Thursday 28 March 2019

The Art of Protest

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Degas

A flock of origami birds, created by concerned citizens from across Europe, successfully stopped Spain’s plans to dredge a river in Doñana National Park.

Photo Credit: #OrigamiMigration campaign 2016
A fish sculpture named Goby is keeping a local beach clean as people fill it over and over again with garbage. Around the world, people are creating works of art, “transforming hearts and minds as well as changing policies, cultures or behaviours.”

Photo credit:
Gerald Beaulieu’s crow sculptures weigh 386 kilograms and are 5 metres long. Made out of used tires, they are “public memorials to the dead . . . . Larger than life and made of the material that often kills them, they are impossible to ignore.” Crows are scavengers attracted to roadkill. And yet, in the process of cleaning up our roads, they themselves are often killed.

Bringing attention to the wildlife that is killed every day on our roads isn’t an easy task. “Beaulieu expresses this complicated subject in the most impactful and palatable way. By using pieces of vehicles to create the works - the tires themselves - he deftly turns road-killed crows into impossible-to-ignore visible reminders. They die on the road because of us.”

Photo credit: Imgur Photos
Nicole Marie Burton “believes that comics, because they are relatively inexpensive to produce, are a great medium to amplify marginalized voices.” She recently illustrated her first graphic novel about two young people who find work in the Canadian oil industry.

Photo credit:
Carla Scotto shares her “eco-sassy art” on Instagram. There are lots of images reminding people to reduce their plastics as well as one reminding people not to feed the ducks: “Did you know it’s ducked to feed ducks bread? Not only does it cause malnutrition but mouldy leftovers hurt local water quality opt for seeds, frozen peas, oats, corn, greens - or nothing at all so they learn to forage for themselves.”

Photo credit:
In his Unhappily Ever After project, Jeff Hong shocks us by inserting Disney characters into modern-day reality –the Lion King lies dead on the African plain, while Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood has been clearcut.

Photo credit:
The sculptures in Mathilde Roussel’s Lives of Grass, which are “made of soil and wheat grass seeds strive to show that food, it’s origin, it’s transport, has an impact on us beyond it’s taste. The power inside it affects every organ of our body. Observing nature and being aware of what and how we eat might make us more sensitive to food cycles in the world – of abundance, of famine – and allows us to be physically, intellectually and spiritually connected to a global reality.”

Photo credit:
“Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.” – Albert Einstein 

See Also:
Our Favourite Climate Conscious Artists 
10 Eco Friendly Artists who will Blow Your Mind

Tuesday 26 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 26, 2019


Upcoming Events
Wild Seeds (until Apr. 30) 
Natasha Yokoyama-Ramsay’s photography exhibit at Calories restaurant is intended to “show the beauty within the plants and how they are similar to human life."

Carbon Pricing in Canada & Australia, Mar. 28 (Saskatoon) 
Professor Jeremy Rayner will discuss the past and future of carbon pricing in Canada and Australia at 11:30 am, Mar. 28.

Flowers like Birds, Mar. 28 (Saskatoon) 
Discover over 12 plants with blooms resembling birds at Wild Birds Unlimited at 7 pm, Mar. 28.

School Climate Strike, Mar. 29 (Regina) 
Regina’s school climate strike will continue at 10 am, Mar. 29, at the Legislature (℅ EnviroCollective).

Amphibians, Mar. 29 (Saskatoon) 
The WildEcol seminar series is held at 3:30 pm, every other Friday, on the U of S campus:
Mar. 29 – Amphibian contaminants & disease, Melanie Gallant

What is WUQWATR, Mar. 30 (Regina) 
Join the WUQWATR team for a family-friendly information session from 2-3:30 pm, Mar. 30, at Sunrise Branch Library, Regina. Contact Courtney at or 306-529-3210 to RSVP for your free spot!

Wildlife Rescue Info Session, Mar. 30 (Regina) 
A wildlife rescue orientation session is being held at 1 pm, Mar. 30, in Regina. There will be rescue training after the orientation from 2-3 pm. Email to save your spot.

Earth Hour Carbonless Concert, Mar. 30 (Saskatoon) 
Join Jay Maillet and The Local Group for a solar-powered concert from 7-9:30 pm, Mar. 30, at Louis Loft.

Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards AGM, Apr. 2 (Swift Current) 
Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards have rescheduled their annual general meeting to 1 pm, Apr. 2.

Sustainable Tourism, Apr. 2 (Saskatoon)
Tourism Saskatoon will describe Green Stem, an online resource to help Tourism’s member organizations make sustainable choices, at 12 noon, Apr. 2, at Innovation Place Saskatoon.

Data Centre Cooling Systems, Apr. 3 (Saskatoon) 
Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Salam will discuss data centre cooling systems at the Apr. 3 breakfast meeting of the Saskatoon Energy Management Task Force.


Looking Ahead
Project Albany, Apr. 15 
Public Pastures - Public Interest (PPPI) has raised concerns about the proposed Project Albany potash mine near Francis and Sedley. They note areas of native grassland that need to be protected as well as concerns about air and water quality and wildlife habitat. Comment on the Project Albany website before Apr. 15 or send your comments to PPPI for inclusion in their submission.

Action on Climate Change through Education, May 10-12 (Saskatoon) 
The EECOM 2019 conference, to be held in Saskatoon May 10-12 will explore action on climate change through education.

Saskatoon Nature Society 
Apr. 3, 6:30-8 pm – Gull identification
Apr. 10, 6:45-8 pm – Crocus evening hike
Everyone is welcome. 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 

In the News
The RM of Corman Park unanimously denied Fortune Mineral’s rezoning application.

We shouldn’t be famous for being the biggest agrochemical user; we should be famous for doing the best agriculture,” says Christy Morrissey.

“Perhaps you are perfectly happy drinking out of a Saudi Arabian beer can, but you could also demand refillable glass like they use everywhere else in the world. We need to build a circular, closed-loop economy, and there's no room in it for one-way cans.”

Wolf and grizzly bear activity in important springtime habitat in Banff National Park doubles when the Bow Valley Parkway is off limits to people during the mandatory overnight closure.

A historic number of Painted Ladies are moving north at up to 25 mph.

Two Portuguese libraries are infested with bats - and they like it that way.

Urban forest management - there's room for improvement.

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 19 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 19, 2019


Upcoming Events
Putting a Price on Carbon, Mar. 19 (Saskatoon)
Jason McLean will discuss the law and economics of putting a price on carbon at 7 pm, Mar. 19.

Seeking Solace, Mar. 20-Apr. 18 (Saskatoon)
Kathy Bradshaw’s paintings explore the power of landscape at the Frances Morrison Library Gallery from Mar. 20-Apr. 18.

Wascana Solar Co-op AGM, Mar. 21 (Regina)
Wascana Solar Co-op is holding their membership’s annual general meeting at 7 pm, Mar. 21.

Saskatoon Nature Society AGM, Mar. 21 (Saskatoon)
Following a short business meeting, Saskatoon Nature Society members will share their photographs from the past year at 7:30 pm, Mar. 21.

Nature Photography, Mar. 22 (Moose Jaw)
Bob Schultz will share his photographs and answer questions about nature photography at the 7 pm, Mar. 22, meeting of the Moose Jaw Nature Society.

Passivhaus, Mar. 22-24 (Saskatoon)
Michael Nemeth will be speaking about passive houses at HomeStyles: 4 pm, Mar. 22, 11 am, Mar. 23, 11 am, Mar. 24.

Wascana Park in Winter, Mar. 23 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina on their Wascana Park field trip from 9 am-noon, Mar. 23.

Wild Mushrooms, Mar. 23 (Regina)
Learn about wild mushrooms from 10 am-12 pm at the Sunrise Branch of the Regina Public Library and from 2-4 pm at the Glen Elm branch.

SaskOutdoors AGM, Mar. 23 (Saskatoon)
SaskOutdoors is holding its annual general meeting near Saskatoon on Mar. 23.

Kelsey Ecological Society, Mar. 24 (Preeceville)
Michael and Kathleen Pitt will talk about the South Nahanni River: Canoeists’ Mecca at the Kelsey Ecological Society meeting at 2 pm, Mar. 24, at Club 60 Preeceville.

Garden Art for Kids, Mar. 24 (Regina)
Kids can decorate a plant container and learn about planting seeds from 2-3 pm, Mar. 24, at the Regina Central Library.

Water for Sale, Mar. 26 (Prince Albert)
Virtual speaker Regan Boychuk will discuss the commercialization of water at the Prince Albert Council of Canadian’s meeting from 7-8:30 pm, Mar. 26.

Introduction to Permaculture, Mar. 26 (Regina)
Find out about permaculture techniques and how they can be applied in your yard from 7-8:30 pm, Mar. 26, at Sunrise Library.

Our Planet’s Future, Mar. 26 (Saskatoon)
Dr. Roberta Bondar will speak on sustaining the future of our planet and ourselves from 7-8 pm, Mar. 26, at the University of Saskatchewan.

Conserving Native Grasslands, Mar. 28 (Saskatoon)
Trevor Herriot and Branimir Gjetvaj are giving a free public talk at 5:30 pm, Mar. 28, on getting native grasslands on Canada’s conservation radar. Register in advance. The talk is part of a networking event planned by the University of Saskatchewan.


Looking Ahead
SK Association of Watersheds Conference, Apr. 15-17 (Moosomin)
The Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds will hold their annual conference from Apr. 15-17 in Moosomin.

Nature Playcare, Apr. 23-26 (Saskatoon)
Wildernook and SaskOutdoors are hosting a Spring Camp edition of Nature Playcare from Apr. 23-26 – 3-4 year olds in the morning, 4-5 year olds in the afternoon.

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

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-op uses group purchases to make solar panels affordable.

Nova Scotia has introduced a bill to protect biodiversity.

Prevention is the only effective way to deal with plastic pollution.

Cities have a key role to play in confronting climate change, starting with shared mobility and taking back the streets from the private car.

A growing number of German households are installing batteries to store solar power.

Horizon by Barry Lopez is a “grave, sorrowful, beautiful book.”

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 March 2019

Insects - Valuable, Unloved

Tachinid fly - Adejeania vexatrix ?

Insectaggedon – the media has been full of stories about the rapid decline in the world’s insect population. And yet, is it any wonder? Pronghorn are graceful, owls are mysterious, pandas are adorable, but we don’t show insects much love. In fact, our first reaction when we spot a spider in the house or an ant hill in the garden is to destroy it. We spray our gardens and crops with pesticides, paying little attention to the impact this will have on other wildlife or the environment as a whole.

That’s Amazing 
“Well, let me tell you, ants are the dominant insects. They make up as much as a quarter of the biomass of all insects in the world. They are the principal predators. They're the cemetery workers.” (E. O. Wilson) 

There are 30 million different species of insects (as opposed to 5000 species of the furry animals we find easy to love). That’s 60% of all animal species. Put them all together and they would “outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land.” They play a vital role in our ecosystem – from pollinating crops to recycling dead trees and controlling pests.

Insects are also amazingly beautiful. Fireflies light up the night. Jewel beetles have iridescent, brilliantly coloured bodies. The wings of butterflies and moths offer a diversity of rich colours and patterns. The Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov pays homage to a common insect.

Insects have influenced both religion and culture. The Buddhists viewed cicadas as a symbol of resurrection because of their cyclical reappearances. The humble dung beetle played a role in ancient Egyptian art and religion. “People saw how the scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer) rolled a ball of manure along the ground and concluded that a giant celestial dung beetle must roll the sun across the sky each day.” Silkworms – and the silk they produced – were a driving force in opening up trade between Europe and China and led Christopher Columbus to the Americas in his search for the quickest sea route to the Orient.

Engineers designing shock absorbers for a fighter jet studied grasshopper legs. The venom from deathstalker scorpions is being used in clinical trials to fight cancer. Cockroaches thrive in filthy environments thanks to the super antibiotics in their brains – antibiotics that may someday help humans to fight off bacteria that no longer respond to current medical options.

Many insects display superpowers that cannot be matched by humans. Dragonflies have very small brains, but they successfully capture their prey 97% of the time by focusing on one particular insect and ignoring all the rest. When threatened, bombardier beetles spray their attacker with a “boiling hot mixture of caustic chemicals. . . . The beetle itself is not harmed by the fiery chemical reaction. Using two special chambers inside the abdomen, the bombardier beetle mixes potent chemicals and uses an enzymatic trigger to heat and release them.”

Insects are often caring parents: “Giant water bug fathers carry their eggs on their backs, keeping them oxygenated and hydrated. . . . Bess beetles form family units, with both parents working together to rear their young. Their relationship is so sophisticated they've developed their own vocabulary and communicate with each other by squeaking.”

water strider

All I’m Asking is for a Little Respect
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” (E. O. Wilson) 

Reports of declining insect numbers have dominated the media over the past few years. Although there have been flaws or gaps in some of the research,* there is no doubting that the populations of many insect species are declining rapidly.

Despite recognition that shrinking insect populations will have harmful consequences to the ecosystem as a whole, there has been a limited concrete response. Researchers deplore the lack of funding, noting that only a few species are being monitored on a consistent basis – honey bees, monarch butterflies, some species of mosquitoes. What funding is available is often focused on protecting agricultural crops and doesn’t acknowledge the broader relevance of insects to our ecosystem.

The lack of awareness of insects’ importance is demonstrated by their absence from educational curriculum and textbooks. A study of 88 introductory biology textbooks published since 2000 showed that they “contain 75% less insect-related material than those published before 1960; the average modern text now allots just 5.67 pages to insects, accounting for a mere 0.59% of book content.” The study’s authors “place these trends within a larger underrepresentation of insects in science, and also a decline in appreciation for both biodiversity and natural history. Pages once devoted to animals and plants are now reserved for genetics and cell biology. The effect is one of detachment from nature in general and insects in particular.”

Conservation organizations fail to counter society’s lack of respect for insects. The cuddly panda is the icon of the World Wildlife Fund. The Canadian Wildlife Federation invites donors to adopt “a beautiful bear . . . a whimsical wolf . . . a magnificent moose” – there’s not even a cute little ladybug. 

praying mantis

Unsung Heroes
“I'm obsessed with insects, particularly insect flight. I think the evolution of insect flight is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of life. Without insects, there'd be no flowering plants. Without flowering plants, there would be no clever, fruit-eating primates giving TED Talks.” (Michael Dickinson) 

Paul Manning, a doctoral student in zoology at the University of Oxford, describes insects as “the unsung heroes, the little things that run the world” but urges people to move beyond their functional importance to a broader appreciation of insects: “When we experience the fascinating world of insects firsthand, the dominant dialogue of ‘insects as ecosystem service providers’ begins to shift. Instead, we start to recognise the beauty, mystery and wonder of the insect world for what it is: beautiful, mysterious and wonderful. Through building a stronger appreciation of the important inherent value of insect biodiversity, hopefully ‘what do they do for us?’ will share more space with ‘what can we do for them?’ ”

* The recent analysis of declining insect populations published in Biological Conservation was a review of recent literature, but its choice of search terms meant it only included articles that reported a decline in insect populations and reported primarily on the northern hemisphere.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 12, 2019


Upcoming Events
Ferruginous Hawks, Mar. 13 (webinar)
Janet Ng will offer a noon-hour webinar on ferruginous hawks on Mar. 13 as part of SK-PCAP’s Native Prairie Speaker Series.

Standing Rock vs Dakota Access Pipeline, Mar. 13 (Saskatoon) & Mar. 14 (Regina)
Nick Estes, author of Our History is the Future: Standing Rock vs the Dakota Access Pipeline & the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance, will be speaking in Saskatoon at 12:30 and 7 pm, Mar. 13, and in Regina at 7 pm, Mar. 14.

Care & Pruning of Trees, Mar. 14 (Regina)
Find out how to care for your trees at the Regent Place branch of the Regina Public Library from 7:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 14.

Essence, Mar. 14 (Saskatoon)
Essence, a film about Ness Creek, is premiering at 7 pm, Mar. 14, in Saskatoon.

Repair Café, Mar. 16 (Prince Albert) 
Share and learn skills to repair things at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, Mar. 16.

Project Wet, Mar. 16 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors is hosting a Project Wet workshop for K-12 teachers in Regina from 9:30 am-3:30 pm, Mar. 16.

Ecological Literacy for Adults, Mar. 16 (Saskatoon)
Lichen Nature is offering an ecological literacy event to help people connect with nature from 10 am-2:30 pm, Mar. 16.

Flying Ambassador, Mar. 16 (Saskatoon) 
USask’s Wild and Exotic Animal Medicine Society will be bringing one of their animals to Wild Birds Unlimited from 1-3 pm, Mar. 16.

Prairie’s Got the Goods Week, Mar. 17-23 (Saskatchewan)
Enjoy daily webinars during PCAP-SK’s Prairie’s Got the Goods Week from Mar. 17-23. Topics include Prairie Wetlands: A Case Study of the Smith Creek Drainage Basin and Native Grassland and its Importance to Grassland Songbirds.

Bumble Bee Pathogens, Mar. 18 (Regina)
Kirsten Palmier will discuss bumble bee pathogens from 7:30-9:30 pm, at the Mar. 18 meeting of Nature Regina.

Bird ID for Novice Birders, Mar. 18 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatoon Nature Society and the SK Breeding Bird Atlas are offering a free two-hour workshop on the basics of bird identification from 7-9 pm, Mar. 18.

Indigenous Renewable Connections, Mar. 20 (Saskatoon)
Indigenous employees, students and businesses along with renewable energy employers and industry are invited to make connections and build relationships at the Workforce Connex event at the U of S, Mar. 20 from 8:30 am-4:30 pm.

raindrops on cedar branch

Looking Ahead
Basic Wildlife Rehab. Course, Apr. 6-7 (Saskatoon)
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is hosting a two-day introduction to wildlife rehabilitation on Apr. 6 & 7 in Saskatoon.

Passive House Planning Package, Apr. 11-13 (Saskatoon)
This course, being offered in Saskatoon from Apr. 11-13, provides step-by-step instruction for using the PHPP energy modelling software, which is essential for designing a Passive House building.

Birding with Jared, May 26 (Regina) 
Join Jared Clarke on a birding bus tour with experienced guides from 8 am-4 pm, May 26. Pickups in Regina and Balgonie. Proceeds to the Milestone NDP Constituency Association.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Mar. 16, 7:45-10 pm – Saw-whet owling near Pike Lake
Mar. 30, 9:15 am-2 pm – Bluebird trip
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s NEW website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News
Environment Canada and the Department of Defence are working together to protect natural areas on military bases.

"It’s not about how old the trees are, it’s about how long there’s been a forest on that site. Studying lichen that can only be found in a particular site will help determine the age and biodiversity of a forest."

We are the Ark - “it’s up to each of us to re-wild our world, piece by piece until we have a patchwork quilt of sanctuaries that wraps its way around the globe.”

Vancouver Park Board looks into more humane pest control methods.

4 pairs of lovely legs - 9 of the world's most beautiful spiders.

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 5 March 2019

EcoSask News, March 5, 2019

American robin

Upcoming Events
Soil, Compost & Mulch, Mar. 6 (Regina)
Find out about soil, compost, and mulch at the George Bothwell branch of the Regina Public Library from 7:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 6.

Balancing Self-Care & Community Care, Mar. 11 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatoon Enviro Collective is hosting a potluck supper and discussion about the interplay between self-care and community care from 6:30-9:30 pm, Mar. 11. Register early as spots are limited.

Multiple Species Management Workshop, Mar. 12 (Consul)
Landowners and managers will discuss their experiences in implementing multiple-species management plans from 1-5:30 pm, Mar. 12, in Consul. This will be followed by a conservation appreciation supper hosted by Nature Saskatchewan.

Outdoor Lighting Design, Mar. 12 (Saskatoon)
Rick Huziak will discuss outdoor lighting design and its effect on the environment at 12 pm, Mar. 1, at Innovation Place Saskatoon.

Pre-Election Forum on the Climate Crisis, Mar. 13 (Fort Qu’Appelle)
The Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association is holding a pre-election forum on the climate crisis from 7-9 pm, Mar. 13, in the Treaty Four Governance Centre in Fort Qu’Appelle. Elizabeth May will be speaking; other national party leaders were invited but declined to attend.

Looking Ahead
Fridays for Future, Mar. 15 (Regina)
As part of the Global Climate Strike for Future on Mar. 15, participants will be meeting in front of the Legislative Building in Regina from noon-1 pm.

Bridging the Gap, Mar. 31 (Coronach)
Climate Justice Saskatoon will be holding a workshop in Coronach on Mar. 31 to discuss the community’s transition away from coal. Message Climate Justice Saskatoon if you’re interested in attending.

Sask Wildlife Society AGM, Apr. 6 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan chapter of The Wildlife Society will be holding its annual general meeting from 11 am-6 pm, Apr. 6, in Saskatoon. Email to register.

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

American Robin

In the News
Citizens Environmental Alliance – Saskatchewan is calling on the federal government for an environmental assessment of agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan and the province's Agricultural Water Management Strategy. Support their work by signing the petition. For more information, take a look at We’re Losing our Wetlands – and that’s a Big Problem.

The provincial government’s proposal for a possibly 6-lane freeway around Saskatoon was approved around 2005 but with no environmental assessment and minimal public input. The proposed location would cut through both the Small Swale and the conservation zone of the Northeast Swale about ½ km from the North Commuter Highway through the Swale and the bridge would be located about the same distance from the new Chief Mistawasis Bridge. Northeast Swale Watchers are urging residents to express their concerns online.

In response to concerns raised by Birds in Real Danger and Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) has included a more rigorous assessment for bird-friendly building design in its review process and the City of Saskatoon has begun to develop bird-friendly building guidelines and is publishing a Healthy Yards pamphlet with tips to help homeowners protect birds from collisions with glass. Both the University of Saskatchewan and the MVA have added dots to some of their windows to prevent bird collisions.

“After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. . . . By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet.”

A teacher wore the same dress for 100 days to teach her students about slow, sustainable fashion.

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 3 March 2019

Alternatives: Energy Saving Options in Europe

It’s easy to imagine that homes in Europe operate in much the same way as homes in Canada, but that’s not the case.* From locking the door to three-pronged plugs, there are different ways of doing things. This certainly applies to energy saving options.

Heating the House
Winters are obviously warmer in Europe than on the Canadian Prairies, but many of the tactics used by Europeans to save energy when heating their homes could apply in Canada.

Many homeowners program their heating system to come on for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. They don’t heat their homes during the day when they are active or out of the house or at night. You can override the thermostat settings, but that requires thought and action as opposed to programming the heat to be on all the time automatically.

Some households supplement their household heating system with a wood stove. This is a mixed blessing, especially in cities, as wood stoves can be a major source of indoor and outdoor air pollution. There are ways of tackling this with more efficient stoves and improved fuel sources. 

Smaller homes or apartments that use electric heat sometimes save energy with a night storage heater. It looks very much like a normal radiator but operates differently. The electricity comes on for several hours during the night when electricity is much cheaper (about a third of the price) and is stored as heat in a large brick. The heat is then slowly released during the day. You can turn the heat up or down, but when the stored heat is used up, no more will be available until the following day.

Heat loss is kept to a minimum by hanging a heavy curtain in front of outside doors or closing the shutters on the windows at night. The shutters play a double role as they are closed in the summer to keep homes cool during the heat of the day.

Very few homes in Europe have a clothes drier and, if they do have one, they use it sparingly. Clothes are hung to dry on a clothes horse or outdoor clothesline or draped over radiators and stairwell banisters.

Some households only run the washing machine or dishwasher at night in order to take advantage of cheaper electricity rates.

Hot Water 
Many European homes have an immediate hot water supply – but not all. In some homes, you have to switch the hot water on before you have a shower or wash dishes, and you may have to wait a significant length of time before there is sufficient hot water to take a bath. It’s not as convenient as you have to plan in advance, but you save energy by not continually reheating the water stored in the tank.

Phantom Energy 
Many modern electronic devices draw energy even when they’re not in use – televisions, computers, chargers for telephones and tablets. You can avoid phantom energy by unplugging devices when not in use or by using a power bar which can be turned on and off. The British have an additional option as most socket outlets have a switch to turn power on or off at the source. They don’t always take advantage of this option, but it’s certainly more convenient than a power bar.

Lights in many apartment building hallways in Europe aren’t on 24/7. Instead, you turn them on when you enter a hallway or stairwell and they go off automatically a few seconds later, saving money as well as energy.

* Penny McKinlay has been housesitting in the United Kingdom and France for several months every winter for the past 5 years and has learned to adapt to different ways of operating a home.