Thursday 28 April 2016

Reducing Carbon Emissions and Building Community: Transition Bro Gwaun

In Fishguard, Wales, a small group of dedicated volunteers is cutting carbon emissions, reducing food waste, creating renewable energy, and building community. Here’s how.

With over 80 organic farms in a small area, farmers and environmentalists were alarmed in 2001 when they heard of plans to plant test plots of genetically modified corn in West Pembrokeshire, Wales. A strong community lobby prevented this from happening, but it didn’t stop there. The protest had galvanized the local community and a small group in Fishguard started discussing the possibility of joining the Transition Network.

The Transition movement got its start in Totnes, UK, and “explores and develops ways we can change from these energy-hungry ways of living, that are utterly dependent on oil and other fossil fuels, to ways of living that are significantly less so. In reality Transition is about a lot more than that. It is about people taking a greater interest in their present and future needs; being more aware of the world in which they live; thinking about the way they really want to live, about who is impacted by the current system and how, and about getting stuck in to make those positive changes happen, from the bottom upwards.”

In 2008, Rob Hopkins addressed a large public meeting in Fishguard, and Transition Bro Gwaun was born. Their initial projects were small and designed to build public awareness – a reusable shopping bag, community garden allotments, awareness campaigns (recycling, plastics in the sea), cooking demonstrations, and gardening classes. They were preparing the ground for far more ambitious projects.

Renewable Energy
Fishguard is a windy coastal community, and in 2011 Transition Bro Gwaun’s renewables group started looking for sites for a local community wind turbine. Four years later, a 225KW turbine was in place and beginning to generate energy.

Government funding was essential in completing the initial development studies, but from there on in it was fully funded by the community. Ownership is shared 50/50 by Transition Bro Gwaun and the farmer who provided the land. Local residents provided the money to purchase the turbine through 5-8-year unsecured loans. “We expected to have to borrow from the bank,” explains Tom Latter, director and founding member. “But in fact, we were oversubscribed.” Three community groups and 29 individuals provided loans ranging from £1,000 (approximately $2,000) to two of £50,000.

The turbine was installed and began operating in August 2015.

“We’ve had an amazing winter for wind,” Tom says. “We had predicted 45,000KWh per month, but we’ve averaged 70,000.” The group hopes to eventually market the energy to local people. The energy produced will also offset the energy consumed by the Transition Café. They hope to eventually generate £50,000 a year that will be used to support Transition Bro Gwaun’s other projects.

Tom believes that they are the first group to successfully install a wind turbine in Wales. “It’s very hard for community groups to do this,” he says. “You have to stay in there and not give up. You mustn’t lose heart.”

Surplus Food
Transition Bro Gwaun was eager to tackle a surplus food project, and when The Co-operative offered them a two-year lease on a building adjacent to the grocery store’s car park, they decided, following community consultation, to open a café.

Starting in 2012, volunteers renovated the building and local businesses donated flooring, cupboards, and other essential furnishings. By June 2013 the Café was ready to go. They’re open from 10:30 am to 4 pm, four days a week, as well as for occasional evening and weekend events.

“Our focus is on carbon reduction,” Chris Samra, director and co-founder, says. “We don’t accept food from far away as we want to keep our mileage low. We try to use low-carbon methods of cooking, so chips aren’t on the menu. If we can’t use food, we find ways to pass it on for animal feed or to stoke The Co-operative’s bio-digester.”

A group of volunteers collects surplus food 4-5 times a week from local stores and wholesalers. Large grocery stores were initially reluctant to pass on surplus food due to potential liability issues but have now come on board and WRAP UK provides guidelines and releases to help retailers develop a policy on redistribution.

The Café receives 850 kilos of surplus food a month. What they receive varies from week to week, with fresh fruit and vegetables in plentiful supply. They used to have to buy milk but now receive enough to make their own cheese.

A key task for Café volunteers is to track the ‘use by’ dates and location of everything they receive. “Everything has to be dated,” Chris explains. “As products are received, they’re entered on the digital database. We try to keep a record of where everything is stored and continually move the older items to the front of the shelves.” The food is also weighed so that they can track carbon offsets.

“We’ve had two health inspections and received top ratings both times,” Chris explains. “The inspector could see that we had all the necessary systems in place.”

Menu & Customers
The menu changes every day depending on what ingredients are available. “It’s a fun challenge,” Sue Brown, the part-time cook, explains. “The most successful people are good home cooks. Chefs tend to be less flexible.”

Lunch options range from Mushroom Stroganoff or Crab Cakes to Quiche or Cajun-style Turkey Wings. Desserts are often delicious fruit crumbles with custard or ice cream, and there’s local apple juice as well as tea and coffee to drink.

The Café is still operating at a slight loss, with lots of lunch customers in summer, fewer in winter. Prices are extremely reasonable and they have some regular customers who appreciate the healthy, home-cooked food. “We’re less popular with young people who are looking for burgers and fries,” Sue says.

One of the challenges is communicating to people that the Café is for everyone, not just poor people. “We want to break the correlation between food waste and poverty. Food waste is everyone’s responsibility,” explains Chris.

The Transition team would like to start offering cooking classes to help people avoid food waste. “60% of food waste is in the home. Young people, especially ones who are leaving home, may be interested, especially if they realize it will help them save money,” Chris explains.

The Café is very labour intensive, requiring approximately 25 volunteers to look after acquisitions, storage, cooking, and front-of-house. At first everyone was a volunteer, but this proved challenging. They were able to obtain funding for a part-time project development officer and hired one cook to ensure consistency.

A school group comes in every other Monday to help with food preparation and anything else that needs doing. A youth employment program placed some young people with the Café. Two went on to get jobs in catering while another is now working at the Café. “Debbie John had no cooking experience at first but is turning into a good little cook,” Sue explains.

Transition Bro Gwaun has an active Facebook page and over 300 people on their email list. If they need help or donations, someone is usually ready to contribute.

Community Resource
“We see ourselves first and foremost as a community resource,” says Chris Samra. “The building was given to us and the community came together and renovated it.” Community meetings are held here in exchange for a donation (e.g. volunteer hours or a gift) and the Café organizes a variety of activities to make use of the space during slower periods of the day. There are craft activities for kids and adults, a pre-school play-and-learn group, a sew, knit, and natter group, and Welsh conversation.. 

“Our goal is to serve as a catalyst – to get projects off the ground and then turn them over to others,” Chris says. “For example, the allotments are now self-supporting.”

Local Entrepreneur Forum
Transition Bro Gwaun’s next goal is to assist local entrepreneurs and facilitate community development. Their own experience has shown you don’t need a lot of money to make things work if you have community support.

The group is basing this new project on Transition Totnes’ REconomy project that is now in its fifth year: “Every year for one jam-packed productive day, we bring entrepreneurs, investors, and other change makers together to learn from each other, form new relationships, and hopefully, to begin working together on new enterprises. It’s at the heart of what we call ‘community supported entrepreneurism’.”

REconomy is a community-based Dragon’s Den offering local residents the opportunity to listen to the pitches of local entrepreneurs, to choose their favorites, and to support – with supplies or services – the projects that they believe would be an asset to their community. 16 of the 18 projects pitched in Totnes have successfully launched.

Transition Bro Gwaun members believe that this type of project will work well in Fishguard as the community has already shown a great deal of initiative. The local cinema was saved through community effort. The Last Invasion Tapestry, which is 30.4 meters long and 53 centimeters deep, was commissioned by the Fishguard Arts Society and stitched by 77 local people. Local volunteers run annual jazz and folk festivals, and two entrepreneurs have turned a former church hall into Ffwrn, a bakery, bar, and music venue.

Transition Bro Gwaun is itself a shining example of what can be accomplished by a small group of people who are prepared to dream and work hard.

See also: Using Surplus Food to Power Community Growth

Tuesday 26 April 2016

EcoSask News, April 26, 2016

Bohemian Waxwings

Upcoming Events
Native Plants & Grasses, Apr. 28 (Regina)
Nora Stewart, author of Cultivating Our Roots, will be presenting on Native Plants & Grasses at the 7 pm, Apr. 28, meeting of the Regina Horticultural Society.

Reducing Home Water Consumption, May 4
Ronn Lepage will share the lessons learned from Vereco Home’s research on how to reduce and reuse potable water in your home at the May 4 meeting of the Energy Management Task Force.

Grasslands Project Films, May (southern Saskatchewan)
The National Film Board will be premiering their Grasslands Project films in various communities across southern Saskatchewan in May.
May 6 – Magrath
May 7 – Coutts
May 8 – Foremost
May 10 – Rockglen
May 11 – Radville
May 12 – Gravelbourg
May 13 – Wood Mountain
May 14 - Eastend

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 7-9:30 am – MVA Trail Bird Walk (ideal for beginners)
May 11, 7-9:30 pm – Owl Banding Evening
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

Nature Regina Field Trips
Apr. 30, 8:30-11:30 am – Condie & Brown’s Slough Field Trip
May 21, 10 am – 12 pm – 3 Lakes Walk in NW Regina
Check Nature Regina’s website for full details and updated information.

Climate Change for all Ages Book Readings, May 7
Ingrid Alesich will be reading from her book Artemis Flies to the Rescue at 1 & 3 pm, May 7, at Turning the Tide.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, May 7 (Regina)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste, major appliances, rimless tires, and some electronics at the City of Regina’s Public Works Yard (2425 4th Avenue) from 9 am – 3:45 pm on May 7.

Rain Barrel Fundraiser, May 7 (Prud’homme)
Prud’homme Library is selling rain barrels as a fundraiser from 10 am to 2 pm, May 7.

Wise Seedling Spree, May 7
Nature Conservancy of Canada is holding its first conservation volunteer event of the season on May 7.

Bohemian Waxwings taking flight

Jane’s Walk Saskatoon, May 7
Jane's Walk Saskatoon events include:
Hike and nature photography at the Northeast Swale
Meewasin ecological walk
Making change: 23rd Street protected bike lane

Jane’s Walk Regina, May 7
Jane's Walk Regina events include:
Riverside Dyke: holding back the floods
Wascana Lake: dig it and they will come

Master Naturalist Program Courses, May 26, 27
The Saskatchewan Master Naturalist Program debuts during Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival with the following courses:
May 26 – Citizen Science
May 27 – Urban Ecosystems
Register online.

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

Plastic Pollution Coalition: 4Rs Pledge
The Plastic Pollution Coalition encourages individuals to take the 4R Pledge:
Refuse disposable plastic wherever and whenever possible. Choose items that are not packaged in plastic, and carry your own bags, containers and utensils. Say 'no straw, please.'

Reduce your plastic footprint. Cut down on your consumption of goods that contain excessive plastic packaging and parts. If it will leave behind plastic trash, don’t use it.

Reuse durable, non-toxic straws, utensils, to-go containers, bottles, bags, and other everyday items. Choose glass, paper, stainless steel, wood, ceramic and bamboo over plastic.

Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. Pay attention to the entire life cycle of items you bring into your life, from source to manufacturing to distribution to disposal.

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 April 2016

Are You a Wannabe Bokashi Ninja?

Food and yard waste aren’t garbage – they’re a plant's best friend! When these materials are composted, the end product (compost) can be added to lawns, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, and house plants to add nutrients to the soil, conserve water, and reduce weeds, pests, and diseases.

Home composting allows residents to separate their organics from their garbage so these materials can be composted instead of trashed. If every household in Saskatoon composted their organics, it would divert more than 25,000 tons annually from the landfill.

What is Bokashi? 
The Bokashi compost method uses Effective Micro-Organisms (EMs) – yeast, photosynthetic bacteria, and lactic acid bacteria – to ferment food waste in an anaerobic environment. The EM culture is mixed with a bran material to produce Bokashi. It ferments the food waste and neutralizes odours.

Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning ‘fermented organic matter.’ Bokashi works with all food waste, including meat, fish, bones, cooked plate scraps, bread, rice, pasta, etc. Once the food is fermented it can be dumped in a traditional compost heap or buried in the ground.

Do You Want to Participate in a Bokashi Trial? 
Michelle Liota is a compost coach and volunteer with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council and a member of the University of Saskatchewan Horticulture Club.

She was looking for a way to compost even in the middle of winter and discovered Bokashi. Unfortunately, no one in Saskatchewan produces the bran or sells the EM. Plus, Bokashi is unfamiliar and people are reluctant to try anything that is different.

Michelle approached EcoFriendly Sask for a grant so that she could run a trial project to show people how easy and beneficial it is to use the Bokashi method. If you participate, Michelle will provide the supplies, and you’ll provide two months’ worth of data to document your experience.

Sign Up Today
If you are interested in the Bokashi method and would like to give it a try, be sure to like Michelle’s Facebook page, Bokashi Ninja, and ask to sign up for the trial.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

EcoSask News, April 19, 2016


Upcoming Events
Co-existing with Beavers for Municipalities, Apr. 21 [webinar]
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals is offering a webinar on Apr. 21 to provide communities with practical tools they can use in creating non-lethal management plans for beavers.

SOS Elms AGM, Apr. 24
SOS Elms is holding their annual general meeting on Apr. 24 at 1:30 pm at the Marr Residence (326 11th Street East).

Beekeeping & Bees, Apr. 24
Dr. Barry Brown will discuss the joy and benefits of beekeeping at 1:30 pm, Apr. 24, at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Conservation Conundrums: Pintails & Swallows, Apr. 26
Dr. Bob Clark will discuss the travels and lifestyles of pintails and swallows and highlight how they serve as indicators of our environment and well-being at Tox on Tap, 6:30 pm, Apr. 26.

PermaSask AGM, Apr. 27
PermaSask will be holding their annual general meeting at 7 pm, Apr. 27, at The Stand.

Wildlife Rehab Orientation, Apr. 30 (Regina)
Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is holding a new member and volunteer orientation in Regina from 1-3 pm, Apr. 30.

Project WET & Growing Up WILD, May 6-8 (La Ronge)
SaskOutdoors is offering Project WET and Growing Up WILD workshops in La Ronge, May 6-8.

Elbow Trail Fundraiser, May 14 (Elbow)
Friends of the Elbow Trail are hosting a fundraiser on May 14 with live entertainment by Topher Mills.

Introductory Beekeeping Courses
Saskatoon – May 14-15, Lalonde Honey Farms
Regina – May 28-29, St. Joseph’s Honey, Balgonie

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


Where we live affects the environment more than what we own or choose to drive

University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff has announced his commitment to three key initiatives: sustainability, reconciliation, and examining the feasibility of the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus

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 April 2016

Federated Co-operatives Limited: Sustainable Business Practices

Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) was founded in 1928 and is a co-operative of more than 200 independently owned and operated retail co-operatives across the four western provinces. They provide centralized wholesaling and management services to support their members. In addition, FCL owns two independent subsidiaries: The Grocery People delivers fresh groceries to stores and restaurants and the Co-op Refinery Complex manufactures and supplies petroleum products.

Chris James, FCL’s Sustainability Manager, says that the co-operative has a long history of implementing environmentally sustainable business practices.

Retail Operations 
Energy efficiency saves money and has been a priority for FCL’s co-op members since the 1980s. The new Warman Food Store, for example, is saving 500,000 kilowatt-hours per year through energy efficiencies involving lighting and refrigeration. Fresh produce is now displayed behind glass doors, which Chris says is a major energy savings. “It was a tough sell initially,” he says. “Conventional retail thinking advocates not putting anything between the consumer and the food.”

The retail stores try to sell environmentally friendly products (e.g. building supplies) and have partnered with SaskPower to offer instant rebates on LED bulbs. The Co-op’s private label water bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic. FCL is also considering full LED lighting in all its stores.

FCL works with suppliers to be responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products and supports a wide range of recycling programs.

The company has led the way by supporting local, sustainable food selling 2.1 million pounds of local produce from 18 Saskatchewan farmers. This ranges from carrots and potatoes to private-label quinoa and lentils. The initiative is  expanding into Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia.

The Sell To Us guide encourages farmers and local producers to supply products to their local Co-op or to distribute them through FCL’s warehouses.

“We’re smaller than the large supermarket chains, but we can turn that to our advantage,” Chris says. “We can provide high-quality local and fair trade products, and we have direct contact with our consumers.”

FCL has five warehouses (two in Calgary, one in Edmonton, one in Saskatoon, and one in Winnipeg) which store food and building supplies before it’s shipped out to the stores. They’re huge facilities and it really pays to be energy-efficient. There are three main energy loads: refrigeration, lighting, and material handling.

“The refrigerated areas are over 200,000 square feet,” Chris explains. “You can drive a car around inside them.” FCL uses ammonia as a refrigerant, which has three main benefits. First of all, unlike fluorocarbons, it doesn’t deplete the ozone layer. Secondly, it’s more efficient than other refrigerants at this scale so it uses less electricity. Thirdly, its distinctive odour helps to detect leaks.

Almost all the warehouses are equipped with energy-efficient lighting. 

FCL switched to battery-powered electric equipment years ago, but they still consume a great deal of energy as some go 24 hours/day.

Big fans that push the hot air back down to floor level have resulted in reduced energy consumption for heating.

Recycling & Waste Reduction 
FCL received a 2015 Waste Management Award from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council for its efforts to reduce waste.

The warehouses do a particularly good job of waste management. In 2014, 600,000 kilograms of plastic and cardboard were recycled. Plastic waste (e.g. wrap on pellets) is sent to a company that turns it into plastic siding. Cardboard is baled and sold. Batteries go to a recycler that recovers the lead and acid. Steel racking, left over following renovations in 2014, was donated to Habitat for Humanity.

The Calgary warehouse has started collecting organic waste, which is eventually turned into fertilizer.

Damaged bags of pet food are donated to animal shelters, often through the efforts of individual staff members.

FCL has a more formal partnership with food banks. In Saskatoon, they’ve donated approximately 105,000 kg of fresh food that didn’t have enough shelf life to be sent to a store. They also offer the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre some freezer space for storage.

The retail stores provide collection points for CleanFARMS to recover waste from farms (e.g. empty pesticide containers, seed bags, plastic). The stores also offer a rebate to customers who recycle old automotive batteries.

Petroleum Operations 
The Social Responsibility Report 2014 states that “New bulk plant tanks are set above ground and have two bottoms separated by a space with vacuum monitoring to identify failures early. The tanks are set in a secondary containment dyke fitted with a synthetic, hydrocarbon-resistant liner. A second liner membrane and monitoring provides a tertiary containment level. Automatic shut-off systems will prevent delivery trucks from being overfilled. If a spill were to occur, an underground oil-water separator allows petroleum product to be recovered and removed for disposal; the clean water is discharged to the storm water system.”

“The bulk plant design is well above regulation with many safety features,” Chris says. “We’re really trying to prevent any leaks or contamination. The Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina has undertaken a wastewater improvement project to reduce fresh water use, minimize odours from the wastewater ponds, and recycle 65% of the wastewater.

In addition, FCL looks for efficiencies in their trucking operations. “The fleet is renewed frequently and we have really good tank systems,” Chris says. “In addition, truck drivers and gas attendants receive lots of safety training [which helps to prevent spills].”

Collaboration & Partnerships 
 FCL’s Sustainability Department has three key themes: efficiency, innovation, and collaboration. “It’s our opinion that environmental sustainability shouldn’t be viewed as competitive. It’s really a shared responsibility; FCL has to collaborate with others in this space,” Chris explains. “We meet and share information with other businesses through forums such as the Retail Council of Canada and Chamber of Commerce. We also have management on various boards associated with sustainability such as Multi-Material Stewardship Western, the association tasked with helping industry fund Saskatchewan’s blue box recycling programs.”

The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and FCL each contributed one million dollars to create the NSERC Co-op Industrial Research Chair in In-Situ Remediation and Risk Assessment at the University of Saskatchewan in the spring of 2015. The research chair was established to identify sustainable ways of cleaning up sites that have been contaminated with gasoline and diesel fuel. Dr. Siciliano, the recipient of this research chair, and his team will be using natural soil micro-organisms to remediate hydrocarbon contaminants.

Simultaneous to creation of the research chair, FCL established the Sustainable In-Situ Remediation Co-operative Alliance (SIRCA), a group of researchers, Canadian universities, and co-operatives in Canada and the United States. SIRCA was created to foster collaborative research to collectively advance research activities into in-situ remediation technologies.

The standard method for environmental remediation of fuel and fertilizer sites is to dig up the soil and remove it to another location. SIRCA was developed to accelerate industry’s pivot away from that approach. “It’s become an excellent opportunity for academics and co-operative to collaborate, create new more sustainable and effective remediation technologies. It’s also a way to help train the next generation of researchers and consultants that industry will need to help solve these problems in the future.”

See also: Social Responsibility Report 2014, Federated Co-operatives Limited

Photo credit: Federated Co-operatives Limited

Tuesday 12 April 2016

EcoSask News, April 12, 2016

early flowering poplars

Upcoming Events
Volunteer Opportunities at Northeast Swale
Check out the volunteer opportunities at Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale in the Northeast Swale Watchers' April 6 post.

Dark Skies at the Creek, Apr. 16
Explore nature at night at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area starting at 6:30 pm, Apr. 16.

Meet a Red-Tailed Hawk, Apr. 17
Meet Talon, a red-tailed hawk, and learn more about the species at 1 pm, Apr. 17, at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Residential Green Roofs, Apr. 19
Julie Barnes and Josh Remai will explain why they built a green roof on their garage and how they did it at 7 pm, Apr. 19, at the Frances Morrison Library as part of the Sustainable Speaker Series.

Growing Native Plants in Saskatchewan, Apr. 20 (webinar)
Fidgi Gendron and Malin Hansen will discuss Urban Natural Landscapes: Growing Native Plants in Saskatchewan at the Native Prairie Speaker Series webinar at noon on Apr. 20.

Dreamland, Apr. 20 (Regina)
Cinema Politica Regina will be showing the film Dreamland, about the fight over Iceland’s resources, at 7 pm, Apr. 20, at the Artful Dodger.

Sustainability Slam, Apr. 21
Students from the School of Environment and Sustainability are hosting an Earth Day Sustainability Slam at 7 pm, Apr. 21, at The Woods Alehouse.

SK Breeding Bird Atlas, Apr. 21
Kiel Drake will discuss the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas, a volunteer-based project set to start in 2017, at the Apr. 21 meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

Rainwater Collection & Utilization, Apr. 22 (Regina)
Join Nature Saskatchewan for dinner at Eat Healthy Foods followed by a presentation on Rainwater Collection & Utilization on Apr. 22.

YFBTA Nature Symposium, Apr. 23
Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association will be holding a nature symposium at 1 pm, Apr. 23, in Saltcoats. Presentation topics will include intermediate birding, dragonflies, and tree rings.

Household Hazardous Waste Day (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste (e.g. light bulbs, aerosols, fuels) in Saskatoon at the SaskTel Centre from 9 am – 3:30 pm, April 23

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

early flowering poplars

In the News
Green energy provides job opportunities for tradespeople

When the Ice Goes Out on Doré Lake, Thijs Kuiken, an account of three summers spent studying a breeding colony of cormorants and pelicans (available from Nature Saskatchewan)

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness, Nathanael Johnson

Close to Home: The Benefits of Compact, Walkable, Transit-Friendly Neighbourhoods, Pembina Institute (free download online)

You'll find more books about Saskatchewan nature on our website.

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 April 2016

Why Buy If You Can Borrow Or Repair?

Across Canada, groups are creating alternatives to the traditional consumer economy. Here are just a few examples of organizations that are modelling a sharing economy.

City Park Toy Library, Saskatoon 
The City Park Toy Library is a volunteer-run non-profit lending toys to families in all parts of Saskatoon. The Library currently houses over 200 toys suitable for children from 6 months to 6 years old. Families can borrow up to 3 toys for one month. The Library is currently open from September through June on Friday mornings from 10-11:30 and one evening a week.

The Toy Library is not just a lending library; it is also a place for children to play or complete a craft and for parents/caregivers to visit and have a cup of coffee or tea.

Thirty families are members of the Toy Library, which is currently located in City Park School, but this space isn’t permanent and the volunteers are waiting to learn Saskatoon Public Schools’ plans for the school.

The City Park Toy Library provides families with an alternative model to traditional consumerism. Rather than purchasing expensive toys that children will quickly outgrow, they can be shared and enjoyed by many. In addition, the Library diverts toy packaging waste from the landfill, models sustainable living, and builds community.

(EcoFriendly Sask provided the City Park Toy Library with a $500 grant in 2015 to purchase additional toys, particularly large ride-on toys that are popular with families.) 

Bridge City Bicycle Co-op, Saskatoon 
The Bridge City Bicycle Co-op (BCBC) is a volunteer-run, non-profit cooperative. As part of the Bike Collective Network, their goal is to help people learn about bicycles and to build community around promoting sustainable transportation. The Co-op offers a drop-in workspace, tools and supplies, and participatory bicycle maintenance education.

Youth and adults of all ages can come and learn how to fix their own bicycles or build a bicycle using donated frames and parts. Workshops range from bicycle mechanics to winter cycling. The group is currently working with Saskatoon Cycles and the Saskatoon Open Door Society to offer a cycling workshop (bike mechanics and how to ride safely in Saskatoon) for newcomers.

BCBC organizes Bike to Work Day and promotes cycling in Saskatoon. Their Facebook page offers a wealth of cycling information.

Tool Libraries 
Tools for construction and home repairs are expensive and may only be used once or twice. They can also take up a lot of space if you’re living in an apartment or rental accommodation. Non-profit tool lending libraries provide an alternative to individual purchases with a pool of tools that can be borrowed as and when needed.

There are non-profit tool libraries right across Canada. Here are two of them.

The Vancouver Tool Library has over 1,500 members. They lend out an extensive supply of tools for carpentry, metalwork, plumbing, and more. Hand tools can be borrowed for no charge while power tools can be borrowed for $2 per tool, per loan period. The Library also hosts a variety of workshops from building a birdhouse to drop-in sewing.

The Toronto Tool Library has over 5,000 tools available for loan ranging from home repair to gardening and bicycle repair, to high-tech 3-D printers and an open-source laser cutter. Members can use the Library’s wood shop during weekly community nights and supervised shop hours on Saturdays following completion of the wood shop safety certification. The Toronto Tool Library has three locations and has recently partnered with the Toronto Public Library to open a fourth at the Downsview Public Library.

The Sharing Depot 
The Toronto Tool Library has recently completed a successful fundraising campaign to establish Canada’s first library of things. The Sharing Depot plans to loan “camping equipment, board games and sports equipment, house party supplies and even kids toys.” They also expect to host monthly swapping events.

Repair Cafés 
When an electrical appliance breaks down or the leg falls off a chair, many of us don’t know how to fix it and think that the only option is to buy a new one. But that can create a tremendous amount of waste and is often unnecessary. Every community has people who are good with their hands who are pleased to share those skills and help others repair things that are broken. It’s a chance to save money, reduce waste, and pass along valuable skills.

The first repair café was held in Amsterdam in October 2009. There are now over 1,000 around the world.

Repair Café Toronto hosts monthly gatherings in which volunteer “fixers” help visitors learn how to repair for free. The events are hosted by local community centres, branches of the Toronto Public Library, and other community-based organizations.

Repair Café Toronto “supports the model of the sharing economy through building a community where people with repair skills are valued and organizations collaborate and innovate for the common good.”

The Regina Public Library hosted its first repair café in March 2016.

Additional Resources 
Share, Swap and Borrow Your Way to Zero Waste
How to Saw off the High Costs of Owning Tools (Ottawa Tool Library)
How to Host a Repair Café
How Farnham UK’s Repair Café Takes a Bite out of Waste
Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?
The Rise of Mending: How Britain Learned to Repair Clothes Again
The Sharing Depot: Canada's First Library of "Stuff"

Photo Credit: City Park Toy Library, Bridge City Bicycle Co-operative, Vancouver Tool Library, Repair Café Toronto

Tuesday 5 April 2016

EcoSask News, April 5, 2016

canada geese

SaskOutdoors Photo Contest, Apr. 1-30
SaskOutdoors is running a photo contest. Get your entries in by Apr. 30.

Northeast Swale Watchers, Apr. 11
The Northeast Swale Watchers are meeting with the City of Saskatoon’s Environment & Utilities Committee on Apr. 11. They’ll be recommending 12 steps the City can take to protect the Swale.

Year in the Life of a Burrowing Owl, Apr. 18 (Regina)
Dr. Ryan Fisher will discuss a year in the life of a burrowing owl breeding in Canada at the Nature Regina meeting from 7:30-9:30 pm, Apr. 18.

Paving Paradise, Apr. 18
Join Northeast Swale Watchers and the Saskatoon Public Library at Paving Paradise for a screening of Division Street, a film that maps a new future for our road networks at 7 pm, Apr. 18. Sask Highways will provide an update on the proposed provincial freeway across the Swale and there will be a video message from Larry Beasley, co-author of Eco-Design for Cities and Suburbs, as well as a call to action from the Northeast Swale Watchers.

Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds, Apr. 20-22 (Yorkton)
The Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds will be holding their provincial conference and AGM from Apr. 20-22 in Yorkton.

Waste ReForum 2016, Apr. 20-22 (Regina)
Waste ReForum 2016 will be held in Regina from Apr. 20-22. Keynote speakers include Jerry Powell and Kelly Goyer.

Connecting Education and Environment, June 10-11
Connecting Education and Environment: Mobilizing Sustainability in Education Policy, Practice, and Research, June 10-11, Saskatoon, will focus on land, place, environment, and sustainability and connections to education policy, practice, and research.

Canada geese

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Golden Eagles
Apr. 21, 8 am – Brightwater Marsh and Blackstrap
Apr. 28, 9 am - Wanuskewin
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate in Golden Eagle field trips.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Apr. 16, 9 am – 3 pm – Brightwater Marsh Outing
Apr. 17, 2-4 pm – Crocus Hike to Peturrson’s Ravine
Apr. 23, 5:45-8 am – Sharp-Tailed Grouse Dance
Apr. 24, 8 am – 10 pm – Spring Spectacle of Arctic Geese
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

Nature Regina Field Trips 
Apr. 9, 9:30 am – 3 pm - Route 99, Valeport and Condie Field Trip
Apr. 16, 10 am – 3 pm – Buffalo Pound & Surrounding Prairie Field Trip
Check Nature Regina’s website for full details and updated information.

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

A long-lost species, the Crested Marsh Pteranodon, has returned to the Prairies.

B.D. Willoughby has released the first single from his Qu’Appelle Valley album.

Congratulations to Ron Jensen, member of the Saskatoon Nature Society and Northeast Swale Watchers, for his appointment to Meewasin Valley Authority’s Conservation Advisory Committee.

The average European has half the carbon footprint of the average American. Here’s why.

We've updated our list of local, provincial, and national environmental organizations. Do let us know if we've missed any.

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

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