Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Meet the EcoStar Summer Camp Staff

Green Venture is getting ready for their first EcoStar camp! With topics like Bugs & Blooms, H2Whoa that’s a lot of Water, and EcoExplorers, campers are sure to learn new skills and an appreciation for the environment around them.  As camp director I’m excited to introduce our two camp counselors Bright Eyes and Dandy.

 

A message from Bright Eyes:

Hi everyone!

My name is Bright Eyes, I’m the Environmental Programs Assistant and Camp Counsellor for EcoStars! I’m so excited to meet all of my campers and spend my time in the great outdoors. I’ve been living in Hamilton for three years now and can’t get enough of the hiking and waterfalls; needless to say, I’m pretty stoked for our hiking trips. When not hanging from the side of a tree you can find me in our crafts room (where the magic happens). I’m hoping to kick-start some really awesome art projects this summer, and will definitely need some campers that aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty.

I study science at McMaster, and have fronted some neat science projects at past camps. I’m really excited to bring these experiments to EcoStars, and add an environmental twist!

Although I am new to the Green Venture family this year, I already feel accepted and proud to be working with such environmentally-forward individuals. I’m now even more excited to welcome our campers aboard, and cannot wait for camp to begin!

 

Staff Pic Bright eyes

 

 

A message from Dandy:

Hi there!

My name is Dandy and I am super happy to be a part of the EcoStars camp this summer! I study science at McMaster so I love to analyse things and figure out exactly how they work. I am especially stoked for the “Bugs and Blooms” week because I like learning about how animals, insects, and plants interact with each other. My favorite tree is the Willow tree and my favourite animal is the Cheetah. I am an avid hiker, paddler, and skier. I recently started bird watching and I hope to learn some bird calls during the time spent outdoors at the camp.

I first became interested in the idea of sustainable living when I saw An Inconvenient Truth as a kid. Being a counselor at EcoStars camps gives me great chance to share my knowledge concerning sustainability to the leaders of tomorrow all while having a blast in the great outdoors!

Dandy Pic

The camp takes place at EcoHouse in east Hamilton, and there is a cost of $175+hst per week.  For more information or to register, visit greenventure.ca, email education@greenventure.ca, or call 905-540-8787 x154.

 

Hope to see you all at camp

Virginia

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Are Your Light Bulbs A Bright Idea?

Lighting in our homes counts for 1/4 of our energy bills. The type of light bulb we use at home can play a big role in just how much- or how little- we pay each month. So what kind do you use? What kind should you use? And what is the difference between them all?

An incandescent lightbulb.

An incandescent lightbulb.

Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent Light Bulbs are the most inefficient, and as a result, they’re also the ones that will cost you the most. At $0.10 per kilowatt hour, running for 8 hours a day, just one 100-watt incandescent bulb will cost over $22 more than a 25-watt CFL bulb per year. Incandescent bulbs also require more frequent replacing- so you’ll be spending more on light bulbs, too, as the average lifespan of an incandescent bulb is 600-700 hours.

With this information, it’s no surprise that incandescent bulbs are being phased out and quickly becoming a thing of the past!

A Compact Fluorescent Bulb, aka CFL.

A Compact Fluorescent Bulb, aka CFL.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) use 25% of the electricity of a comparable incandescent bulb; however, they aren’t as energy efficient as LEDs. Their lifespan also greatly exceeds those of incandescent bulbs; where an incandescent bulb will last 600-700 hours, CFL bulbs will last 7,000-10,000 hours, adding to a household’s savings.

The disadvantage of CFL lights is that they contain mercury inside the bulb, which can cause problems if the bulb breaks. As a result of this mercury, CFL lights are deemed to be Household Hazardous Waste, and need to be disposed of with other HHW products, like oil paint and batteries.

Look familiar? LEDs are gaining in popularity.

Look familiar? LEDs are gaining in popularity.

LED Lights

Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs (LED) last a lot longer than other lightbulbs; their average lifetime is 50,000- 100,000 hours! As a result, even though these are often more expensive at the time of purchase, fewer bulbs are needed over time. Fortunately, as manufacturing technology advances, the prices for these bulbs will likely start to lower.

LEDs use very little energy, and do not contain toxic chemicals, so they are not considered household hazardous waste. One 25W LED costs $30, but will last 15-20 years.

LEDs and CFLs are becoming more and more popular when individuals are looking to change their bulbs. Their impressive lifetime and their reduced environmental effects also play a major role in the switch from incandescents to CFLs and LEDs.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

Written by: Jessie Golem

This week, we updated the green roof demo at EcoHouse with some Sedums! A green roof or living roof is a roof of a

Sedums

Sedums

building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Green roofs are a beautiful and cost-efficient way to conserve energy, manage storm water, and insulate a building.

Sedums are a shallow-rooted ground cover plant. They have thick leaves that retain a lot of water, making it drought resistant, and they require at least eight hours of sunlight per day, which makes it a perfect plant to install on a green roof.

The benefits of green roofs have been undisputed for several decades. Here

EcoHouse Green Roof

EcoHouse Green Roof

are just some of the benefits they can bring to our cities:

Green roofs are environmentally friendly

Green roofs create oxygen and combat pollutants. Filling a city with green roofs would go a long way to combating the pollution caused by cities, as well as beautify the space. In fact, some large corporations, including Rolls-Royce, and Nintendo of America, have over 75,000 square feet of Sedums covering their rooftops! It’s a great way to use a space that was otherwise not being used, in a way that helps the environment.

Green roofs conserve energy

One of the biggest benefits to having a green roof is that they help to regulate temperatures within a building. They are well insulated, which helps to keep buildings warm in the winter, and also absorb heat and cool down buildings naturally in the summer. In the long run it is a low cost way to reduce energy consumption and save money on your utility

bills.

Green roofs are excellent at managing storm water

A Sedum roof will absorb a lot of water in a rainfall, and in doing so, will significantly reduce the surface run off of a rainfall. Green roofs also naturally filter the water which will improve the water quality, to the point where the run-off rainwater could be used for other purposes (i.e. a flushing toilet)

The list of benefits to having a green roof is a lengthy one. We hope the next time you visit EcoHouse, you will take some time to check out our green roof demo, and dream of the ways green roofs beautify cities, save energy, and help the environment.

Green Wall Tokyo

Green Wall Tokyo

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

Written by: Ashley Keenan

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.

E-waste Includes:

  • Batteries – household and automotive
  • PCs and Laptops
  • Monitors
  • TV’s
  • Printers
  • Wheel WeightsE-Waste
  • Capacitors
  • Circuit Boards
  • GPS Units
  • Radios
  • Pagers
  • Power Tools
  • Calculators
  • Toner Cartridges
  • Mercury Devices

Why is E-Waste an Environmental Issue?

  • Toxic Leachate – Electronics contain toxic chemicals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, phosphors, arsenic, and beryllium which lead to environmental and health complications, which is why e-waste is banned from local landfills, but many people still throw out these products in the trash releasing these toxic chemicals into the landfill – contaminating soil and groundwater over time.
  • Toxic Emissions – In some areas of the globe, much of the e-waste created is being illegally exported to developing countries like China and India for disposal due to their less strict environmental laws and regulations. Most of this waste gets incinerated, releasing the toxic chemicals discussed directly into the atmosphere.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Both production and disposal create large amounts of GHG emissions that can contribute to climate change. This is amplified when e-waste is not disposed of properly or shipped to other countries for disposal.
  • Creation of Unnecessary Waste – Most of the time when we get a new phone or laptop it isn’t actually necessary; there is usually an upgrade or exciting new gadget that catches our eye. By approaching consumerism that way we create unnecessary waste, a cycle that continues as demand continues. There are so many steps that go into making electronics – mining the minerals, manufacturing, distribution, purchasing and disposal. Anything we can do to ease this never-ending cycle can make huge impact. Check out the Story of Stuff for more on the lifecycle of electronics.

Think Globally, Act Locally

When tackling the issue of e-waste and all the environmental problems that come with it every municipality and country has different regulations so be sure to check out what rules apply to you when disposing of e-waste. In Hamilton, you can bring any items that are not permitted in the landfill to a Community Recycling Centre to have it disposed of properly.

In addition to municipal drop centres and e-waste drives like the one hosted by the HCA there are also drop offs at many of the large electronic store chains like Best Buy that will collect and recycle your e-waste in a safe and sustainable manner.

What can you do?

Here are some next steps any individual can take to reduce e-waste volumes if possible or recycle the materials properly

  • Reduce and Reuse whenever Possible – it can be difficult with new technologies coming out on a yearly basis to not upgrade; in fact they do this on purpose to tempt you! Your 3 year old phone still works perfectly but all your friends have shiny new models and you think why not – think twice
  • Recycle – If you have to have the latest and greatest in technology but your old device is still functional then recycle it! Whether you gift it to a friend in need or you try and sell it, recycling prevents the need for someone else to go out and purchase their own new product. Old electronics can also be donated and given out to low income areas who might not be able to have their own computer otherwise. Just remember to wipe all your personal information before donating electronics.recycle mobius loop
  • Share! – Tell people about what you have accomplished; it is ok to celebrate doing something good. Also by sharing your stories you unconsciously invite others to make similar changes as well. The key to environmental initiatives is awareness and engagement, by sharing your stories you let people know what is possible on an individual level.
  • NEVER throw E-waste in the garbage – In no situation should you ever throw e-waste in your garbage bins. It can be tempting to think ‘it’s just one battery’ when you are in a hurry but like I have been saying; small actions lead to large changes. If everyone in Hamilton threw out just 1 battery a week there would be over 500 000 batteries in the landfill every single week! Tip: Save all your small electronics in a jar or bin and when it is full take it to a drop-off location. This saves your time by not making a special trip every time you need to dispose of a battery and keeps it out of our landfills.

Local actions are capable of global changes and can be as simple as saving all your batteries in a jar and disposing of them properly when it is full. Leave us a comment below and share what small actions you do that add up to help the environment!

Power all with the Powerwall!

Written by: Ramsha Ahmed

If you haven’t heard of the new Tesla battery, you may be living under a rock. Tesla’s new battery is the talk of the town and it’s everywhere in the media. Why? It aims to take homes and businesses off the grid.

What is the Tesla Battery?

Model S Lithium Ion Battery

Model S Lithium Ion Battery

The new Powerwall Tesla Home Batteries are lithium ion batteries that come in two sizes – 7kWh and 10 kWh – and are combined with solar panels. The 7kWh battery is for daily usage and is designed to be mounted on a wall while the larger counterpart is stored for backup when the electricity may go out. The battery charges during off peak times when the rates are lower. The 7kWh batteries, when paired with other batteries, are sufficient enough to store customers’ generated electricity and use it during those expensive peak hours, or when the sun goes down. The start-up costs begin at approximately $3000 to $3500 and may be more before installation, making this new upgrade a less desirable option for many consumers. Tesla batteries are said to decrease in price by at least 50% in the next 10 years making them more affordable for homeowners and making them more practical in our daily lives.

Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall

What is its use?

When energy is generated in excess amounts, the unused energy is stored within a battery. When a battery is not present to store the energy it is often sold back to utility companies and then sold to customers later when they need it. In Ontario, we have to get people to pay us to take our excess energy at night time. The utility companies end up making money from the power you generate. The Tesla battery allows you to store the energy you make from solar energy and use it when you need it. Not only does it provide an economic benefit to home and business owners, but it also provides benefits for the environment.

Green Venture’s Plans for the Future

Current GV Battery System

Current Battery System at EcoHouse

Green Venture currently has two solar systems and a wind turbine on site to harvest renewable energy. We hope to replace our current batteries with the Tesla battery as soon as possible. The investment will help conserve more energy and will allow us to explore newer technologies and implement them into our daily lives. Right now we are using a battery bank, 24v dc system. We plan on using the tesla batteries in conjunction with our solar panels that we have on site. The power we save, we can store and use in the EcoHouse or to power the on-site Community CarShare Plug-In Prius Hybrid. During blackouts we will still have power at EcoHouse and be able to go about with our daily activities. There are endless possibilities with the new Tesla battery here at Green Venture!

Weathering the Storm: How to be Prepared for an Emergency

With the increase in severe weather and storms, it’s important to have a plan for what you will do to prepare for and respond to climate related emergencies. If individuals and families take the time to plan and prepare for potential emergencies in their communities, it helps responding agencies address the crisis much more effectively.

Before the Emergency: Know the Risks

Across Canada, we face a number of natural hazards, which can vary from region to region. Knowing what to do is an important part of being prepared. Find out about risks in your region and how to prepare for different situations here.

During the Emergency: Have a Plan

By definition, emergencies happen when we don’t expect them, and often when families are not together. Suddenly, you need to think about your kids at school or elderly parents across town. If phones don’t work, or some neighbourhoods aren’t accessible, what will you do?

Having a family emergency plan will save time and make real situations less stressful.

It will take you about 20 minutes to make a family emergency plan online. You can then print it out. Before starting, consider the following:

  • Safe exits from the home and neighbourhood
  • A meeting place near your home for your family
  • A designated person to pick up children from school or daycare should you be unavailable
  • Out of town contact person(s)
  • Special health needs
  • Location of fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical box, gas valve and floor drain

You can create your own plan online right now here

The Government of Canada has guides for creating Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs which can be found here.

Have pets or a service animal? There’s a guide for that too!

Have a Kit

In an emergency, you will need some basic supplies. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

You may have some of the items already, such as food, water and a battery operated or wind-up flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. Would you be able to find your flashlight in the dark? Make sure your kit is easy to carry and everyone in the household knows where it is. Keep it in a backpack, duffle bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front-hall closet. If you have many people in your household, your emergency kit could get heavy.

It’s a good idea to separate some of these supplies in backpacks. That way, your kit will be more portable and each person can personalize his or her own grab-and-go emergency kit.

Creating a 72-hr Emergency Preparedness Kit

For a basic kit you will need:

  • Food that won’t spoil
  • Cash
  • Manual can opener
  • Water – at least 2 litres per person per day
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Wind-up or battery powered flashlight (and
    extra batteries)
  • Wind-up or battery powered radio (and
    extra batteries)
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact
    information

Check your kit once a year and re-stock as needed.

Recommended additional items:

  • Basic tools
  • Whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Toiletries, toilet paper, hand sanitizer
  • Utensils
  • Garbage bags
  • Blankets and extra clothing
  • Bleach or water purification tablets
  • Candles and matches (do not burn unattended)
  • Two more litres of water per person per day
    for cooking and cleaning
  • Small fuel operated camp stove and fuel
    (follow manufacturer’s instructions)

Car and Pet Emergency Kits

Car Kit:

  • Food and Water
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • First aid kit
  • Warning light or flares
  • Shovel and scraper
  • Contact numbers
  • Sand, salt or cat litter
  • Antifreeze
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Road maps
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight and batteries
Pet Kit:

  • Food and bowls
  • Can opener
  • Water
  • Blanket
  • Toys
  • Current pet photos
  • Litter pan, bags and scoop
  • Medications and medical records
  • Leashes, harness or carrier
  • Information on feeding schedules and
    behaviour
  • List of boarding facilities and
    pet-friendly hotels

In the event of a threatening, imminent or actual emergency situation, the City of Hamilton will provide information and updates to the public through radio, TV and newspaper, find a list here 

Save on Energy this Holiday Season

The holiday season is usually a big time for energy use, but it doesn’t have t0 be that way. Here are some tips to save energy this year.

Christmas Lights

LED Christmas lights are very efficient using only about 1/10th the energy of incandescent lights. If you only put up a couple of strands, it’s not very likely that you are going to see a big difference on your electric bill but if your home could compete with Clark Griswold, you may want to think about switching to the LED option.

While LED Christmas lights are more costly up front, they may actually end up saving you money in the long run through lower energy costs and longer lifespan. Another bonus, if one of your LED bulbs burns out, the whole string won’t turn off.

If you decorate your home with bulbs that can be used indoors or outdoors, condense your working incandescent lights to the interior. 90% of the electricity going to an incandescent bulb comes out as heat instead of light so you can lower your thermostat a bit.

Around the Home

Bulb selection is only one factor in holiday lighting. You can also reduce your electricity use by ensuring that lighting is not left on when no one is there to enjoy it and that it doesn’t remain on all night. One way to accomplish this is by putting your lights on a programmable timer.

If there’s a fire burning in the fireplace, lower the thermostat to conserve energy (and save on your heating bill). You definitely can lower the temperature if you’re throwing a party — the body heat will more than make up for it. As a matter of fact, try to keep your thermostat at 20 degrees Celsius throughout the winter; you will see a huge difference in your energy bill.

Cook smart – When cooking on the stove top, you should always use the right-sized pan and ring for each job and keep the lids on your pans as much as possible to reduce heat loss. And when using the oven, keep the door shut as much as you can. Other ways to save energy in the kitchen include defrosting food overnight rather than microwaving it and ensuring warm foods cool down before placing them in the fridge.

Gifts

Buy Gifts that Don’t Use Electricity or Batteries – 40% off all batteries are purchased during the holiday season. That’s a lot of money spent on batteries and a lot of energy used! If you are buying gifts that need batteries, invest in rechargeable batteries and a charger, recent advancements have made rechargeable batteries better than ever.

Buy locally – Buying food and goods locally is the best way to reduce energy use.

Transportation

Plan your shopping trips carefully – Make one trip to the mall instead of three, which will save gas. Walking to stores or carpooling with friends is even better. Another way to reduce fuel consumption is to buy locally; shopping in your home town supports the local merchants and strengthens the community, and it cuts fuel use if you walk to town.

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