Archive for the ‘Conservation’ 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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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

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!

RAIN Home Visit Series Post 3: Downspout outlets

This is the third post in the RAIN Home Visit Series. This post will pick up where the last post left off. Once eaves and downspouts are effectively draining water off your roof it is time to consider what is happening to the water once it exits your downspouts.

That question of when it rains – where does the water go? is still relevant. If during the walk around your property you notice any downspouts empty into an underground pipe chances are it is connected directly into the municipal storm sewer. Connected downspouts increase the risk of structural damage because they drain water directly next to your foundation. Most of these systems are decades old and likely cracked and leaking. This is no longer a recommended engineering practice, yet many downspouts remain connected.

For the City of Hamilton’s stance on downspout disconnection see the following link:

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PublicWorks/WaterAndWasteWaterDev/Downspout+Disconnection.htm

For instructions and advice on how to disconnect downspouts see the following link from the City of Bremerton, Washington:
http://www.cityofbremerton.com/content/dd_downspoutdisconnections.html

Once all downspouts are disconnected it is time to look at your property more closely. The path water travels along the ground will have everything to do with the way your property is graded and landscaped. During that walk around your property take note of all slopes and low spots on your property. If your property is sloping towards your house, this must be corrected to ensure water always runs away from the foundation. Take note also of the hard surfaces (patios, walkways) and soft surfaces (garden beds, lawns). Downspouts should empty onto soft surfaces a minimum of 8-10 feet and downhill from the foundation. 

The City of Hamilton has issued a Homeowners Guide to Lot Grading & Drainage document which provides the basics of proper lot grading.  This document does, however, lists the street as an acceptable outlet for rainwater. The next post in this series titled ‘From Rainwater to Stormwater’ will explain why sending rainwater to the street is no longer recommended best practice. The RAIN Home Visit program is all about keeping water on your property and allowing it to soak into the ground naturally where it will pose no threat to the foundation.

The safest starting point is directing water a minimum of 8-10 feet and downhill from the foundation. When directing downspouts always keep distance and direction in mind, both are just as important as the other.

In post number five of this series we will discuss more specifically where and how to keep water on your property so that it can soak into the ground before it goes from rainwater to stormwater.  

Case Study: A RAIN Home Visit

Main water related concerns:
• Multiple downspouts connected directly to aging storm sewer laterals
• Back and side yard area graded towards the house
• Moisture and effervescence in basement
• Downspouts emptying too close to the house
• Rain barrels often overflowing
• Worn asphalt driveway is graded towards the house

This house was chosen as a case study because it shows many of the issues that are address through the RAIN Home Visit program. I enjoyed my visit at this house, mostly because the homeowner was very friendly and welcomed my suggestions with an open mind. But on top of that – this home was a classic example of how mismanaging water outside can and will lead to issues inside.

This home is built in a neighbourhood where downspouts connect directly into the municipal sewer system. Connected downspouts are concerning from an environmental as well as a safety perspective. The bottom line is that I do not trust what I cannot see and there is no guarantee that those 80 year old sewer laterals are working properly. Over time they get clogged and cracked by things like leaves, soil, animal burrows, and tree roots. Most homeowner assume these underground pipes are doing their job, but moist basements tell a different story.

48 Kenmore_7

This homeowner recently had the eaves and downspouts replaced. However, the grading of the eaves and position of the downspouts was not changed and they were connected right back into the municipal system. When replacing eaves and downspouts, take a look at the roof area and consider an ideal drainage method. Downspouts should be positioned 8-10 feet and downhill from the foundation onto a permeable area. Where possible, avoid placing downspouts on driveways and patios. During the tour of the basement I saw exactly what I was expecting to see – moisture. The area where the walls met the floor was damp, and the walls were covered in a white mineral deposit known as efflorescence.

48 Kenmore_11

If you have efflorescence in your basement don’t worry, it is not toxic, but, it is a definite sign that there is moisture in the soil surrounding your foundation. Excess moisture in the soil applies pressure against your foundation, which is one of the causes of pressure cracks. Water is always looking to flow where there is less pressure – and over time can force itself through your foundation. Efflorescence is not a toxic concern, but it is a sign that action is needed to keep your foundation safe and dry.

The ground surface in the back and side yard being graded towards the foundation was another concern. The lowest point in the backyard was where the lawn met the foundation – an immediate sign that the area needs regarding. I noticed that about 6 inches away from the house the vegetation had changed sharply from lawn to a low growing yellow flowered ground cover. Sharp changes in vegetation means that the moisture pattern in this area is not what it should be (in this case the area next to the foundation was too wet for lawn to grow).

48 Kenmore_4

Main lessons learnt:

• Disconnect downspouts from sewer laterals and direct them onto a permeable surface 8-10 feet and downhill from the foundation.

• Make sure the land surface is always graded away from the house to ensure water is flowing away from the foundation.

• Where possible, try to maintain an 8-10 foot ‘dry perimeter’ around your house where no water is soaking into the ground. Water can be safely absorbed into the ground beyond this 8-10 foot perimeter.

• Fully empty all rain barrels after each rain so the barrel has full capacity for the next rain event.

RAIN Home Visit Series – Getting water off the roof

This is the second post in the RAIN Home Visit series. It will answer that ‘where do I start’ question. Even though each property has its own unique drainage situation, there are still general guidelines that all homeowners should follow.

As mentioned in the first post – the most important questions for homeowners to answer is: when it rains – where does the water go?

Answering this question starts on the roof with the eaves troughs and downspouts. Before worrying about where and how to direct the water on the ground, you first have to make sure water is draining off the roof properly. During a heavy rain, take an umbrella outside and walk around the perimeter of the house, taking note of places where water is spilling over the eaves. Spillage and leaks may be from
i) old eaves that have moved, cracked, or pulled away from the roof,
ii) clogging caused by leaves, debris, and/or ice,
iii) not enough downspouts to properly drain the water.

Make note also of any water that is spilling out of the downspouts, which is the pipe that will take water from the eaves to the ground.

If either the eaves or downspouts are not working properly, water can spill out and pool beside the foundation. Allowing water to soak into the ground too close to the foundation is one of the main causes of moist/wet basements. On your walk around the house, make note also of any water ponding or pooling on the ground. In best practice, no ponding is acceptable, but a general rule of thumb is the closer this ponding is to the foundation, the more damage it can do. It is best to try and keep the area within 8-10 feet of the foundation as dry as possible.

Once the eaves and downspouts are working properly you have taken the first steps in protecting your property against water damage. From here, the next steps focus on what to do with the water once it makes its way through the downspouts.

The next post in the series will focus on i) ‘connected downspouts’, and why they are now widely considered malpractice in the industry, as well as ii) the importance of lot grading for adequate drainage, and iii) where and how to direct your downspouts on the ground.

Eco-Friendly Laundry

 

Just a little while ago we had the exciting opportunity to teach a group of adults about reducing water waste at home. Some of our tips included things like fixing leaks promptly, reducing time in the shower, and using tools like a toilet dam to reduce the water waste. We’ll be posting an article about all of that sometime soon, but the things we are the most eager to share are the ways you can reduce water and energy waste while doing laundry.

 

We all love our laundry machines. That wonderful electricity-powered invention from the 20th century saves us from the arduous task of hand-washing our clothes. Like many things though, our washing machines can create a lot of waste if not used correctly. If you’re buying new appliances, make sure you are getting energy-efficient ones. Whether you have energy-efficient appliances or not, you can still use these tips, and tricks to help you reduce waste and keep the environment as clean as your clothes.

 

Tip #1: Use Cold Water!

If you’re looking for a way to be more environmentally-friendly in your laundry room, the biggest thing you can do is switch to using cold water. Almost 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes goes to heating the water. While some people worry that washing in cold water will not remove the dirt from their clothes, most of us do not soil our clothes to a level that requires hot water to wash. Cold water laundry detergents have been formulated to get your clothes just as clean with cold water.

 

Tip #2: Ditch the Dryer

While dryers are convenient in their ability to have a load done in an hour, they hog a lot of energy and actually break down the fibers in your clothing. You can see how much damage it does every time you empty your lint filter, as that lint used to be a part of your clothing! There are many options for drying your clothing that is better for the environment, your energy bill, and your clothing. Indoor or outdoor clothing racks come in a variety of sizes and styles. The best indoor ones are collapsible, and sturdy enough to support the weight of wet clothes. While they may take up space in your living room, back yard, or balcony, they make up for by using free sun and air, rather than electricity.

 

Tip #3: Think Outside the Box

There are a lot of DIY options for laundry. One that we showcase at EcoHouse is the Laundry Pod, which is a small, hand-cranked laundry machine. It uses only 5 litres of water (compared to up to 125 litres for some washing machines!) and uses your arm-power for energy. While it probably isn’t the best choice for large families, it is a very handy tool for small loads or delicate pieces. Instead of running your washing machine with only a few t-shirts or pants in it, you can give this guy a try.

 

Another thing you can do is make your own powdered laundry soap. The recipe we have here costs about $0.09 per load, while other laundry detergents go for up to $0.59 per load. With ours we know exactly what goes into it, and we can customize the scent. Give it a try!

 

Home-Made Powder Laundry Detergent

Ingredients:

½ to 1 cup of shredded bar soap

1 cup Borax

1 cup washing soda

A few drops essential oils

Instructions:

Use a very fine grater to shave the bar of soap into small flakes. Mix well with Borax and washing soda until you achieve an even, fine mixture. Add essential oils and mix well. Store in a labeled, air-tight container. This recipe makes approximately 32 ounces of detergent; use one tablespoon (most loads) to two tablespoons (large or heavily soiled loads). Before adding the soap to your cold-water loads, mix the detergent in a container with some hot water until it dissolves.

 

Explanations:

Bar Soap is the most crucial ingredient, as soap gives the detergent its cleaning power. Several recommended brands to use include Kirk’s Castile and Dr. Bonners. Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a naturally occurring mineral that acts as a whitener and deodorizer. Washing soda should not be confused with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), as washing soda is sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash. It is available in the laundry section of the grocery store or in pure form from pool supply stores as sodium carbonate. It helps to remove dirt and odors, cuts grease, and removes stains, disinfects, and softens water. You can also add some of your favorite oil essence to give a nice fragrance to your detergent. Recommended amounts are one to two drops per load. Tea tree oil has the added benefit of acting as a disinfectant, so it’s great for washing cloth diapers, hand towels or linens from a sick family member. Eucalyptus is great for preventing dust mites. Lavender smells wonderful, and is very relaxing.

 

The next time you go to run a load in one of our favourite labour-saving devices, try one of these things to green your cleaning machine!

 

Written By Victoria Bick

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