From Grey to Green: A Permeable Parking Lot Story

Depave Paradise has officially wrapped for 2017! We’ve had our most successful year yet Depaving 5 sites for a total of 594m2 asphalt removed! One of our community sites, New Horizons Thrift, Vintage & Collectables, challenged us at Green Venture to a new post-depave vision – a permeable parking lot.  With the majority of our Depave Paradise projects being at schools, we’re used to planting trees, rain gardens, native plant gardens and outdoor education spaces, but this particular community group had a different idea in mind! In Fall 2017, residents from the North End community and Welcome Inn Community Centre – New Horizons Thrift Store partnered with Green Venture to Depave. The New Horizons Thrift Shop on James St. North was all broken asphalt and chipped compacted stone. Jen Kellner, Executive Director of Welcome Inn Community Centre and Suzanne Foreman, Manager of New Horizons brought the idea to life in partnership with Green Venture Depave Paradise coordinator, Laura Anderson. Several months of researching, planning, community engagement and volunteer recruitment went into the parking lot transformation project. The goal: create a permeable, sustainable and green parking lot that will be functional and environmentally friendly. With the help of contractors including Groundhog Excavation, Avesi Stormwater and Landscape Solutions, Fern Ridge Eco-Landscaping and LID Permeable Pavers, we came up with a plan to remove the asphalt, excavate out the compacted gravel and stone, add a drainage base layer of ¾ clear stone and high performance bedding, and lay down 2000 square feet of EcoRaster. Volunteers from the community came to help lay the EcoRaster, as the simple interlocking system easily fits together. We chose Ecoraster E50, a commercial grade permeable paver ideal for parking lots and driveways with snow conditions. The Ecoraster was filled with a mixture of premium garden soil and high performance bedding, custom mixed by The Dirt Depot, to provide drainage and soil for seeding. The permeable pavers have been seeded with clover, sheeps fescue and a mixture of eco lawn seeds. In the Spring, the community will reseed the system with creeping thyme and sedums. The secondary goal of this Depave Paradise project was parking lot beautification to increase pride in the North end. As a result we partnered with the Hamilton Tool Library to build 10 planter boxes that are installed along the back of the parking lot. Built by volunteers and planted with donations from the community including members of the Sunset Cultural Garden, these boxes will serve to add biodiversity and life to the parking lot. Over the course of the project, including our  volunteer planning committee, depave helpers, garden box builders and permeable paver installers, we had approximately 35 committed volunteers connected to the project.

 

Many thanks to the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund and City of Hamilton’s City Enrichment Fund for their funding support for this project.

New demonstration item at EcoHouse: the LifeStraw personal water filter

Green Venture recently received a donation of Lifestraw Personal Water Filters. The personal water filters, which look like a baton tube with a filter camp on the end, remove bacteria such as E.Coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium from water in a natural setting. Each filter has the capability to make up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water safe to drink. They are used in third world countries to provide access to clean drinking water.

In Canada, the most likely application is use in a natural setting (hiking, backpacking, camping, etc.), permitting one to drink directly from streams and lakes or from any container. They also have travel and emergency preparedness applications. Apparently you can buy a specially-designed water bottle to enclose the straw, although ours didn’t come with that.

Green Venture staff used the Lifestraws during the 2017 summer camp season, as part of our off-site emergency supply kits.

By reducing fuel consumption necessary to boil and purify water, the filters also have the possibility of reducing one’s carbon footprint, especially in area without a municipal water filtration system.

It’s a very interesting contrast to a water filter we actually built here at EcoHouse in 2008- as part of a CAWST workshop.  In those days, the workshop instructors showed everyone how to make DIY concrete forms to hold water filters for a village water treatment system.

2008 CAWST water filter building workshop at EcoHouse

The Lifestraw company also contributes a portion of proceeds of sales of the Lifestraw to providing clean water to schools in Kenya and India.  http://followthelitres.com/

If you’d like to see the Lifestraw, please visit EcoHouse and ask one of our education staff to show the new demo item.

 

Ontario offers additional electricity bill supports

The Ontario government, working with the hydro utilities, has announced a new program to assist customers having difficulty with their hydro bills. The program, the Affordability Fund, is designed for customers who are above the income thresholds for existing support programs, but still require some assistance.

https://www.affordabilityfund.org/

 

 

Ocean Pollution

Our daily activities have been polluting the ocean for centuries, this problem was magnified after World War II. Industries started manufacturing and synthesizing materials that were very harmful to the environment such as plastic products and inorganic pesticides. Oceans are mainly affected when humans are irresponsibly spreading harmful toxic substances such as oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural waste as well as chemical particles into the ocean. Another human action that is harming the marine life is mining for materials such as copper and gold. This causes water contamination and affects the life cycles of numerous marine organisms.

Pollution has so many effects on the ocean starting from a decreasing in biodiversity to behavioral changes, as well as increasing rates of cancer in animals as well as in humans. For example, oil spills could get on the gills and feathers of marine animals and make it hard for the animals to move or fly. Long term exposure can damage the animal’s eyes, lungs, skin and eventually lead to death. Another problem with oil spills is that oil has a lower density than the water thus it floats on the surface of water preventing the sunlight from reaching all the way to the marine plants. Therefore these plants cannot perform photosynthesis leading to lower oxygen levels in the ocean as well as the death of these plants since they cannot make their food anymore.

The main pollution problem in our ocean is plastic…. It’s is everywhere! The minimum time required for the plastic to degrade is 450 years which makes it stay in oceans for a very long time.  Thousands of animals end up mistaking plastic for food or the animals get tangled in it for rest of their life. When animals mistake the plastic for food and consume it, it leads to slow death caused either by the instant damage to their guts or the long term damage by taking up the volume of their stomach leading to the starvation of the animal. About 60% of the seabirds have eaten plastic particles, about 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic is ingested by the North Pacific fish, and 52% of sea turtles worldwide have eaten plastic.

These numbers are estimated to increase if humans continue with the same harmful habits.

Ways to decrease plastic ocean pollution numbers can start from your home:

  • Refusing to use single-use plastic bags, instead use biodegradable shopping bags.
  • Using reusable bottles for any beverages instead of using single-use plastic bottles.
  • Avoid excessive packaging products and bring your own reusable containers/bags when shopping.
  • When purchasing or finding a six-pack holder make sure to cut each one and properly dispose of it. These six-pack rings end up in the ocean choking wildlife animals like sea turtles.
  • Make sure all plastic products are properly recycled.
  • Talk and advise your family and friends about the importance of these steps to protect our ocean’s wildlife.

Other ways to protect our oceans is by getting out there and volunteering with local and international environmental organizations to go and clean up the oceans and beaches.

by Ifrodet Giorgees

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

Why We Need to Plant Native Species

Thinking about planting in your garden? Why not consider planting some of Ontario’s native plants. Here are the types of plants you can grow, the benefits of planting native, and how you can help create an environment that provides food and shelter for native animals and insects.

Plants that thrive naturally in an area are called native or indigenous species. Native species are great to plant because they are used to local soil and weather conditions, which means they survive longer while being low maintenance. Native plants are found to be much healthier and disease resistant which can help restore native biodiversity in the areas we live in.

Coneflower, EcoHouse, 2015

The Plants you can Grow and their Benefits

A good choice of groundcovers are Wild Geranium and Canada Anemone. Ecologists have found that these plants are easy to maintain and provide a solid source of food for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

Milkweed, Wild Strawberry, Big Bluestem, Bearberry and Mayapple are only a few of the wide variety of native plants you can choose to put in your gardens. The plants listed above are great if you are thinking about growing a pollinator friendly garden.

Milkweed, EcoHouse, 2017

Oak trees are a large source of food and shelter to many different species, and they help sustain biodiversity. They provide leafy food for moths, caterpillars and butterflies and they also provide large nesting areas for woodpeckers. Furthermore they provide living spaces for owls and bats. For those looking for more information about native species, invasive species and general knowledge about garden management tips, “Grow Me Instead” is an easy to follow guide that can help you with your inquiries.  (http://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/GMI-Booklet_FINAL-FOR-WEB_May132016.pdf).

Planting native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers of any type has numerous benefits:

  • can reconnect fragmented natural areas
  • restores a vital link in the water cycle
  • reduces wind and water erosion
  • improves air quality
  • rebuilds soils
  • reduces temperature extremes
  • creates refuges for wildlife and urbanized humans

https://www.ontarionature.org/discover/resources/PDFs/misc/habitat_creation.pdf

If you are thinking about starting a garden or adding to your landscape, keep in mind the large benefits planting native can provide for the environment.

by: Aaliyah Atcha

Moving from Summer to Fall- School Tours at EcoHouse

Wow that felt like the fastest summer ever for me, how about you? So here we are trying to get back into the school routines. Packing lunches, getting to class on time and lots of sitting. How about a great school trip to get the students (and teachers) moving and excited about what they are learning about. We have great programming that is engaging for all grades – including High School!
I get to do the fun stuff and work outside with the kids and we play in the dirt. We mix up Seed bombs, help weed invasive plants or try to identify what food that might be growing in our Community Garden. Seed bombs are my favorite activity with the kids. When I tell them they have to use their hands to mix up seeds, clay and soil they reactions are loud and honest. There’s lots of “ewwwws” but also some “Yes!”. I normally ask them “Who lives on the Earth?” Everybody! “Who needs to take care of the Earth?” Everybody! “Who needs to get their hands dirty?” Everybody! I want them to have fun but still understand how important it is for every one of us to do our part.

Groups might be making paper, running the Waste Race, they might even get to be the Mayor in a town hall meeting! We know how much of a challenge it can be to find school trips that both meet the required curriculum and are engaging for the kids. At the Eco House we can help everyone meet their goals and have a great time.
To book a tour contact Virginia the Education Manager at education@greenventure.ca or 905 540 8787 x154  or click the teachers link on our greenventure.ca home page.

I look forward to meeting you all!!!

Kelly

How to Make Classrooms/Schools Greener

It’s a new school year… and here are some great ways to make your classroom greener. Teachers: Here are a few ways you and your class can become environmental leaders at your school.

The article is called “How to Bring Green into the Classroom” (https://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-school-teachers.html) and offers a variety of ways you can incorporate eco-friendly practices in the classroom. Alongside the article I also have a few ideas that you might consider for your classroom.

Calculating your carbon footprint

There are many different carbon footprint calculators online (here is one for reference: https://www.treesforlife.org.au/kids-carbon-calculator) that your class can use to see how much of a footprint they have. This is a good way to start a lesson about living more sustainably. It connects students to the environment and the impact that their actions have on it.

Conducting a small scale energy audit in the classroom

This would include having your class observe the different ways they use energy in the class. For example plugged in electronics, the use of lights, and the use of A/C or a heater. After their observations, students can come up with ideas about how to cut back on their use of energy. For example the article outlines turning the lights off before recess, and creating a checklist that students can monitor daily/weekly.

Walk or bike to school

Walking or biking to school can help reduce the amount of carbon emissions being released into the air. Discuss the different benefits of getting to school more “greenly” can have on their health as well as the environment. Perhaps having a walk or bike to school day each week for starters.

Bring plants indoors

Having a section of your classroom where students can take responsibility of caring for plants/growing food can help them connect with the environment and understand how things grow. It can also improve air quality in the classroom.

Litterless lunches

Challenge students to use reusable bottles, containers rather than putting things into the trash. Turn it into a schoolwide initiative where classrooms can compete to see who produces the least amount of waste.

Composting

Consider getting a green bin for your classroom to reduce the amount of food waste going into the trash. Have students take on the responsibility of taking out the green bin so it doesn’t give off a bad stench in the classroom. Also you might want to consider getting a vermicomposter for your classroom. A vermicomposter is the product of the composting process using various species of worms, usually red wigglers to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. You can feed the worm’s shredded paper, most vegetable and other food waste while producing healthy rich compost that can be used for planting. Feed your worms a diverse diet and always feed in moderation. If you have left over food that you don’t want to waste; chop it up and put it in a Ziploc bag in your freezer for later.

To learn more about Classroom Greening come for a tour of Green Venture’s Eco House. For more information contact education@greenventure.ca or 905 540 8787 x154 or visit our website at www.greenventure.ca

Aaliyah Atcha

 

Heritage window air testing results

The results of the Mohawk College study into heritage window testing that Green Venture participated in earlier this summer are now available as a download: Window Air Infiltration Research Project

An article about the project also appeared at https://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/new-study-shows-restored-200-year-old-windows-are-effective-brand-new-replacements.html