EcoStars It’s Time to Shine!

The EcoStar Challenge is underway! As of November 1st, we have 167 students who have participated in an EcoStar Challenge, and been entered into our grand prize draw.  What a great start to the school year.  eco-stars-blog

Can I let you in on the Big Idea behind the EcoStars Challenge? We want to know what Hamilton teachers and students are doing to live more sustainably, and we want to share those ideas with other teachers and students. We want to create a space where we can celebrate each other’s success (“good job planting a rain garden!”) and learn from each other (“I didn’t know you could recycle markers; we should do that at our school!”).  Every time a class completes a challenge, and that info goes on the climate change map, it gives inspiration to another class somewhere else in the city.  Whether you choose to complete one of the awesome Challenges on our website, or do a different environmental action, we would love to hear about it at Green Venture. That allows us to share all these great ideas and actions with all the schools we work with.

This week Green Venture will be visiting Cable 14 to talk about the EcoStars Challenge, and give some simple ideas of Challenges for classes to complete. Check our YouTube channel later in the month to watch the video and be inspired! 

Hold the Date: September 16, 2017- Uproot Hamilton

Yes, we are looking ahead to 2017… Green Venture is pleased to set the date for the next Uproot event on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Join us again for a mouth-watering food-tasting event at the EcoHouse, featuring local chefs and caterers, locally sourced ingredients, and more. If you are a chef or caterer interested in showcasing your creations at the 2017 Uproot event, please contact us at 905-540-8787 x117 or email contact@greenventure.ca

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St. Marguerite D’Youville students become part of elite “Raingers” club

Mother Nature was on our side during our Raingers Rain Garden build at St. Marguerite D’Youville on October 18th and 19th, 2016!

 

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Before: Underutilized, eroded area of the school grounds

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After: Rain Garden planted with native plants, shrubs and grasses and mulched with the help of over 50 students, teachers and support staff!

We enjoyed two beautiful days in the sunshine becoming responsible stewards of our watershed and our earth. First, we put our thinking caps on and learned all about stormwater, pollution, our watershed and what we can do to keep our water clean! Then, as the sun was calling our name, we took to the schoolyard to tackle the next challenge: how much stormwater can we capture! Using Green Venture’s stormwater house models, students from Mr. Czerniga’s grade 5/6 class and Mrs. Hunt’s grade 2 class helped to assemble a house that would capture more water than it let runoff. The students worked together to add rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs, cisterns and permeable pavements to their house to capture stormwater! We used all of these methods to catch stormwater before it becomes runoff, before it picks up pollutants like car oil, cigarette butts, litter, fertilizers and pet waste, before it goes down the storm drain, and ultimately before it ends up polluting our Hamilton Harbour!

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Well on their way to becoming “Raingers”, the students took a walk around the neighbourhood to identify some of these stormwater management techniques in real life. We found many things such as downspouts that were disconnected from the stormdrain and running into front gardens capturing and filtering runoff, we found permeable driveways that slow runoff and allow stormwater to soak into the ground recharging the groundwater supply and many more. We identified problems and talked about solutions, and we sadly searched high and low but didn’t find one rain barrel (hint hint St. Marguerite D’Youville neighbours)!

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Now these Raingers were ready to get their hands dirty! Kelly and Steve from BARC (Bay Area Restoration Council) led our St. Marguerite D’Youville Raingers to an underutilized patch of “grass” behind Mr. Czerniga’s portable. 101_1784We identified this site as a strategic place to plant a Rain Garden that would capture all of the stormwater that ran off the two portables at the school! Equip with trowels and enthusiasm the students dug and planted native shrubs, plants and grasses into their very own Rain Garden! Covering it with mulch with help from the after school daycare program, our Rain Garden was complete in one afternoon! And Mother Nature struck again when it rained for the next two days, not only watering our new garden but testing out the infiltration rate. We happy saw the rainwater soak into the native plant garden.  It was a fantastic two days with St. Marguerite D’Youville. We hope you enjoy your Rain Garden for many years to come!

Want a Rain Garden at your school?! Contact Raingers Program Coordinator Laura Anderson at laura.anderson@greenventure.ca or by phone at 905-540-8787 ext. 158

Free transit workshops and guided bus trips

Connecting Older Adults with Public Transit

Hamilton – Totally Transit for Older Adults is back!  The popular program, which helps older adults take full advantage of Hamilton’s transit system, will once again be presented by Green Venture, a local non-profit environmental outreach organization.  Four free workshops are being offered at locations around Greater Hamilton in October and November covering such topics as local bus routes, bus fares and passes, seniors’ discounts and trip planning.  The worLets ride the bus oct 24 _121024 vs 012kshops equip participants with the knowledge and skills to navigate public transit confidently and efficiently.  The program is also expanding into Niagara Region, where three workshops will be held.

Each workshop lasts roughly an hour, and includes a 45-minute presentation followed by an optional demonstration for internet users showing how Google Maps can be used in trip planning.  There will also be an opportunity for workshop participants to request bus trip planning to two destinations.  Green Venture staff will mail participants step-by-step instructions for a round trip visit to each destination. Continue reading

Fall Fun at EcoHouse Tours

Green Venture’s staff is ready for the fall school tours. My name is Susan, and I am one of the Education Support Staff here at Green Venture. As we get ready for another year of school tours, I have been thinking back over my favourite activities to do with visiting students. One thing that I love to show off at Green Venture is our Sink Toilet. First I get to watch as the children reluctantly follow me into our demonstration bathroom (“you want us to all come into the bathroom?!”), then I amaze them by flushing the Sink Toilet. This toilet uses the same water twice: when you flush, the clean tap water cosusan-oct-blogmes out of a tap on top of the tank, so that you can wash your hands. Then that soapy greywater fills the tank, and is used the next time someone flushes. Amazing! My favourite game to run is the “Farm Disaster Game”. I only get to play this with grade 6’s, so if you are in grade 6 please come visit me this year! The children get into groups, and I give them a lovely bird’s eye view of their farm (which are all different). Then I start reading through a series of random natural events that take place over the “year”, and we see which style of farming either monoculture or companion planting has the most plants left alive. It is a huge wake up call to realize how hard it is to be a farmer, how unfair Mother Nature is, and how amazingly plants can work together.

– Susan

If you are interested in booking a school tour this year contact Virginia Stonehouse, Education Manager 905 540 8787 x154 or education@greenventure.ca

 

Heritage of EcoHouse: dormant, but not forgotten

In honour of the National Trust Conference: Heritage Rising, held this past weekend in Hamilton, GV Executive Director, Michael Gemmell, offers some thoughts on Green Venture’s EcoHouse and its links to the past.

“I came to Green Venture in 2007 after working in the museum field for a decade. My original task when I was hired for Green Venture was to determine how to integrate the EcoHouse’s heritage shell into the existing programming. I hoped to put some new emphasis on the backstory of the site (historically referred to as “Glen Manor”), and specifically how it tied in to the concept of Adaptive Reuse.

Green Venture’s underlying environmental messaging is all about wisely using resources, whether that is energy, water, proper waste disposal, reduced inappropriate fuels in transportation, or greenhouse gas reduction through climate change education. The heritage property, known today as EcoHouse, has 165+ years of invested resources in all of those areas, and the key link to be made was the fact that is: were we (the community, the City, or even just GV) to eliminate this heritage property, all of that invested energy and resources would be lost. A much smaller amount of resources could instead be invested in maintaining the existing property (albeit with modifications to bring it into the modern era) and still respect the intention of its 1986 heritage designation.

While most of the time, Green Venture only pays limited attention to the backstory of its office and education centre, there are occasions when the heritage comes to the fore. Doors Open Hamilton weekend, the first Saturday and Sunday in May, is one such example. Every year, Green Venture shows off what new historical research has discovered about the site.  A variety of small artifacts remain at the house, although with a digital photo collection.

Some recent examples:

  • A small medicine bottle, located on the grounds, from the early 20th centurymedicine-bottle
  • Milk tickets from the 1960s dairy operation.glendale-dairy-ticket-sheets
  • A photo of Quigley Construction Company from a descendant of the Quigley family, the namesake of the road off of which modern Veevers Drive runs.           bill-marshall-and-quigley-construction-c1930

Our staff also take some pride in the unique circumstances of our office. The names of the former occupants of the house, Ronald and Bertram Veevers, are incorporated into room names. As part of our environmental education programming, their use of the property is contrasted to the modern use in a number of areas, inside and out. Green Venture also works to maintain a nearby park where a near duplicate of a commemorative stone found at Glen Manor can be seen. In 2014, Green Venture added a historical mural to the park commemorating the history of the former farm, which at one time included both our site and the park.

Completed Veevers Park mural, painted by Jotthi Bansal

Completed Veevers Park mural, painted by Jotthi Bansal

Today as director, my role has changed again. I am now more focused on the environmental aspects of our work than the historical elements, but the fascinating evolution of EcoHouse and the surrounding community into which it was constructed remains a item of significance.”

Ready…Set….Go! EcoStars Challenge Begins!

ecostars_logoThere is an exciting new program starting at Green Venture this fall: the 2016 EcoStars Challenge! We have received many comments from teachers that they would love to have eco-activities that they could do back in their school community. In response to that, we are launching the EcoStars Challenge. The idea is for classes to take on these Challenges (there are 33 to choose from) and complete them at school. All the Challenges centre around the issues of climate change, and have been divided into 5 themes:

Get Growing, Move It , The Arts, Recycle That, Energy Wise

 

In order to encourage classes to take on Challenges, we are offering seven (7) grand prizes, thanks to the support of Clean Air Hamilton. Winning classes will be able to choose one (1) of the following grand prizes:

  •  a 2 hour school tour to EcoHouse (transportation included)
  •  a class visit from Green Venture staff, to set up a classroom composting worm bin (all supplies provided)
  •  the smoothie bike in your class for a week, set up and training by a Green Venture staff (recipes & ingredients kit provided)

To get started on the Challenges, all you need to do is visit greenventure.ca and click on our “EcoStars Challenge” tab. You can read the complete rules, and look through the Challenges. Then your class can choose a Challenge, and off you go! When completed, simply go back to the website and fill out a completion form. The more Challenges your class completes, the better your chance of winning a free school tour!

I am really excited to see which Challenges classes take on: will students want to map the native trees at school? Will they choose to host an Earth Hour event? Will they decorate their class with recycled items? Will they create blackout poetry? Will they read a great book about being eco-friendly?Smoothie Bike trial run 160506 cropped

As each Challenge is completed, we will be posting their success (i.e. photos, video, art, written reports) on the “EcoStars Wall of Fame” as well as the Hamilton Climate Change Map. Be sure to check back often to see what changes are being made by the students across Hamilton!

Students Slowing Stormwater: Raingers Training Starts Now!

No, we didn’t spell it wrong.

Introducing Hamilton’s newest youth profession: Raingers. Move aside Rangers, we’ve got a new group in town and these Raingers are taking Hamilton by storm, literally! Green Venture and the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) have teamed up to train and inspire students to be active keepers of our water. Entrusted with the important job of protecting and preserving the Hamilton Harbour Watershed we will empower our young leaders to make lasting change.  These Raingers have a big responsibility!

In the natural environment, rainwater moves slowly through the land.  Once in the soil, rainwater that is not absorbed by plants will eventually recharge the groundwater table or enter creeks. Approximately 10% of rainwater that falls in a forest will leave as runoff. The rest is absorbed by plants, evaporates or soaks into the soil.

In urbanized environments most to all of the historical landscapes have been paved over. Rain flows quickly over impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways and parking lots. Rather than entering the soil the water is redirected to nearby storm drains. This water picks up pollutants along the way such as road salts, fertilizers and motor oil. These pollutants enter storm drains and are conveyed quickly to our streams and Hamilton Harbour.

The Solution

Through a hands on experiential stormwater management education program, Raingers will learn about the serious problems relating to stormwater and runoff including environmental and water quality degradation. Inside the classroom students will use model homes to measure stormwater, incorporating low impact development techniques such as rain barrels, disconnecting downspouts and rain gardens to capture stormwater before it hits the storm drain. The Raingers will then enter the urban environment (i.e. go outside) on an investigative journey to identify where water flows around their school and neighbourhood. The final step in training is when we see how far these students are willing to dig to create positive change. They will help to plant a rain garden at their very own school – capturing stormwater, reducing stormwater pollution and ultimately, protecting our watershed.

Rain gardens provide a perfect setting to teach about water quality, habitat creation and the impact of student actions on protecting Hamilton Harbour and its watershed. The native plants and species in a rain garden have high tolerance for excess moisture and increased levels of nutrients often found in stormwater. These gardens can be a powerful tool to make connections between land development, water quality, and personal actions. Today, a new era in stormwater management in dawning: managing rain where it falls, before it runs off.

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EcoHouse west rain garden

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a sunken garden (typically 4-8 inches deep) planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses designed to capture, absorb and naturally filter stormwater. A strategically placed rain garden will intercept the flow of stormwater and allow water to slowly infiltrate into the ground rather than contribute to stormwater runoff. Compared to a conventional patch of lawn, a rain garden increases ground water infiltration by about 30%.

The Raingers Rain Garden program is available to any school in the Hamilton Harbour Watershed. For more information about our Raingers Rain Garden program please contact Program Coordinator Laura Anderson at laura.anderson@greenventure.ca or 905 540 8787 ext 158

Ostrich Fern

GV Energy Audit services now available to Oakville

Green Venture is pleased to be able to now offer energy audit services for the Union Gas Home Renovation Rebate program to the Town of Oakville. This expands the area serviced by GV for the incentive program (and the related incentives through the Ontario government) to include Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Haldimand, Norfolk, and rural Brant County.

For more information, please call 905-540-8787 (toll free 1-866-540-8866) and use extension 115.

EcoStars Summer Camp is finished for the year

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With the summer coming to a close, it’s been a sad week here at the EcoHouse- we just don’t know what to do with ourselves! It’s been a tough time packing up all of our crafts and games, but we look forward for the next summer to come. The three sessions of campers that we had were equal parts enthusiastic and creative, and we’re so lucky to have had them as EcoStars! Be it an adventurous hike in the woods, or a quick dip in the pool. our campers were down for everything! They were especially brave when facing our scaly friends from the reptile man. More than that, our campers were kind to one another, and it was really fantastic to see some new friendships form over the week.

 

We really hope to see some returning (and new!) faces next year, but until then we’ll be preparing all of the fun games and activities to come! Enjoy the last little bit of summer, and good luck with the coming school year everyone! We really do hope you can make an Eco-impression on your classmates, friends, and family.

 

Bright Eyes and Dandy