health Region anticipates a payback in just a couple of years.

“By replacing the steam traps, we reduce the amount of heat that we have to purchase and we reduce the need to cool the rooms where the steam was escaping,” Doug Archibald explains.

Low-flow toilets were installed throughout Royal University Hospital.

Additional Sustainability Projects 
The Health Region is looking at additional environmental sustainability projects which are outside the parameters of the energy performance contract.

Parking & Transportation 
Parking is hugely expensive to build and maintain. It’s also extremely complex. “We’re constantly trying to identify the right quantity of parking and to find the right balance between parking that is close to where people work (e.g. for night staff or a doctor delivering a baby) and further away for office staff who only work Monday to Friday. It’s also important to provide adequate handicapped parking.

The Health Region is working with the City of Saskatoon to identify other possibilities, such as park and ride or special buses that stop at the door of the hospital. “We’re always looking for ways to reduce congestion and demand on our parking lots,” Brian says.

Waste & Recycling
Medical facilities face a particular challenge when attempting to recycle and reduce waste. The Health Region has a small recycling program for some plastics, cardboard and paper, and batteries, and they’re interested in expanding the program to incorporate other items.

The biggest problem is medical waste as it has proven to be extremely difficult to ensure that medical waste is completely separated from other garbage or recycling. Medical waste is sent to Biomed Recovery & Disposal in Aberdeen for processing. They do their best to sterilize everything, but some material has to be incinerated.

Because it’s so hard to guarantee full separation, contractors are forced to immediately bury every load of waste that is removed from the Health Region.

Disposables vs. Reusables 
There is an ongoing debate regarding the use of disposable versus reusable items. Reusable items may, at first glance, appear to offer an energy savings; however, that isn’t always the case. Heating and sterilizing equipment uses a lot of energy, equipment, and people and poses an additional liability risk. Similarly, with a central laundry in Regina, the energy consumed in transportation must be factored in when considering cloth versus disposable paper gowns.

Chemicals & Infection Control
Infection control is of ongoing concern, and the Health Region currently uses quite a number of harsh cleaning chemicals to attempt to prevent the spread of disease. Brian Berzola is examining the potential of using UV lights to sterilize patient rooms and washrooms. Here are a few of the options: 

Patient Washrooms: A UV light can be installed over washroom doors with a motion sensor that is only turned on when the door is closed and no one is in the room. Once activated, it disinfects the whole room.

UV Light Stands: British Columbia is using portable UV light stands with 8 bulbs to sterilize patient rooms. Stands are set up in empty rooms and placed so that there are no shadows and every surface is exposed to direct light (even drawers are opened). Once they’re set up, you walk out of the room and turn on the lights by remote control. The room is completely sterilized. “It’s not cheap,’ Brian says. “Each sets of tubes costs approximately $100,000. In addition, the room must be empty, and we rarely have empty rooms.”

UV Light Scrubbers: UV light scrubbers can be mounted on the ceiling, directly above a patient’s bed. Fans draw the air up, and it travels through chambers where it is scrubbed clean before being put back into the room.

The Health Region is also investigating a long-lasting anti-microbial finish that can be applied to high-touch areas, such as tables and doorknobs. “It’s like Teflon,” Doug says. “Germs just slide off and are killed.”

Looking Ahead 
Brian and Doug emphasize that they work very hard not to divert dollars intended for patient care to energy projects. However, in the long run, energy savings and infrastructure improvements will lead to a safer, more comfortable patient experience. Let’s hope that the Saskatoon Health Region continues its search for ways to reduce energy consumption.

Additional Information 
Energy Performance Contracting Guide, Natural Resources Canada 
Ultraviolet Light Could Be Enlisted in Battle Against Hospital Infections

Photo Credit: Saskatoon Health Region

Tuesday 1 December 2015

EcoSask News, December 1, 2015


Upcoming Events
City Energy & Sustainability Initiatives, Dec. 2
Chris Richards, the Energy and Sustainability Engineering Section Manager, City of Saskatoon, will be presenting on the work of his section, which includes combined heat and power, route optimization (fuel savings), and energy performance contracting at the Energy Management Task Force breakfast meeting on Dec. 2. He will also discuss some of the latest developments related to the City signing on to the Compact of Mayors and creating new corporate and community greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

North Commuter Parkway Development Hearing, Dec. 4
The Meewasin Valley Authority will consider an application from Graham Construction on the early work on the North Commuter Parkway at their regular meeting on Dec. 4. The public is invited to attend and make presentations.

Beginner’s Guide to the Inner Workings of Birds, Dec. 10
Peter Flood will explain why birds are as astonishing on the inside as on the outside at the 7:30 pm, Dec. 10, meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

Christmas Bird Counts
Dec. 16 – Radisson/Borden
Dec. 19 – Clark’s Crossing
Dec. 20 – Qu’Appelle Valley Dam
Dec. 21 – Gardiner Dam
Dec. 26 – Saskatoon
Jan. 2 – Pike Lake
For more information, contact the Saskatoon Nature Society.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society has taken a strong position on the Chaplin Wind Project

An Edmonton community association has invested in super-efficient LED rink and parking lot lights as well as a solar energy system

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include.

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