Thursday 28 January 2016

2015 EcoFriendly Action Grants

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi 

28 groups in 10 communities across Saskatchewan received an EcoFriendly Action Grant in 2015. From starting a seed library to reducing waste from school lunches, each group was committed to making a difference and doing their part in protecting and sustaining the local environment. 

Look around you. What can you do to make our province a healthier place for all its inhabitants?

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

Tuesday 26 January 2016

EcoSask News, January 26, 2016

land of the living skies

Upcoming Events
Open House: Bridges, Jan. 26 & 27
The City of Saskatoon is holding open houses to discuss the North Commuter Parkway and Traffic Bridge:
6 pm, Jan. 26Forest Grove School Library
5:30 pm, Jan. 27Marion Graham Collegiate 

Purple Martins, Jan. 30 (Fort Qu’Appelle) 
Join the Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society at 7 pm, Jan. 30, for a talk on being a good host to purple martins. Additional information about purple martins is available on the Purple Martin Conservation Association website.

Growing Native Plants, Feb. 2 (Regina) 
There will be a workshop on planning a native garden at the launch of Natural Urban Landscapes: A Guide to Growing Native Plants in Saskatchewan (Malin Hansen & Laura Ambrose, editors) at 7 pm, Feb. 2, in Regina. Copies are available at Nature's Best Market, Eat Healthy Foods, and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina, and will be available in Saskatoon and from the NPSS store in future.

Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective, Feb. 4
Enjoy a free screening of Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective from 7-9 pm, Feb. 4, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Climate Change Education, Feb. 5 
Dr. Joseph Henderson will share his research on climate change education at 3 pm, Feb. 5, at the College of Education, U of S.

Below Zero, Feb. 6 (Regina) 
Join SaskOutdoors on a sub-zero safari into the winter world of wildlife at 12 pm, Feb. 6, Regina.

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

Setting the Agenda 
Climate Friendly Zone Saskatchewan is launching a five-week pre-election campaign to empower Saskatchewan residents who want to engage on the issue of climate change.

Waste Diversion 
In the past two years, less and less waste has been diverted from the landfill. Saskatoon City Council wants to reverse the decline and has hired a consultant to come up with a plan. The study will include Saskatoon’s businesses and private landfills.

Edmonton Tool Library
A couple of Edmontonians have decided to set up a downtown tool library where people can borrow tools just like they borrow books. A tool library provides people with access to tools that they only need occasionally and may not have space to store or money to purchase.

Good Reads
In North Dakota’s booming oil patch one tribe beat back fracking (#WomanPower).

Practical tips for a greener workplace.

What role can cities play in saving bees?

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 21 January 2016

Saskatoon's NatureCity Festival: Reconnecting City Dwellers with Nature

Living in a city with streets and buildings, carefully manicured gardens and pets, it’s easy to feel that humans have tamed nature. If nature does intrude on our neatly planned urban lives with a winter storm or a coyote sighting, we often become irritated. Nature is great so long as it’s pretty (pelicans at the weir) and manageable (parks with walkways and playgrounds).

Several years ago a group of volunteers, under the leadership of Candace Savage, came together to reconnect city dwellers with the wild lives and life-sustaining processes going on all around us. Wild About Saskatoon sponsors the annual NatureCity Festival whose long-term purpose is to foster a broad and vocal community, ready to take action to protect the diversity of life both at home and elsewhere.

The first festival was held in 2013, and it has been held every year since. Plans are already underway for the 2016 NatureCity Festival from May 24-29.

Festival Participation
One of the most exciting aspects of Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival is the diversity of organizations hosting activities during the week-long event. The Wild About Saskatoon volunteer collective organizes a handful of keynote activities, but the bulk of the programming is carried out by local groups who are invited to draw attention to the natural beauty of our city and the many ways in which we rely on nature to survive.

1800 people participated in the 2015 Festival, a 20% increase over 2014, with 72 organizations and businesses taking part. Activities ranged from art exhibits, animal yoga poses, and a concert by the river to a plant exchange, wetland cleanup, native plant hike, and birding for beginners.

Keynote Events
Each year, Wild About Saskatoon invites guest speakers to contribute to the local conversation around urban nature. In addition to a public event, the speakers frequently facilitate workshops for municipal officials, volunteer advocates, and other interested parties.

A 2015 workshop on creating nature-oriented play spaces for children was sold out and attracted participation from both school systems and other agencies such as the Saskatoon Tribal Council and provincial Ministry of Education.

The theme of the 2015 Festival was Healthy by Nature and helped to create connections with the health care community.

Free programming for school groups of all age levels supplements the public program. 2015 activities included a trip to Chappell Marsh, insects, bees, bison, and Aboriginal traditional knowledge.

2016 NatureCity Festival
Planning is underway for the 2016 NatureCity Festival and there are various new initiatives to look forward to.

Maria Campbell, author, playwright, cultural teacher, and Métis elder, has agreed to be the keynote speaker on May 24 at the Broadway Theatre. She will address the theme of Reconciliation with the Land. What will it mean, now and in the future, to live respectfully with our own home place, right here in the city of Saskatoon? How can we honour all our relations: the birds, animals and plants that share this place with us – the land, the air, and the water that sustain our lives?

A panel discussion on March 17 at Station 20 West involving Indigenous people and organizations will provide an opportunity to begin considering the theme in terms of reconciliation among prairie peoples.

Festival organizers believe that connecting with the natural landscape can make newcomers feel more at home, so they are making an extra effort this year to involve newcomers in Festival activities. Organizations are invited to a lunch-time meeting on January 26 with Larissa Sandri Meleiro from the Saskatoon Open Door Society who will share ideas on how to plan events with new Canadians in mind.

The Northeast Swale is central to discussions around urban planning in Saskatoon and honouring our relations with the birds, plants, and animals that share this space with us. Wild About Saskatoon, in conjunction with the Northeast Swale Watchers and Meewasin Valley Authority, is planning a Bioblitz of the Swale during the Festival to establish permanent monitoring quadrants that can be re-assessed periodically to keep track of how the area is changing.

National Impact
Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival has attracted national attention.

The work that Wild About Saskatoon has been doing, together with a similar event the group inspired in Vancouver (Wild about Vancouver) has been noticed by Earth Day Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Those two organizations are now applying for funding to encourage the creation of similar events in Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, with Wild About Saskatoon as advisers.

Writes Lindsay Bunce of Earth Day Canada, "We have been so inspired by the work that you...have launched in Saskatoon...."

If you or your organization is interested in participating in the 2016 NatureCity Festival, contact Wild About Saskatoon at or sign up online

EcoFriendly Sask is proud to be an annual sponsor of Wild About Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival.

Photo Credit: Photo #1 and #3 - Branimir Gjetvaj, Photo #2 - Karin Schwier, Photo #4 - Candace Savage

Tuesday 19 January 2016

EcoSask News, January 19, 2016


Upcoming Events
Meet a Porcupine, Jan. 24 
Meet Georgia, the Saskatoon Zoo Society’s North American porcupine, at Wild Birds Unlimited (2600 8th Street East) from 1-2 pm, Jan. 24.

Predatory Media, Jan. 28 
Predatory Media: How Sensationalism Impacts Public Perception of Predators in Public Media at 1:30 pm EST, Jan. 28, is the first in a Living with Wildlife webinar series. The webinar will look at media sensationalism about coyotes, wolves, bears, and even some dog breeds, and look at the real world consequences of that coverage.

LOVEbirds, Jan. 29-30
LOVEbirds, Jan. 29 and 30, is an independent stage production using a blend of poetry, puppetry, and costuming. As a bird lover, Ryan Bradshaw has woven birds into every segment of the show. $5 from each ticket will be donated to Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Jan. 24, 2-3 pm – Birding at President Murray Park
Jan. 30, 8 am – 10:30 pm – Northern Birding Trip
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

U of R Strategic Plan for Sustainability 
The University of Regina's Strategic Plan for Sustainability encompasses waste, energy, transportation, leadership, communication, and engagement.

Edmonton Leads the Way
Edmonton is hoping to boost to its reputation as a Canadian leader in recycling and composting by adding an anaerobic waste digestion facility to increase the capacity of the existing composting plant and reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Saving Money & Energy 
Pennsylvania finds proof that Passive House standards can be built at affordable housing prices.

Winter Explorations in Saskatchewan 
We’ve updated our list of outdoor winter opportunities to include activities from all parts of the province.

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 14 January 2016

Master Naturalists: Volunteer Stewards of our Natural Areas

Do you love to hike across the Prairies and wish you could identify more of the plants? Are you a keen birder but would like to expand your knowledge of prairie ecology? Do you love being outdoors, even in the city, and want to help protect our remaining natural areas? Do you like to dig in the dirt or wade in marshes?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will be interested in joining Saskatchewan’s newly created Master Naturalist program.

Matching Volunteers with Opportunities
Chet Neufeld is the Executive Director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. Chet says that the Society has a dedicated membership and he never has a problem lining up volunteers to remove invasive plants or search for rare wildflowers. However, the volunteers don’t always have the necessary expertise and training can be time-consuming. “Often the event is over by the time people are trained,” he says.

Other organizations (Nature Conservancy of Canada, Meewasin Valley Authority, Ducks Unlimited) experience the same problem. The challenge is to provide eager volunteers with the knowledge and tools they need to become stewards of our natural areas.

Over half the States and several Canadian cities and provinces have Master Naturalist programs. The Montana Master Naturalist program “is designed for adults who want to stoke their curiosity and deepen their knowledge of the natural world.” The City of Edmonton has recognized that its natural areas “have tremendous ecological, social, educational and economic value” and that it’s important to “work to protect and enhance them, and to educate others, through meaningful volunteer stewardship”.

The website for the Texas Master Naturalist program says, “What makes the work of a Master Naturalist so important is that they are not only individuals who love nature and offer their time, but are also trained naturalists with specialized knowledge of different ecosystems, species, habitats, and environmental demands that is priceless when determining how to best manage natural resources.”

Program Elements
Master Naturalist programs have three key elements:

1. Educational Modules: Interested individuals sign up for the different educational modules, gaining new knowledge and skills through classroom workshops and hands-on outdoor activities. You can sign up for one module that particularly interests you or obtain Master Naturalist status by completing all the modules.

2. Volunteer Time: Designated Master Naturalists will be expected to contribute a certain number of volunteer hours each year to maintain their designation. It’s also an opportunity for everyone, with course fees being reimbursed after a certain number of documented volunteer hours.

3. Ongoing Training: Master Naturalists will be expected to continue expanding their knowledge through ongoing training.

The Saskatchewan Model
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan (NPSS) has obtained funding for three years from Environment Canada in order to establish a provincial Master Naturalist program. NPSS will serve as the lead organization, but many other organizations are also involved. “We’ve found that the more partners you have, the more successful you’ll be,” Chet says. “Native plants are only one component of a comprehensive program.”

A group of stakeholders has started meeting to discuss the development and delivery of the program. They represent a wide variety of local and provincial organizations, including the City of Saskatoon, Meewasin Valley Authority, Ducks Unlimited Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Nature Society, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Saskatchewan branch. Other organizations have expressed an interest but have not yet made a commitment.

Individuals and organizations will take the lead on preparing and presenting the different modules. The initial modules are designed to provide individuals with a good base of general knowledge and are expected to include: archaeology and Aboriginal traditional knowledge, ecological engagement, citizen science (how to collect and submit data), prairie ecology, forest ecology, aquatic ecology, and urban ecology.

Chet says that there is lots of material already out there that can be adapted. “We want the courses to be interesting and fun,” he says. “We may be teaching the same things as are in a university course, but it can’t be that intense. There will be lots of hands-on outdoor learning as well as classroom stuff.”

The first three modules are expected to be developed by the end of March 2016.

Chet says that the fee for participating in each module will be kept low at $25-50 per module. If you take the course and then contribute a certain number of volunteer hours, your money will be refunded. Participants could end up taking the entire course for free.

Volunteer opportunities will range from monitoring wildlife activity in the Northeast Swale to pulling down fences on Nature Conservancy of Canada properties or rooting out invasive plants.

For more information about the Saskatchewan Master Naturalist program, contact Chet Neufeld at

Further information: Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

Photo Credit: Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

Tuesday 12 January 2016

EcoSask News, January 12, 2016


Upcoming Events
Renewable Energy Panel Discussion, Jan. 15
The School of Environment and Sustainability is hosting a panel on Challenges and Opportunities in Renewable Energy in Saskatchewan at 1:30 pm, Jan. 15. Panelists include Mark Bigland-Pritchard, Ian Loughran, and Kevin Hudson.

Galapagos, Jan. 18 (Regina)
Nature Regina is hosting a photo presentation on the Galapagos at 7:30 pm, Jan. 18.

Reducing Fence-Related Wildlife Collisions, Jan. 18
Heather Facette will discuss Grassland National Park’s efforts to reduce fence-related wildlife collisions at 12 pm, Jan. 18, in a Native Prairie Speaker Series webinar.

EnviroConnect, Jan. 20
The U of S Environmental Studies Students Association is hosting a networking and summer job search presentation by the U of S Employment & Career Centre from 4:30-7 pm, Jan. 20.

Neonics & Honeybees, Jan. 21
Sarah Wood will discuss her research on the effects of neonics on the grooming and hygienic behaviour of bees and on the development of their larvae at the Saskatoon Nature Society’s meeting at 7:30 pm, Jan. 21.

Friends of Wascana Marsh AGM, Jan. 21 (Regina)
Friends of Wascana Marsh are holding their AGM at 7 pm, Jan. 21, at Wascana Place.

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

needles and frost

Car Free YXE
Car Free YXE is a new Facebook page documenting individuals living car-free in Saskatoon to better understand their motivations, needs and desires.

They Need Your Help
“The CEO of Saskatoon's Meewasin Valley Authority says the organization will need to close down trails and programs if it doesn't receive $2.7 million in extra money.”

Friends of the Elbow Trail
A group of Elbow business owners, residents, and vacationers hope to build a trail along the shore of Diefenbaker Lake. Like and share their Facebook page to spread the word.

Net Zero Construction
Murray Guy of EcoSmart was the first presenter for a Net-Zero Energy Building speaker series in Kimberley and Cranbrook. EcoSmart recently completed a duplex in Saskatoon with one side targeting net zero and the other 60% less energy use than typical construction.

Winter Cities
Walkability mitigates the most extreme climates by providing interesting places to warm up, linger, and connect. And plenty of options about how and where to turn around and circle back.”

Working Around Bureaucracy
A Kimberley, BC, program refunds up to 80% of the building permit for energy efficiency.

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 7 January 2016

Melfort Cross-Country Ski Trails

The Melfort Cross-Country Ski Club maintains the Gronlid Trails in Fort à la Corne Provincial Forest. There are 20 kilometers of beginner and intermediate trails with warm-up shelters, washrooms, and parking.

The trails were badly damaged by ATVs in 2015, and the Club requested an EcoFriendly Action Grant to help them repair the trails. The Club received permission from the government to reseed and mulch the trails, using the grant money to purchase the mulch. They posted No ATV signs at entrances to the trails and were pleased with the response. Less ATV traffic helped the grass to get started in the sandier areas.

In addition, the Melfort Cross-Country Ski Club, in conjunction with the Tisdale Running Club, held a run on August 30 to raise awareness of the trails and draw attention to the problems caused by quads. 120 racers made the Wapiti Bush Run the second largest bush run in Saskatchewan.

In the past, the Club has had to wait for a significant amount of snow to fall before they could set track on the trails as they needed at least a foot of snow to simply fill the ruts left by the ATVs. This year, they were able to set track with only 10 inches of snow.

ATVs can cause significant environmental damage and this is a problem in many areas of Saskatchewan. Trevor Herriot provides additional information in More on prairie trails: unregulated ATVs and unmanaged access.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

EcoSask News, January 5, 2016


Upcoming Events
HVAC Energy Exchangers & District Heating, Jan. 6
Dr. Carey Simonson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, U of S, will discuss energy exchangers for HVAC systems and district heating at the 7 am, Jan. 6, meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

PermaGreen Drinks, Jan. 8 
Permaculture Saskatchewan is teaming up with Green Drinks Saskatoon for a social get-together at 5 pm, Jan. 8, at Bon Temps Café.

Vereco Open House, Jan. 9
Vereco Homes is hosting an open house and a workshop explaining energy and water savings of a Vereco home on Jan. 9.

Long-Term Protection of the Northeast Swale, Jan. 13
The Northeast Swale Watchers will be meeting from 3:30-5 pm, Jan. 13, to discuss the long-term protection of the Northeast Swale.

What Does COP21 Mean For SK?, Jan. 19
Peter Prebble will look at what the 2015 Climate Change Conference means for Saskatchewan at 7 pm, Jan. 19, at the Frances Morrison Library as part of the Sustainable Speaker Series.

Introduction to Permaculture, Feb. 7 
PermaSask is hosting a one-day Introduction to Permaculture Workshop from 9 am - 5 pm, Feb. 7. Participants will have an opportunity to do some design on their own yard or help someone else with their design.

Jane’s Walk, May 6-8
Planning is already underway for Jane’s Walk Saskatoon, May 6, 7, and 8. Anyone who wants to lead a walk or find out more about Jane’s Walk is encouraged to contact Cathy at 306 664-3908.

Wanted – Recycling Coaches
Share your knowledge of what can be recycled and where by joining the Let’s Roll Recycling Team. The team has a mobile van and promotes existing recycling and waste management programs through fun, games, and education.

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

Spain-based Vortex Bladeless is developing a turbine that it says will be less noisy and bird friendly. “We want to bring wind power generation to people’s houses like solar power.”

Environmental and social campaigners are getting creative by using illustration, craft and dance to put sustained pressure on business and governments.

Passive house principles are being applied to schools in England and Wales. There’s even a zero carbon school in Exeter.

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).