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

Eco-Stars campers in action

We would like to congratulate our Week 2 and Week 3 Eco-star campers! They were filled with energy and curiosity every morning to learn new things about the environment and learn how to make this world greener. We started the week by introducing the campers to our EcoHouse with a tour around the property and inside of the house. We played fun games like predator and prey, water preserving challenge, where the campers got to know each other and make new friends.

Our Eco-stars were visited by the Environment Hamilton, where the campers learned all about different ways to keep our air clean and ways to reduce pollution. They also got to learn and get their hands moving with some tools they used to measure the air quality at different places on the property and correlate and explain the results they received. They did not just use technology to measure air quality but they also got to learn how to use the biological factors to predict the quality of the air. For example they learned about the lichen and how it correlates to the good air quality.

Our campers also had an opportunity to visit Victory Gardens and learn how to harvest different type of crops. Our adventurous campers also had an amazing time on their trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens where they had a chance to go into the forest and feed different types of animals. They also played a fun game where they learned how certain animals collect their food for the winter and the strategies that they use to hide their food in safe places. They were also amused by the Lego statues and the beautiful flowers that were throughout the property.

Craft time was very interesting and fun with our Eco-star campers. They learned about the importance of taking care of our environment and reusing and recycling is one of the main ways to accomplish that. Our campers learned how to make birdfeeders from old water bottles and desk organizers from recycled containers. Stencil making was completed on recycled materials and we made paper from recycled paper. We also used natural material to make fun wood crafts from old tree branches.

 

Smoothie bike was one of our best educational and bonding time. Throughout the week we were able to make some fun recipes as a healthy snack replacement. We learned how to make hummus, orange and lemon popsicles, strawberry jam, and delicious mixed berry smoothies.

Our Eco-star graduates who have been hiking, swimming, learning new things and visiting new places, had to say goodbye to us as the camp weeks came to an end. We have made sure that our little eco-stars graduates for this year that will take pride and care of our planet!

Our newest class of EcoStars just graduated!

Our first week of EcoStars Summer Camp was a success! We had a group of amazing campers who were eager to learn all about the EcoHouse, the environment, and the steps we can take to keep our planet green.

Our week started off with introductions where the camp counsellors and the campers got to know each other a bit better. We played games outside that taught the campers about bee pollination and animal habitats, we visited the bee hotel and became crocodiles for our crocodile race!

Campers got to make their own popsicles using our smoothie bike, we blended watermelon, banana and kiwi and filled up our popsicle molds which we were able to enjoy later on in the week! The EcoStars also made their own salsa where they cut up and blended their own ingredients with the smoothie bike. When the salsa was ready we had a taste test between store bought salsa and the homemade salsa to see which one we liked best. We all agreed the fresh homemade salsa was the winner.

During the week our EcoStars camp was visited by special guests, Environment Hamilton, who taught us all about lichen, air quality and Ontario’s native species. These hands on activities included campers measuring trees with special measuring tape and an iPad app, using air quality machines to measure the quality of air around the Green Venture property, and using hand lens’s to take a closer look at lichen on tree bark.

We took a trip to Mountsberg Consernation Area where campers learned all about energy conservation. We played a clothes line relay race and after lunch campers got to explore the petting zoo, the play area barn and visit some really cool birds including a Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle and a Snowy Owl.

 

Our week was jam packed with fun, we went swimming at the Wilfred Laurier Recreation Centre, painted and planted in clay pots, made seed balls and did a clean water challenge where teams created water filters to see who’s would filter a mixture of dirt and water the best.

Our week came to an end and we were sad to see our friends go, but before they left all campers graduated from the EcoStars Camp with certificates and took a pledge to keeping our environment healthy. We are looking forward to meeting our next group of campers and can’t wait to have another fun week!

 

 

Summer (not winter) is Coming

It’s almost time for summer camp!
Well it’s that time of year when we pack up all our school tour stuff and get ready for camp!! We have lots of fun trips and activities planned for this year! We are also bringing back the reptile visitors!!! To help me this year with camp I’m excited to introduce you too our  three eager camp counselors: Maple, Tarzan and Smiley.  See you all at camp,

Snow

 

Maple

Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario

Maple, named after her favourite tree, proves true to her name. She is sweet, sappy and goes well with pancakes. She loves long walks on the beach, puppies, and her favourite colour is green.

 When Maple isn’t outside playing in the sun with her friends, you can find her practicing yoga outside in the shade. Ask Maple to show you her favourite moves this summer! She is super excited to be an EcoStars camp leader and can’t wait to meet the campers!

Maple

Maple

 

Smiley

Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario

Smiley loves riding her white bike everywhere. And we mean EVERYWHERE. As far as we can tell, she enjoys watching her friends get tired by taking them on long beautiful hikes in Hamilton. Fun Fact: Since, she’s always discovering waterfalls, her goal this summer is to visit every single one in Hamilton. There’s more than 100 in the area, so let’s see if she can make it!

Smiley takes pride in saving the environment and wants to make sure everyone can enjoy the beautiful scenery in Hamilton. Come join her this summer to learn how to create a sustainable environment while also having fun every step of the way!

 

Tarzan

Hometown: Ancaster, Ontario

While not actually born in Italy, Tarzan takes deep pride in his family’s Italian heritage. He frequently claims his Nonna makes the best pasta in the world and even pronounces the word ‘pasta’ with a fake Italian accent. Despite this, we still love him.

When Tarzan isn’t swinging through the jungle, he can be found at his home in Ancaster trying new smoothie recipes. In fact, it is believed he has created the perfect smoothie formula which he keeps locked away in a vault. We’re pretty sure he just added an extra scoop of ice cream to a strawberry smoothie, but we’ll pretend we don’t know.

Tarzan, Snow and Maple are excited for camp! Have you signed up yet? Click here for more information on how to register: http://greenventure.ca/community/camps/