Welcome back Heather!

After working For the City of Hamilton for ten years helping engage our community and City staff in making Hamilton a little greener and more sustainable I have taken early retirement and now have the opportunity to get involved with Green Venture again. It feels like coming home!

I was Executive Director of Green Venture from 1995 to 2007. During that time I was busy with all aspects of administration, planning, staffing, daily operations and financial management. However what I loved best about my job was engaging with the public and students and sharing my passion and knowledge about the natural environment and ways to protect it.

Returning to Green Venture at this stage I get to do all the fun stuff without having to worry about the administrative work. Since I have returned, I have had the opportunity to make worm bins with the students at Millgrove School so that they can reduce their lunch garbage by composting their food scraps at school. I have made seed balls with the Sparks of Stoney Creek and helped them learn how plants grow. 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. I am so inspired by the knowledge and enthusiasm that these students exhibit.

Our planet is facing a lot of challenges. We are worried about climate change, plastics in the oceans, species at risk, toxics in our food and water etc. But there are a lot of great people who are passionate about making changes and protecting our natural environment and I am glad to be able to work together with them to make our community and our world a little better.

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!!!
Heather Donison

SAVE THE DATE: May 5 & 6 is Green Venture’s 2nd Annual Seedling Sale

Let’s get growing! Are you an avid backyard gardener or have a community garden plot that is waiting to
be filled this year? Interested in experimenting with container gardening? Want to grow interesting and
beautiful heirloom tomato varieties? Green Venture’s second annual veggie and herb seedling sale is at
EcoHouse on the weekend of Doors Open Hamilton. We’ll have a variety of tomatoes (over 15 different kinds!), bell and hot peppers, eggplant, herbs, kale, broccoli, herbs and more! This fundraising event supports Green Venture’s gardening initiatives at EcoHouse and in the community. All of the seedlings are grown at the EcoHouse by our dedicated staff and volunteers.

Saturday May 5th, 2018 from 10am-4pm 
Sunday May 6th, 2018 from 10am-4pm

Prices will vary by plant and size. $1-$5 each

If you have any questions or want to know more email Laura at laura.anderson@greenventure.ca

Follow our event page on Facebook for updates from the Solarium: Green Venture’s Veggie and Herb Seedling Sale and on Instagram @Green_Venture

Go Greener on Holidays

 Holiday sessions are times to enjoy your days off with family and friends but it is also important to remember to stay friendly to our mother earth by making sustainable choices when traveling, gifting, buying food, and making decorations.

 

Decoration tips for staying Eco-friendly

  • Decorate with items that are energy efficient and durable. For example, if you are using a tree to decorate you can purchase a living tree that you can plant outside or keep as a house plant after. When buying an artificial tree make sure you are investing in one that will last for years.
  • Lights are beautiful during holidays but they could waste a lot of energy so when decorating with lights make sure you are using LED lights or lights that have small solar panels on them. This way you are using green reusable energy and you are getting the beautiful decoration all in one.
  • Be creative and use nature to decorate your outdoor as well as your indoor or with materials you already own.

 

Stay Eco-friendly when it comes to gifts

  • Avoid excessive packaging.
  • Bring your own bags when shopping.
  • Plan your trips and do the shopping all at once so that you are making multiple trips and wasting gas and your own energy and time.
  • Save the gift bags you receive so that you can reuse them for the next holiday.
  • Send email cards.
  • Make your gifts by yourself, knit, bake, make art, preserve. This make your gift more personal too.
  • Wrap your gifts in more eco-friendly and creative ways, by using a scarf, old maps, newspaper, old cloth material, or make your own reusable gift bags. It is more fun and it gets very creative and unique.

 

Eat sustainably over the Holidays

  • Avoid wasting food when it comes to family dinners, get the portions right, pack the rest of the food in reusable containers and let the family members take away food with them when leaving your house.
  • Buy locally produced food.
  • Avoid using paper plates and napkins.
  • Donate whatever you accumulated during the holiday session before the food expires.
  • Avoid extra packaging when buying food.

 

Ifrodet Giorgees

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