Food and Organic Waste Management in Ontario

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a discussion paper late May 2017 addressing food and organic waste in Ontario. By 2022 Ontario wants to ban food waste from being thrown in trash bags with other household garbage.

The purpose of the paper is to get Ontarians thinking about food waste in terms of how to reduce the amount that becomes waste and how to remove it from the disposal stream. Some of the framework’s goals are to enhance education regarding food and organic waste and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from food and organic wastes.

According to the paper, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations found that 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is wasted per year. In 2014 $31 billion of food was wasted in Canada. Most of the food wasted (3.6 million tonnes!!!) was sent to landfill. The ministry states that when food and organic materials break down in an oxygen-deprived environment, such as a landfill, it creates methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. The paper suggests that food waste is a growing problem and offer more sustainable practices.

To combat the amount of food and organic waste being produced in Ontario, the ministry put forth a strategy that includes 15 actions Ontario can take to reduce greenhouse gases, and the amount of food and organic waste in landfills. Some of the action points include: “Banning certain materials, such as food waste, beverage containers, cardboard and fluorescent bulbs from disposal”, “Outreach activities targeted at households and across the supply chain” and “Donor protection limits or removed liability from donors who donate food in good faith”.

The benefits of diverting food and organic waste from landfill include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, create compost which can improve soil health, reduce erosion and improve water quality. It creates economic and environmental benefits of recovering nutrients, energy and other resources that would be used in new products.

Here is the Ministry’s discussion paper: http://www.downloads.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/er/documents/2017/013-0094_DiscussionPaper.pdf.

I think green bins need to be more normalized, having more of them in parks and around cities. I also think green bins should be a part of classrooms and in schools to encourage the habit of composting.

What do you think about the strategies put forth? How do you plan on reducing the amount of food and organic waste entering landfills?

Aaliyah Atcha

How does Composting help your savings and the environment?

Composting is the natural way to recycle organic matter that is very good for our soil. Making the soil very rich with nutrients that are needed to support other lives, plants, and other organisms. The most convenient way of composting is the one that uses aerobic bacteria to make the compost since it does not collect unwanted animals, flies and bad smell to your house and backyard. This type of composter thrives on vegetable food scraps, paper, leaves and any other plant parts.

Composting is important for your garden’s soil since it gives the plants the nutrients needed to grow healthy without having to buy fertilizers as compost material is considered a natural fertilizer, as well as it helps reduce the use of pesticides.

Making your own compost bin at home helps the environment by reducing the landfills, greenhouse gases relates to chemical fertilizer production, pollution due to use of pesticides, and it improves the quality of soil allowing it to absorb more nutrients and stay moist. On the other hand composting helps your budget. All materials needed to keep your plants healthy be found in your own home and backyard. Food scraps that you already throw away can be collected and turned into compost, saving all the money that you would otherwise spend on fertilizers, pesticides or even on buying new soil.

There are really simple and convenient ways to start a composting bin:

  1. Vermicomposting: Is indoor composting using special worms called Red Wigglers. Here at Green Venture we sell our Red Wiggler worms and vermicomposting containers that you could put under your kitchen counter without being worried of any smells or flies or worms escaping from the bin.  You only need to feed them once a week. For more information visit www.greenventure.ca
  2. Leaves Composting: This is a very simple method of composting where you can compost your tree leaves out in a small area in your backyard by mixing it with some grass clippings and letting it pile up. Make sure you turn the pile once or twice a week to allow air to get between the leaves and make the composting process faster since the composting bacteria are aerobic/they need oxygen to live.
  3. Green Cart: If your worries about maintaining your composter the City of Hamilton also offers the Green Cart program which pick up your food waste once a week with your garbage collection. For more information visit, https://www.hamilton.ca/garbage-recycling/green-bin-composting

by: Ifrodet Giorgees

Climate Change Action of the Month: Hamilton Conservation Authority and E-Waste

This year the Hamilton Conservation Authority held an e-waste recycling day that yielded 850lbs of electronics that could then be recycled sustainably. Think about all the waste that this one event diverted from the landfill!

What is E-Waste?

In simple terms e-waste is short for electronic waste and includes everything that has ever run on batteries or a plug – including the batteries and plugs themselves! E-waste is a fairly new environmental issue compared to some since the technologies are new themselves. One thing is for certain, every year we produce more and more e-waste as many aspects of our lives are digitized. Continue reading

Climate Change Action of the Month: The Green Cottage

Start Climate Change awareness at the home! That is what the Green Cottage in Hamilton has done, this house has many ecofriendly features, which helps eliminate its lasting effects on the climate. The house, located in the north end of Hamilton by the harbour, was originally built in 1885 with many similar houses surrounding it, but since then it has had some major renovations, and although the house does not look much different than the ones surrounding it the Green Cottage is unlike any home in Hamilton.

The Green Cottage

The Green Cottage

Starting on the outside the house is trimmed with salvaged wood, reclaimed wood helps eliminate the process of manufacturing and saves a few trees from being cut down in the process. The house is also insulated on the outside, this is called Exsulation, which provides more thermal heating for the house, eliminating most of the use of furnaces. The roof is also adorned with many solar panels and solar water heaters. Up to 30% of new greenhouse gases around the globe are contributed by non-renewable energy, and using solar energy as an alternative helps to decrease that number and the impacts of climate change.

On the inside the house is NOT equipped with a clothing dryer, air conditioner, stove, refrigerator or microwave! With the house lacking these amenities they are not sucking out energy for appliances that are not essential for everyday needs. The Green Cottage has significantly reduced its energy use, and has set a very high standard for energy conservation.

The house is also surround by a vigorous and beautiful garden. The garden creates green space in a mostly asphalt ridden area, and the plants not only look great but they are absorbing carbon dioxide and eliminating that from out atmosphere. The Green Cottage has gone above and beyond to eliminate their negative effects on climate change and the environment in general. This house is not only proof that you can take an old home and make environmental improvements, but it also demonstrates the many changes you can make a home level.

Written by: Brittney Massey

Get Involved with Green Venture

Green Venture is a non-profit organization and, like many non-profits, we rely on the help of community volunteers for many of our projects. Whether it’s weeding a garden, guiding a tour, promoting Green Venture at an event or taking part in a clean-up, our volunteers help in all kinds of ways.

Having fun after a volunteer cleanup event

Having fun after a volunteer cleanup event

Many of our volunteers get involved with Green Venture for various  reasons. Everyone is different but most volunteers have a few things in common and many volunteer because they want to help the environment, get experience, learn skills, meet new people and have fun. Some people also volunteer to add to a resume or earn volunteer hours for high school.

Green Venture has several ways you can get involved, including maintaining the grounds at our EcoHouse, joining us at special events or helping lead a tour (for more details on these opportunities, visit our website). These are not the only ways people volunteer with Green Venture though, we also have interns, co-op students and all of our board members are volunteers.

Making paper during an EcoHouse open house

Making paper during an EcoHouse open house

Getting involved is easy:

  • Sign up for our Green Post (online Volunteer Mailing List) to receive regular updates on volunteer opportunities
  • Email volunteer (@) greenventure.ca to receive a Volunteer Application and information about current opportunities to volunteer
  • Visit Green Venture’s EcoHouse or speak with us at an event to learn more about volunteering
  • If you have skills or experience you would like to share as a volunteer let us know!

We hope you will come out and volunteer with us soon!

NEW! EcoHouse Greywater System

At Green Venture we are very excited to say that we are in the process of installing a greywater system for our EcoHouse! A greywater system recycles wastewater from showers, baths, sinks, laundry machines or rainwater on-site. The system then reuses that same wastewater for either irrigation or toilet water. With greywater not only will you be diminishing the amount of water you take from the waterways, you will also be saving on your water bill, helping you while you help the environment. On average, a greywater system saves a residential home between 30-40% on their annual water bill.

Here at Green Venture we obtain our greywater from rainwater runoff from a portion of our roof. We then recycle that water through our greywater system and the same water is used for flushing our dual flush toilet. Before the greywater reaches the toilet bowl it is purified through a BARC tank, which eliminates any floating or sinking substances. After the filter gets rid of unwanted substances, the greywater is stored for future cn toweruse. The system will also automatically flush down the greywater if that water is stagnant for too long, or there is too much greywater to store. By using the rainwater runoff from just a section of the roof, Green Venture will be conserving over 20,000L of water per year. That means less fresh water being extracted from local waterways, saving on water bills and doing our part to live more sustainably.

The greywater system allows us to conserve a significant amount of water as the toilet is responsible for using up to 30% of a household’s water usage. On average a family of four who uses a dual-flush toilet will use around 28,000L of water per year for flushing alone. That amount of water could fill over 50,000 conventional sized water bottles. If you stack all of the water bottles on top of one another they would be over two and a half times taller than the CN tower building.

The greywater system can be installed on both a residential and commercial scale.

Although we are only collecting greywater from our rain runoff most locations incorporate wastewater from sinks, showers/baths and laundry machines. If you were to incorporate the wastewater from your sink and if while brushing your teeth you left the sink on for two minutes then you would have accumulated 32L of wastewater. Our dual flush toilet only uses 4L per flush, therefore, those 32L of wasted water from brushing your teeth could sustain up to 8 flushes of the toilet.

The greywater system is an innovative solution to recycling our water. Even the Mars Desert Research Station uses greywater, and experiments with having the greywater
system used for future potential trips to Mars. Not only is the greywater system helping us protect our environment, but it’s allowing us to bring and sustain water in place where we never could before.

Written by: Brittney Massey

Indoor Composting with Red Wiggler Worms

Do you live in an apartment or house with no backyard and still want to compost? The solution to your composting needs are worms, Red Wiggler Worms! These worms are the most common species of worm used for indoor composting. What’s so great about indoor composting? Indoor composting is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce and create nutrient-filled compost for your plants and garden when you have a limited amount of outdoor space. VermicompostingUsing Red Wiggler worms to compost is odour-free and a fast way to break down kitchen scraps with very little maintenance. Red wigglers can consume large amounts of organic material, digest it, extract its food value and expel the residue as worm castings, which are very rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Under ideal conditions each worm can consume its own body weight in one day. Pick of some of these worms from Green Venture in two litre quantities that include worms, bedding and some worm castings to start your indoor composter off right. Pick up a worm chalet or you can even make your own composter by drilling holes for aeration into two Rubbermaid containers with a lid (find out how here). Indoor worm composters use little space, produce high nutrient compost and reduce your garbage output, so why not start your own today!

Written By: Christine van Beest

Reduce Your Winter Salt Use

Every year Canadians brave the winter weather to go about our daily lives.  Coats and mitts, snow tires, shovels and salt; we all have our weapons of choice for battling against the cold and ice but sometimes we forget to keep the planet in mind.  To help make things a little easier on the planet, here is some info about the salts we use and tips for more eco-friendly alternatives.

For starters, we’re not talking about the same kind of salt as on your dinner table; we’re talking about road salts, table salt’s beefier cousin.  Road salts help to melt the ice and snow, and create traction so your shoes or wheels don’t slide out from under you.

It’s just salt, right?  Well, the environment isn’t used to the huge amount that we use.  Many living things cannot survive in salty environments (which is why salt is such a useful preservative in food).  Every year, an estimated five million tonnes of salt are used on roads and sidewalks in Canada.  This messes with nature, harms animals and plants, and contaminates fresh water.

On top of all this, salt isn’t great for our pets.  Dogs and cats will lick salt and other deicers off of their paws.  Check out this video from EcoTraction explaining the toxins and their impacts on our pets: http://www.ecotraction.com/ourstory.html.

There are many products on the shelves that will claim they are safe for your pets, but don’t be fooled.  Just because they are safe for your pets’ paws, does NOT mean they are safe for your pets to eat.  Read the label carefully, and make sure you understand the ingredients.

Sand and kitty litter are great alternatives.  If you go with sand, make sure you use brick sand, which is grittier than the playground sand (it is available at local building supply stores).  As for kitty litter, stay clear of the clumping stuff or you will have a big mess on your hands.

For more info, check out our website: http://water.greenventure.ca/road-salts-alternatives

Littered Streets (and Shores, and Parks)

With the snow melted, it is hard not to notice the litter around Hamilton.  Not only is it unattractive but it can be dangerous for wildlife and pollute our natural resources.  Our friends around Hamilton have asked us how they can help.  The most important step is to set a good example by disposing of all of your waste properly and securing your recycling at the curb.  The next step is to help clean-up the litter in your neighbourhood.

The Laws: Illegal Dumping versus Littering

If you like legal jargon, you can read the full Litter, Yard Waste and Property Maintenance Bylaw.  For the rest of us:

  • Littering is small-scale, spontaneous, and often unintentional misplaced waste such as a piece of trash blown out of your hand or a dropped a cigarette.  If it is intentional, it is illegal and can land you a fine of up to $500.
  • Illegal dumping is intentional and generally large-scale dumping of personal waste onto public or private properties.  Fines can go up to $5000.  Anytime you witness trash being dumped on a public or private property report it by calling 905.546.CITY.   If it is from a car, note the make, model, and license plate number.

Litter Clean Up Tips

Want to clean up around your neighbourhood? It’s great to do your part and important to do it safely and to dispose of the litter in the right way.   Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Be cautious of water bodies, steep slopes, or busy street
  • Get permission if you want to clean up on private property
  • Have a first aid kit nearby, sunscreen, and bug repellent nearby
  • Wear bright clothing or safety vests, work gloves, and closed-toe shoes
  • Drink water to keep hydrated
  • Wash your hands after the clean-up
  • Separate out recyclables in a clear bag or blue bin
  • Report discarded bulk items to the litter hotline at 905.546.CITY (2489) or litter@hamilton.ca
  • Report graffiti to the City at 905.546.CITY
  • DO NOT pick up hazardous items such as discarded needles, sharp objects, animal carcasses, or heavy items.  Flag these items and call 905.546.CITY

Learn more by visiting the City of Hamilton anti-litter site or Clean City Liaison Committee site and checking out the resources below.

Clean Up Events/Resources

City of Hamilton’s Team Up to Clean Up

The event (previously called pitch-in week) runs for a week in April, but groups can register year-round to get supplies to host a clean-up events.  If you register online, you will get Clean & Green bag (which are a special orange colour making them exempt from the one curb side garbage container rule), recycling bags, graffiti wipes and work gloves (as supplies last).

City of Hamilton’s Adopt-a-Park

Register your group to Adopt-a-Park to help keep a park in your neighbourhood beautiful and clean year-round.

Bay Area Restoration Council

BARC (Bay Area Restoration Council) promotes many programs such as Adopt-a-Creek which focus on clean-up efforts around the Bay.

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Each year in mid-September, groups from throughout Canada host events to help clean up shorelines.  Visit the website to register for or host an event near you.

In Your Neighbourhood

Do you know of other clean up days in your area?  Are you planning an event?  Share information by leaving a reply.