Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Climate Change Action of the Month: The Green Cottage

Start Climate Change awareness at the home! That is what the Green Cottage in Hamilton has done, this house has many ecofriendly features, which helps eliminate its lasting effects on the climate. The house, located in the north end of Hamilton by the harbour, was originally built in 1885 with many similar houses surrounding it, but since then it has had some major renovations, and although the house does not look much different than the ones surrounding it the Green Cottage is unlike any home in Hamilton.

The Green Cottage

The Green Cottage

Starting on the outside the house is trimmed with salvaged wood, reclaimed wood helps eliminate the process of manufacturing and saves a few trees from being cut down in the process. The house is also insulated on the outside, this is called Exsulation, which provides more thermal heating for the house, eliminating most of the use of furnaces. The roof is also adorned with many solar panels and solar water heaters. Up to 30% of new greenhouse gases around the globe are contributed by non-renewable energy, and using solar energy as an alternative helps to decrease that number and the impacts of climate change.

On the inside the house is NOT equipped with a clothing dryer, air conditioner, stove, refrigerator or microwave! With the house lacking these amenities they are not sucking out energy for appliances that are not essential for everyday needs. The Green Cottage has significantly reduced its energy use, and has set a very high standard for energy conservation.

The house is also surround by a vigorous and beautiful garden. The garden creates green space in a mostly asphalt ridden area, and the plants not only look great but they are absorbing carbon dioxide and eliminating that from out atmosphere. The Green Cottage has gone above and beyond to eliminate their negative effects on climate change and the environment in general. This house is not only proof that you can take an old home and make environmental improvements, but it also demonstrates the many changes you can make a home level.

Written by: Brittney Massey

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Climate Change Action of the Month: Smart Commute Hamilton

One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases are car emissions so it doesn’t take Einstein to realize that eliminating car emissions would have a significant affect on climate change. A few commercial buildings within Hamilton have begun to include secure bike parking on their premises to help promote alternative, and in this case active, transportation. Within five years of the Smart Commute Hamilton program starting up, over 24,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented from entering into the atmosphere.

The secure bike parking allows Hamiltonians to bike rather than drive and have a safe place they can store their bikes while at work or play. Here are just some of the locations you can find secure bike parking in Hamilton:

One of the many secure bike parking facilities in Hamilton

One of the many secure bike parking facilities in Hamilton

  • St. Joes Hospital
  • Hamilton General
  • Mohawk College
  • The Convention Centre
  • York Parkdale
  • Horizon Utility Office
  • Jackson Square AND OVER 50 MORE!

Secure bike parking gives you piece of mind after locking up your bike, offering superior protection on your bike over the conventional rack. How you ask? Secure bike parking is located within limited access facilities and can only be reached by secure bike members who have been granted access. The bikes are then hung vertically and with one U-lock you are able to lock up both tires and your bike frame. The facilities are monitored by security dramatically decreasing your risk of theft or damage to your bike.

With the development of secure bike parking, commuters are encouraged to ditch their cars and grab their bikes. Biking is a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving your car. Now you can do your part and bike to work, a friends, or the store, reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you contribute to the atmosphere, and have peace of mind.

Written By: Brittney Massey

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.  

Community CarShare comes to the East End!

Green Venture has decided to do the green thing and trade in our two company vehicles for a Community CarShare membership. Community CarShare is a local non-profit co-operative organization. They were the first car sharing organization within Ontario starting in 1998 and have been a part of the Hamilton community since 2009.

How does it work?

The Community CarShare program is really simple. First, you sign up for a membership plan that is based on your needs. Once you are signed up and have received a safe driving orientation you are able to book any of the 53 CarShare vehicles (with 13 in Hamilton), and you are able to book up to 30 minutes in advance. The car is then charged on a pay-per-use basis. You are able to pick the type of car you need and then head to the closest available location to pick up your car, it’s as simple as that. You don’t even have to pay for gas, maintenance, or insurance, they are all included in your membership fee.

We used our Community CarShare membership to book the Toyota Tacoma to help us get everything for our booth from the EcoHouse to the Open Streets festival in Hamilton.

We used our Community CarShare membership to book the Toyota Tacoma to help us get everything for our booth from the EcoHouse to the Open Streets festival in Hamilton.

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Our helper with the CarShare!

There are many benefits for anyone to change from using a personal vehicle to joining the Community CarShare. Some of the benefits are,

  • Financial: For a newer vehicle you will be cutting out those hefty monthly payments, or for an older car the growing maintenance costs. You do not pay for gas, which is constantly increasing, or insurance, as this is included in the membership fee. Additionally you are not paying for a place to park your car, and if you have an extra par
    king space you can potentially rent it out and make a profit! At Green Venture we did the math and we will be saving over $5000.00 dollars a year by switching to CarShare!
  • Social: You are contributing to a local co-operative organization within your community. You are also avoiding the stress of managing and maintaining a vehicle and lastly Community CarShare has made picking up and booking a car convenient and hassle free.
  • Environmental: By ditching your ride and joining CarShare you are diminishing the amount of cars on the road. This helps reduce CO2 emissions, while also reducing the amount of traffic and consequently the amount of idling on the streets, bettering our air quality within the city. Lastly if you do not have your own vehicle for transportation traveling becomes more of a conscious decision. This allows people to become more aware of their transportation choices and consider more environmentally friendly decisions such as CarShare, biking or walking.
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The Toyota Prius PHV plugged-in and recharging its batteries.

Green Venture is taking the environmental benefits one step further by introducing an electric vehicle into the Community CarShare organization. At Green Venture’s office building, called the EcoHouse, we have an Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station, which was donated by EATON. The EV charging station is a place for plug-in cars to recharge and collect electric energy for their vehicles. The EV charging station will soon be the new location for the Toyota Prius Hybrid Plug-in (or Prius PHV), for Community CarShare. This hybrid utilises rechargeable batteries while in all-electric running mode, that only take two to three hours to charge and the vehicle can maintain high speeds and last a long distance. When using the Prius PHV compared to other gas guzzling cars of the same size you will be reducing your fuel consumption by 1650 litres and even better lowering your CO2 emissions by nearly 4000 kg per year! By Green Venture using not only CarShare but an electric vehicle we will be significantly reducing our carbon footprint and continuing our goal to live more sustainably.

Written by: Brittney Massey

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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